By Niaz Betab
These two words continue to govern the lives of people in Balochistan. In this part of the planet earth, the waters long forgot to murmur, the hills wear a gloomy dress. The singing birds in the sky are quiet and the trees can not hold their branches straight in grief. The fragrance of the morning breeze is no more and the winter splashes a sad strain. Here the wounded chest of a bereft mother-earth is continuously dug. Either to put some innocent souls in or to dig them out to identify.
Not long ago, there was a brutal assault on a bus carrying Shia-Hazara pilgrims from Taftan to Quetta. The attack claimed 28 lives and left dozens injured. Once more forcing a mournful Hazara-community to visit Bahesht-e-Zainab, the community’s graveyard, to see their loved ones being put in lonely holes, with teary eyes and burning sighs. This brutal wound is yet to be fully healed that there is another macabre story coming to light: the discovery of mass graves in Tootuk area of Khuzdar district, Balochistan.
According to a report of Asian Human Rights Commission (More than 100 dead bodies from three mass graves are found in one district of Balochistan, January 27, 2014), “On January 25, three mass graves were found after one of them was discovered by a shepherd who saw pieces of human bodies and bones”.
As the information reached to the Balochistan Levies, they came to the place and exhumed 15 corpses crudely dumped in one grave. Sometimes later the news got around, reaching the locals, already waiting for any news about their disappeared loved ones. They rushed to the spot and started their search for unmarked graves. They found two more such graves. They opened these graves to exhume and identify the corpses but failed. As they were decomposed beyond recognition. Before the military forces opened fire to make them run away from the area, they had already dug out 169 bodies – the locals claimed. The local people are stopped from digging as well as the media to cover the site. Why? This is anybody’s guess! Of-course they fear that the news might spark an international-scale scandal.
The real number of the graves as well as that of the dead bodies may stretch to an appalling limit as there are reportedly 56 graves yet to be unearthed and there might be many more. Up to 18, 000 Baloch people who had disappeared since 2005, are still missing. God knows how many are in these graves! The words of the medics that the bodies are a month old and their parts had been mauled by wild animals clearly lead one to speculate that the victims are the Baloch missing persons, (Nasrullah Baloch, chairman of VBMP has also voiced such fears) killed and dumped in unmarked graves as their relatives are on a long march to justice. They promise to keep walking till their loved ones are home! Seeing such a will and determination, the Pakistani secret agencies, who are allegedly involved in abductions and extra-judicial killings of Baloch activists, got afraid and decided to finish all those in their custody.
It should be noted that before the present day, Balochistan was being treated unjustly but it was on a small scale; like looting of natural resources, non-payment of royalties, and the rejection of the Baloch’s right to education. But later on everyone, from Ayub to Bhutto, and Musharraf who came afterwards added their portion of injustice, might with an estimate that it was small and unimportant. On the other hand, the military establishment kept increasing their hold. Like keeping the fire under the cauldron of injustice to leave Baloch people boiled and not letting them have any benefit from their rich resources. The discovery of these graves full of human corpses exploded the wall of secrecy of the agencies and exposed an unmatched human rights abuse of our times. It is also a slap on the face of a modern world that claims to be civilised and a human saviour. A prominent Baloch activist on Twitter described the discovery of unmarked graves as a new tactic on part of the secret agencies. A tactic”to kill and hide”. It must be remembered that initially the Baloch-right activists were forcefully picked up without leaving any proper trail. Afterwards their dead bodies, mutilated and severely tortured and most of their body parts cut-off, started to appear. This was termed as a “kill-and-dump” process. But this is the first time that we hear of unmarked mass-graves being uncovered in Balochistan. It is a crying shame.
The government of PML-N must immediately formulate a team comprising of honest and credible people to investigate the matter while ensuring that the unmarked grave sites are followed up and dug properly. The results must come to public and those involved must be held accountable.
Published in The Balochistan Point on January 29, 2014