Pakistani forces whisk away another Baloch student
By Malik Siraj Akbar
If I have ever been truly inspired by a leader of the Baloch Students’ Organization then it is not Dr. Allah Nizar Baloch or Bashir Zaib Baloch but Qumbar Chakar. In him, I have always seen a future Ghulam Mohammad Baloch. For English readers, he was (oh sorry, is) a “super star” and for the Balochi readers, I could simply describe him as a “Blaheen Mard” (Big man).
Qambar, 20, is an extraordinary agitator, cogent speaker, deeply committed political activist and a highly organized and punctual activist who could proudly take credit for arranging most protest rallies for the restoration of quota system at the Balochistan University for Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS), recovery of all the missing Balochs and several other issues.
He spoke a fluent English and made our work easier whenever a foreign journalist was in town to learn more about the Baloch students’ movement. In May 2009, I introduced him with Canadian journalist Matthieu Aikins of the National Post with whom he had a detailed interview. Qambar spoke so beautifully that Aikins started his article with a quote from him.
Fresh reports suggest that this amazing Baloch activist has been whisked away by the personnel of the Frontier Corps and the intelligence agencies. They say Chakar, also an Economics student, had gone to attend classes at the City Campus of the BUITMS and latter on proceeded to the Takato Campus of the University to meet with the Vice Chancellor to speak about the issue of the district-based open merit admission policy. On his return from the college, Chakar, who was accompanied by five other friends of his hailing from the Baloch Action Committee, was stopped at Chaman Pattick area by a convey of security forces.
“They (personnel of the security forces) had come in eight vehicles and asked Qambar to get out of the Alto car,” said one eyewitness, “once Qambar walked towards them, we saw them putting a hand grenade in Qambar’s pocket.” According to the eyewitness, the FC officials shouted at Qambar pointing at the hand grenade: “What the hell is this? You Baloch terrorist! We have to take you in custody.” They slapped, manhandled Qambar and took him away to an unknown location while sparing his other colleagues.
Pakistan’s most prominent newspaper, Jang, this morning reports, though very briefly, that a BSO activist has been arrested by the police while carrying a hand grenade.
One close friend of Qambar says if latter was truly carrying a hand grenade with him then how he could not be caught by the security scanners installed at the BUITMS where the Baloch student had gone to meet with the Vice Chancellor.
However, such tactics no longer surprise anyone. We all know the nature of the ridiculous cases the state functionaries have made in the past against the Baloch people in this militarized province. We do not have a short memory to recollect how Dr. Imdad Baloch, a former chairman of the BSO, and his colleagues were resurfaced after seven months of disappearance in 2005. They were implicated in a case of stealing a washing machine somewhere in Dera Ghazi Khan while they had never visited DG Khan in their whole life time.
Presently, no one knows the whereabouts of Qambar Chakar. It is believed that he is being detained by the FC and the intelligence agencies in one of the torture cells where, according to the Baloch nationalists, around five thousand Balochs, including more than a hundred women, are languishing simply because of their dissenting views.
“We strongly denounce the extra judicial arrest of the Baloch student,” said Kachkol Ali Baloch, Balochistan’s former leader of the opposition. “The State is taking benefit of our powerlessness. Our leaders are being brutally killed and younger ones are being subjected to enforced disappearance by the state agencies. We call for a UN intervention in Balochistan.”
In fact, the issue of enforced disappearances in Balochistan has remarkably intensified with the arrival of an utterly powerless Pakistan People’s Party government following the historic general elections of February 2008. It clearly seems that the hawkish Punjabi Establishment based in Islamabad is still unwilling to relinquish powers in Balochistan.
The resource-rich province is still under the control of the army and the intelligence agencies that indulge in grave violation of human rights. Ironically, most human rights organizations operating in Pakistan deliberately snub their illegal operations in the country’s largest province for the reason that they do not want their funding to be stopped. The national media and human rights organizations have also skirted the plight of the Baloch since the arrival of the PPP government.
The extra-judicial arrest of the Baloch political leaders, mainly the political activists, has been taking place very systematically. There is not an iota of doubt that the establishment wants to eliminate or enervate the Baloch movement by all possible means. Islamabad wishes to subjugate the Baloch people to such an extent that they give up their demand for self-rule. Such tactics, I am surely, are only going to increase anti-Pakistan sentiments among the Baloch youth.
Qambar Chakar’s abduction is not accidental. It was surely preplanned. Previously, the central vice chairman of the BSO, Zakir Majeed Baloch, was arrested and taken to an unknown location in a similar attempt. Likewise, another key leader of the BSO, Shahzaib Baloch, who presides over the Quetta chapter of the organization, was arrested in April and kept in illegal solitary confinement for more than two months. The most pathetic thing about such official behavior is the denial of judicial justice to these ‘missing persons’. They are not produced before any court of law to prove their innocence.
The list of the missing persons does not end here. Among the fresh victims, two prominent names are that of Jalil Rekhi, the central information secretary of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) and Chakar Qambarani, a member of the BRP central committee. They have been missing for more than five months now.
It is highly regrettable that the restored Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr. Justice Ifthakar Chaudhary, who was believed to be sacked by former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf due to his proactive role in recovering the missing persons, has taken a U-turn in his approach towards the missing persons. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has not only softened his attitude but also completely skirted the plight of the Baloch youth who are illegally pushed into torture cells and subjected to inhuman treatment.
Mr. Chaudhary, is this what millions of people in Pakistan marched for? No Sir. They wanted the restoration of a man who had the spunk to bring the intelligence agencies under control. If you fail to deliver justice then your opponents certainly get an opportunity to say that you politicized your suspension merely to gain personal popularity. I know you did.
The international community, mainly the human rights organizations, have to take notice of the unabated violation of human rights in Balochistan. The main reason for the kidnapping of the American head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), John Solecki, in February this year was predominantly the issue of ‘missing persons.’ The people of Balochistan are tired of the state repression. Their beloved ones are going missing every other day. The international community did not stand up to its promises with the Baloch people regarding the issue of enforced disappearances while negotiating with the Baloch leadership about the release of John Solecki.
In the meanwhile, the Baloch students, who tried to protest the extra-judicial arrest of Qambar Chakar, were shelled by the police this morning at BUITMS. Qambar Chakar deserves a good response from his political friends. While free, he had actively campaigned for the release of everyone. It is the time everyone joined the rallies being organized for Chakar’s release. Qambar is a man of high spirits. He had told me many times that he knew that the intelligence agencies and the FC were chasing him.
When I asked him for a meeting last time so that I could write a story on Zakir Majeed, he said he was willing to meet me anywhere I wanted. “What about the Press Club,” I asked. He laughed and said, “but the press club is surrounded by ‘their men’,” as he referred to the agents of the agencies. I said okay we could sit somewhere safe. He said he was not afraid of coming downtown. It was just he had begun to take precautionary measures to ensure his own security. I said it was a very wise decision.We wish young Qambar Chakar all the best. He is a brave boy. He surely knows that “ah pa sarani goda ga….”