View Full Version : Provoking the Pakhtuns - Rahimullah Yusufzai - 8th June 2015

8th June 2015, 01:46 PM
The Pakhtuns are being punished for their loyalty to Pakistan. The recent massacre of 22 Pakhtuns by suspected Baloch separatists in Balochistan’s Mastung district is a case in point.

They were ordinary people passing through a Baloch-populated territory on the way to Karachi when their buses were waylaid by the gunmen. The unfortunate passengers were separated from the others once the gunmen confirmed through their identity cards that they were Pakhtuns. According to eyewitnesses, they were brutally shot dead execution-style.

The cowardly act was clearly an attempt to provoke the Pakhtuns against the Baloch and cause ethnic polarisation and confrontation in militancy-hit Balochistan. All such attempts haven’t worked in the past and are unlikely to succeed now or in the future because the Baloch and the Pakhtuns have co-existed and lived peacefully in this region for generations. They share so much and are generally tolerant toward each other. Moreover, the Baloch and Pakhtun leadership have wisely made efforts not to allow anyone to create a wedge between their people.

However, the bereaved families and many other Pakhtuns would not be able to forget the suffering inflicted on them by those who wrongly believe that their cause of Baloch nationalism or independence can be served by this kind of brutality. In fact, this would alienate many more people and harm the true Baloch cause, which is to win genuine rights for the Baloch people and give them control over their vast natural resources. It is true that only a small number of misguided Baloch separatists may be behind these killings, but they have done irreparable damage to the larger cause of the Baloch people peacefully seeking their rights.

The United Baloch Army, a militant group that is able to operate with impunity in Pakistan despite being outlawed due to the gradual weakening of the state, had claimed responsibility for the killings through its spokesman Murid Baloch. He termed it a “revenge for the killing of militants in Mastung and Kalat areas by the security forces.” His reasoning was strange. How could those 22 innocent Pakhtuns be held responsible for the killing of Baloch militants?

A better form of revenge would be to confront those who allegedly killed the Baloch militants. Since they couldn’t do that, the killers found an easy way out by getting hold of unarmed bus passengers in the wilderness of the Khad Kocha area in Mastung district and shot them dead. It is difficult to believe that the Baloch, known for their chivalry and strong values, would resort to such an act against fellow Pakhtuns, who like the Baloch have many grievances against the state.

The claim by government functionaries that the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, was behind the Mastung tragedy or other acts of terrorism in Balochistan and elsewhere in Pakistan may be true but it cannot reduce the pain of the families that lost their near and dear ones. A number of Balochistan politicians, including ministers, have also alleged that the incident was a conspiracy against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. Whoever sponsored the killings, the fact remains that the attackers were Baloch and also Pakistanis and neither RAW nor any other hostile force could have done this without the involvement of citizens of Pakistan who are willing to do anything to harm the country and inflict pain on its people.

Those slain belonged to Pishin, Qilla Abdullah and Chaman, which are populated by Pakhtun tribes and are close to the border with Afghanistan. They were mostly labourers proceeding to Karachi to earn their livelihood. Karachi is a poor-friendly city and the destination for jobless people from all over Pakistan. The Pakhtuns, whether from Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), have been heading to Karachi since Pakistan’s independence 67 years ago in search of jobs as their native areas lack industries and resources to enable them to earn a decent livelihood. Unrest and violence in Karachi affects them the most as they are mostly daily wage-earners or involved in the transport, timber, vegetables and fruit businesses.

In the aftermath of the killings, protests were staged all over Balochistan, but mostly in the Pakhtun areas and apparently nowhere else in the rest of Pakistan. Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Malik had to publicly appeal to the Baloch politicians, intellectuals and the youth to condemn the incident because, in his words, remaining silent on the tragedy “would harm the Baloch people.” That was sane advice, but one has yet to see wide condemnation of the killing of Pakhtuns by the Baloch.

An all-parties conference was also held in Quetta and attended by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and some of his ministers. Almost all the political parties active in Balochistan and representing the Baloch, Pakhtuns and others attended the conference and expressed solidarity with the families of the slain persons.

The tragedy brought together political allies and rivals and sent a strong message that such incidents won’t succeed in pitting ethnic communities, particularly the Baloch and the Pakhtuns, against each other. However, the question remains whether such incidents will happen again. The Pakhtuns are known for their patience and tolerance, but another such tragedy could provoke the young men in their ranks to consider avenging their losses.

One would hope the Pakhtuns will not be provoked whatever the costs because they have emerged as the saviours of Pakistan not only in Balochistan, but also in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fata and Karachi due to their unmatched sacrifices in the fight against militancy and terrorism.