Wherever the fish elude the oppressor, the use of Efrain Rios Montt’s tactics to drain the sea begin. The sea of people can be drained only by brutality and oppression bordering on genocide
Chairman Mao once said, “The guerilla must move amongst the people, as a fish swims in the sea.” Anywhere, people fighting for their rights understand this basic principle. The guerillas of Balochistan, or the Sarmachars, as the Baloch call them, are no different. They thrive and survive on the support of the people who are the sea and they the fish.
Those who want to stop people from gaining their rights, because achievement of these rights would endanger their lucrative sources of income and the land they control, know that the sea will always sustain the fish and not them. That is why the Pakistani state uses tactics similarto thoseused by the Guatemalan government when it was fighting leftist guerilla groups supported by indigenous Mayans and poor peasants from the 1960s onwards. In 1982, Guatemalan President Efrain Rios Montt said, “The guerrilla is the fish. The people are the sea. If you cannot catch the fish, you have to drain the sea.” Montt was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity in January 2012. Wherever the fish elude the oppressor, the use of Efrain Rios Montt’stactics to drain the sea begin. The sea of people can be drained only by brutality and oppression bordering on genocide. The present situation in Balochistan has prompted the establishment to try and drain the sea, and they have begun it in Awaran and Mashkay areas where no one is allowed to go.
A report by Zahid Gishkori in a national daily says that in Balochistan there has been a 27 percent increase in the forces supposedly enforcing the law but in fact using the harshest of measures to curb the people from expressing dissent at the injustices that have continued since1948. The report says that the law enforcement agencies, including the police, Levies, Frontier Corps (FC) and Balochistan Constabulary (BC) have seen their rank and file boosted from an estimated 83,741in 2011 to 106,243 in 2015. Officially provided data indicates that the FC has seen the largest manpower increase from 38,132 to an estimated 52,000. Furthermore, officers in the force have been increased from 248 to 511. Officials said that the force may yet recruit 75 officers and 250 junior commissioned officers to lead the force’s 58 wings and 11 minor units. President Mamnoon Hussain on his recent Quetta visit said, “The army has established a new division, which will provide full security to the Chinese working on this important project.”
The police have recruited 3,123 personnel thus raising its strength to 28,094 men with a budget of Rs9.3 billion for the current fiscal year. Similarly, the BC, too, has seen fresh recruitment with 511 personnel inducted. It now has 9,149 men and has been allocated a budget of Rs three billion. The strength of the Levies has been increased from 13,000 in 2011 to 17,000 in 2015. Plans are thereto increase this to 24,000 by 2018 to improve security for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Levies are the locally recruited force. An official of the Levies disclosed that a sum Rs35 million per month is being spent on over two dozen platoons deployed in some of the most disturbed areas of the province, including Kalat, Awaran, Killa Abdullah, Quetta, Mastung, Kachhi, Sibi and Pir Ismail Ziarat.
While all the attention is devoted to militarising Balochistan and special budgets are allocated for the official raising of the forces to suppress Baloch aspirations and no one knows how much is being allocated to the ‘unofficial’,tacitly accepted ‘death squads’ that terrorise the Baloch population as an accepted counter-insurgency tactic. It should be noted that the war in Balochistan intensified with the arrival of the PPP government in 2008. This war with a no-holds-barred outlook is similar to those conducted in Argentina and Chile. In October 2013, during the SC bench hearing, the attorney general disclosed that Rs 400 million from the Intelligence Bureau’s (IB’s) secret fund had been used for counter-insurgency in Balochistan during 2008-2009. This sum was used to create these death squads as abductions and killings began in earnest in 2008. If the IB alone spent Rs 400 million, imagine what others must have spent and how much is still invested in them.
The people suffer immeasurably while all money is diverted to suppress the people. Out of 100,000,785 mothers lose their lives during pregnancy in Balochistan as compared to 272 in the rest of the country. The ratio of infant mortality during birth in Balochistan is 158 out of 1,000 as compared to 103 in other parts of Pakistan. The National Nutrition Survey (NNS) indicates that the prevalence of chronic malnutrition in children is 52.2 percent and maternal anemia 47.3 percent.
Education in Balochistan is nothing to write home about. The Chief Minister (CM) admits that there are 900 ghost schools where they show 0.3 million ‘ghost students’ are enrolled and are receiving funding. A report by the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) in May showed that in Balochistan, the literacy rate dropped by three percent to 43 percent in 2013-2014 due to a decline in the male literacy rate. Three-fourths of Balochistan women were illiterate while the illiteracy level of males was 45 percent. Shahzeb Jilani, in a BBC report a few days back, quoted a Baloch journalist who told him that an army officer once said: “Yes, we are killing anti-state elements. And we will continue to go after them. At the end of the day, we decide who is a patriot and who is not.”
The Pakistani state’s policies in Balochistan seem to be in line with the policies of another Guatemalan president, Carlos Arana Osorio (1970-1974), who declared a state of siege in 1970. An estimated 20,000 Guatemalans died during his rule, and it could not have been otherwise for a vicious tyrant who proudly said, “If it is necessary to turn the country into a cemetery in order to pacify it, I will not hesitate to do so.” Turning Balochistan into a cemetery will, however, not be easy.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur|Published: October 12, 2015 02:00 PM
This article originally appeared on The Daily Times.