Dawn Editorial: Balochistan’s misery

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WHILE the violation of fundamental rights is a nationwide phenomenon, the situation in Balochistan is particularly acute. In this neglected corner of the country, dead bodies are discovered in unexplained circumstances, mass graves have been found, while various strands of violence affect the people. Of late, there have been questions about the existence of private jails in the province. It had recently been reported that three bodies recovered from a well in Barkhan were those of Khan Muhammad Marri’s wife and two children. However, Mr Marri’s wife and children were fortunately recovered alive, as were his other offspring who were apparently illegally confined by provincial minister Abdul Rehman Khetran.

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Mr Marri was his bodyguard. Though the minister is in custody and the provincial administration is probing the affair, unanswered questions remain about the identity of the bodies found in the well. According to a post-mortem report, one of the bodies is that of a teenage girl who was raped, tortured and shot. Her face was unrecognisable. Two male bodies were recovered from the same well. At the time of writing, there were no more details about the victims. The provincial administration must establish their identification, and track down those responsible for this horrific crime.

It is clear that in many parts of Balochistan, the writ of the state is absent, and the word of feudal sardars and ‘influentials’ is law. This is one of the main reasons that outrages are so often reported from the province. Though the establishment talks of multibillion-rupee projects such as CPEC and other schemes as ‘game changers’ for Balochistan, the ordinary people face a far grimmer reality. In the past, they have faced intense sectarian violence, while separatists have also indulged in the massacre of innocents.

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The establishment maintains a huge security footprint in Balochistan yet life for its people has not improved. Instead, those suspected of being involved in anti-state activities go ‘missing’; not all are lucky to return home alive. Quite clearly, the supposed fruits of development have yet to reach the people, fuelling a sense of alienation. The people of Balochistan have witnessed enough brutality and neglect. The state must treat them as owners of their land, masters of their destiny, and equal citizens of Pakistan protected by the Constitution. If the violence continues, it will have a detrimental effect on national unity.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2023

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