Balochistan: A no-go area for media and foreign journalists

Balochistan media restricted zone

Balochistan media restricted zone

Pakistan has forcibly invaded and occupied Balochistan and has been exploiting Balochistan’s natural resources since 1948. The Baloch nation never accepted the illegal occupation of their homeland. They started resisting Pakistan’s occupation from the very first day. Pakistan carried out four major military offensives, the fifth military aggression is still on-going, to crush the Baloch liberation struggle. For a short period they succeeded in dispersing the Baloch struggle. Baloch came back to confront their occupiers with greater determination and once again restarted their freedom movement in early 90s, which still continues. This time the Baloch are more disciplined and organised as they have learned from their mistakes of past. In the past Baloch struggles failed to achieve their objectives because they were limited to certain areas of Balochistan. Hence, the initiators of the current struggle succeeded to make it a nation-wide struggle.

People from all walks of life have started to pour in and become part of the Baloch liberation movement. During the first stage of this movement the emphasis was on national awareness. Pioneers of the movement and their supporters distributed literature in Baloch masses to give them awareness about their right to be free from foreign occupation. Soon the message of Baloch liberation movement reached to every nook and corner of Balochistan and Baloch men, women and elderly belonging to all spheres of life started conversing about their freedom. Many well-educated and energetic Baloch youths mixed theory and practice. With their ideas and actions they awakened the entire Baloch nation.

Pakistan, on its part, followed its devious policies to put down the popular liberation struggle of the Baloch people. It unleashed a reign of terror and savagery against the Baloch people and conducted a chain of military operations. Pakistani army has been indiscriminately bombing Baloch villages where hundreds of innocent people including women and children have been massacred. Adding to its long list of brutalities, Pakistan state has instigated a series of target killing and enforced-disappearances of Baloch leaders and activists. Many top Baloch political leaders including Nawab Akbar Bugti, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir, Sher Mohamad Baloch, Qambar Chakar, Rasool Bux Mengal, Balochi language poet Naseer Kamalan Baloch, 80 year old Shadi Khan Marri, Professor Saba Dashtyari, Lawyer Zaman Khan Marri, senior teacher Nazeer Ahmad Marri, Faiz Mohammad Marri and his brother Khoda Dad Marri, Mohammad Khan, Mohammad Nabi Marri and several hundred others were killed by Pakistani security forces either in their custody or were target killed in broad day light. These individuals were very respected and professional leaders of Baloch people.

Such heinous crimes of the occupying state back fired and further intensified the Baloch democratic campaign for their freedom. The voice of Baloch freedom spread across the globe. Baloch Diaspora activists echoed the silent voice of Baloch victims and their freedom struggle to the international community. The world is becoming aware of Pakistan’s double standards with each coming day and they are fed up of Pakistan’s black mailing attitude, which is its true nature.

In contemporary world the information technology and the social media has provided more opportunities to the occupied and oppressed nations to challenge and expose the atrocities of occupying states. Hence, these brutal states can no longer keep nations under their domination by force and power of gun. The subjugated people both inside Balochistan and the Diaspora are carefully watching and gauging every action of the occupying states.

For decades Pakistan under a pre-planned policy has kept Balochistan a no-media zone. Local media has been stopped from reporting about Balochistan if any Baloch journalist has dared to report they have been abducted and killed by Pakistani army and their hired criminal gangs. Some of the journalists killed by Pakistani security forces or their religious fundamental partners include Lala Hamid Baloch, Mohammad Khan Sasoli, , Ijaz Raisani, Ilyas Nazar, Rehmat Ullah Shaheen, Zarif Faraz, Siddique Eido, Munir Ahmed Shakir, Javed Naseer Rind, Razak Gul Baloch, Abdul Haq Baloch, Saif-ur-Rehman Baloch, Mohammad Khan Marri and Ali Sher Kurd Baloch to name few. On the other hand Pakistan’s press has deliberately turned a blind eye to Balochistan issue. Pakistan military and media are two complementary sides of the same undemocratic establishment. Otherwise, no civilized individual can ignore the extent of human rights violation in Balochistan by the state of Pakistan.

The Pakistani security forces and their numerous proxy religious organisations have constantly been threatening, kidnapping and even killing personnel of International media in their effort to stop them from going to Balochistan. Due to Pakistan’s hostile attitude towards the international media the journalists and reporters working with foreign news agencies do not go to Balochistan but if by any chance a journalist tries to enter Balochistan they are arrested, intimidated and deported by Pakistani security agencies or they are kidnapped by the by Taliban who are proxies of Pakistani intelligence agencies.

Steve Clemons in Haffington Post writes: “America Foundation fellow and journalist Eliza Griswold was apparently held in custody by Pakistan authorities on one occasion. CNN Terrorism Analyst and New America Foundation senior fellow Peter Bergen was denied a visa on one occasion in 2006 with no explanation given. Nir Rosen — also a New America Foundation fellow who has reported extensively on Middle East affairs — was threatened in Quetta, Pakistan by what some believe to be government ‘goons’ and was told that he needed to leave immediately or he would be ‘the next Danny Pearl.’ New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall was beaten by thugs who identified themselves as Pakistani police.”

Moreover, Italian journalist Francesca Marino was detained at Pakistan’s Karachi airport for a night and the next morning she was deported to New Dehli. In a letter to the editor of Crisis Balochistan, Wendy Johnson, she wrote: “When I arrived in Karachi I was stopped by airport police who mumbled ‘something wrong’ with my visa. An hour later I discovered that the visa had been ‘blacklisted.’ A peek at the printout from the computer indicated they had been ordered to arrest me.” It is pertinent to mention that she has been writing about Balochistan situation perhaps that is why she was arrested and deported.

In July 2010 a Swiss couple, identified as Ocholivier David and Wipmerderielaay Omer, were abducted from Loralai district of Balochistan but later they were found in the custody of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in Waziristan. Luckily the couple later reportedly escaped from the custody of their captors.

In March 2013 at least 12 men in military uniform abducted two Czech tourists from Nok Kundi area of Chagai district in Balochistan. The victims, psychology students, were named as Hana Humpalova and Antonie Chrastecka. The women were travelling on a bus accompanied by a Levies guard but the uniformed kidnappers released the guard after confiscating his weapon. The women later appeared in a Facebook video and their abductors were asking for the release of Dr Afia Siddiqi, a Pakistani national, held in America for attacking US soldiers in Afghanistan.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that these foreign journalists, students and tourists are often kidnapped for ransom and to blackmail Western and European governments. It is a fact that the kidnappers of these people have full impunity from the security forces and in some cases, as mentioned above, the victims were kidnapped in presence of security guards or by the security personnel but later they appeared in the custody of Taliban – a classic example of Pakistani military’s collusion with religious fundamentalists.

The reason for kidnapping of foreign citizens, especially in Balochistan, is that the state of Pakistan and its military does not want any foreigners to witness its crimes against humanity. Thus, they kidnap foreign citizens in an effort to scare them from visiting Balochistan. They want to keep Balochistan off the sight of foreign observer and media. They want to continue the genocide of Baloch nation in a slow but systematic way so that the world doesn’t notice and there will be no international outcry against Baloch genocide. Another purpose for harming the foreign visitors in Balochistan could also be an evil design of the military to defame the Baloch freedom struggle and an attempt to divert the media attention from human rights violations in Balochistan by abduction of foreign citizens.

Recently a toothless Chief Minister of Balochistan, Dr Malik Baloch, in a statement ordered all ‘law enforcement agencies’ to find the Czech citizens. This statement of course was just a lip service and a phony assurance to the Czech delegation that had called upon him and demanded for the safe release of their citizens. One should ask Dr Malik how many Baloch political prisoners he had managed to release from the custody of Pakistan military and intelligence agencies since he was brought to power. In an effort to encounter Baloch freedom movement Pakistan has abducted more than 14000 Baloch activists and over 700 among them have been killed in the custody of military. Not a single perpetrator has been arrested for abducting and brutally murdering the Baloch activists. People like Dr Malik, in power today, and Zulfiqar Magsi and Aslam Raisani who have been in power in past but failed to save the lives of their fellow Baloch – how can they save the lives of European or any foreign citizens?

As we were about to conclude this editorial we were interrupted with news of military operation in Awaran, New Kahan and Machh area of Bolan district in Balochistan. In Bolan Pakistan army have dumped the bodies of at least 10 previously abducted Baloch. These men were abducted from different areas of Balochistan and some have been in illegal custody for several months but Pakistan military and its state sponsored media claimed that they were armed militants and military killed them in a gun-battle. This latest massacre of ten Baloch seems to be another dirty tactic of Pakistan military to continue Baloch genocide.  Balochwarna editorial

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