As the Internet emerged as the backbone of global communications during the coronavirus pandemic, activists and students in some remote Pakistani regions braved beatings and arrests to protest a lack of Internet access during lockdown.
But online and street protests, court cases, and resolutions in the parliament have all so far failed to prompt Pakistan to grant Internet access to millions in regions reeling from decades of conflict, poverty, and underdevelopment.
In the latest development, the provincial legislature in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province this week adopted a unanimous resolution calling on the federal authorities to “provide Internet on an emergency basis” to parts of the province that once served as the key theater in the global war on terrorism.
“In the 21st century, districts from Bajaur to South Waziristan are deprived of 3G and 4G networks or any Internet connectivity,” lawmaker Mir Kalam Wazir told Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial assembly on July 6. Bajaur and South Waziristan are at the northern and southern ends, respectively, of the 600-kilometer strip that previously formed the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan. “This is a major issue for us,” he added.
Since March, students across FATA have protested the lack of Internet access since the coronavirus pandemic forced universities to shut down campuses and instead rely on online classes. Late last month police in Quetta, capital of the restive southwestern Balochistan Province, arrested some 100 students who rallied to demand Internet access. In the mountainous northwestern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, which borders China, students protested this week with the same demand.
While Islamabad has promised Internet access to these regions, senior officials say a lack of funding and infrastructure prevents them from successfully bridging the widening digital divide where many rural areas have little or no Internet access.
Islamabad has mobilized some public and private resources to build the infrastructure, but senior officials have yet to say why tens of millions of Pakistanis still cannot access the Internet despite education and many businesses depending on connectivity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Pakistani state often cites security reasons for denying the basic right of the Internet, which is linked to accessing the right to freedom of expression and the right to information,” Usama Khilji, the director of Bolo Bhi, an Internet freedom and advocacy watchdog, told RFE/RL’s Gandhara website. “This narrative must be challenged, as millions of Pakistanis are being denied the basic linked rights of education and access to critical health-related information, as well.”
Khilji says Islamabad has announced access for a few districts of former FATA. “But matters for most other tribal districts, Balochistan, and Gilgit-Baltistan remain outstanding,” he said. “There has been radio silence on this issue, which is unacceptable.”
Authorities have never explained how exactly access to the Internet endangers or threatens security, but Khilji says there is little evidence that depriving entire communities of the Internet somehow protects them.
“Instead of shutting or denying the Internet, they should go after the militant groups, some of whom are regrouping in the tribal areas,” he said, alluding to increasing violence in former FATA, where tens of thousands of civilians were killed and millions displaced during a decade of unrest following the emergence of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the years following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
In April, a court in Islamabad ordered the government to restore Internet to former FATA. But the country’s supreme court later set aside the order. The country told the court that the Interior Ministry had suspended Internet access to former FATA due to security concerns, according to reports in the local media.
Amin ul Haque, Pakistan’s information technology minister, says some 35 percent of Pakistan’s nearly 800,000-square-kilometer territory lacks Internet infrastructure. “There is an urban and rural divide,” he told Diplomat magazine. “Most private companies invest in urban towns for commercial reasons and benefits. They refrain from investing in rural and far[-flung] areas.”
In April, the Universal Service Fund, an entity established by the government and funded by mobile operators, awarded a contract of more than $550,000 to establish broadband infrastructure in Kurram, one of the former FATA districts.
Earlier this month, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, the main telecom regulator, told a parliamentary committee in the Senate or upper house of the Pakistani Parliament that authorities were adding some 4,900 new landline Internet connections to the existing 9,000 in former FATA. With a population of more than 6 million, a few thousand connections, mostly limited to government offices, cannot meet the rising demand for Internet in the vast region.
In Balochistan, nine of its 32 districts have no Internet access. The vast province bordering Iran and Afghanistan has been reeling from a separatist insurgency for more than two decades, and tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in militant attacks and military operations.
Gilgit-Baltistan, home to some of the tallest mountains in the world and bordering China and the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir with India, also lacks digital infrastructure. “I have to walk kilometers daily to attend my classes,” Rasheed Kamil, a student from the region, wrote on Twitter. Students in the region have been trending #Internet4GilgitBaltistan this month to demand Internet connectivity.
With 78 million broadband and 76 million mobile Internet (3/4G) connections, Pakistan’s Internet access rate stands at around 35 percent for a population of more than 220 million. It ranks 76th out of 100 worldwide, according to the Inclusive Internet Index 2019.
Pakistani Court Orders Internet Access For Pashtun Students During Coronavirus Lockdown
Bolo Bhi and Digital Rights Foundation, two Pakistani organizations advocating that Internet access be recognized as a fundamental right, have warned of the dangers of a widening digital divide in the country.
“During these times, the digital divide will exasperate the existing structural inequalities in society as services and resources will concentrate among the already connected, leaving behind those who are most vulnerable to economic and social upheaval,” they warned in a March statement.
The protests across the country since then show that many Pakistanis are increasingly mobilizing and organizing to demand what they view as a basic right and fundamental necessity of the modern age.
For months after the historical long-march, Mama Qadeer, his compatriots and the entire Balochistan awaited the promised response. Every other day, one would fixate on the television screen, scroll through the social media or pore over the local newspapers, only to get a minutia of news on the much-anticipated response from the government. The marchers returned to Balochistan with hope, but, like always, this hope soon gave away.
The UN and the EU reneged on their promises. Balochistan never received any delegation to investigate the issue of missing persons. VBMP’s protest against the enforced disappearances continued in Quetta. Every day at 8 a.m., Mama Qadeer would arrive at the protest tent pitched outside the press club for his daily 9-hour vigil. Some days would be spent in conversation with the other protests; others in complete silence. At 5 p.m., Qadeer would collect the images, store them in the press club, and leave. Tomorrow will be better; he would tell himself. Maybe tomorrow someone will pay heed to his cries, but nothing would happen. Every day, the journalists and cameraman employed in the press club would saunter across the streets, without giving a second glance to the protest camp. Every day, the protestors would plead for justice; every day, the media would ignore. This has continued for 11 years.
A year after the hollow promises of the UN and the EU, the VBMP once again summoned the hope and filed an application in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and surprisingly, the court took action. Nasrullah Baloch, the Chairman of the organization, requested the Pakistani government to provide him protection, as he had received countless life threats at that point. During the hearing in Islamabad, Mr Baloch entreated the government to hand over the dead bodies of the missing Baloch persons, instead of disfiguring their faces with lime and dumping them into mass graves. He also regretted that there is no functioning mortuary in Balochistan to preserve the dead bodies until they are identified and claimed by their family members.
Promptly after the hearing, the Supreme Court ordered the advocate general of Balochistan to submit the report on the procedure of handing over the bodies to the families and the number of functioning mortuaries in Balochistan. The two-judge bench also instructed the then-Attorney General of Pakistan to submit a detailed report on Balochistan.
In April 2015, the Lahore University of Medical Sciences (LUMS) planned to hold an event entitled: ‘Unsilencing Balochistan.’ The aim of this seminar, according to the organizers, was to“Learn about the history, complications, human rights abuses, and the struggle for justice that has been going on in Balochistan.” The speakers included I.A Rehman, Director of HRCP, Mama Qadeer and Farzana Majeed, central figures of VBMP, Muhammad Ali Talpur, a columnist and a veteran fighter in Baloch insurgency, and few other activists. Because this event aimed to bring the plight of Balochistan into the national spotlight, the establishment intervened and resultantly, the event was cancelled. According to the university management, personnel of the intelligence agencies had personally met with the dean and instructed him to cancel the event under ‘government orders.’ LUMS apologized with the guests and cancelled the seminar.
The outraged students condemned this government intervention “a gross violation of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of information, academic freedom and political pluralism.” Students and faculty members organized a peaceful protest in front of the university. The protestors wore black bands as an indication of lamentation against the freedom of speech. The protestors said that an academic event was imperative to highlight the situation in Balochistan and to search for a possible solution.
Following the cancellation, the adamant LUMS students smuggled Mama Qadeer and Farzana Majeed into the university campus overnight. A small seminar was organized and the speakers had talked about the variegated human rights abuses in Balochistan before 200-300 students.
The LUMS incident was an obvious hint of Pakistani states’ culpability in the human rights abuses in Balochistan. The seminar was rescheduled and relocated to The Second Floor (T2F) in Karachi by the activist Sabeen Mahmud. Under the title ‘Unsilencing Balochistan (Take 2)’, a panel discussion was successfully conducted in Karachi. The speakers – Mama Qadeer, Farzana Majeed and Muhammad Ali Talpur – highlighted the ongoing grim situation in Balochistan. Addressing enforced disappearances and kill-and-dump, Qadeer said that: “These are ways to cripple us mentally and physically so that we no longer are staunch on our cause.” He said the state has employed numerous tactics in to quell the uprising in Balochistan but it forgot that “the Baloch are a proud nation” who have “fought and survived various invaders.”
Farzana Majeed inquired the audience and the public on why questions were raised on her character when she sought national and international help for the recovery of her missing brother. “I keep asking you for help. I ask the High Court of Balochistan and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the police and the activist groups. But can you not hear us?”
Muhammad Ali Talpur lamented that the public does not conduct transparent research on Balochistan and only rely on the government’s fabricated narrative of the Balochistan. “So, what the state labels us that how people refer to us.” The panel discussion moved to the role of an independent, unbiased media in highlighting the major issues that have plagued Balochistan and how the government can provide a wide space to media to freely work in.
When the seminar was over and Mama Qadeer and his fellow speakers were departing, Saba Mahmud, the Director of the T2F and the organizer of the event, told them to stay for few minutes so that an entourage can escort them to their residence. “Don’t go alone. Karachi is just not safe these days. Let my friends escort you back to your hotel”, she had told him. After ensuring the safe return of the speakers, Mahmud had left T2F with her mother. Minutes later, some 500 meters away from the café, she was attacked by unidentified miscreants. Sustaining four bullets throughout her body, Mahmud was transferred to a nearby hospital where she succumbed to the wounds and died, whereas her mother, who had been shot twice, survived.
Mahmud’s murder was explicitly linked to the event she organized. When informed about her death, Mama Qadeer lamented: “she was more worried about our safety then she was about her own. We lost a friend and supporter.”
After the VBMP’s historical march in 2014, Pakistani journalist and Geo News anchorperson Hamid Mir invited Mama Qadeer and Farzana Majeed on his popular talk show – Capital Talk. As the news of the invitation spread, Mir was contacted by the ISI and threatened not to air the program; he refused. Sensing the imminent threat looming above his head, Mir disclosed to his brother, Amir Mir, and his news channel, Geo news, that if anything happens to his life, the then ISI Chief Zaheer-ul-Aslam is to be held responsible.
Soon after interviewing Qadeer and Majeed, Mir was attacked by an unidentified gunman while he was travelling to his studio from the airport in Karachi. He received six bullets – in shoulder, ribs, thigh and abdomen – two of which are still lodged in his body. Following the attack, Mir’s affiliated organization, Geo, and his family blamed ISI for the attack. For hours, the news organization explained at great length the connection between Qadeer and Majeed’s interview and the attack on Mir. The organization gave a detailed account of the threats that he’d received from the country’s strongest institution. His brother came forward and ratified the claims, even Mir himself dubbed ISI – or the incumbent chief Zaheer-ul-Aslam, to be specific – culpable.
Days after the attack, the then Prime Minister of the Pakistan Nawaz Sharif visited Mir in Karachi. When inquired about the judicial inquiry on the attack, Sharif said verbatim: “Look Hamid, we want you to get well but don’t really expect us to find out who tried to kill you. Who is going to go and ask a working general? Meanwhile, here are three senior judges who will help you get over the whole thing.” The country’s prime minister was afraid to question a ‘working general’!
Geo news’ onslaught of the ISI was not welcomed by the military establishment. After a few hours of the attack, the military sent a formal request to the Pemra, Pakistan’s media watchdog, to suspend Geo news. The next day, parliamentarians and politicians slammed Geo and Hamid Mir for bringing the country’s most venerated institution to ‘disrepute.’ Geo’s vans, offices and journalists were attacked throughout the country, forcing the organization to formally apologize for its ‘mistake.’ Pemra slapped a 15-day temporary ban and a 10 million rupees penalty on Geo news.
Mahmud and Mir were the lone voices in the mainstream activism and media that questioned the human rights abuses in Balochistan and the government’s inaction in this regard – both received the comeuppance for their crimes. The VBMP expressed grief over the attacks on the advocates of the Baloch cause, but continued its protest, until January 2019. The BAP-led Balochistan government negotiated with the VBMP and promised the retrieval of the Baloch missing persons in a press conference in Quetta. Chief Minister Kamal Khan Alyani told the media that his government will exercise its power to recover the thousands of Baloch missing persons. With a bumptious countenance, the chief minister ranted criticized the previous governments for only photo-opping with the victims and not paying heed to their plight. He assured that his government is “committed to sort this problem out” within “two months.” Assured by the government’s response, the VBMP chairman announced to suspend the protest for two months.
In those days, some missing persons were indeed returning to their homes, reportedly due to the BNP-Mengal six-point agreement with the PTI-led government. But the enforced disappearances were not stopped – tens of persons were detained after the Balochistan government’s assurance. Sensing that the government has reneged from its promises, the VBMP reopened its protest within days.
Conforming to the government’s instructions, the protest was also suspended in early 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from these minor bumps, the protest has continued unhindered since 2009, for 4000 days.
As if the available evidence was not enough to incriminate the Pakistani state for systemic human rights abuses in Balochistan, the Peshawar High Court, one of the country’s most powerful judicial bodies, overturned 200 convictions by the military courts a few weeks ago, citing inadequate evidence against the culprits and an unfair trial. In 2018, the aforesaid court also overturned 70 military court convictions. In its detailed ‘final judgment’, the court had provided a compendium of the military court convictions and their underlying charges. The court had provided a conspectus of the cases and had established that most of the cases of military court culprits had been registered as ‘missing persons’ from different areas of Pakistan, especially Balochistan. The report said that the would-be culprits are detained from Balochistan, confined and tortured in cells and then tried by the military courts on ‘unreliable’ evidence. This report is the final nail in the coffin of the Pakistani military culpability in the enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
During its 11-year protest, the VBMP has been promised and betrayed many times. The federal and local governments and the global organizations – EU and UN – have failed to deliver justice to the victims of Pakistan’s enforced disappearance in Balochistan. Thousands of Baloch have perished through the state’s kill-and-dump policies; manifolds more remain missing to his day. Hundreds of activists have been forced to seek asylum in foreign countries. Yet despite all these daunting setbacks, the protestors persevered and marked the history through their peaceful and consistent campaign. Under the architecture of repression, the protestors have maintained hope; hope that their loved ones will return one day.
So, after all these hardships, what did the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons’ 4000-day march achieve? Nothing! For 11 years, the campaigners maintained a peaceful protest against the “monstrosities of the Pakistan forces” in Balochistan; they sought national and international assistance, marched thousands of kilometres to the federal capital, but nothing worked. Their woes have been ignored; their anguish neglected. Every year, tens of peaceful protests are organized and social media campaigns launched, but to no avail. The family members of the missing persons appear on the roads, carrying placards and chanting slogans of justice, but return home disappointed. The authorities have turned a blind eye to Balochistan. It seems that the Pakistani state has finally considered Balochistan a lost cause – needed only for plundering; nothing more.
Reporters sans frontières (alias Reporters Without Borders or RSF) released a statement on July 8 where it warned the Pakistani government to not threaten the journalists living abroad. Citing a ‘leaked Pakistani government internal memo’, the Paris-based watchdog warned that if any ill befall the threatened journalists, Pakistan will be held responsible.
According to the details, RSF, an international non-profit and non-governmental organization advocating for the ‘freedom of information’, claims of obtaining a facsimile of a ‘leaked’ memo of the Pakistani government that names six journalists – five Pakistanis and one Afghan – of damaging Pakistan’s ‘foreign interests.’
The memo accuses the aforesaid journalists of disseminating “rhetoric against Pakistan” and of being “involved in various activities in Europe and America which are seriously damaging Pakistan’s foreign interests abroad.”
The leaked memo, according to RSF, accuses the journalists of “either participating in anti-Pakistan activities or producing anti-state content” for foreign media under pseudonyms. The memo then addresses the journalists and says: “you are requested to strictly follow [their] movements and social media accounts.” If the journalists persist, they may be “approached through proper channels to stop such rhetoric against Pakistan in future.”
According to the RSF, the memo is addressed to five recipients: Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, the Director-General of Military Intelligence, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is unclear, claims RSF, who leaked this document. Unlike an official document, the memo was not circulated within the Interior Ministry. Instead, it was directed only to five recipients, suggesting that it was a ‘working document.’ The memo had been circulating within the ISI since 2019.
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, opines that the memo could’ve been released by the Pakistani state to ‘intimidate’ the journalists. “Let’s not be fooled, the Pakistani intelligence agencies could have leaked this document in an attempt to poison public opinion and intimidate the journalists it names.”
Bastard said that the “sinister” nature of the memo is “extremely shocking.” “We [RSF] will pay close attention to the safety of the reporters named in this memo and we will know who to hold responsible if any of them, or a member of their family, is subjected to threats or intimidation.”
The RSF also claims that the incidents of targeting the Pakistani journalists overseas have surged in 2020, the most serious of which was the abduction and the subsequent murder of Sajid Hussain, the antemortem editor of The Balochistan Times, in Sweden. Even though the Swedish police have not confirmed, it is suspected that the Hussain’s death was related to his reporting of the Drug trafficking, human rights abuses and the insurgency in Balochistan.
According to an earlier report of RSF; more than one journalist a month in Balochistan have been killed in connection with their work since the start of 2012.
Ahmad Waqas Goraya, an exiled Pakistani blogger living in the Netherlands, wad also threatened and attacked in Rotterdam. Goraya claims that the methods of the attackers “fit the modus operandi of Pakistani spy agencies.”
Pakistan is a dangerous country for journalism. In the latest RSF World Press Freedom Index, Pakistan ranked 145th out of 180 countries.
Numbers of journalists have been reported missing, target killed and threatened in the country, for which almost all of the victims hold Pakistani army and intelligence services responsible.
Unidentified armed men attacked check posts of Pakistani forces in Hernai district of Balochistan.
According to details, Unknown armed men attacked a coal mine in the same area, and detained two workers present at the mine.
Whereas, in Zard Aloo area of Hernai, the militants targeted a Frontier Corps check post with heavy weaponry, while the official sources have not revealed the details of casualties.
As per the sources, two days ago, armed men attacked a levies post in Chappar Lat area and confiscated the ammunition. However, no causalities were reported in the attack.
Later today, a Baloch pro-independence armed group, Baloch Liberation Army, BLA claimed the responsibility of attacking Frontier Corps, Levies Force and a coal mine.
“Baloch Liberation Army fighters targeted Pakistani forces and their supporters in three separate attacks in Harnai,” BLA spokesman Jeeyand Baloch said.
Jeeyand further said, “BLA fighters stormed a Levies Force post at Chappar Lat in Harnai area and captured the post, the weapons and ammunition were seized, while the Levies personnel abandoned the post.”
BLA spokespersons said, that in another attack in Zard Aloo area last night, fighters targeted a Pakistani force, Frontier Corps post with rockets and other weapons, causing casualties and financial losses to the forces.
Meanwhile, BLA fighters in a separate attack targeted the coal mine of a government-backed person, setting fire to the mine’s machinery and destroying a vehicle, while detaining two persons present at the mine, he said.
The statement further said that coal mine owners in the Zard Aloo, Shahrag and surrounding areas of Harnai, along with the Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, are becoming an obstacle to Baloch fighters, including the looting of Baloch resources. After the interrogation of the arrested persons, their release or punishment will be decided. If the coal mine owners do not stop supporting the Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, they will be targeted intensely in the future, it said.
Baloch youth become self-sacrificers not for name and fame, but to break the pride of the enemy, said Dr Allah Nazar Baloch
Dr Allah Nazar, a prominent pro-independence Baloch leader while paying tribute to the freedom fighters “martyred” in Karachi, has said that the attack on Karachi Stock Exchange was a warning to Pakistan and China to quit Balochistan. The Baloch nation has decided to take extreme steps to expel them from Balochistan. The great sacrifices of martyr Salman Hamal, Taslim Baloch, Shehzad Baloch and Siraj Kongar who belong from different parts of Balochistan will always be remembered not only by the Baloch national history in golden words but also be remembered by the all oppressed nations who fight for their freedom in any part of the world, he said.
He further stated that China is a modern-day imperialist and an aggressive power. China has made a long-term plan to use Gwadar as a launching pad by making Balochistan an undeclared colony to dominate the world. Pakistan has cheaply mortgaged Baloch lands to China. China’s presence here has become a threat not only to the Baloch national survival but poses a danger to the entire world. He said we believe that the world is still unaware of China’s intentions and that the Baloch are the only ones fighting the modern imperialist monster. The attack on the base of Chinese moneylenders in Karachi after the attack on the Chinese base in Gwadar is a continuation of the attacks on its strategic assets. The Baloch will continue it, no matter what the cost.
The statement of Dr Baloch comes after the recent attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi on Monday, by a Baloch armed group Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). According to reports 8 people were killed and seven others injured in the attack by four members of BLA’s Majeed Brigade.
Majeed Brigade is believed to be an elite unit of BLA solely comprising of what BLA calls “self-sacrificers”. The unit has carried out fierce attacks in past too including an attack in 2019 on a five-star hotel in Gwadar, frequented by Chinese engineers. The organisation was also behind attacks on Chinese consulate in Karachi and on Chinese engineers in Dalbandin in 2018.
In his statement, the BLF leader said that the basis of violence drive from occupation and all the roots of violence are implicit in occupation. We learn the lesson of the revolutionary war from the thoughts of personalities like Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh and the Baloch national traditions.
In reaction of the criticism on such attacks, Dr Nazar said; today, few so-called intellectuals are critical of our revolutionary war, and according to them our attacks justify Pakistani violence. They do not see the tears of Hasiba and Seema, and during which attacks their loved ones were caught red-handed by the state army and thrown in jail? Why don’t they notice the fact that Pakistan and China have made a practical decision to wipe out the Baloch nation from Balochistan? Pakistan’s barbarism and violence have been going on for seventy years now. Pakistan’s atrocities and barbarism, the tears of Baloch daughters on the streets are increasing the intensity of our war. These tears are to be avenged on Pakistan and its allies. I am well aware that Pakistan will increase Baloch genocide by using such attacks, but it will not wipe us out, he added.
He said that Baloch nation is fighting a revolutionary war. The young and treasures of their mothers do not go on an attack just for fame or due to madness but to convey the message of their oppression to the world and to break the pride of the enemy.
The Balochistan High Court has been informed that investigation into the university CCTV video harassment scandal has been completed, Dawn news reported.
During the hearing of the case, lawyers representing the university informed the division bench comprising Chief Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel and Justice Nazeer Ahmed Langove that former security in-charge of Balochistan University Saifullah has been sacked as he was found involved in the CCTV video scandal.
The lawyers appeared on behalf of the university and informed the court that action against former vice chancellor Dr Javed Iqbal, former registrar Tariq Jogezai, former chief security officer Mohammad Naeem and former transport officer Mohammad Sharif would be discussed during a meeting of the registrar and secretary of university syndicate, Dawn report said.
The additional advocate general told the court that the national and provincial assemblies had passed laws against harassment in government departments and universities but the committees to implement the legislation were yet to be constituted.
The court ordered to hold the meeting between the registrar and secretary of university syndicate within two weeks and submit a progress report.
It is to be noted that in October last year, a harassment scandal in the University of Balochistan Quetta took considerable attention of students, their parents and government officials.
Different student associations staged protests across Balochistan against the harassment scandal which uncovered by a government investigation agency, FIA.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which was testing the case for weeks, found that male and female students were being harassed through “shocking” recordings of them. These recordings were recorded utilizing at least six cameras that were subtly installed at different spots within the university campus by the authorities.
Iwant to escape from all of what I have around me, from my home, from friends and from my birth place and also I want to escape from this world. I want to escape from my home because I cannot bear the pain my family is experiencing on daily basis. I cannot see my Mom’s sorrowful eyes nor do I have enough courage to tolerate the heart wrenching feelings of my elder sister Sammi. It is heart breaking when I see my elder brother he is also helpless in doing something for our consolation.
I want to escape Balochistan because I do not have a heart to see people who are desperately waiting for their loved ones. Children of Balochistan, instead of living their childhood peacefully and playing with toys, are chanting slogans for the release of their disappeared family members. Almost every child of Balochistan is Sammi waiting for Deen Mohammad, Every mother is Khadija waiting for Zakir Majeed, Every sister is Seema Baloch Waiting for Shabeer. I want to escape the land which has been blood bathing from innocent blood. Killers of humanity have complete immunity here, they can kill mother of Bramsh before her eyes and they can stab to death Kulsoom freely. No one is here to stop this brutality nor anyone pays heed to missing persons’ grievances. The families are roaming city to city to register their protest, but their never-ending struggle does not seems to bear any fruit.
I have spent my childhood in these worries. At a time when my age fellows were playing with their toys, I was recording protest and knocking every door of justice for the safe recovery of my BaBa. 11 long years have passed, but I and my family are still in a distressful situation, the situation in which we are spending our lives, is with us from June 28, 2009 when we heard the devastating news of abduction of my Father.
I recall those days when we had a happy family with my father among us. My father was a medical officer in district Khuzdar. He used to come to Mashkai, our home town, after every 4 months. I was not even able to wait those 4 to 5 hours when my father would tell us he was leaving for Mashkai. Baba always brought me toys. We used to protest to our father that we cannot wait for 4 long months. At that time we were living at Nali Mashkai. Nali is a beautiful place surrounded by date palms. Mashkai River glows across the village. On the southern side of the village there is an Army camp. The security personnel always used to interrogate my Baba where he was and why he always goes out of Mashkai. Despite knowing the fact that Baba was a medical doctor and his posting was in Khuzdar, the security personnel always used to torture us and my father by asking irrelevant questions.
When Baba was with us, all our relatives used to be so nice to us. They used to come to our home to visit us and always asked us if we needed their favor. But when BaBa went missing, all their artificial love also faded down.
But the person who to this day is raising us through all these difficulties is my mother. My mother has given us the reason to live. She has motivated us for searching and struggling for my Father. She put all her efforts for educating us. She gave us courage to go out and struggle for missing Baloch people.
My mother also spent her childhood in difficult conditions like baloch of that time did. She used to go a long way for bringing water for household use. She wanted to study in schools but there were no schools available for girls at that time. Because of not having school facilities, my mother did not study in schools. But after marrying my Father, Dr Deen Mohammed, my mother had learnt so much from him. It was my father’s company that made my mother strong enough even after his abduction my mother fought all difficulties alone. After my father’s abduction, my mother is all for us. I even cannot imagine how much my mother has faced difficulties for us. In front of us she pretends to be brave, but we know that there is a limit of patience. Perhaps sorrow can be hidden for one or two days, but it is not possible to hide it for 11 years.
Now we are passive toward each other’s feelings, because we are out of words, there are no words for our consolation. Distress of my father’s disappearance is unbearable, but we are still living with it. I still hope my father will come one day, this hope is the reason I am still alive. All courts and human rights groups have disappointed me. But I will never give up the hope of getting justice.
A U.S. government report has noted that despite some counterterrorism measures, Pakistan still remains a sanctuary for Islamist militant groups focused on attacks inside its South Asian neighbors.
Pakistan remained a safe harbor for other regionally focused terrorist groups,” noted the U.S. State Department’s Annual Country Report on Terrorism 2019, which was released on June 24.
“It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN [Haqqani network], as well as groups targeting India, including LeT [Lashkar-e Tayyiba] its affiliated front organizations, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), to operate from its territory,” the report added.
Islamabad, however, rejected the findings. “We are disappointed,” said a June 25 statement by the Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry. “[The report] is self-contradictory and selective in its characterization of Pakistan’s efforts for countering terrorism and terrorist financing.”
The U.S. report noted that despite committing to “ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country,” under its counterterrorism National Action Plan, Islamabad has done little to prevent LeT, JeM, and the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban’s most dangerous militant wing, from operating from its territory.
“The government and military acted inconsistently with respect to terrorist safe havens throughout the country,” the report said. “Authorities did not take sufficient action to stop certain terrorist groups and individuals from openly operating in the country.”
The report said that Islamabad failed to act against known terrorists. “JeM founder and UN-designated terrorist Masood Azhar and 2008 Mumbai attack ‘project manager’ Sajid Mir, both of whom are believed to remain free in Pakistan,” it noted.