Editorial: A dark and disgraceful day in Balochistan’s history
January 25th 2010 will go down in the history of Balochistan as a dark and disgraceful day. It will be remembered as a day when the law of the land was brazenly violated by those who are paid to remain its custodian. Those responsible to guard the citizens’ lives and property were seen behaving like scoundrels by randomly torturing innocent civilians, torching public property, damaging people’s vehicles and adding to public miseries. The scenes witnessed on the roads of Quetta on Monday will continue to haunt every professional policeman. The hooligans attired in police uniform and brandishing official weapons have reasonably worried every law-abiding citizen.
Was it the harbinger of a civil war? Let’s wait and see. Let’s not underestimate this event. It surely did not come out of blue. Someone masterminded it; the others directed this play and the remaining executed the plan.
Intended to demand an increase in their salaries, thousands of armed policemen in Balochistan’s provincial capital, Quetta, took to the streets. Initially, everyone viewed it as a routine exercise of democratic right envisaged in a political dispensation. Public perceptions proved wrong. The policemen forcefully blocked all roads; burnt tyres, broke traffic single lights, shattered windowpanes of various vehicles. As thick smoke became visible from all four directions of the city, the protesting policemen reassured themselves that they had terrorized the whole city. Carrying clubs in one hand and pistols in the other, they slapped civilians, damaged motor cycles and smashed cars. Thousands of people stranded on the roads were disallowed to go home. Women, children, elderly citizens, hungry, thirsty, ailing and wailing passengers were subjected to inhuman treatment. They all surely had once thought of calling the police for help. The Police? They could not do so because the police in Quetta was demonstrating its most horrific face.
While democracy entitles every citizen of the land the right to expostulate for one’s rights, no democratic practice, including protest rallies, however, can be encouraged to become so undemocratic in their nature. The freedom of articulating one’s demands does not by any standards entitle the other person to make personal attacks on a man holding a prestigious position. No civilized society would allow the shameless actions of the Quetta police when it broke the gate of the Chief Minister House in Quetta. Not only this, but they also broke the glasses of the CM house building by pelting stones at them. They used extremely offensive and abusive language against Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, who is a highly respected tribal figure in Baloch society besides being the chief minister of Balochistan.
Democracy is not all about abusing your opponent publicly. Sadly, our policemen had never been taught such etiquettes. One could have million differences with the CM on the political front; it was not a Baloch or Pashtun tradition to use offensive language against a person holding dignified tribal stature.
In addition, arrogant policemen publicly humiliated and defied their big boss: Minister for Home and Tribal affairs, Mir Zafarullah Zehri. They disrespected around half of a dozen provincial ministers who had surely come with the sincere intention to heed the protestors’ demands.
The forceful entry of policemen and vandalizing with the CM house building was in fact an attack on the supremacy of law. One would be distressed if anyone behaved that way but we are deeply shocked and disappointed because this was done for the first time in the history of Balochistan by none other than the police.
Policemen also brutally beat several journalists during their protest rally. They injured Farid Ahmed, a reporter of Dunya TV and his cameraman when they were performing their professional duty without taking sides with either the government or the protestors. There was no reason to attack the press corps. In response, the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) has announced to boycott the coverage of the policemen’s ongoing protests. Further, journalists are planned to hold a protest rally against the incident on Tuesday. The attack on the press was another display of defiance by the police for the country’s Constitution and hostility towards freedom of press.
The Governor’s House was attacked too. As a matter of fact, the governor of a province is not responsible to deal with salary-related issues. He is a representative of the President of Pakistan. He has nothing to do with the affairs of the provincial government. Yet, the armed policemen forcefully entered the Governor House to show the might of guns they were carrying in their hands. That said, they conveyed a message to everyone that they were capable of taking the city hostage any time.
While saying this, one is of course not denying the right of the police officials in Balochistan to get an increase in their salaries, perks and privileges and compensations granted to the families of those recruits who are killed in various operations. We are equally not opposed to their right to protest. What attracted unanimous condemnation towards Monday’s rally was the wrong approach adopted by the policemen. Carrying guns, firing in the open air, beating civilians, damaging public property, forcefully entering the CM and Governor houses, beating the media representatives, harassing the civilians are the multiple factors that substantiate this protest a criminal activity.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani is highly commendable for upholding administrative commitment by taking brisk and stringent notice of Monday’s actions. It is encouraging that the CM has removed scores of top police officers, including the Deputy Inspector General (DIG Operations) and Capital City Police Officer (CCPO), from their current posts and promised to punish all the policemen responsible for the criminal demonstration of naked force in the streets of Quetta.
The Chief Minister should immediately order a full probe into the matter as this episode is coinciding with his recent blunt views expressed against the elements that have established a “parallel government” in Balochistan. Maybe, these elements are trying to create an anarchic situation in the province to force the Baloch chief minister to resign in the wake of an artificial chaos engineered in the province. The removal of some top policemen should not come as a cosmetic measure. All officers and policemen involved in instigating violence and damaging public property should be given exemplary punishment. At the same time, the provincial government should also make its position clear through the media as to why policemen in Balochistan have not been given an increment in their salaries. If three provinces have already increased the salaries of their policemen, what are the compulsions of the Balochistan government? The issue should be amicably sorted out through uninterrupted and interruptible dialogue between both the parties i.e. police and the government of Balochistan.