Qambar Chakar: A Man and a Myth
By: Baloch Students Action Committee, BUITEMS
The Baloch Hal Exclusive
Birth of a Leader
In Shahi Tump, a far-flung town of Balochistan in Kech (Turbat) district, the house of Chakar Baloch was overflowed with merriness and gleaming lights over the birth of the first son, Qambar. The boy was to become an inspriational leader for the Baloch people soon after entering his teen ages. One day, some ill-fated soldiers of darkness would walk, take this light away to the shadow of torture and death. His was a story of celebrations in unison. When he was born, the whole family, even the entire town cheered up with uncontrollable delight. When he was killed, the whole of Balochistan wept. His was a song of happiness and a melancholy.
Acquiring his primary education from the same town, Qambar was admitted at the Government College Turbat. He moved to Quetta to attain higher education at the university level because of the unavailability of a university in his native Turbat district. He managed to seek admission at the prestigious Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS) as a BS Economics student after passing a very competitive and anti-Baloch admission policy over there. During his one and half years BUITMS life, Quetta, Qambar emerged as an emblem of struggle for human rights, equal educational opportunities for all and Baloch national rights.
BUITMS Baloch Family:
It was another ordinary day ignorant of that I will be meeting an extraordinary man. As usual late for my lectures while rushing for the class, I heard someone calling ” Qambar!” Responding to the call I looked at a big distance on my right hand side at the corner in the lobby of the building. The call was for someone contrary to my body structure (Qambar Chakar), a skinny guy with an innocent smile holding module handbooks as well as some books that aren’t taught at the university. In Quetta, mostly students who are affiliated with politics are found holding books related to politics, history, identities and philosophy.
We built an eye contact and exchanged a smile while I moved on to attend the lecture. His appearance and first impression was fine enough for me to desire to meet him in person. Thanks to the biased admission policy of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), we becam best of the friends.
The admission policy statement of the university states: “Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences is an equal opportunity institution and admission in all our programs is purely on merit without any distinction of race, religion, color or ethnic origin provided the learner meets the entry requirements in various programs. However, being a public sector University, it is created to serve particular needs of the Balochistan province by virtue of its location.”
A never to be practiced policy statement, beautifully articulated contrary to the ground realities of Balochistan, used to cover up the ethnic discrimination and injustice. Where the university, since its birth used to provide seats on all Pakistan open merit basis, the largest beneficiaries of that policy were the non-Baloch students coming from the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the settlers of Quetta, Balochistan because they have access to top schools, tuition and private colleges equipped with latest computer and science laboratories so they would understandably, beat the students from the far-flung Baloch districts where no government has ever paid attention and the state of education is so deplorable that one can hardly find a appropriate functional school and the students cannot speak Urdu and use computer.
In fall 2007, the university’s highest policy making body ‘The Senate’ decided to provide seats on open merit to 70% students of Balochistan while 30% open merit was fixed for the whole country in other way reducing the exploiters from Pakistan level to Quetta level which helped grab most of the seats by the elite of Quetta city where the Baloch are in minority. Around 3000 male and female students enrolled approximately 300 were Baloch. The numbers have changed from 3000 to around 4000 while the number of Baloch students has slightly changed from 400 to approximately 470 to date in the university which offers courses in five faculties – Information & Communication Technology (ICT), Engineering, Management Sciences, Life Sciences and informatics, and Arts & Basic Sciences.
Based on the new admission policy, the results for new admissions for spring 2008 were put on notice boards. With the sense of inferiority and anxiety I along with my Baloch friends went to see the results expecting the induction of good number of Baloch students in our University. Out of 600 students given admission, only 56 were Baloch making 9% of the total seats, 62% of the seats were secured by the students belonging to the elite of Quetta city and the rest 29% were from other provinces. Grieved with anger we moved back and went towards the canteen to have a cup of tea and certainly helpless and mourn over the biased admission policy and administration of BUITEMS.
Taking his last sip of tea Qambar Malik started the conversation, “They (the Government) Governor Balochistan Owais Ahmed Ghani and President Pakistan General Musharraf in particular keeps visiting Balochistan with his sweet promises that he is sincere in building up Balochistan by initiating some Mega Projects including the deep sea port of Gwadar in addition to that they will establish an institution named BUITEMS to equip Baloch with technical education to compensate the manpower required to run the port thus ensuring fair employment for Baloch, which will avoid the import of manpower from other provinces of Pakistan. A never to be kept promise, however we saw them making the one and only Institution of higher studies on our name in Balochistan but we do not see them helping Baloch to avail from it deliberately due to their unfair admission policy moreover if we talk about it they expel us without any reason and are answerable to none. They do not care if Baloch is provided the opportunity or not but what about the new Baloch Governor, CM and elected members of the parliament, why they are silent on this?”
In agreement with Qambar Malik, “maybe we need to bring this unfair admission policy to their knowledge. After all they belong to Balochistan and are aware of the economical, social and political backwardness of their people. When they claim to resolve the issue of Balochistan then most probably they will be able to resolve the issue confronting Baloch students at BUITEMS. We replied.
Those questions needed to be answered and we restless decided to do something not for ourselves but for our other Baloch students who dream and intend to study at BUITEMS. With little fear of getting expelled from the university, we started working secretly by visiting students in person at University hostel and different students living in private accommodations, discussing with them these points and gathering them to take an action against the biasness that is depriving Baloch students from higher education.
Baloch in minority at BUITEMS, we were around 15 to 20 Baloch students who already had made a little union with good aims of helping every new comer Baloch student to get adjusted to the university and studies along with those students who already were a part of BUITEMS and needed some help in regards to their course works or any other administrative work. The Baloch students of BUITEMS were like a family bond with the strong feelings of love, mutual respect, brotherhood and the eagerness to help each other in educational as well as personal matters. The only wrong trend present among them which was positive to some extent but was a barrier when it came to take wise and bold decisions, was that the students were from different districts of Balochistan and had a sense of tribalism in a way that the students were present in different groups as well as were segmented as senior and junior students based on the length of time period they had spent at BUITEMS. So in order to gain the support of all students it was important to persuade the senior students who would then convince the rest of the junior students.
Despite not liking the trend, we went along with it waiting for the right time to challenge it and the hunt for support started where at first four senior students Mukhtar Baloch, Imran Baloch, Khurshid Baloch and Riaz Baloch appreciated and ensured their full support to promote the idea of challenging the status quo and implementation of District open merit admission policy at BUITEMS. Their support proved to be very helpful to earn the support of other students. So working out the idea we decided to meet at BMC complex hostel to make a proper plan to guide us throughout the procedure as how to achieve the set goals. Our meeting where I along with few other Baloch students and the four above mentioned senior students was present concluded on Qambar Malik to supervise the campaign and to call upon a big gathering of all Baloch students to get and share views in this regard.
A new member in BUITEMS Baloch Family:
“I concur and appreciate my Baloch brothers who realizing the need of education have arranged this gathering. No wonder we have always deliberately been kept deprived of opportunities, the other ethnicities of Pakistan define rights different to how we define it. We yet seek the very basic right of our existence as humans and we demand the education that the other people have already mastered in.” with continuous movement of his right hand he kept on speaking fluently to the gathering of Baloch students, in a very humble and polite way, quite convincing, had grabbed the attention of all audience, Qambar Chakar was the one in command.
We were all impressed by the way he spoke and conveyed the message in a way it had to be. Once the meeting was called off and students started leaving, Mukhtar Baloch said, “He (Qambar Chakar) is big man, very organized and dedicated to the Baloch cause. I know him and seen him when I was in Turbat, he brought a complete change among the students of Turbat by advocating nationalistic aspirations among them”.
The Baloch students had lately established a unit of BSO AZAD at BUITEMS that specifically worked for the educational needs of Baloch students at BUITEMS along with producing posters of the admissions announced at BUITEMS, UOB and Women University, Quetta and distributing them throughout the province to encourage students toward higher education but to avoid confrontation between different student organisations working outside BUITEMS and to earn the maximum support of every political party, all students present decided to run the campaign under the name of Baloch Students Action Committee, BUITEMS (BSAC) and ask BUITEMS’s Senate to revise the Admission policy and devolve it to District Open Merit to ensure equitable representation to all the districts of Balochistan.
Qambar Chakar quickly became friends with us because our interests were aliened that were the induction of Baloch students at BUITEMS and help the Baloch students equip themselves with the technological education to play a vital role in the political, economical and social development of their people and Balochistan. Qambar Chakar himself coming from a far-flung district of Balochistan knew well the problems confronting Baloch students and the depression it gave to the students who aiming to study at BUITEMS were deprived of admission, he dedicated himself for this good cause and we along with other family members of BUITEMS started working together on each and every step. We scheduled our campaign starting from a press conference followed by a protest demonstration, a march in front of the Balochistan Assembly on the very first day when Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani was to take his oath as CM and so forth.
Before going for the protest we conducted the primary research to formulate a draft of our demands taking into account the backwardness/deprivation of opportunities to the people of Balochistan in comparison to the other provinces and collecting information about admission policies of other universities in Balochistan and other provinces of Pakistan where District Open Merit is being practiced and enjoys a safe place in the constitution of Pakistan too. Imran Baloch helping us compiled and completed the draft to be distributed among the representatives of different political parties, Chief Minister, Governor, Chairman HEC, VC BUITEMS and different media personnel so that they could play their due role to address the issue and if they do not then we will go accordingly for protest. It is important to state that Qambar Chakar and Tariq Baloch were the only students among us who had a strong political background and had the knowledge of organizing protest demonstrations. It was Qambar Chakar through whom we found the contact details of different political parties to earn their support as well as he was the one who knew how to issue statements to the media and being a cogent orator used to address to the media personnel during protest demonstrations on behalf of BSAC.
Our press conference made the BUITEMS administration call Khurshid Baloch and Qambar Malik to clarify our stance before them which wasn’t unexpected and they were pressurized to stop the campaign and if not obeyed, the administration will take disciplinary action against them along with those supporting them but we asked them If action is be taken against us then action must be taken against Mr. Farooq Ahmed Bazai VC BUITEMS too who yet has not done PhD the minimum requirement for the post he is occupying. We enjoying the full support of Baloch students of BUITEMS together with the Pashtun students from Ziarat, Qilla Saifullah and Musa khel districts whose representation was very low due to the unfair admission policy and also the Baloch students from Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab enrolled in BUITEMS joined in to support the campaign, carried on with our scheduled program and with continuous protests for four months, meeting with the Chief Minister, Education and IT minister twice providing them a copy of our draft and briefing them on our demands, we were assured by them to be provided the right response but all in vain.
On the orders of CM the Education minister late Shafiq Ahmed Khan made an official draft in favor of District Open Merit, we were asked to collect the draft from the office of Deputy Secretary Education who happened to be a Baloch, when I along with friends of BSAC went to collect the draft, the Dep. Secretary pointed us saying you should look after your studies and engage other students in their studies rather protesting and carrying out rallies for District Open Merit. It was sad to hear that from a Baloch Bureaucrat, we replied him that if you and our fathers would have thought and done something in this regard then we would have not been protesting for our educational rights and those whom we are protesting for include your children too.
We, as said, passed the draft on to the IT minister Begam Nasreen Magsi for further proceeding to discuss this in the assembly session and after its approval ask the Governor Balochistan Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi who is also the Chancellor and Chairman of The Senate, BUITEMS to ensure its implementation but the draft remained a wasted paper to end up in a bin. Our final examinations were scheduled on 20th of July but we had entered a phase where all the Baloch students of BUITEMS were highly grieved but motivated and dedicated towards the cause we had over taken. Observing the reluctant behavior of VC BUITEMS and our own Baloch Governor and Chief Minister to resolve the issue we all students decided to take a severe action where our protests could not stir the authorities our severe action might do.
23 students volunteered to sit on unto death hunger strike which was not feasible so reduced to 3 where Abdul Qayyum Baloch, Khurshid Baloch and Qambar Malik decided to sit for an unto death hunger strike until a copy of the demanded notification issued by the government is handed over to us which announces the district-based open merit system at the BUITEMS. The only person we all mutually agreed on to supervise the protests while Qambar Malik heads the hunger strike camp was Qambar Chakar supported by Ejaz Zehri and he proved it that none could do that better than him where that extraordinary man mobilized the students to do protests and take out protest rallies on daily basis, covered the whole media by going to each n every media office to hand in the statements he issued on behalf of BSAC and meet and seek help of different political parties as well as the respective authorities.
The hunger strike unto death started on 11th of July, 2008. Baloch Republican Party and BSO AZAD Quetta zone presided by Shahzaib Baloch were the first and were involved a lot in the protests which later on was joined in by every Baloch nationalist parties and student organisations including BNP, BNP Awami, National Party, Baloch National Front, BSO Pajjar, BSO Mohiuddin, BRSO, BSO Gulzar and the Baloch journalists too became a part of the campaign started by the students and participated at their best especially Malik Siraj Akber who went beyond his duties in helping and highlighting the students plight.
The hunger strike reached on its 7th day where no official or respective authorities came to see the students, the Baloch students in Sweden, Karachi and different districts of Balochistan protested and held hunger strike camps in support of the students on hunger strike unto death. Qambar Chakar then said we will go to them instead they come to us and him by arranging stretchers for three of the students on hunger strike took them and marched to the Governor House. The governor asked the students on hunger strike to meet him but the protesting students demanded that negotiations should be held in front of everybody. He eventually came out to meet the protestors but rejected our demands and said a committee consisting of all political parties would meet and discuss it soon. The protesting students reaffirmed that if the Baloch students did not get the opportunity to study, they would not willingly allow others to reap the benefits.
On 21st July, the 11th day of hunger strike, when the condition of the striking students deteriorated further, Balochistan Assembly Speaker Aslam Bhootani, Sardar Aslam Bizenjo and another minister came with a notification and constituted a committee in which representatives nominated by the Baloch students were also included. They also agreed to change the existing system and extend the date of examinations too, so the strike was called off but it was not the end of the campaign.
They may have honestly promised change but they do not decide, so, to date, that policy remains unchanged. After 2 meetings the constituted committee that was to discuss our demands decided on to provide 40% of seats on district open merit basis and 60% on all Balochistan open merit but the decision remains unimplemented to date and the students are still protesting.
Qambar Chakar an Institution within:
For some he was a member of Baloch Student Organisation AZAD and for us he was BSO AZAD. A man and a myth, an institution within was Qambar Chakar. Starting his political career as a teenager by joining BSO Mutahida as deputy president Turbat Zone and strengthened it by going through some very crucial and complex phases of Baloch students politics. He remained very loyal and highly motivated by the ideology of Baloch national interests. When he moved in to Quetta in the beginning many like me did not know about him and that was because of his spirit of generosity where he himself accomplished different tasks without taking care of who takes the credit.
He never worked for the name sake but all he knew was the benefit of Baloch nation and the whole Balochistan evidenced that during his struggle for the educational, social and political rights of the Baloch and Qambar Chakar was well known among the students and locals of Quetta city for his communication skills and vast network of contacts in the media and political circles. For many times he was even asked by the locals to host their programs they used to hold in their respective areas, Qambar too generous never said no to anyone. Whenever we heard of a protest demonstration, a rally or a Balochi deewan being held anywhere in the town, we found Qambar always in the lead.
When he was elected as Deputy Organizer BSO AZAD Shaal Zone, he ensured the Baloch students hold study circles in every institution in Quetta. The time had come when we realized that the students have build a trust in us and us in them and it was important to challenge the wrong basis of the trend of seniority among the students at BUITEMS and to devolve it to the credibility of reasonability, dedication and wisdom so that the campaign may run smoothly and everyone’s opinion be respected without the distinction of seniority or being junior. After a stiff resistance eventually majority agreed, during this Qambar Chakar played a crucial role and his goodwill was enough to convince the new comers and new trends were introduced where opinions were taken from every student and then mutual decision were taken.
He was organizer of Quetta zone but guided students of different zones too on efficiently carrying out work in a more organized way, sometimes organisational posters or stickers would run out of money then he used to spend his pocket money to get them printed. Qambar was a fluent English speaker whenever any foreign journalist was in town the political parties looked for him to speak and inform the journalists about the Baloch movement. He was equally respected among different political parties even those who had different political aspirations as that of his admired him for his commitment to the Baloch.
He was a highly organized, charismatic and punctual activist who besides his studies, did not only protested for the rights of the students but was also the voice of the Baloch missing persons where mother of every missing Baloch knows that it was him who always protested against the illegal abductions of their beloved ones and raised their plight but unfortunately he too became a victim of it on 10th of July, 2009 where at first he was whisked away by the personnel of the Frontier Corps when he had gone to the Takato Campus of the University to meet with the Vice Chancellor to speak about the issue of the district-based open merit admission policy.
On his return from the college, Qambar, who was accompanied by five other friends of his hailing from the Baloch Students Action Committee, was stopped at Chaman Pattick area by a convey of security forces. “They (personnel of the security forces) had come in eight vehicles and asked Qambar to get out of the Alto car,” said one eyewitness, “once Qambar walked towards them, we saw them putting a hand grenade in Qambar’s pocket.” According to the eyewitness, the FC officials shouted at Qambar pointing at the hand grenade: “What the hell is this? You Baloch terrorist! We have to take you in custody.” They slapped, manhandled Qambar and took him away to an unknown location while sparing his other colleagues.
Since Khurshid Baloch, Qambar Malik, Ejaz Zehri and many other students graduated, it was Qambar Chakar who along with other friends carried on with the demand of District Open Merit which was always discouraged by the administration of BUITEMS. The Baloch students accompanying him when he was abducted accused the VC BUITEMS for helping FC abduct Qambar Chakar due to his activeness and the students who boycotting their classes when protested for Qambar’s release the VC’s personal guard opened fire into the protesting students threatening them to give up their protest and demand.
Qambar was later on produced before the session court and was kept in illegal detention until April 22, 2010 where finally the court proving him to be innocent released him, on his release; he confirmed that he had been brutally tortured during the custody for being active for the educational rights of the Baloch students as well as for raising voice for the missing persons. Considering his security he had to leave his studies incomplete where he was a student of 3rd semester of BS Economics at BUITEMS and had to leave for his native home town Shahi Tump Turbat. After a little quiet period, he was once again whisked away from his house at Shahi Tump Turbat with his cousin, Irshad Baloch, on November 26, 2010 and Baloch nation was deprived of a great son of soil on 5th of January, 2011 when bullet-riddled dead body of Qambar Chakar along with Ilyas Baloch 26 years old journalist was found in a desolate place near Pasni Road, Pidrak area of Turbat, around 800-kilometers off provincial capital.
A Friend and an Inspiration:
Our relationship could be distinct from that of a blood relation and is of more value because these are the relations that we chose and make. The days we spent at BUITEMS with our BUITEMS Baloch family are the most precious days of our lives and Qambar Chakar is a great and unforgettable member of that family. We became so close that hardly a day passed when we did not meet. Our favorite meeting spots were BMC main hostel where he used to live and close to that Rasheedi Hotel, Barori and our random walks on the busy roads of Quetta where we used to tease him;
” Bichar Qambar ma sangat shartho baaz pazzor an tho baaz lagar ay, Thoohin gwaat ay byat wa tara baal dant”
(See Qambar we are all healthy enough. You are so thin that even a strong wind will blow you away)
But we knew it that day and are writing it this day that he was far better than any of us spiritually and practically and besides being thin no wind or power could blew his spirit and ideology. Qambar was a man of high spirits and was very much concerned about his friends who would always check up on his friends and would offer his assistance whenever needed and was a man one would rely on. A social man to the core with a respectful character he was loved and admired by many. Despite being the youngest of us all friends because of his credibility, wisdom and dedication he earned the title of “Kamash” the leader among his friends. His hopefulness was a cover for all those who belonged to him.
He, unlike many people, was not concerned about his health and clothing and sporadically had to go through medical checkup because of his carelessness in regards to his diet; he had solely dedicated himself for Baloch national interests as many times he would be so busy in organisational works that would not even find time to eat. The tea of Rasheedi Hotel was his favorite and we found him along with his close friends Qambar Malik, Khurshid, Ejaz Zehri, Tariq Baloch and Naseeb Badini who used to buy a local made Lemon Biscuit for each other.
He admired and was very much influenced by the struggle of Dr Allah Nizar Baloch and he himself being a good orator used to say that he admires Hammal Haider Baloch (ex central committee member of the then BSO Muttahida) as an orator and claimed him to be his teenage teacher and guide to political awareness. Qambar Chakar was a good reader with a good learner’s attitude who was always update even the time he spent in detention he could not detain his reading habit, the students who used to visit him with food and refreshment, he asked them for books and was said to spend the most of his time in reading different books where on his release he was a more literate man. He had friends from all walks of life but he liked the company of literary friends where he used to take and share knowledge based ideas and used to share his own written Balochi poetry too.
In discussions he was more of a listener than a speaker and listened very carefully and spoke little but whenever he spoke, he spoke sane. On topics which he lacked information he never said his own interpreted things but explicitly admitted he lacks information on this topic and consulted friends and books to learn about it and then spread it forward. He was a transformational leader and a teacher for his colleagues and students, whatever he learnt from books, people and the experience he gained, he consigned it at his best to his friends and companions by visiting different students and involving them in discussions.
He always encouraged students to read and take part in discussions and was never seen imposing his ideas on others but believed in convincing people with logic. We have seen him happy for students when they used to hold study circles and share information and constructive ideas which brought a smile on his face and he used to say, “we have to master technological education in this era of technology and these youth acquiring the right knowledge will be the assets of our nation,” the things that made him sad which he always in circles used to mention and criticize was blind following of political figures and criticism on other political parties. He on one hand insisted that it is important to have role models and political icons in movements but he also used to say that we must be ideologically motivated and must keep political leaders accountable.
He believed in constructive criticism and used to say that we must be concerned about our own political performance as this is what we will be accountable for and if we have objections over other political parties then rather criticizing them in our gatherings we must bring such useful policies to perform better than them and let the people and time be the judge of it as who is right and who is wrong and we must avoid being judgmental. He indeed discouraged and hated it when in public gatherings the speakers used to criticize taking names of other political parties and do character assassination of their respective leaders. He always stressed that such trends do not help us achieve our national goals and being an entity we need to take the nation along with us towards the set goals and we must use the public plate forms to promote harmony as we do not enjoy this right of criticizing others in public. He was an example of harmony, his political approach was not just restricted to the student organisation he belonged to but he respected intellect without any discrimination of which party it belongs to and used to visit the elders of different nationalist political parties to take their precious opinion and guidance.
Some students of BSAC, BUITEMS who met him a couple of weeks before he was abducted the last time, he expressed his grievances regarding the present performance of political parties in general and BSO AZAD in particular mentioning the wrong trend of criticism on different political parties as noxious at present, he knew about it that it will be dangerous for him to rejoin student politics as he was a marked man he said, “when responsibilities are on my shoulder then how can I convince myself to run away from the responsibilities” and intended to bring positive changes for which he joined the central committee of BSO AZAD but unfortunately the nature did not permit it but he managed to convey his message through his friends to his nation that needs to be addressed for the better tomorrow of Baloch nation.
We liked the biases that brought him close to us and we hate the circumstances that took him away from us. From Qambar Chakar’s murder it is clear that the cream of Baloch society is in target to deprive Baloch of progressive leaders who are the enlightener of their people. No doubt we lost a very close companion whose hopefulness was coverage to us and an inspiration and Baloch nation lost a great Hero, a great visionary and a great Leader but he died to live indeed live longer than his murderers.