Millennium Post

Frantic coverup

As it faces mounting challenges from every quarter, the Pakistani administration continues its long-running campaign to deny responsibility and suppress dissenters

Frantic coverup

Human Rights' activists across the world were shocked beyond words after it was discovered that Karima Baloch, a 37-year-old Pakistani human rights activist and a prominent face of the cause of Balochistan was found murdered. Karima, oppressed by the Pakistani agencies depriving her of the political space to air the grievances of the Baluch people, fairly struggling for their rights and independence, sought asylum in Canada in 2016. She was a renowned voice of dissent articulating the Baluch dissent with powerful rhetoric became very prominent in Toronto drawing a huge audience. Even Pashtun, Sindhi and Punjabi dissenters echoed her sentiments.

Sadly, she was found missing from December 20 in Toronto and that too under mysterious circumstances and her unnatural death has naturally started pointing fingers towards the Pakistani secret agencies to have silenced her for good as she was becoming a thorn in the flesh for the Pakistani Government who are constantly trying to snuff out the popular voices of dissent. In fact, the commentators are saying that the circle of dissent is widening. There is one more reason which seems to haunt the Pakistani invisible agencies about their complicity in the killing of Karima Baloch that only last year, another Baluch activist Sajid Hussain was found dead in Sweden under mysterious circumstances. Isn't it more than a coincidence? Analysts find it baffling and continue to allege that there is large scale repression in Balochistan including opposition to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (protest CPEC) which is seen by all Baluchis as an infringement to their territory and impinging on their economy.

Meanwhile, other than the outpouring of grief on Karima's murder described as 'most foul', there are widespread protests by Pakistan's dissident groups which are levelling serious charges against the Pakistan state-sponsored agents for carrying out these covert overseas operations against the dissenters leading to such fatalities. In their protest speeches held in Canada and other western countries, the protestors are reminding the Government to learn from their past mistakes when they tried unsuccessfully to choke the dissenting voice of the millions of protesting Bengalis belonging to erstwhile East Pakistan, fifty years ago and the result was decisive. Pakistan was dismembered and Bangladesh emerged as a free independent nation. There are, therefore, straws in the wind which the Government is refusing to gauge raising obvious chances of rebellion or a marked uprising amongst the dissenting Pashtuns, Kashmiris, Baluchs and Sindhis. This according to the experts might prove fatal for the Government. More such murders would mean a heightened dissent giving strength to their ongoing movement.

Public opinion, in the meantime, is also going against the federal Pakistani Government. The Amnesty International has already criticised Karima's murder reiterating the fact that the slain activist figured among the top ten human rights' activists in a survey covered by none other than the BBC. Similar criticisms have come from other international watchdogs overseeing the human rights' violations in Pakistan. Most significantly, PoK activist, Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, reacting on the Karima murder said Pakistan is doomed to fail as a state.

Pakistan, in all likelihood, would try to divert attention by blaming its adversaries for this mysterious disappearance and subsequent murder of Karima, but the country has a very poor track record of fatally silencing government critics ever since it became a new country. The military, on a warpath, was always plotting to get rid of its opponents by clandestine means. There were political murders in the public domain and, unfortunately, most people with their short memory, found it convenient to forget such nasty machinations. Successive military leaders, in particular, embarked on finishing off the slightest voice of dissenters. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's son, Murtaza, who ran a dissident group called Al Zulfiqar initially operating from abroad was killed in broad daylight in Karachi in 1996. Earlier in 1985, another son of Bhutto, Shahnawaz died under suspicious conditions in the south of France when General Zia ul Haq was Pakistan's military dictator. There was no consideration of humanism at all. Any form of dissent was done away with. The list is endless.

As the dissent by the ethnic rebel groups is growing under the Imran Khan government in leaps and bounds, it would seem that he is unable to control the unseen but powerful agencies who are suspected to be on a killing spree using their deadly agents spread across the globe. Or it's not in his knowledge when such covert operations are planned. That's a sad commentary on his leadership. Judging by his repeated failures on all counts, critics have quoted the Prime Minister having openly confessed at a public event recently that he or his team have no experience of any governance. This statement doesn't augur well at all and speaks of the element of immaturity on his part at a time when he is almost halfway through with his tenure as the Prime Minister. Independent commentators have started blaming Imran for treating Pakistan as a training institute or needing some formal training or transitional orientation before assumption of the premiership. One independent critic said that Imran is behaving like a bad carpenter who blames every tool in his toolbox for any ills. That's a very acerbic comment but many don't disagree with it. That says all about the state of 'governance'.

Meanwhile, on the external front, knowledgeable quarters claim that Pakistan has secretly sent an envoy(s) to Israel with the feelers to enter into a pact. This, if true, shows another set of frustration amid developments that Sudan, Morocco, Bahrain and the UAE have warmed up to Israel and Saudi Arabia may be the next. Turkey, on whose prompting, Pakistan largely acts, is also in a secret negotiating mode for talks with Israel for a patch up though it has put forward some reservations. But most importantly on its part, Israel has very recently categorically and officially ruled out any rapprochement with Pakistan insinuating it to be a pariah state. Such is the level of Pakistan's credibility. It's a rebuff, loud and clear. Going by these developments, it looks clear that for Imran, it's a bumpy road ahead with Baloch dissenter groups intensifying their anti-government movement in the not so distant future, causing more headache to Imran and his amateurs to handle the growing challenges.

The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are personal

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