September Issue 2010
The Invisible Hand
The dead bodies of 13 missing persons from different areas of Balochistan — including Quetta, Mastung and Khuzdar — were found recently sending shock waves throughout the local communities.
Reports of the disappearance of Baloch separatists and political activists began in the reign of the former ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, but there was no trace of them despite several demonstrations and hunger strikes. So the appearance of their dead bodies is a matter of grave concern.
After the PPP assumed power, the dead bodies of five missing persons belonging to the Bugti tribe, who had been killed in early 2009, were discovered — three bodies were found in the Khanozai area of district Pishin (some 60 kilometres in the north east of Quetta), while the other two were recovered from Gori, an area close to the Pak-Afghan border in the Nushki district.
In addition, the bodies of three Baloch leaders, including that of Ghulam Muhammad Baloch, were recovered in April this year from Murghaab near Turbat town, eight days after the individuals’ reported disappearances. They were picked up from the office of the former opposition leader Kachkol Ali Advocate in Turbat town, who was representing them in various cases registered against the three.
The year 2010 witnessed a rapid increase in the deaths of missing persons: 13 bodies were recovered within the alarmingly short span of one month.
Najib Langavo and Faiz Baloch’s bodies were recovered from Satellite Town on July 24, followed by the recovery of the dead bodies of Farooq Mengal and Ashfaq Mullah Zai on July 27. Two other missing persons were killed in August and their bodies dumped in a Quetta suburb. The victims were identified as Bahar Khan Bangulzai and Ghulam Qadir Marri. Police recovered three more bodies, those of Nazeer Ahmed from Mastung on August 7 and Khan Muhammad Mengal and Zohaib Rodaini on August 13. In addition, the bodies of Arz Muhammad and Muhammad Umar were recovered from Brewery Road, and that of Abdul Rehman from Khanozai on August 25. Hospital sources revealed that all the victims had died of bullet wounds to the head and bore torture marks on their faces, their hands, as well as other parts of their bodies.
An organisation called Sipah-i-Shuda-i-Balochistan (SSB) claimed responsibility for the killing of all these people. The name of this organisation had appeared in the press for the first time after the recovery of the dead bodies of Najeeb Langav and Faiz Baloch from Satellite Town in Quetta. “This is an organisation formed by associates of the victims of target killings in Balochistan,” said Abdullah, a spokesperson, in a statement published in local newspapers.
Earlier, the SSB had warned that activists of the defunct Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Lashkar-e-Balochistan, Baloch National Front and Balochistan National Party (Mengal) would be targeted by the organisation in the near future.
Another organisation formed by relatives of the missing persons, Voice for Missing Baloch Persons (VMBP), strongly condemned the killing of the missing persons and held security forces and intelligence agencies responsible for the deaths. “Our worst fears are fast turning into reality. All the missing persons have been killed in the same manner at the behest of government agencies,” claimed Nasrullah Baloch, Chairman of VMBP, while addressing a demonstration outside Quetta Press Club. He appealed to human rights organisations to fulfil their role in saving the lives of other missing persons, the numbers of which, according to VMPB, are in the thousands.
Baloch nationalist organisations have also held the government responsible for the killings. “The victims are being killed by death squads with fake names formed by the government with the intent to kill,” says a representative of the Baloch National Front.
The Balochistan High Court also expressed serious concern over news of the death of Ashfaq Ahmed Mullahzai, a student of Balochistan University. “We are extremely perturbed about the deaths of Ashfaq Ahmed and Farooq Mengal,” observed a bench of the Balochistan High Court, comprising Chief Justice Mr Justice Qazi and Mr Justice Miskanzai, when news of the student’s assassination was brought to their notice.
The court directed the police to make a thorough investigation: “The police is fully empowered to take the investigation to any quarter [that is] required, including any agency or department working under the federation or the province.”
Ostensibly, the above deaths led to the revenge killing of 17 people, who were killed in Quetta and Bolan on August 14 by unnamed armed persons. Ten of the victims were passengers on a bus coming into the province from the Punjab. Apparently, they were construction workers coming to the province to work on various projects. They were pulled out of the bus when they identified themselves as being Punjabis and shot dead. Six other labourers, as well as a barber, were also shot dead in Quetta.
The defunct BLA has claimed responsibility for the killings of the Punjabis, terming it a retaliation against the assassinations of the missing persons.
Given the recent spate of killings of the missing persons and the tit-for-tat murders of Punjabis, it appears as if peace is unlikely to return to Balochistan. The present government’s efforts towards political reconciliation with the province have failed to yield any results.
Some political analysts are of the view that these murders could be an attempt by the agencies to discredit a democratically elected government and close the doors of a rapprochement forever.