Rehman Malik’s War
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Among all journalists that I have worked with, Shahzad Baloch of Express Tribune has got the best sense of humor. People like him are a great asset to work with as a journalist in a stressful place such as Balochistan. While living amid constant fear of dying in a bomb blast or being whisked away by some government intelligence agencies, in Balochistan we keep people like Shahzad at high esteem because they make us smile and laugh even at times of anguish.
Shahzad worked with me as a reporter at Daily Aaj Kal Quetta bureau. After every bomb blast, I’d ask if anyone claimed “responsibility” for the incident. He’d giggle and say, no.
“Why not?” I’d ask.
“Very simple,” he’d laugh and say, “Because some “irresponsible” people did it.
“So what does the government say,” I asked.
“The government says these elements won’t be “allowed” to operate again,” he added.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Not sure, buddy, but seems the government falsely believes that these elements really need some official approval to carry out their attacks. So next time, the government is not going to “allow” them to work,” he explained.
Trust me, working in Balochistan as a journalist may be dominated by fear and uncertainty but it also has its funny part.
Now that I hear our naive Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s new Balochistan plan, I find many things truly hilarious.
The federal minister has “super-banned” the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). I mean how do you ban a banned organization? BLA had already been double-banned several years ago by the Pervez Musharraf as well as the British government. The ban did not make a difference as the shadowy organization continues to operate. The government believed Balach Marri controlled it but no difference was seen in BLA operations even after Balach’s assassination.
I squander a good amount of time mulling what it actually means to ban an organization. You can ban a television channel, for example, which gets itself registered with a government-controlled authority, such as the PEMRA. You can ban an NGO which obtains a non-objection certificate (NOC) from the government but how on God’s green earth are you going to ban an organization that does not recognize the law of the land (or even the land itself)?
I am sure the guys at BLA or any other organization did not seek prior approval from the interior ministry to formally launch their operations in the midst of great fanfare.
The government has also decided to freeze the bank accounts of the armed organizations.
You are kidding me.
Can you imagine BLA having a bank account somewhere at the Habib Bank or say National Bank of Pakistan?
At least I don’t know of any Standard Chartered branches in New Kahan or Qili Ismail. Where do these BLA guys have their accounts? Did the minister really freeze some accounts? This government has really starting doing jobs that we could even not visualize.
Agreed, BLA may have a current account in some bank in Chattar, I still worry how the account-holders name would look like. Mr. BLA, maybe.
How would the spokesman of Baloch Musla Defai Tanzeem (BMFT) sign his checkbook before withdrawing some money?
I can speculate. He’d write 10 liters of petrol for the bike to attack a BSO Azad rally and escape and Rs. 2000 “easy-load” to make phone calls to the newspaper offices to claim responsibility.
Malik does not understand that things are not so simple. You can’t settle Balochistan’s overriding problems merely by banning organizations and freezing their bank accounts. The government is only making fun of itself by taking such ridiculous measures. How is FC going to fix the problems when it is currently the biggest problem on the Baloch land.
Sometimes I think Balochs are very lucky. I remember when Pervez Musharraf was ousted from power, some very sober political experts told me it was going to the disadvantage of the Balochs. I asked the reasons when I expected the Balochs to take a sigh of relief from the tyranny of a military dictator. My friends said Musharraf’s brutality had truly united the Baloch people. One such friend said Musharraf’s antagonistic policies helped the Balochs travel a journey of hundreds of years only in ten years. The more he pressed the Balochs, the more united they became.
While the younger Balochs must be cursing the interior minister for his bellicose remarks, the older ones see him as a blessing for them. He is going to unite the Balochs more. Rehman Malik is perhaps an agent of promoting the Baloch movement. His aggressive stance comes at a time when there was nothing that could unite the so-called moderate parties (National Party and the Balochistan National Party) and the militant groups. Even there were reports of differences among some of the armed groups. For example, Baloch Republican Army (BRA) was not pleased with the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) over threatening the International Committee of Red Cross to shut down its offices in Balochistan.
Malik is only going to help these underground groups to forget their small differences and unite against the larger enemy. It is true that the armed groups and pro-parliament parties will never get along each other even in the future, one thing is certain that they will not fight each other for the next couple of months while collectively fighting the ‘common enemy’.
The Baloch movement is so distinct. It takes the murder of its own people as a fodder. The more Balochs are killed by the security forces, the more popular the movement gets. The more an outsider annoys them by coming on their land and challenging them, the more commonalities they find among each other. They are so hard to defeat by force. They have already been killed, kidnapped, tortured but rebellion has become the distinctive feature of their blood.
Islamabad must hire some sane consultants not insult-ants like Rehman Malik to master the art of negotiating with the Balochs.