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Old Monday, April 16, 2012
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Slide into anarch

April 16th, 2012

Balochistan’s slide into veritable anarchy and chaos is hardly difficult to ignore. There has been much comment on it everywhere. But it is rather frightening when a top official of the land himself concedes that the province is in a state of anarchy, and asks why the government is doing nothing about this. The Governor of Balochistan, Zulfikar Ali Magsi, appeared genuinely upset by the situation as he spoke to a delegation of the Hazara Democratic Party, which had called on him to protest the repeated incidents of targeted killing in the province. Six more members of the besieged community, as well as a police constable were killed on April 13, taking the toll to over two dozen dead in the past few weeks. That these killings continue to happen again and again means that either the law-enforcement agencies are completely inept, or complicit. The governor’s warning that civil war could lie ahead is a frightening one. Certainly the warning appears to be one that carries weight.

The fact that the governor has spoken openly, without restraint or the mincing of words, may perhaps have a silver lining. He has asked why the deaths continue in the presence of the Frontier Corps and police, deployed across Quetta and also other cities. This is certainly a question many of us would like to ask, and also get good answers to. The state of affairs in Balochistan is worsening as we watch. This is not something that can be tolerated — with distrust and hatred worsening by the day. The governor has warned that if things do not improve the army will need to be called out. This is something we need to avoid given the Baloch distrust for the military, as well as the paramilitary FC. While it is clear the killing spree needs to end, the question arises also of the need to think out a longer term solution for the province. They need to be dealt with in an organised manner, with all parties involved, so that a way can be found to restore the calm Balochistan so badly needs and restore peace to a province in chaos. A first much-needed step will be a halt to the abductions of suspected troublemakers.

Violence and mayhem

April 16th, 2012

By now, everyone in Karachi is used to regular bouts of violence interspersed with periods of calm. Except now, the moments of peace seem to be getting ever shorter. After being spared violence for 10 days, Lyari exploded yet again on April 13, when police engaged in a day-long gun battle with members of the outlawed People’s Amn Committee (PAC), leading to the deaths of at least three people with another dozen injured. Easy as it is to blame either the police or the PAC, depending on where your political sympathies lie, the fact remains that violence in Karachi is not monopolised by any one group. Every political actor in the city has used the threat and reality of bloodshed to further its own interests.

As is always the case in Karachi, the shootout in Lyari could quite possibly take on an ethnic dimension. The Baloch community that resides in Lyari will take the violence as a sign that the police is targeting it. It is most likely to respond by taking out its anger on other ethnic groups in the city, and that could lead to another round of violence, and so on. And who suffers the most in all of this, as the provincial government stands by idly and does nothing? The ordinary residents of the city. Political differences quickly become more combustible because of the ethnic component and feed an already-waging conflict that may otherwise die out in a few days.

An added problem is the fact that the police, which should be studiously neutral in ethnic conflicts, usually ends up (or is pressured to) taking sides. This only adds to the sense of injustice felt by the aggrieved parties and leads to even more violence. In Karachi, a feeling of victimisation is present in all political parties, who feel that they are being repressed in some way or the other. Their list of complaints is as long as their list of solutions is short. For the sake of the city, though, we continue to hope that they will eventually realise that politics can be practised without needing to pick up guns.

A hero’s final fall

April 16th, 2012

Group captain (retd) Cecil Chaudhry, 70, who died in Lahore on April 13 after battling lung cancer for over a year, was a man of many dimensions: war hero, educationist, human rights activist and social worker. He stood out as a man who cared deeply for his country and its people. The treatment he received in return for this from the military exposes a great deal about our country, and the distortions that exist within it.

Many of those who served with Chaudhry in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) or knew him in other capacities, believed he could have risen to the very top of the Force; this was not to be. Despite the fact that Chaudhry — as a dashing young fighter pilot — had won the Tamgha-e-Jurat and the Tamgha-e-Basalat for his heroics in the 1965 and 1971 wars, he was informed in 1983 that he could be promoted no further, given his religion. In 1985, he sought a release from the service he loved.

During interviews given after this, he spoke bitterly of the discrimination against minority religious groups in the country, and of how this had first taken root under General Ayub Khan in the 1950s and then grown under General Zia in the armed forces. The manner in which he was treated by the PAF — after serving it with such extraordinary valour whilst almost losing his life in the process in 1971 — was an invisible scar he carried with him for the remainder of his life. But this unhealed wound did not prevent Chaudhry from serving his nation in other capacities. As a highly respected principal of St Anthony’s School in Lahore where he had himself been educated, as a council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, as an articulate spokesperson for minorities and as an advocate for the rights of disabled children, Cecil Chaudhry proved himself a hero in more ways than one. He showed through the example he set that patriotism and belief are not linked despite a widespread notion to the contrary held by many in the country as a result of warped thinking and distorted policies that over the years served to indoctrinate ordinary people.
Kon Kehta hy k Main Gum-naam ho jaon ga
Main tu aik Baab hn Tareekh mein Likha jaon ga
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