Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Tale of Tribal Terror

Baba Kot, a village 50 miles from Usta Mohammad town of Jafferabad district in Baluchistan, is where this recent tale of tribal terror began.
The media reports and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) indicate that it was here that Mr. Abdul Sattar Umrani, a brother of Mr. Sadiq Umrani, a Baluchi tribal leader and a serving PPP provincial minister, came with more than six men and abducted five women at gun point. They were transported in a government vehicle to another remote area, Nau Abadi, near Baba Kot. Upon reaching Nau Abadi, Abdul Sattar Umrani and his men took the three younger women out of the jeep and beat them before opening fire with their guns. The girls were seriously injured but were still alive after the shooting. Sattar Umrani and his men pushed them into a wide ditch and covered them up with dirt and stones. When the two older women protested and tried to stop the burial, the attackers also pushed them into the ditch and buried them alive. After completing the burial, they fired several shots into to the air so that no one would come close and left the scene.

According to media reports, the five female victims were Fatima, wife of Umeed Ali Umrani, Jannat Bibi, wife of Qaiser Khan, Fauzia, daughter of Ata Mohammad Umrani, and two other girls, aged between 16 to 18 years, whose names have not been published. At the moment they were abducted, the women were preparing to leave for a civil court at Usta Mohammad, district Jafarabad, so that three of the girls could marry the men of their choice. Their decision to go to to court for a civil marriage was contrary to the wishes of the elders of the tribe.

The live female burials took place a month ago but the police have neither registered a crime report nor taken any action. There have been no arrests yet. Minister and tribal chief Sadiq Umrani confirmed the incident took place but insisted that only three women had been killed by unknown people.

Unfortunately,the headlines of horrific honor killings are not rare for Pakistanis. But this latest brutality in Baluchistan is an extraordinary tale of tribal terror. It is particularly shocking for three reasons:

1. Because it involves a medieval style live burial of five females by their fellow members of the tribe.
2. There was an attempted cover-up by a government minister whose brother used a government vehicle in committing the crime.
3. At least two Pakistani senators from Baluchistan, including the current acting chairman of the Senate, spoke on the Senate floor in support of this "Baluchi custom".

According to the Nation newspaper in Pakistan, Baluchistan's Senator Israr Ullah Zehri (also a tribal chief) defended the terrible atrocity in Baba Kot. While aggressively interrupting Senator Bibi Yasmin Shah, who condemned the brutal act of burying alive five women in Baluchistan on charges of 'love marriage', said it was part of their traditions, which, he said, should not be negatively highlighted.

Talking about tribal justice in Baluchistan, I am reminded of a book titled 'The Tigers of Balochistan', written by Sylvia Matheson (published 1967), that epitomizes the Baluchi chieftains' approach to life. Late Nawab Akbar Bugti (killed by Pakistani military in 2006), who was twenty-one when Matheson spoke to him in the 1960s. She was questioning him on his casual statement to her, reminding her that he had killed his first man at the age of twelve. "About this man you killed — er, why?" "Oh that!" he responded as he sipped his tea, "Well, the man annoyed me. I've forgotten what it was about now, but I shot him dead. I've rather a hasty temper you know, but under tribal law of course it wasn't a capital offense, and, in any case, as the eldest son of the Chieftain I was perfectly entitled to do as I pleased in our own territory. We enjoy absolute sovereignty over our people and they accept this as part of their tradition."

The scourge of honor killings, however, is not limited to Baluchistan alone. Such barbaric and brutal murders are not uncommon in many parts of Pakistan, India (The Sikhs engage in it too) and the Arab and the Muslim world. The problem seems to stem from a distorted sense of honor and shame and deep-rooted misogyny found in all parts of the world. Some Hindus, too, routinely commit female infanticide by either aborting female fetuses or killing live born girls. The Chinese are reported to engage in the terrible practice of female fetus abortion and infanticide because of the government's one-child policy. As a result, there is a growing imbalance between male and female populations in India and China, an unhealthy trend for society. In almost all instances, such killings are sanctioned not by law or religion but by local customs and legitimized by courts which routinely acquit the perpetrators. This problem has much deeper roots than just the ordinary crimes or the problems of feudal or tribal excesses.

It is a particularly huge concern in Pakistan where the "democratic, civilian" governments are dominated by feudal and tribal leaders who accept honor killings as routine and legitimate. Having been raised in a system of arbitrary rule, these leaders in power do not have any understanding of the fundamental human rights of life and liberty or the concepts of rule-of-law or of due process. Fighting this terrible tradition of unjust killings will require a much bigger campaign than the one that toppled President Musharraf. Such a campaign will have to challenge not just an individual dictator, but defeat the power of feudal-tribal system and end evil social customs that continue to deny basic human dignity, political and economic justice, and genuine freedom to the vast majority of rural and urban Pakistanis.

I encourage my readers to visit AHRC website and urge Pakistani leadership to fully investigate honor killings and bring perpetrators to justice. The petition campaign may or not be effective, but we should all try, nonetheless. When submitting the AHRC online appeal to the government leaders in Pakistan, please change the subject slightly to avoid the risk of being blocked as unsolicited bulk mail.


Anonymous said...

I think..the honor killing thing is a descendant practise of Turks incorporated later into middle-east and south asia.Just to nit-pick on something you said, when you specifically mention some "Hindus" do infanticide, it translates to sort of a religious practise by "Hindus" where there is none."People in parts of India" would have been succinct ;-).
The female misogyny is more about economics..the social and economic costs of raising a girl child is absolutely scary for parents in immature social setups.Girls are frequently harassed by eve-teasers in sexually repressed countries like India, then there is biased honor "thing" where girls are saddled with all the "honor liabilities" and not to mention dowry system which is the final nail in coffin of women's empowerment. In Haryana, a married couple was slaughtered for marrying outside the tribe by family and the strangest part is that police and regional govt looked the other way even under media pressure. I don't know whether Baloch story is a propaganda piece or not..but the tribal system where such oddities are detected, the govt must intervene to demolish their social structure through massive education campaign and iron fist.

Riaz Haq said...

I don't believe any religion or law sanctions honor killings. It's mostly misguided tribal culture and social customs that allow such brutality against women that must be stopped by all means necessary, including education and strict law enforcement. There can be no human rights, democracy and justice unless half of humanity is treated as equals with the other half.

Anonymous said...

I was just about to post about this topic in my own blog I see there is no need now.

Riaz Haq said...

Successive Pakistani governments have tried to keep the peace in Balochistan by sharing gas and other royalties with tribal chiefs, particularly the three big ones called Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes. Unfortunately, this strategy has not worked. There has been neither peace nor development as the chiefs squander the money and continue to demand more. Not only that, they deliberately try and keep their people backward to preserve the reprehensible tribal system that denies basic human rights to their people. As long as the fed govt continues to be blackmailed by the Baluch sardars, there is no hope for the ordinary Balochis.

libertarian said...

Riaz: the details are particularly shocking. These oppressive customs themselves have been in place for a while.

On a tangential note, interesting to hear a view of the Baluch sardars that is balanced but still highlights their oppressive systems. No Pakistani commentator - that this reader has followed - has effectively presented that side of the story. Short of restructuring their society there is no hope for this insurgency to disappear. Add India's "interest" in Balochistan as a quid pro quo for Kashmir, the Pathan influx into Quetta and an insurgency that never truly died out, and the scene in Balochistan looks particularly bleak.

Riaz Haq said...

While I agree with you that "short of restructuring their society there is no hope for this insurgency to disappear", I am sure you recognize that restructuring societies is a monumental task that often requires war. Just think of how Japan modernized by fighting the Samurai culture, as well depicted in the movie, "The Last Samurai". However, unlike Baluchistan, the issues of ethnicity and regionality did not confuse the issues in Japan, as the Japanese society is fairly monolithic and uniform.

Riaz Haq said...

Some of the comments I have received via email seem to suggest that a lot of criticism of the latest outrage in Baluchistan is based on political or ethnic biases. While some may be motivated by such petty prejudices, here's what I think:

While I agree that varying degrees of political and ethnic prejudices and misogyny persist in many parts of the world including Europe, Africa, Asia, Arab and Muslim worlds, don’t you think that the local and national leadership has a very special role in influencing social behaviors? Wouldn’t you also agree that misogynistic attitudes and atrocities are far more common in patriarchal feudal and tribal cultures than elsewhere? If you do agree, then addressing feudal and tribal reform is a very good place to begin to address the issues of human and female rights and dignity in Pakistan.

As is often said, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. I think we should stop being politically correct and call a spade a spade to seriously challenge the status quo in Pakistan. We must take on those that are the most responsible for human degradation and abuse of the vast majority of rural/tribal folks. Democracy can not coexist with the current feudal and tribal systems in Pakistan or any where else in the world. We must, therefore, work on emasculating feudal and tribal power to usher in genuine democracy and human dignity for all people.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's Senate has now passed a formal resolution on the deaths, according to media reports.

"This house condemns the brutal murder of five women in Balochistan's Nasirabad district and calls for strong action to be taken against the culprits," the statement said.

It asked the Senate's human rights committee "to produce a comprehensive report on the incident in one month".

Anonymous said...

When my father was the Commandant of Kalat Scouts representing the Pakistan Army, based in Khuzdar, he used to tell me stories of these greedy and stubborn Tribal leaders. This was 28 years ago.
Seems like nothing has changed since then. Total annhilation of this Tribal system is the only way out of this illiterate mess.
Thanks for the article, Riaz!

Riaz Haq said...

Remember Senator Mir Israrullah Zehri? A few months ago the senator defended the crime of burying women alive by arguing in the upper house that "It is a Baluch tribal tradition and we have to respect it".

Well, the "esteemed" senator has now been promoted to a federal minister position as a reward for his support of Zardari's PPP government.

Is this a signal that there is no end to continuing oppression of the poor and the powerless, including women in Pakistan? Is this the "democratic rule" that Pakistanis yearned for and voted for? I'm afraid so. Pakistan has been in a downward spiral on all fronts lately: the economy, the rule of law, national security, terrorism, roti, bijli, paani, etc. etc.

As is often said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an NDTV report abut alleged honor killing of an Indian woman journalist:

At 23, Nirupama Pathak seemed to have seamlessly made the transition from her small home-town in Jharkhand to big city life. Read: Delhi journalist murdered: Honour killing?)

Supported by her parents, she arrived in Delhi to study journalism at one of the capital's premier institutes. There, she fell in love with a classmate, Priyabhanshu Ranjan. A job at one of India's best-known newspapers, the Business Standard, followed. On Facebook, she commented on political and personal issues. She was easy-going, unpretentious and helpful.

The roots that seemed to ground her rose quickly to strangle her. Nirupama was a Brahmin, her boyfriend a Kayastha. Where she came from, that was enough to stop everything.

Last week, Nirupama's family summoned her home, insisting that her mother, Sudha, was not keeping well. On Thursday night, Nirupama was found dead in her bedroom at her Jharkhand home. Her family said she had committed suicide by hanging herself. The post-mortem clearly spelled murder by asphyxiation. "There are no external injury marks on her, which means that she was probably pinned down by a few people and then smothered," said P Mohan, a surgeon in Nirupama's hometown of Koderma.

Her mother, Sudha, was arrested for her murder and sent to 14-day jail on Monday. Nirupama's father, Dharmendra, says though the family wasn't pleased with her relationship with Priyanshu, because he was from a different caste, he would never hurt his daughter. "You have to first look at your own caste, then you should look elsewhere... but we only advised her," he told NDTV, reiterating that his daughter's death was a suicide.

Riaz Haq said...

BBC reports a case of honor killing of teenage couple in New Delhi:

Police in the Indian capital, Delhi, say a teenage girl and her boyfriend have been murdered in what they suspect is a gruesome case of "honour killing".

Aisha Saini and Yogesh Kumar, both 19, were beaten with metal rods and then electrocuted, police say. The girl's father and uncle have been arrested.

According to police, the girl's family disapproved of the relationship because her boyfriend was from another caste.

Cases of suspected "honour killing" are rare in the Indian capital.

Correspondents say the killings - long a taboo subject in India - are now being reported more often. There have been a number of recent cases in regions near Delhi.

The couple's mutilated bodies were recovered early on Monday after neighbours complained of a foul smell emanating from the uncle's house in Swaroop Nagar area in north-west Delhi.

"When we found the bodies - the couple's legs and hands were tied and they were bleeding," Delhi's deputy police commissioner NS Bundela told a news conference.

"The couple had been electrocuted as well, but we will wait for the full post-mortem report."

He said the girl's father and uncle had been arrested "but three suspects still remain at bay".

Police say Ms Saini's family feared she would elope with Yogesh and he was called to her uncle's home on Sunday on the pretext of discussing the relationship.

According to the Hindustan Times, neighbours went to the house on Sunday but were told that a family matter was being discussed.

A police official quoted in the newspaper said the assault went on for hours.

The couple were beaten with "iron rods and other blunt weapons" before being forced to sit on iron trunks to which live wires were attached and they were electrocuted, he said.

"This is a barbaric act of violence and should be condemned. It is my duty to get the perpetrators punished," Delhi's Women and Child Development Minister Kiran Walia said.

So-called "honour killings" are fairly common in parts of northern India, but rarely heard of in the Indian capital.

In April, five men were sentenced to death and one jailed for life over the 2007 murder of a young couple who married against the wishes of village elders in Haryana state, not far from Delhi.

Elders said they had violated local customs by marrying within the same sub-caste.

Social activists say many young men and women die every year in northern states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Some commit suicide, others are killed - often with the approval, tacit or otherwise, of village councils that still wield considerable power.

Riaz Haq said...

A recent Ruters' blog post asks the provocative question: "Is Baluchistan more strategically significant than Afghanistan?"

Here's the text of the post:

Baluchistan, Pakistan’s biggest province, rarely gets much attention from the international media, and what little it does is dwarfed by that showered on Afghanistan. So it is with a certain amount of deliberate provocation that I ask the question posed in the headline: Is Baluchistan more strategically significant than Afghanistan?

Before everyone answers with a resounding “no”, do pause to consider that China – renowned for its long-term planning – has invested heavily in Baluchistan, including building a deep water port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea to give it access to Gulf oil supplies. The region is rich in gas and minerals; attracting strong international interest in spite of a low-level insurgency by Baluch separatists.

Bordering both Iran and Afghanistan, it lies along the sectarian and geopolitical faultlines that have fissured the region since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan later that year. Its capital, Quetta, is often cited by Washington as a haven for the Afghan Taliban in the so-called Quetta shura, who operate independently of the more secular Baluch separatists.

The province is also a source of friction with India, with Pakistan accusing it of using its presence in Afghanistan to fund the Baluch separatists, a charge Delhi denies. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that argument, you can be fairly sure that anywhere lying on the intersection of Indian, Chinese and Pakistani interests will be strategically far more important than it might appear on the surface.

In that context, Forbes Magazine has a must-read take-out on China’s drive to develop its presence in Baluchistan.

“In the Pakistani province of Balochistan, South Asia and central Asia bleed into the Middle East. Bordered by Afghanistan, Iran and the Persian Gulf, and well endowed with oil, gas, copper, gold and coal reserves, Balochistan is a rich prize that should have foreign investors battering at the gates,” it says. “But for a half-century it has been the exclusive playground of the Pakistani government and its state-owned Chinese partners. China would prefer it to stay that way.”

For an entirely different view, Informed Comment has a guest contribution up by Berkeley academic Kiren Aziz Chaudhry. The arguments can be a bit distracting if you don’t buy into conspiracy theories about the reasons for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. But do persevere until you get to the point where the writer identifies Baluchistan as the main centre of interest for the many rivalries across Afghanistan and Pakistan: “The fulcrum is the province of Balochistan. And within Balochistan, the pivot is the dusty, obscure coastal town of Gwadar. Gwadar has a spanking new deep water port. Wheels within wheels. Devices within devices.” It’s worth reading through to the end, if nothing else but because this little known part of the world deserves as many different voices as possible.

At the very least, both articles should leave you with a doubt in your mind about the original question as to whether Baluchistan is strategically more important than Afghanistan.

And then revisit another question I asked a year ago. Who will win the peace in Afghanistan?

Riaz Haq said...

All the pretensions of western style institutions make little sense to most inhabitants of India and Pakistan and other former colonies.

The colonial legacy of parliamentary democracy and British style rule of law are alien concepts in South Asia and never touch the lives of over 90% of the population.

With few exceptions, the disputes and conflicts are resolved using traditional rules set and adjudicated by local village councils (panchayats and jirgas) which are at odds with the laws passed by the national and provincial legislatures and implemented by the governments' justice system.

Riaz Haq said...

All the pretensions of western style institutions make little sense to most inhabitants of India and Pakistan and other former colonies.

The colonial legacy of parliamentary democracy and British style rule of law are alien concepts in South Asia and never touch the lives of over 90% of the population.

With few exceptions, the disputes and conflicts are resolved using traditional rules set and adjudicated by local village councils (panchayats and jirgas) which are at odds with the laws passed by the national and provincial legislatures and implemented by the governments' justice system.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a Huffington Post Op Ed on Baloch insurgents:

According to Peters, one of the most serious issues with the Baloch independence movement is "deeply troubling" infighting. In fact, he is emphatic in his condemnation of such bickering; going so far as to assert: "they are quickly becoming their own worse enemies."

In his view, individual Baloch simply don't understand that their personal feuding undermines the larger movement: "Certain Baloch fail to understand that their only hope in gaining independence is if they put their own egos and vanity aside and work together. This is the cold hard fact. They are already outgunned and outmanned. Pakistan will continue to to exploit their differences until they realize this."

So long as the Baloch continue to engage in "petty infighting," including "savaging each other in emails," (Ralph) Peters is pessimistic they can garner widespread support in the West. In fact, he warns that such infighting could eventually put off even their staunchest supporters.

As a result, he recommends that the Baloch leadership and activists set the example and halt their public bickering: "The Baloch leaders need to stop their severe personal attacks on each other and others. In the military, we say that you don't let an entire attack get bogged down by a single sniper. But, there are individuals out there who are causing divisions and attacking people. They tend to look at the debate as if you don't agree with me completely then you're my enemy. This undermines their cause."

Until these leaders and activists "support the big picture," Peters offers little hope that the broader Baloch nation will be able to "work together, put aside their deep divide, and unify." This troubles Peters as he confides: "At this point, do I believe they have a good chance of achieving independence? No. But, it would be much higher in the future if they just start working together. It's frustrating that the leaders can't unite."

Peters is also bothered by the Baloch tendancy to blame such infighting on covert operations by Pakistan's military and security services: "The region as a whole tends to blame conspiracy theories. But, I have come to believe that you never accept conspiracies when something can be explained by incompetence. There are probably a mix of things going on here. The Pakistani military and intelligence services probably have provocateurs working in Balochistan just like they do in Afghanistan. They live by the old rule of divide and conquer and they are good at that. But, the bigger issue is the Baloch's own egos. That's what needs addressed."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Economic Times story on the wealth of Balochistan ministers:

A provincial minister in Pakistan owns a tract of land that equals a small town - 24,338 acres to be precise. Another wears diamond-studded Rolex watches while a lawmaker runs seven mines and owns 300 guns.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Muhammad Aslam Khan Raisani drives a luxury sport utility vehicle Hummer H2 that was gifted to him and a Harley Davidson motorcycle brought to Pakistan after a waiver on customs duty, showed statement of assets and liabilities submitted to the Election Commission for 2010-11.

Besides owning a safety and security firm, he also has a mining company with a capital investment of Rs.106.5 million, the Dawn newspaper reported.

But, he is easily overshadowed by his Minister for Home and Tribal Affairs, Mir Zafar Ullah Khan.

Khan owns a staggering 24,338 acres of land, most of which he has inherited. He has Rs.51 million in two bank accounts.

Building Minister Agha Irfan Karim owns four properties, including a farm house, 150 acres of agricultural land and a house in Quetta.

Karim also two diamond-studded Rolex wrist watches, two more with gold and silver, 10 diamond-studded cufflinks and 200 tola of gold.

Pir Abdul Qadir Algilani, a lawmaker, too has a generous land holding.

He owns 3,200 acres of land and an under-construction farm spread over 400 acres.

That's not all.

Algilani's other properties include two coal mines, three manganese mines, one copper mine and one iron ore mine in his own and his wife's name.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report of Baloch seeking independence from sardars:

Tribesmen belonging to different Bugti tribes met in United Arab Emirates and demanded for their safe return to Dera Bugti.

According to a handout issued here on Tuesday, Hamoon Khan Bugti, a chief of United Tribes, while addressing the gathering said that they would appeal to Swiss government to reject the application of Brahamdagh Bugti for political asylum. He said that Bugti was the killer of several Bugti tribesmen.

Hamoom said that Bugti had the passport of Indian government. He said that they had been threatened by the separatist leader to shut the mouth. He added that they would continue to expose the real face of Bugti.

He further said that Bugti was a terrorist and still killing innocent Bugtis’ in the Dera.

“We will fight for our basic rights. We need to go back to our homes which were bulldozed by Bugti in 2002,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on Bugti girls barter:

As many as 13 young girls have been bartered to settle a blood feud between two tribes in Dera Bugti district of Balochistan, officials and tribal elders said on Monday.

The girls — aged between four and 16 — were given in Vani by a tribal jirga which arbitrated a five-month-old blood feud between the Baloch tribes of Masoori and Shahwani Masoori. Both are sub-clans of the Bugti tribe.

Mir Tariq Masoori Bugti, a lawmaker in the Balochistan Assembly, is said to have conducted the jirga, which was attended by tribal elders and notable locals, in the Baikar area of Phelawagh.

Due to conflicting statements, the date of the Jirga is still not clear. Two tribal elders, however, told the BBC Urdu Service that it was either convened on September 3 or 4.

According to them, Masoori tribesman Roshan Khan had murdered Mira Khan, a Shahani Masoori tribesman. The jirga declared Roshan Khan guilty and ruled that his tribe give 13 girls in Vani to the offended family besides an Rs3 million fine.

Vani is a tribal custom in which girls are forcibly married off to settle tribal feuds.

A senior official based in Dera Bugti confirmed the girls were bartered and that they were aged between four and 16.

Mir Sarfraz Khan Masoori Bugti, a cousin of Mir Tariq, also concurred that the lawmaker convened the jirga and that the girls given in Vani were less than 16 years of age.

Condemning the morbid tradition, Mir Sarfraz called upon the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the incident.

According to Ghulam Nabi Shahani, an elder of the Shahani Masoori Bugti tribe, several participants of the jirga have also confirmed the harrowing episode.

Mir Tariq, however, has denied conducting any jirga despite reports that the first tranche of the Rs3million fine has already been paid to the offended party.

Interestingly, Mir Tariq defended the jirga system’s reconciliatory powers. According to him, it helps resolve local feuds and maintain peace and harmony in the society.

Following media reports, Dera Bugti’s Assistant Commissioner Qasim Naveed Bugti formed an inquiry committee headed by Tehsildar Atta Muhammad to further probe the matter.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Toronto Star story on child brides in Pakistan's KP province:

KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA, PAKISTAN—At only 12, Nazia lives in expectation of the worst. As I step through the doorway of the humble compound her parents share with two other families in the Pashtun lands of northwest Pakistan, her small, fragile body trembles unwittingly. She knew I was coming, but learned too young to trust no one.
Nazia was only 5 when her father married her off to a much older man, a stranger, as compensation for a murder her uncle had committed. The decision to give the little girl away as payment, along with two goats and a piece of land, was made by a jirga — an assembly of local elders that makes up the justice system in most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s tribal areas, where conventional courts are either not trusted or nonexistent.

Nazia was too young to understand what was happening when that man dragged her into the darkness. But she knew enough to realize something was terribly wrong. “I resisted, I cried and tried to hold on to the door jamb,” she remembers.
Nazia was taken to the jirga, displayed as a commodity before the circle of men and examined by the husband to be, who was allowed to decide whether she was good enough to be his wife. Nazia remembers the men staring at her deep brown eyes, her long, black hair — the humiliation of that scene is so utterly marked in her memory that she can barely finish the sentence before dissolving in tears.
The men in her family argued, unsuccessfully, that she was too young to be married off. In a rare decision, however, the jirga agreed the girl should not be handed over immediately. So the demanding husband would have to wait — and so has Nazia. Even among the women in the house, she wears a full-length black chador, as if a male intruder could suddenly enter that door again.

She is terrified of growing up. Her parents have been able to postpone their daughter’s fate — but not for much longer, certainly no later than age 14. Most child brides are pregnant by then.
Made to suffer
According to tradition, the compensation — a custom known as swara in Pashtun — should end the dispute and bring the two warring families together in harmony. In practice, however, the marriage only provides cover for revenge. Swara girls become the targets of all anger and hatred in their new home. They are often bitten, emotionally tortured and sometimes raped by other men in the family. They are made to suffer for a crime they did not commit.
The swara custom is a form of collective punishment. Nazia’s uncle — the perpetrator of the crime for which she is to be punished — killed a neighbour in a land dispute and then ran away. He left no children, so the jirga decided his older brother should pay in his place by sacrificing his own daughter.
Nazia’s father is a poor, uneducated farmer, and he could do nothing to contest this ruling. Having lost his land and livestock, he now works in temporary construction jobs, which pay $3 a day. His wife helps by cleaning neighbours’ houses for a few more rupees....

Riaz Haq said...

Bugti's own words reported by Sylvia Matheson are an indictment of the entire tribal culture of oppression and murder that Balochi Senator Israrullah Zehri rose to defend on Pakistan's senate floor.

Riaz Haq said...

Balochis 40% of #Balochistan's population. #BLA, #BLF, #BRA, #UBA 3-4K fighters fighting #Pakistan are deeply divided

Riaz Haq said...

A few renegade scions belonging to Bugti, Marri and Mengal houses of sardars, on payroll of foreign powers and stationed abroad, are trying to become the face of Baloch nationalism. This reeks of crass opportunism because these very sardars demanding greater political rights, autonomy and control over their natural resources remain in themselves the main stumbling block to preventing the benefits of progress and the fruits of royalty of the natural resources from trickling to the masses.

The sardari system in Baluchistan was abolished in the early sixties, but successive governments failed to translate it into reality due to entrenched resistance by the Baloch sardars. It is a manifestation of their unbridled power that sardars, blatantly and brazenly, maintain personal militias equipped with modern weapons and challenge the writ of the state with impunity. It is heartrending as to how they can trod upon, most inhumanely, on the fundamental rights of their followers, claiming authority drawn from traditions and custom of the Baloch. It may sound unbelievable but while dispensing justice, they can still order people to walk on fire to prove innocence, grant hand of women as compensation in feuds and levy fines amounting to lakhs on perceived misdemeanor at personal discretion. They, manifestly, are a tyrannical relic of an oppressive past, which needs to accommodate change or become extinct in the process. The British treated Baluchistan markedly different than Punjab or Sindh, whereby their interest here, primarily, was not economic, but rather of a military and geopolitical in nature. They were interested in defining the Western frontiers of their empire, station garrisons to defend these frontiers and find a safe passage through the area in case of military expeditions to Afghanistan. By 1854, the Khan of Kalat had accepted the British suzerainty for an annual salary of Rs50,000. In 1876, the Khan and all his sardars signed a treaty paving the way for the implementation of the sandeman system of administration. This system changed the status of the Khan and the Baloch sardars to that of the paid agents of the British Crown. In return for this cessation of sovereignty, the sardars were provided with privy purses covering all their expenses, family needs, personal staff, body guards, tours, hospitality, maintenance of their residences, marriages and all family ceremonies etc. Under the new system, the sardars were now empowered to organize Levies Corps by recruiting tribal personnel and receiving their pays from the British, exercising the discretion of paying whatever salary they deemed necessary or none at all to their tribal members, if they so wished. As the sardars were the extension of the British authority, the system bestowed unlimited powers concerning their ability to impose whatever revenue they deemed appropriate in their tribal area. Assisted by Levies, paid for by the British, the sardars perfected a system of total submission of their tribal members, causing grave economic exploitation and political degeneration of the Baloch society.

Since the British had no economic interest tied in Baluchistan, they promoted the most repressive form of the jagirdari system to consolidate the authority of sardars. The land was collectively given to a tribe, as a whole in which the sardar established an intricate hierarchy of revenue collection and his own law enforcement apparatus constituting the tumandars, the muqaddams, the naibs and the maliks

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts on Sardar Akbar Bugti from Economist Magazine in 2006:

To reach the cave Mr Bugti calls home, your correspondent trekked for a week through scorched valleys and moonlit hills, circumventing army pickets. Though half-crippled by thrombosis, Mr Bugti, who claims to have killed his first man at the age of twelve, was in good spirits. “It is better to die quickly in the mountain than slowly in bed,” he said, surrounded by a silent crowd of Bugti gunmen. A fan of Nietzsche and Genghis Khan, he speaks perfect English and delights in punctiliously-pronounced discourses on the love-life of camels and wreaking horrible revenge on his foes. “What is better than seeing your enemies driven before you and then taking their women to bed?” he says.

While Bugti tribesmen harry the army, a mysterious outfit, the Baluchistan Liberation Army, which the government says is also run by the sardars, is attacking policemen and soldiers across the province. Both groups are believed to have received assistance from India, across the nearby porous border with Afghanistan. In the past few years, 400 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the conflict, as well as several hundred people in army attacks. Pakistan's Human Rights Commission has documented government atrocities, including a massacre of 12 civilians in January.

Mr Bugti has a dreadful history of oppressing his people, yet the grievances he claims to be fighting for are real. Moreover, Pakistanis see the conflict as an extension of an even more unpopular campaign General Musharraf is waging against Pushtun Islamic fundamentalists in the northern tribal areas. In the past two years, for no obvious gain, over 600 soldiers have been killed there—including six on June 26th in a suicide bomb attack in North Waziristan tribal agency.

General Musharraf is believed to be sincere in wanting to bring greater prosperity to Baluchistan—and to make it the hub of Pakistan's energy sector. Yet he seems convinced that to end its insurgency, he has only to crush the bothersome sardars. In that, though, he is wrong.

Riaz Haq said...

Private jails in Balochistan’s fiefdoms - Pakistan - DAWN.COM

“On the first day, I was suspended from a girder in the courtyard, and I lost consciousness upon being beaten up by a guard,” reveals one of them. “After three consecutive nights, I finally stopped fainting from the physical violence.” It was the beginning of three years of hell.

“There were fetters on our legs and my hands were tied. One of my fellow prisoners would have to open the narra [drawstring] of my shalwar when I wanted to relieve myself, which I had to do in a cooler. That’s what the prisoners were given to use as a toilet,” he tells Dawn over the phone. “I went three years without taking a shower. I couldn’t even cut my hair and nails. I smelled of urine all the time as did the other prisoners.”

In the dead of night, the guards, many of whom had criminal backgrounds, would take them outside and taunt them over their disheveled appearance. “In winter, they would throw cold water on us in the courtyard, they would leave us there to die, hanging from the girder. I still suffer from trauma. My hands tremble so much, I can’t even hold a pen.”

One former prisoner said that during his two plus years in detention, he only saw sunlight after a mouse dug a little hole from outside into the room where he was kept.

Dawn Investigations tracked down another former prisoner, this one from Kachhi district. “There were 12 of us in custody, one of whom was suspended by his hands from a hook in the ceiling,” he told Dawn. “Among the prisoners was a Hindu man. He was reciting the Bhagavad Gita out of fear. I told him that the sardar and I are both Muslims, and if he didn’t forgive me over our own holy book, he won’t do it for your holy book either.”

Another former detainee, Fazal*, was kept in a room without any windows or air vents, he says while speaking to Dawn in his hometown of Barkhan. His hands and feet were constantly bound. “I even had to sleep like that,” he said, repeatedly putting his fingers to his face out of nervousness. “There was a water cooler in a corner of the room into which we would relieve ourselves. The smell and anxiety would not let us sleep.”