Karima Baloch’s Death: What Explains Western Govts’ ‘Silence’?
What can you say of a 37-year-old woman who has been killed? That she had been, for almost ten years, the head of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO), a group that fights for the rights of Balochs and that in Pakistan, unlike the Taliban and other international terrorist organisations, is outlawed.
That she had been a psychology student, and that she had found herself the leader of the BSO, the first woman ever to fill that role, almost in spite of herself. Who had lived for nearly ten years as a fugitive in her country until, in 2015, she managed to escape to Canada.
Her name was Karima Baloch, and in 2016, the BBC listed her among the 100 most “influential and inspirational” women in the world. Her body was found in a canal in Toronto. As if instead of civilised Canada it was still Balochistan, and Karima’s fragile body was one of the many that everyday find themselves thrown on the roadsides with signs of torture.
She had been missing for two days, as though she were in Balochistan and not in Toronto, as if she was just another one of the thousands of activists, journalists, dissidents, men, women and children who disappear every year in the beleaguered province that is illegally occupied by Pakistan.
The modalities of her death are too similar to that of the death of another Baloch, an investigative journalist who took refuge abroad to escape the Death Squads commanded by the ISI and the Pakistani Army: Sajid Hussain was found, after having disappeared for almost a month, in a river in Uppsala, Sweden, in March 2019. His death is still shrouded in mystery. The outrage by a number of international organisations, however, has long since died out. And so will be the case here too, for Karima.
But, to paraphrase Shakespeare, ‘we are here to bury Karima, not to praise her’. Because Karima, unfortunately, will not be the last to die. Many Pakistani dissidents have been officially informed by the intelligence bureaus of the governments of the countries in which they have taken refuge, of the existence — credible and documented — of Pakistani secret service plots against them.
There are many, and their names are also famous, living with the threat of a possible, indeed probable, attempt on their lives: not in Pakistan, but in France, in Holland, in England, in the United States. Or in Sweden and Canada. And it’s not about political fiction. Former Pakistan President and former Army Chief Musharraf said in an interview, that is still doing the rounds on social media, that it is perfectly acceptable to kill ‘traitors’ abroad — adding that “everyone does it”.
Especially, it seems, since the Chinese secret services are behind the Pakistani State killers, who regularly interrogate those that the ISI picks up and occupy, militarily and commercially, Balochistan under the guise of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor . The CPEC further deprived the Baloch of rights and livelihoods. For ‘security reasons’ the port of Gwadar has been fortified, and access to an area of kilometres is prohibited for citizens. Thousands of fishermen have lost their only source of support, thousands of women and children have lost access to clean water.
They are silent because everyone, starting with Italy, sells weapons to Pakistan even when it is contrary to both the Constitution and European standards. They are silent because Pakistan blackmails the rest of the world with the threat of an atomic bomb that could end up in the hands of terrorists.
While Karima went missed and was subsequently killed, mullah Baradar was freely visiting Taliban’s training camps in Balochistan. While she was kidnapped, he was in Karachi distributing money to wounded comrades in need. Western governments must act, and act now.
Before it is too late, before the roads and the rivers of civilised countries will start looking like Balochistan, before all we declare to stand for human and civil rights, democracy and the rule of law, will slowly vanish. Before they come for us, there won’t be anybody left to stand for freedom.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. She tweets at @francescam63.