Let me tell you a secret, I am from Balochistan – but very frankly, I am not the stereotypical Baloch that everybody has become associated with. I don’t speak Balochi, nor am I a member of the Balochistan Liberation Army, nor do I hate the Federation.
I was born in Balochistan and have lived almost half of my life there, while my father lived most of his in the same place. Technically, that makes me a Baloch, or maybe it doesn’t – depends on the definition one will like to put out. However, the basic point of this blog is not to define a Baloch, but to give a perspective on what is actually happening in Balochistan.
Every day one gets to hear stories of Baloch youths missing, of Punjabis being slaughtered based on their identity cards, of bombings, chaos and what not. The question that emerges at this time is : Are we going towards another Bangladesh? Or more acutely, why are things the way they are? Or perhaps they were always the same?
Going back to the old times, I can easily say that they were not.
There was a time when one could travel the whole length and breadth of Balochistan without a fear in the world – except that of the occasional robbers – and I say this with authority as I have actually travelled through the whole province, from areas like Sibi, Chaghi, Ziarat and Loralai to Zhob and Pasni.
My parents even lived in an area called Turbat, adjacent to Gwadar, before I was born. Yet, we travelled the whole province without any worry of repercussions, or of the fear of impending Balochs ready to slaughter us without mercy.
It is indeed weird now to be reminded of the hilly terrain of Balochistan and of the merciless mountains without a single tree to cover their nakedness, yet standing proud, as the Balochs have from the very beginning.
It seems unreal that there was once a time when there were no security bars to separate the Quetta cantonment from the city, and you didn’t need extensive searching before entering the cantonment. That was the time when a person from any ethnic background – whether Baloch, Pahstun, Hazara, or Punjabi could live easily in Balochistan without any fear of ethnic cleansing, or even ethnic stereotyping.
There was also a time when the people of Balochistan actually loved the army. I still remember when an incident when a Balochi was dragged in the streets by the army for some petty crime, while other members of the tribe looked on. When someone asked them why weren’t they planning revenge, their simple answer was that it was their own army which was taking their fellow tribesman, so why would they go against it? And I am not talking about very old times either – this was the1990s.
So why have things gotten so bad that Balochistan is being deemed as the next Bangladesh? There have been so many discussions on it that I will not put any more of my expert opinions on it, but will contrast the modern-day Balochistan with what it was before.
Recently, I heard the news about my relative’s gatekeeper being slaughtered by the Baloch Liberation Army with an inscription on his body that said ‘they will be next’ – the family immediately left Quetta for Karachi after this incident. I also got to know about the extreme security measures that have been taken to search every civilian before they can enter the Cantonment, and the indiscriminate slaughtering of passengers with Punjab ID cards by insurgents and the Baloch students – friends of my Baloch friends – who were abducted, their corpses found later.
Why have things changed so much? Can’t we return to the Balochistan where ethnicity was not an issue?
This province has so much to give, if only left in peace.
It’s strange to think that many of my friends don’t even know of the joys of Ziarat or have beheld the Hanna lake in all its all glory with that small island in the middle of nowhere. They have rarely tested the proper authenticated Baloch Sajji or eaten the chaat from the Chiltan Market and the pakoras from Pak forces Cinema while heading to Hanna Urak. They haven’t traversed the boundless Baloch Mountains, nor have they experienced that famous Quetta cold.
It is sad to look at the Balochistan of today, and remember the things that have gone by.
However, as an optimist does, one can only hope that one day things will again return as they were, and Balochistan will see peace.