Pakistan sees the foreign hand in everything. But everyone knows who is behind the missing Baloch students
OWith the current upsurge in attacks on security forces, we are returning to a familiar routine. Between when a terrorist incident occurs and when blame is assigned, the separation is no more than a few minutes. The conclusion without investigation and without proof never changes; everything that happened is the work of foreign forces. Domestic political opponents – even if perfectly peaceful and completely unrelated to the incident – can be conveniently labeled as foreign agents and harshly trampled on. It is hoped that the fear will leave them paralyzed and speechless.
This may explain why Hafeez Baloch was forcibly disappeared three weeks ago by gunmen who got out of a black pick-up truck. This brilliant young man is a candidate for a master’s degree in particle physics in my department at Quaid-e-Azam University. The incident happened in front of his terrified students and fellow teachers while he was teaching at a small private school in Khuzdar, his home town. Hafeez had taken advantage of the winter vacation to take a short trip home and earn some desperately needed money. A few days away from returning to Islamabad to submit his final thesis, his professors and fellow students told me he was a bookworm with no connection whatsoever to any violent group.
Fearing the reaction of the security forces, the local police were reluctant to register an FIR. During their captivity, Hafeez will no doubt have been accused of being a foreign agent. Like countless other arbitrarily chosen Baloch young men in the past, he too will be deeply scarred emotionally – and perhaps physically – during this ordeal. We don’t even know if he will ever be seen alive again. The growing sense of Baloch grievance will be taken up a notch.
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Pakistan’s external enemies are believed to be the root of its national integration problems. But those who play secret games under the guise of national security bear a far greater responsibility. They are the ones who made our country suffer so cruelly from terrorism between 2001 and 2014. Although hostile foreign powers no doubt sought to do harm, Pakistan’s wounds during this terrible period were largely self-contained. – inflicted.
Forced disappearance of Baloch students will not eliminate terrorism but will weaken the Pakistani federation.
In the years following 9/11, terrorist attacks became a daily occurrence once General Pervez Musharraf sided with America and joined its so-called War on Terror. Previously, Pakistan had been the Taliban’s main backer and, as is well known, this backing continued in secret. Yet, publicly, Pakistan has declared itself on the side of the enemy of the Taliban. In retaliation for this perceived betrayal, religiously inspired young boys from madressahs blew themselves up in bazaars, hospitals and schools. The establishment, however, claimed that all terrorists were either foreigners or supported by foreigners. The common refrain was: how could killers of Muslims be Muslims?
The greatest proponent of the foreign hand theory was the late General Hamid Gul. My first encounter with this famous general was after he addressed an audience circa 1998 in the physics auditorium of Quaid-e-Azam University. There he urged Pakistan to wage jihad all over the world. During the Q&A, he was flattered that I called him Adolf Hitler’s brother. We then fought frequently on different TV channels. My last TV encounter with him was in early 2014, right after a horrific back-to-back suicide attack hours earlier. The general said the suicide bombers were not Muslims because they had not been circumcised. He angrily refused to provide evidence.
The truth, however, began to trickle in shortly after the bloody 2008 takeover of the Swat Valley by Mullah Fazlullah’s forces. The powers that be at that time looked on him – and the infamous Mangal Bagh – with approval from a distance. Their U-turn came much later. After the 2014 massacre of 149 children and their teachers at the Army Public School in Peshawar, denial mode was turned off. Subsequently, the Pakistani army launched Operation Rad-ul-Fasaad. The word “fasaad” is a term strictly used for internal conflict only, not for war against an external enemy.
Suddenly, Pakistanis started seeing television propaganda video clips showing PAF planes ramming targets in North Waziristan, artillery fire in the mountains, or perhaps another celebration of these military operations. . You rubbed your eyes in disbelief – how could planes from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan bomb Taliban fighters whose stated aim was to turn Pakistan into an Islamic state? How could they be portrayed as non-Muslims?
It took a very long time to admit that Fazlullah’s TTP was in fact a Muslim force. Now that the Afghan Taliban government in Kabul continues to harbor and protect the TTP, this delusional bubble has finally burst. But does he have it? I do not know. One day, the TTP is denounced as financed by India and, the next day, considered as brothers. The confusion continues.
Read also : Pakistan is making the Baloch intellectuals disappear one by one. This time, a master’s student
For now, let’s leave it as is. And Balochistan. Where is the truth ? How deep is India’s involvement?
India has certainly not ignored Pakistan’s difficulties in Balochistan. As a general rule, whenever a population is angry and alienated, it is easy for external enemies to find internal allies. India believes Pakistan recruited Kashmiris from the Indian side of the LOC to attack Indian security forces. By 1971, India could successfully exploit Bengali alienation to cut Pakistan in two. Today, Baloch alienation leads many Indians to speak of Baluchistan as an arrow in India’s quiver against Pakistan.
Indian spymasters Vikram Sood and Ajit Doval, as well as Prime Minister Modi, have often spoken of trading blows over perceived Pakistani involvement in Kashmir. Meanwhile, strategists like Pramit Pal Chaudhuri suggest retribution could come by stoking Pakistan’s exaggerated fears of Baloch secession. India should hope, he says, that the Pakistani military’s angry overreaction to dissent will keep Baluchistan aflame.
The kidnappers of Hafeez Baloch – and other missing Baloch young men who number in the hundreds – took the bait of Pramit Chaudhri and others. Across the Baloch student community in Islamabad, anger and fear run deep. The blatant violation of Baloch constitutional rights weakens the national spirit and damages the federation. Before Pakistan’s self-proclaimed security guards cause further damage to our country through their illegal actions, they must be reprimanded.
The author is a physicist and author based in Islamabad.
This article first appeared in Dawn on February 26, 2022, and it has been republished here with permission.