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The Moment Time Stops

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

How does one measure time? I suppose the criterion varies from individual to individual, from situation to situation and this means that time is and can be measured in different ways. True, some may measure it nonchalantly in their life of opulence and ease while some may measure it as a tedious exercise in their abject poverty.

The different attitude to measuring time is dependent on the usual circumstances that human live and survive in but how does one measure time in extraordinary and abnormal circumstances for then the measurement requires completely different parameters.

I have asked this question to understand how does a person whose father, brother, son or other relative has been disappeared measure time and bide time in hope when their loved one will come or what news will they receive about them? Just give it a kind and considerate thought for I cannot ask you to put yourself in their shoes for we may feel a lot for them but we cannot truly relate to the pain these people suffer specially when the abductor is the State and the abductee is a Baloch when thousands of Baloch families have seen the bodies of their disappeared ones dumped somewhere tortured and mutilated inhumanly with drills, burns, bullets and broken bones.

For Sammi Baloch, her younger sister Mehlub and their family the time is frozen at dawn of 28th June 2009 when they received a gut-wrenching call from the driver of the ambulance at hospital where their father Dr. Deen Mohammad worked in official capacity as a government doctor. The driver told them that people of law enforcement agencies had come and forcibly taken him away and manhandled another of his colleague there. That horror-stricken moment is forever etched on their souls as they strive and struggle for his recovery and in trepidation also wait for news about him.

Banuk Sammi was only 10 years old then and was suffering from chronic tonsillitis which her father Dr. Deen Mohammad had promised to get treated once he is free but that promise remains unfulfilled for, he languishes in unknown conditions in unknown dungeon in Pakistani custody. From that tender age she has been striving for recovery and release of her father; she has appealed to different forums, different persons and to people and world at large but all seem helpless in helping her or thousands of others whose relatives are missing.

When time stops it is an unbearable burden for though it stops in a way but that doesn’t mean that problems too stop. Her mother is ill and is all the time naturally obsessed with his fate and recovery. Time stops but that doesn’t mean your needs vanish, they only become increasingly difficult to satisfy because your provider and your protector has been unjustly snatched from you.

Dr. Deen Mohammad was not a gun carrying militant he was a member of the Baloch National Movement and wrote about the injustices and the missing persons. Banuk Sammi says if he has committed a crime he should be tried and it is absolutely inhuman to deny them the love and protection of their father.

Banuk Sammi along with Banuk Farzana and others participated in the 105-day duration Long March which began in Quetta in October 2013 and culminated in Islamabad in March 2014. I had the honour of being the part of this historic Long March and have seen blisters on her feet as well as Farzana Majeed. I once asked her that despite the pain from the blisters and all the tiredness and unfavourable circumstances during the March how could she continue, to which she replied that, “The pain of a missing father is thousand times more painful than all the blisters in the world and it was for him that I was walking and am ready to accept all the pain that comes my way in efforts for recovery for him.”

For Farzana Majeed and her Family the time stopped on 8th June 2009 and despite her efforts her missing brother Zakir Majeed is still missing. Banuk Farzana along with Mama Qadeer was the motivating force behind the Long March.

For Ali Haider Baloch the time stopped on July 14th 2010 when his father Mohammad Ramzan was picked up by agencies in front of him and a decade has nearly passed without any news about him. To add more to his misery, he himself was disappeared last year in June for a few days last year. He and his sister and aunt marched with Mama from Quetta to Islamabad.

For Haseeba Qambarani and her family the life has stopped more than once; once when her brother Salman and cousin Gazzain were picked by State from Qilli Qambarani in June 2015 and on 11thAugust 2016 when they saw their horribly tortured bodies. They were hoping their already shattered world would be left alone but when the State becomes a man-eater it never relents and on February 14th her brother Hassan and cousin Hizbullah were picked up and once more their lives are shattered and time frozen in one moment of horror which never seems to tick away.

For Mama Qadeer the time stopped ticking on 13th February 2009 when his son Jalil Ahmed Reki was picked up and it turned into a moment of horror on 23rd November 2011 when Jalil’s body was recovered and that moment of horror has seen him spend 11 years protesting outside press clubs. There are thousands of families that are living with the eternally frozen moment of horror when their loved ones are abducted or their mutilated bodies found.

Seemingly the State has visceral fear tinged by hate towards Baloch and it continues to destroy lives of people in Balochistan in an organized and systematic manner otherwise why else the body of Sangat Sana would have 28 bullet wounds on his heart and body and why would Jalil Reki’s body have 3 bullet wounds on heart. The fact is that they know these are the hearts that they can never subdue and so show their wrath on those they can and do pick up.

These are the few stories of the pain and sorrow that the Baloch people suffer when their loved ones go missing. As much as I may want but I cannot bring myself to appeal for kind heartedness from the State for I know it is as heartless as it is soulless so appealing to it useless. If they for so long have not been able to hear and see the pain of Banuk, Sammi Deen, Banuk Farzana Majeed and Banuk Haseeba Qambarani they will not be able to hear me too.

رہزن ہے میرا رہبر
منصف ہے میرا قاتل
کہہ دوں تو بغاوت ہے
سہہ لوں تو قیامت ہے

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted atmmatalpur@gmail.com

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Missing persons should be recovered before Eid – VBMP Chairman

Nasrullah Baloch, the chairperson of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), said that the families of Baloch missing persons are hoping that their missing loved ones will be recovered on this Eid, that’s why we anticipate that the government will not dispirit them and will release the missing persons and double the joys of grieving families.

Nasrullah Baloch appealed to the government to look into the issue of missing persons on humane basis and resolve this humanitarian issue immediately in accordance with the domestic law because the families of the missing persons are suffering from many difficulties including mental anguish.

It is to mention that the missing persons issue in Balochistan is noticeable. According to rights and political organisations of the region; around 47, 000 Baloch students, political activists, teachers, journalists and others are forcefully disappeared by Pakistani forces.

International campaign groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accuse Pakistani security forces as the perpetrators of illegal abductions in Balochistan.

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Balochistan: Police probe minister after a journalist’s killing

On Saturday, the police said that they were investigating the target killing of a local journalist to determine whether a provincial minister was behind the killing.

According to details, the development comes a day after the family of Anwar Jan accused Abdul Rehman Khetran, a minister for food in Balochistan, of hiring gunmen to kill Anwar Jan.

Police told media that a murder investigation has been initiated into Khetran’s possible involvement. Khetran has denied being involved, saying the gunmen blamed by Jan’s family for killing him were not his men.

Jan was killed by unidentified gunmen as he was returning to his home in the town of Barkhan. His family insists Khetran ordered Jan’s murder in retaliation for Jan exposing alleged corruption.

Balochistan is considered to be one of the most dangerous places for journalists; the abduction and targeted killings of journalists are not uncommon.

Anwar Jan’s killing comes few days after when a prominent Pakistani journalist Matiullah Jan, who is unrelated, was abducted in broad daylight in the capital Islamabad. His abductors freed him in a deserted place 12 hours later.

The government has not commented on who was behind Matiullah Jan’s abduction.

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Balochistan: Military operation continues in Buleda for 3 days

Pakistan’s ground and air forces continue military operation in Buleda area of district Kech, for 3rd day.

According to reports, Pakistani ground forces have launched military operations in different areas of Buleda in which the aerial forces assist the ground forces.

Locals told TBP, that a large number of Pakistani forces are busy in operation in Buleda and its surrounding areas including Jareen for last 3 days. Troops are assisted by aerial forces, where in many areas shelling by gunship helicopters has been reported as well.

According to the sources, during the raids Pakistani forces have torched the houses in different villages, while the transport has been banned in the said areas.

It may be recalled that skirmish broke out between Pakistani forces and an armed group in Kech district, on Saturday, that lasted for several hours. Baloch Republican Army (BRA) has said that one of its fighters lost his life in the battle with Pakistani forces.

Meanwhile, the military officials have not commented on this news yet.

It is to mention that two days ago a Pakistani soldier was killed and 3 others were wounded in an armed attack in Ketch district. The Balochistan Liberation Front, a pro-independence organization, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Pakistan has become the most dangerous country for journalists: National Party

The senior spokesperson for the National Party, Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo said in a statement that Pakistan has become the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

Bizenjo said that the Pakistani government has failed to ensure the safety of the journalists and resultantly, Pakistan has become the most dangerous country on the planet for journalists. He said that the powerful state institutions, criminal-minded elements and influential politicians are behind the attacks on media persons. These times are the hardest times for the media, he said.

Bizenjo also lamented that the media persons who “exposed the government’s corruptions” to the public await the arrest and persecution of their killers.

Bizenjo appealed to the government to immediately arrest the murderers of the journalist Anwar Jan Khetran who was killed in Barkhan on 23 July. He pledged that the issue of the murder of Khetran and grievances of the other journalist community will be raised on ‘all the forums.’

Reporters Without Borders, in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, ranked Pakistan 145 out of 180 countries. The Paris-based organization alleges that the Pakistani state and its mighty military establishment “cannot stand independent journalism.” The organization says that the authorities have constantly attempted to squelch freedom of information with “brazen censorship” – like interrupting the distribution of newspapers and threatening media outlets of advertisement withdrawal. RSF further says that the establishment has reined in the state media and has set about to purge the social media of “content not to its liking.”

Earlier in June, the RSF warned the Pakistani government to not threaten journalists living abroad adducing a leaked ‘interior ministry memo’ that accused five journalists – four Pakistani and one Afghan – of “damaging Pakistan’s foreign interests abroad.” The organization said that if any tragedy befalls the journalists in question, Pakistan will be responsible.

In the current Balochistan insurgency, 30+ journalists have been killed on the Baloch soil for allegedly reporting the insurrection in Balochistan. During a visit to Khuzdar in 2013, Hamid Mir, a prominent, outspoken Pakistani journalist, was forced by the local militia called ‘Death squads’ to give coverage to the widows of Pakistani soldiers that had died fighting the Baloch insurgents. According to the Mir, the forced interview took place close to a security check post. Mir was once again threatened in 2014 not to invite Mama Qadeer and Farzana Majeed, the Baloch activists who were raising voice against enforced disappearances in Balochistan, in his show – Capital Talk. When he did not comply, Mir was shot in Karachi, but he survived. Days before the incident, Mir had confessed to his brother, Amir Mir, and his affiliated news channel, Geo news, that if anything happens to him, the then ISI Chief Zaheer-ul-Aslam be held responsible.

In May, the exiled Baloch journalist Sajid Hussain was abducted in Sweden; his body was found in a river in Uppsala two months later. Malik Siraj Akbar, another Baloch journalist, was forced to flee Pakistan and seek asylum in the United States. Hayatullah Khan, a freelance journalist, and Saleem Shehzad, Pakistan’s Asia Timescorrespondent, were killed in 2006 and 2011 respectively, allegedly by the Pakistani security forces. Matiullah Jan, Waqt News journalist known for his criticism of Pakistani military, was abducted on the previous Tuesday and released 12 hours later. Many other journalists have been abducted and killed in Pakistan allegedly for their critical stance on Pakistan’s military establishment and reporting on the human rights abuses throughout the country.

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Pakistan signs new deals with China amid escalating tensions in the region

Amid the escalating tensions between the Baloch insurgents and the Pakistani state and after the recent attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange, Pakistan has signed a bilateral $11 billion project with China for the renovation and upgrade of its railway lines and the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Kashmir, a region at the heart of tensions with arch-rival India.

According to the details, China and Pakistan signed deals on 25 June and 6 July for the construction of a dam and the upgrade of Pakistan’s British-era dilapidated railway lines respectively. The two projects will collectively cost $11 billion – $3.9 billion for the dam and $7.2 billion for the railway lines. The deal was seemingly driven by a former lieutenant-general of the Pakistan army – Asim Saleem Bajwa.

Imran Khan’s government appointed Bajwa to head the China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority, which oversees the $70 billion ongoing projects in Pakistan, including power plants and highways. Bajwa also joined Khan’s cabinet back in the April, which already housed a dozen or more army personnel, increasing the military’s clout throughout the Pakistani government.

Since its announcement in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road initiative of China has expended a whopping $575 billion through energy plants, railways, roads, ports and other projects, according to the World Bank. Its progress has dwindled recently, following the accusations that China is luring struggling economies in debt traps to extort political and strategic gains out of them.

Bajwa denies these claims. In a recent tweet, he alleged that some ‘detractors’ are giving the ‘false impression’ that CPEC is slowing down. He said that the pace of work on the projects has been accelerating and that ‘phase-2’ will be launched soon – which has been done in the form of an $11 billion investment.

Pakistan army has already secured every single Beijing-funded project in Pakistan. From the mountains near the Chinese border in Gilgit Baltistan to the coastal areas of Gwadar in Balochistan– where CPEC is centred – Pakistani army holds sway. Its influence has been bolstered by 3 consecutive attacks on the China-related projects by the Baloch insurgents – in Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar, Chinese Consulate in Karachi and a Chinese bus in Dalbandain.

There is deepening concern over Pakistan’s ability to repay the Chinese loans. The Center for Global Development has listed Pakistan among the 8 nations that might face severe debt-sustainability problems due to the Belt and Road initiative. Pakistan must repay twice the amount it owes to the International Monetary Fund to China, according to IMF.

In the past week, the Pakistani government allowed a Chinese company to carry out its Copper and Gold mining in Saindak, without taking into consideration the ongoing insurgency in Balochistan.

The Saindak Copper-Gold Project is centred in a town, Saindak, near the Chaghi district of Balochistan and is operating through the Pak-China cooperation. Initially, this project was leased to the Metallurgical Corporation of China Ltd. – now called Saindak Metals Ltd. – for 10 years. The project was extended in 2012 and 2017 and has now been extended for another 15 years, bringing the project length to 45 years. Experts say that Saindak houses 412 million tons of Gold and Copper. In the 2012-2017 period, Pakistan had earned $2 billion from Saindak.

Despite its copious natural resources, Balochistan is the poorest region in the territory. The Baloch insurgents are fighting the fifth wave of insurgency, which was instigated against the Pakistani state, which they denounce as ‘oppressive’ and ‘exploitative.’ The insurgents allege that the federal government and Punjab – the bastion of the Pakistani military – are deliberately looting Balochistan. The armed groups are vehemently opposing the Chinese ‘intrusion’ in the Baloch soil which, they think, is another agent of exploitation of the Balochistan’s resources.

With the announcement of CPEC in 2015, China wanted to extend its regional clout throughout South Asia and to contain its arch-rivals – India and the United States. It is thought that the land and oceanic routes of the CPEC would allow for the fluid movement of goods across the world, perpetuating China’s influence in the global trade. The initial cost of this project was estimated to be $46 billion but has increased almost twofold since then to $80+ billion.

The Baloch insurgents oppose the China-sponsored projects in Balochistan, denouncing them as ‘intrusive’ and ‘exploitative.’ A few weeks ago, the armed organization, Balochistan Liberation Army attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi, Pakistan’s financial hub. In a subsequent statement, BLA claimed responsibility for the attack and said that had aimed to target Pakistan’s economy and to thwart the increasing Chinese influence in Balochistan. BLA had also attacked the luxurious five-star hotel, the Pearl Continental, in Gwadar and the Chinese Consulate in Karachi.

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Progressive Youth Alliance member goes missing in Karachi

A member of Progressive Youth Alliance was forcibly disappeared from Karachi around 2 am, on Tuesday night.

According to reports, Muhammad Amin was taken into custody by Pakistani forces from Shah Faisal Colony in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, and transferred to an unknown location, his whereabouts are unknown since.

The Progressive Youth Alliance has condemned the incident and demanded that Muhammad Amin be recovered immediately and that if a case is registered against him, he be produced in the court.

The organization has hinted at protests if Mohammad Amin is not recovered safely.

The Progressive Youth Alliance was launched last year on December 5 in Lahore. In its founding convention students from various educational institutions participated from across the country. This year after the summer break the PYA once again launched its campaign for Free Education, the restoration of student unions and against unemployment.

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U.S. Revokes Pakistan Airlines’ Permission Citing Concern Over Pilot Certifications

The U.S. Department of Transportation has revoked permission for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to conduct special direct flights to the United States because of concerns over Pakistani pilot certifications.

The permission was revoked “due to recent events identified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority that are of serious concerns to aviation safety, specifically matters pertaining to the proper certification of certain Pakistani pilots,” according to an e-mail sent to the airline from a law firm that Dawn said it had seen.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan confirmed that the airline had been notified of the decision in an e-mail, Dawn reported.

According to Reuters, the information is contained in a revocation of special authorization dated July 1 provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Pakistan last month grounded almost a third of its pilots after discovering they may have falsified their qualifications.

The licenses of 262 Pakistani airline pilots, including a third of PIA pilots, were termed “dubious” by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan.

Khan said during a June 24 parliamentary session that an inquiry had found that the 262 pilots had obtained their licenses by cheating and having others take exams for them.

More than half the pilots in question worked for PIA, but the airline said some had either retired or left their jobs.

The scandal emerged after a PIA Airbus A320 crashed in Karachi on May 22, killing 97 people, following a resumption of domestic operations that had been paused during the coronavirus pandemic. Investigators blamed the plane’s two pilots and air-traffic controllers.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said in a statement quoted by Dawn that the decision by the U.S. authorities was “a setback.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation in April granted PIA permission to operate 12 direct flights to repatriate people stranded by the coronavirus pandemic. It was the first time that Pakistan’s national flag carrier operated direct flights to the United States.

The airline is coordinating with the department, Hafeez said, adding that “we sincerely hope that with the reformative process already under way, they will review their decision to revoke the permissions of special flights operating from Pakistan directly to the U.S. and back.”

The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has already suspended the authorization for PIA to fly in Europe for six months.

The EASA said in a statement on June 30 it had suspended PIA and a smaller private Pakistani airline in view of the investigation reported on in the parliament.

The development comes as Pakistan’s government has tried to assuage concerns about Pakistani pilots, stating that an inquiry into the issuance of “illegal” licenses to 236 pilots between 2012 and 2018 was in progress, according to Dawn.

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