Caught in a Whirlpool of Darkness
By Shireen M. Mazari
The column today was meant to highlight the strange silence and oblivion of our present rulers to critical events happening in our external environment. However, the vile murder of five Baloch women – who were shot and then buried alive – could not be ignored. It was simply revolting to hear a member of the Senate actually justify murder in the name of so-called Baloch tradition.
As a Baloch and a woman, I cannot find words strong enough to condemn the murderous action by Baloch tumandars. Apart from anything else, such an act of cold blooded murder is against the law of the land and so far as one can tell, Balochistan is still a part of Pakistan and therefore all its citizens – in fact all those living within its territory – are subject to its laws. So Baloch tradition or whatever sick explanation being meted out for his dastardly act does not absolve the guilty of charges of murder under the law of the land of Pakistan.
Yet we have to witness rationalizations of such a criminal act by our elected political elite. Not that this is the first time such bizarre statements have been made. One still remembers another Baloch feudal, with his constituency in Sindh, seek to justify karo kari in the previous National Assembly and many politicians from a so-called left of center "liberal" party of Pukhtunkhwa province also rose in defense of the killing of innocent women in the name of "honor". It seems that for women, the law of the land and the protection the state should offer is irrelevant in the face of murdering feudals.
As for another leader's comment that people in Islamabad cannot comment on an event in Balochistan, that is nonsense. As a Pakistani, nay as a human being, I have all the right in the world to condemn murder anywhere and I do not need to be sensitized to the evil social norms that led to such a dastardly action.
In the present case, although the Senate finally passed a resolution condemning the murders, what has been sickening has been the silence of the present leadership especially the prime minister who visited Quetta after the revelation of the multiple murders and chose to keep quiet and behave as if nothing untoward had happened. Such is the price of presidential politics or is the feudal instinct stronger in the present ruling elite than respect for the law of the land?
Now we are seeing efforts to have a "sanitized" official report of the murders presented to parliament – as if any explanation can condone what is simply murder. To state that the women were killed by being shot dead and then buried hardly makes the crime any less repulsive. But we know the real culprits – bigwigs in the PPP – will never be brought to justice. As for our new president waiting in the wings of PM House, perhaps his mental problems have produced a convenient amnesia which has prevented a strong condemnation of this brutal killing. All in all, this incident has once again revealed the decadent social systems that still govern the majority of the population living in the rural backwaters of the country.
Now coming to the strange silence and inaction of our leaders in the face of strategic developments around us.
Is it not ironic that while the US-Haqqani-Malik-Durrani network halted our nuclear diplomacy, some European countries and New Zealand have taken a principled position against the Indo-US nuclear deal in the Nuclear Suppliers' Group – correctly viewing this agreement as undermining the existing non-proliferation regime? Can we regain our courage and assert our interest on the nuclear issue? If our present subservience to US diktat continues God help this country's strategic assets under the new Zardari presidential dispensation. Of course now that the medical reports have become public, I suppose one can lay his continuous habit of reneging on commitments as a result of his fragile mental health. Or were the reports simply fake? Either way, it bodes ill for the nation. Especially if our enemies, including the US, use the medical card as a means of justifying the undermining or seeking control of our nuclear assets on grounds that the man with his trigger on the nuclear button is medically unreliable. This is something to seriously ponder over for the long term.
Perhaps the present leadership's silence on events in our eastern neighbor is more understandable after the Indian leadership's declaration that Zardari is friendly towards India. So our government has barely said anything on the latest uprising in Indian Occupied Kashmir despite the killings by Indian security forces and the attempt by the Indian state to create a communal conflict in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Why Pakistan's silence is bizarre is because we are a legitimate party to the Kashmir Dispute. But then when the 1989 Kashmiri indigenous uprising began, it took our government two months to make the first official comment – in February 1989. Is it any wonder that the Kashmiris struggling against Indian occupation have lost all faith in Pakistan? While Indian civil society, for the first time, is acknowledging the Kashmiris demand for azadi, and the Indian media is highlighting their government's brutalities against the Kashmiri people, in Pakistan there is an apathy and silence that is tragic.
It is the same silence that seems to have been unresponsive to the attack against Christians by Hindu extremists in Orissa. Thousands of Christians have been fleeing their homes in the face of violence and murder by Hindu extremists in the Indian state of Orissa and, barring a Papal rebuke, the international community has watched in silence as it did when the Hindu extremists led by Modi's state government, butchered Muslims in Gujarat a few years earlier. Surely Pakistan, which gets pilloried by the international community even if one church is torched – and it should be condemned for any such violence by extremists against its minorities – should be drawing the attention of the self-proclaimed defenders of human rights globally to the plight of the Christians in "secular" India.
But at present the Pakistani state seems incapable of doing anything substantive. A strange paralysis reigns across the land where the leadership is busy in "position-grabbing" at all levels and little else. Is it any wonder that no headway can be made against the problem of extremism and terrorism?
… Ironically, after all the hue and cry over disappeared persons in Musharraf's time, the present government has kept silent on this issue also, after Musharraf's departure from the presidency. So the Pakistanis who have "disappeared" will seem to remain in that category till they resurface in US custody as Dr Aafia has done. Again, the government of Pakistan seems rather sanguine over a minor Pakistani being in the custody of a hostile Afghan government. But then if our leaders are accommodating to murderers of our own citizens in our own country, why should we expect them to show sensitivity to their citizens' plight abroad or at the hands of foreign elements. After all, many have been handed over by our own state. Clearly we are spinning in endless circles of darkness.
Tailpiece: Incidentally, the dubious Zalmay Khalilzad was ostensibly spotted at Dubai airport on the evening of August 31 disembarking from a Vienna flight. Will he slink into Pakistan or will his Pakistani friends in high places meet him in Dubai?
(The writer is a defense analyst. Courtesy The News)