August Issue 2010

By | News & Politics | Published 10 years ago

Balochistan was pushed into the marshes following the military coup in October 1999. Great expectations were attached to the new political government for steering the province out of the quagmire. Unfortunately, none of the measures taken by the present dispensation have yielded any positive results so far. Instead, the situation has taken a dangerous turn. The recent target killings of advocate Habib Jalib and other leaders and workers of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal) have led to a wave of anger and resentment across the province.

Habib Jalib was the central secretary general of BNP, one of the biggest nationalist political forces in the Baloch-populated areas of the province. Through sheer hard work, he gained an important position in the politics of Balochistan, something that is mostly reserved for the tribal sardars and tribal elders.

“Habib Jalib was a self-made, middle-class, person. His murder amounts to the murder of politics in Balochistan,” remarked Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, senior Vice President of National Party (NP), another influential Baloch nationalist party which is fighting for the rights of the Baloch within the framework of Pakistan.

Habib Jalib started his political career from the platform of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO), the nursery of Baloch nationalism, in the 1960s. At the time, sentiments against the military government of General Ayub Khan were running high, following the military operation in the province and the hanging of the Baloch elder, Nawab Nauroz Khan, and six of his colleagues. After serving as chairman BSO twice, Jalib went to Afghanistan when General Zia-ul-Haq captured power after throwing out a civilian government. He remained in exile in Afghanistan and Russia for 12 years. While in Russia, he obtained a PhD in International Relations and an MPhil in Marxism. He returned to Pakistan in the late ’80s. In 1998, after the bifurcation of BNP into two groups — Jalib was elected secretary general, a post he occupied till his death on July 14, 2010.

On that fateful day, Jalib came to his brother’s shop, adjacent to his residence in the Sariab area of Quetta, to read the day’s newspaper. “A person came to the shop before Jalib arrived. He asked me some questions about him,” revealed a relative of the BNP leader who was witness to the crime.

“As soon as Habib Jalib entered the shop, that man disappeared and two masked men, riding a motorbike, drove up and opened fire on him,” said the relative. Jalib received nine bullets and succumbed to his injuries before he could be taken to the hospital.”

An organisation by the name of Baloch Mussalah Difai Tanzeem (BMDT) took responsibility for the killing of the BNP leader. According to media reports, a spokesman of the organisation made a call to Nushki Press Club and made the claim. However, by the evening, a news agency stated that another organisation by the name of Ansarul Islam had taken responsibility for Jalib’s assassination. They claimed that Jalib was killed for his anti-Islamic views and his inclination towards communism.

The same night, newspaper offices received a report through yet another news agency. Quoting police sources in the province, it said his killing was in response to the murder of Mir Maula Bakhsh Dashti, a central leader of National Party (NP). The NP leader was killed five days before Jalib in Turbat town and there was a lot of confusion surrounding Maula Dashti’s murder. But his party termed the news as being baseless and saw it as a conspiracy to pit nationalist political parties against each other. The Balochistan police also denied the news attributed to them.

The NP has held the Baloch militant organisations responsible for the killing of Maula Dashti in retaliation against some steps that he had taken when he was Nazim of district Kech.

There had been a spate of murders in the province three days before Habib Jalib’s murder. Rashid Baloch, vice chairman of Baloch Students Organisation (Mohi-ud-Din), a sister organisation of BNP, was attacked in Khuzdar town, while a member of the BNP central committee, Mir Liaquat Mengal, was shot dead a day after the murder of the party’s secretary general.

An activist of the party, Naseer Langav, was killed and four others were injured at the beginning of June 2010. In addition, there were grenade attacks on the residences of two party leaders in Khuzdar, the home district of the party’s patron-in-chief, Sardar Attaullah Mengal. BMDT claimed responsibility for all these attacks, including the killing of Naseer Ahmed Langav, at a demonstration in Quetta’s Shahbaz Town area, despite the presence of a heavy contingent of police. The BNP had held the police responsible for Langav’s death and the court also ordered the registration of an FIR against those police officials who were nominated by relatives of the deceased in the murder case.

The name of the BMDT appeared in the media for the first time at the beginning of this year when they threatened to target leaders and workers of BNP, Baloch National Front (BNF) and BSO.

Besides Habib Jalib, 15 other leaders and workers of these parties have fallen victim to target killings and in each case BMDT has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Jalib’s killing drew massive condemnation from all political parties and the Balochistan government as well. The Balochistan Chief Minister, Nawab Muhammad Aslam Khan Raisani ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Meanwhile, the president of PPP-Balochistan, Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani, has termed the killing of Habib Jalib and all other incidents of target killings as part of the bigger game being captained by international players with vested interests, who are operating in the region.

But the BNP holds the government and intelligence agencies responsible for the killings, saying that people cannot be misled by creating confusion through the use of fake names. “The same forces who killed Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Nawabzada Balaach Marri, Ghulam Muhammad Baloch and other Baloch leaders are responsible for Habib Jalib’s murder,” says Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini, the acting president of BNP. “Both, the Balochistan governor and the CCPO said that incidents of target killings would be responded to with target killings. Leaders and workers of the party are falling victims to this policy.”

Expressing complete dissatisfaction with any government inquiry, BNP demanded an inquiry under the auspices of the United Nations. The BNP was under immense pressure to launch an armed struggle, following the army operation in the Kohlu and Dera Bugti areas in 2005, but the party continued on the path of a peaceful and democratic struggle. Habib Jalib’s assassination comes as a real blow to the party.

Most of Balochistan remained paralysed because of a shutter-down and wheel jam strike against Jalib’s killing, but no major acts of violence were witnessed during these protests.

Political observers are of the view that if any hurdle was created in the way of a peaceful struggle, there would be no other option except to go in for an armed struggle which the BNP has resisted so far, despite serious criticism from hardline nationalists.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif had met Sardar Attaullah Mengal in Karachi, last May, with a request to help pave the way for normalising the situation in Balochistan.

“How can a dialogue be possible when the BNP is accusing government agencies of killing its leaders and workers?” asks Shehzad Shameer, a local journalist. “The use of force has not borne any fruit so far; it has only served to further complicate the situation in the province. If a political solution is not worked out soon, the possibility of any improvement in the situation will further diminish.”