Monthly Archives: March 2013

Balochistan and the general elections

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Questions rise: how will be the upcoming general elections in Balochistan? Will general elections be held peacefully or not? And will free, fair and transparent elections be possible in insurgency-hit province? These and similar more questions are in many people’s minds about the upcoming general elections in Balochistan.
However, in Balochistan the debate rooms are hot about the upcoming general elections, and many political parties are conducting electoral campaigns. Those political parties that boycotted the elections in 2008 are now seemingly interested in the upcoming general elections. By boycotting the elections, they regrettably speak out that incompetent and inefficient politicians came into the power without reforming the system. That is why almost all political parties, except the dissident Baloch nationalists’ parties BNM (Baloch National Movement), BRP (Baloch Republican Party) and BNF (Baloch National Front), are actively going to participate in the general elections.
BNP-M (Balochistan National Party-Mengal) has removed its dilemma whether or not to participate in the upcoming elections. Sardar Akhter Jan Mengal, the president of BNP-M, addressed a press conference in Karachi that BNP-M would participate in the upcoming elections. It is also said unofficially that BNP-M along with NP (National party), led by Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch, will form an alliance to contest this time in the elections. In spite of it, both parties’ leaders are afraid of ‘selection’ in Balochistan’s elections. They also warn that ‘selection’ in elections will further deteriorate the situation of the volatile province if establishment did.
Moreover, BNP-M and NP will be given tough time by their political rivals due to boycotting previously the elections. It is, this time for both pro-federation nationalists’ parties, an open challenge to win maximum seats at provincial and national level. Because by boycotting, they have been isolated from their masses. On the other hand, Baloch dissident nationalists scathingly criticize these two parties due to their participation in the elections. They say that Baloch nationalists, at the time of NAP (National Awami Party), in 1970s period, formed its government in the Balochistan. But their elected government was soon dissolved after the short span of nine months. So, they ask, how can they be let this time if they formed their government in the province? They also say that elections are not the panacea of Balochistan’s tribulations.
PML-N’s (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) chief Nawaz Sharif has been keeping a vigilant eye on Balochistan’s elections, and so far he has successfully brought Sardar Sana Ullah Zehri, Retired General Abdul Qadir Baloch and Nawab Zada Lashkari Raisani along with his 22 associates into his party. The recent joining of Nawab Zada Lashkari Raisani along with his 22 associates, to a greater extent, strengthened the hold of PML-N in Balochistan. That is, PPP (Pakistan People’s Party), as analysts say, has lost its constituency in Balochistan’s major parts.
It is also worth mentioning here that Balochistan’s present status quo has not changed, rather it is further worsened. In present times, Balochistan is showing a bleak picture in which not only Baloch but also the Hazaras, Hindus and other peaceful minorities are living dangerously. It is lamentable that none of the ruling parties tried to grapple with Balochistan’s burning problems seriously in five years’ tenure. That is, holding elections in its many of the districts, including in its provincial capital, i.e., Quetta, seem to be impossible due to unfavorable circumstances.
Its typical example is the killing of Muhammad Ziaullah Qasmi, the District Commissioner of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in Satelite town, Quetta.
Also, the teachers of government –run educational institutions in Balochistan are worried about the upcoming elections in the province because the Baloch insurgents in rural Balochistan have announced not to allow the elections. This is the reason teachers are worried; and they are also afraid of being sacked by government if they don’t make their presence at the time of elections.
In addition, Pak-Iran gas pipeline project and handing over Gwadar project to Chinese authorities has further warmed up the environment of Makran division. That is, it is become a Herculean task now to hold elections in Makran, in which Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar District comes, because, as observers say, Baloch insurgents hold sway in Makran. There may be ‘selection’ in Makran and Khuzdar along with its adjacent places, which Baloch nationalists are afraid of.
There have also been thrown pamphlets in the above mentioned districts, written with severe forewarnings.
In this difficult phase of Balochistan, there rare chances of free, fair and transparent elections, because the already existent cases of ‘missing’ persons from Balochistan, throwing of decomposed bodies, kidnapping for ransom and killing of peaceful minorities are at increasing constantly. These problems may take the province into further an upheaval if not resolved soon.
Lastly, however, it is better for interim government to endeavor to have free, fair and transparent elections in Balochistan at any cost so that elected leaders may come forth to root out the all issues of the volatile province, and to lead province towards peace and prosperity.

(Courtesy to: Daily Balochistan Express, Quetta)


VIEW : Balochistan and journalists — Muhammad Akbar Notezai

The issue of the killings of Balochistan’s journalists is neither being paid heed to internationally nor nationally 

In Balochistan, journalists 
are susceptible to danger because of their honest and brave reporting in the restive province. Moreover, there are many journalists who have quit performing their journalistic duties. This is the reason freedom of expression has worsened in Balochistan.

Mahmood Ahmed Afridi, the correspondent at Daily Intekhab newspaper was gunned down in Kalat, Balochistan. He also used to interview Kalat-based representatives on social and economic issues.

In recent weeks, Saifur Rehman Baloch (senior reporter at Samaa TV), Imran Sheikh (camera man at Samaa TV) and Iqbal Hussain (a computer operator in NNI news agency) were killed in the line of duty on Alamdar Road, Quetta, Balochistan. Besides them, three more journalists, Abdul Ahad Baloch and Rehmat Ullah Abid, who hailed from Panjgur district of Balochistan, Pakistan, and Abdul Haq Baloch, from the volatile city Khuzdar, were shot to death brutally by unidentified assailants. Both districts’ journalists’ killings terrified their other colleagues to close the press clubs. Also, many journalists have sustained injuries in the same districts.

Unfortunately, the Balochistan’s hapless journalists seem to be unprotected even after their colleagues’ killings. That is why they themselves resort to demonstration before press clubs for their own protection. So, in this way, how can voice be raised for other persecuted people of Balochistan?

However, Balochistan, despite being the mineral-rich province of Pakistan, abounds with numerous problems. Ironically, the issue of the killings of Balochistan’s journalists is neither being paid heed to internationally nor nationally. This is the reason journalistic problems as well as their targeted killings are continuously increasing. Balochistan, as compared to the other provinces of Pakistan, is not well-developed. There are a great number of problems. However, as far as the land mass of Balochistan is concerned, it makes 43 percent of Pakistan and if we exclude FATA, Balochistan makes half the total land mass. But, unfortunately, it is entirely ignored and forgotten in media and national newspapers.

Undoubtedly, local journalists of Balochistan have been enunciating or writing in local newspapers about the negligence of the national media regarding the Balochistan issue.

As we know, journalists are responsible for reaching the truth, but, of course, in Balochistan, the messengers of truth and those who are performing their duties with bravery are being systematically and brutally killed. Therefore, nearly 30 journalists have been reportedly killed and many more have sustained injuries in the recent past. The United Nations has time and again condemned the killing of journalists in Balochistan.

At least, five Baloch journalists namely Muhammad Khan Sasoli, Wasi Qurashi, Abdul Haq Baloch, Munir Shakir and Faiz Sasoli, have been killed in Khuzdar. That is why Khuzdar and its contiguous areas have transformed into a somewhat ‘no-go area’ for reporters.

Two year ago, Razaque Gul Baloch, who belonged to Turbat district, was reporting for a private TV channel; he was kidnapped and shot dead soon after his disappearance. The Balochistan Union of Journalists and Baloch journalists from Makran protested and took out a rally against the brutal killing of Gul, but the provincial government, surprisingly, did not condemn his killing. On the International Day of Journalists, many programmes are held in media, but the killing of journalists from Balochistan is hardly discussed. Journalist Saleem Shehzad’s killing had been condemned throughout the country, as it should have been discussed and condemned, but the killing of many journalists of Balochistan should have also come under discussion at national and international level.

As a matter of fact, there are three zones in Balochistan where journalists face hardships while performing their duties. Those are: the former Kalat state, Kohlu and Dera Bugti, especially in Nasirabad, which borders with Sindh. At these places due to strong tribal customs journalists are unable to perform their duty honestly. A typical example is the killing of three girls in Nasirabad district, and local journalists were threatened not to report about the incident, and thus the tragic event did not receive any attention.

It is also undeniable that journalists in rural areas of Balochistan are not well educated, thus to get jobs and other incentives from affluent parties, they quit writing or reporting against them. Besides those three zones, there is also the Makran division, consisting of Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar. It is apparent that the level of literacy is high in Makran, and it has produced a plethora of talented people, like intellectuals, poets, journalists, etc. One of them is Attah Shahd, from Makran; his interesting and beautiful poems are still reverberating in the hearts of the people of Balochistan. As I remember other prominent personalities of the Makran division, Ghani Parvaaz was another writer, journalist and intellectual who deserves a tribute.

Since 1947 and to date, in Makran, there are no Sardars or Nawabs. People are prodigiously enlightened; and they have an aversion to Sardari and Nawabi system. Confidently, enlightened people of the Makran flatly deny the claim of government hat Sardars or Nawabs are obstacles to the progress of the Balochistan, because Sardari or Nawabi system does not exist in Makran at all. Then why has Makran not progressed?

Makran, after Quetta, is the only place where local newspapers are published; there are also press clubs in Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar. Consecutively, for few years, situation in Makran is not very good due to the conflict of the Gwadar port, and journalists are given threats by security forces to not report about the situation.

In Balochistan along with Baloch journalists, some of the Pashtun belt are also facing problems due to lack of resources. Feudal and tribal system are rampant in the Pashtun belt, creating hurdles for the local journalists. That is why freedom of press is not possible there.

Wali Khan Babar, the reporter of Geo TV, was shot to death in Karachi allegedly by the extortionists of Karachi’s largest party. He hailed from Zhob, a Pashtun district of Balochistan. Yet the murderers of Babar have not yet been apprehended by police.

Pashtun places are in proximity to the provincial capital Quetta; therefore, many Pashtun journalists publish their newspapers from Quetta. They also send their newspapers to the Pashtun belt of Balochistan.

If we glance over the provincial capital of Balochistan, journalists, as compared to other cities of the province, are prosperous. Majority of journalists, who are in Quetta, as mentioned above, belong to other provinces. Sadly, they are cut off from other cities of Balochistan’s journalists. That is why Balochistan issues are not perceived thoroughly; people’s indignation is getting intensified instead of abating.

Keeping the above journalistic problems into consideration, it is imperative for government to resolve them as soon as possible, and also to endeavour to stop targeted killings of Balochistan’s journalists. If not resolved, the situation in the province will go out of control.

The writer is a columnist at Daily Balochistan Express, Quetta and blogs a t He can be reached at and on twitter @Akbar_notezai

(Courtesy to: Daily Times)

My Fellow Journalists’ killing in Balochistan Reminds Me My Son’s Death: Tahir Rathore

ImageInterviewed by Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Mr. Tahir Rathore is chief reporter at Samaa TV, PFUJ’s (Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists) Federal Executive Council Member and Ex-President of RIUJ (Rawalpindin Islamabad Union of Journalists). He spoke to this blogger in an exclusive interview on the state of journalism in Balochistan.
How do you see independent journalism in Balochistan?
In my opinion, journalism in Balochistan is under tremendous stress due to various reasons. There is hardly independent journalism in the province due to various pressure groups. A pre-dominating factor of tribal society in the province is one pressure whereas ethnic and pressures from the establishment and militant groups, as well as the nationalist groups’ pressure also keep journalists away from independent journalism in Balochistan.
  What do you think should be done to promote the state of journalism in Balochistan?
Answering this question is very difficult, actually the unbiased and independent journalism is not only hard in the province but throughout the country, it is becoming very difficult due to the reason that tolerance in Pakistani society is vanishing quickly. However the ideal state of independent journalism could not be attained in Balochistan. But there is a room to initiate dialogue by the journalist unions or press clubs as well as by the civil society with all the segments of the province to respect the independent journalism and journalists. The other step that may help in attaining the objective of independent journalism while focusing on unbiased, transparent and balance hard news or comments. Another important factor is to use appropriate words while filling or airing the news story — so that no one should get hurt; for example, if the armed groups do not want them to be named as separatists and militants. So, we may consider their liking, disliking and can use other alternative words like armed groups or so. There is also a dire need to avoid one sided version of the news story while reporting on conflict — all parties involved in the conflict should be given chance to explain their point of view in the news story related to the conflict. Also, sub-editors sitting in the news rooms should not give new angle to the story being filed by the reporters. And there are also many other factors which could be considered to improve journalism in the province and ultimately in the country.
  In Balochistan, how can journalists’ journalistic abilities be enhanced?
Yes, this is a very important question, as I have already visited every district of Balochistan, so I feel that journalists working in the big cities like Quetta and so are following the international standards and ethics related to the journalism. However, a few in Quetta and more at the district levels need capacity building as far as distribution of professional responsibilities are concerned. This capacity building is vital not only for the sake of quality journalism but also for the safety of their lives. Don’t become news while gathering news. The techniques: how to write a news story for a newspaper and how to report on Radio and Television, is very important. The journalist stationed in Quetta must know in what circumstance he is reporting a conflict. He or she should realize that which segment of the society is very sensitive to the news about them. In an atmosphere where journalists are being dictated by pressure groups and are even asking a particular space in the newspapers or on the Radio and TV, one should realize how to report — but in my opinion, a report at the cost of your life is worthless. It has already been explained in earlier questions how to enhance professional abilities. The environment around you helps a lot to enhance your abilities to report.
  What challenges do Balochistan’s journalists face, economically?
Though there are multi-dimensional challenges for a journalist working in Balochistan. Since you asked economically, so I should refrain myself to answer the sense of the question. In Quetta, a few newspapers and TV channels are paying to their journalists at appropriate level; even some are implementing the 7th Wage Award. However, still the most in Quetta and more in other cities are not being paid at the level their counterparts are getting in Punjab, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and other big cities. However, the worst scenario that correspondents in far flung areas, even at district levels, they are not paid by the channels, newspapers and news agencies. Only a few pay which could be named. It is, therefore, all the district correspondents (except a few) are doing the other jobs, private business; even some of them are school teachers or the government servants. But those who are only working with Radio, TV or newspapers whole timers are getting marginal low payment.
 What do you say about journalists’ security in Balochistan?
Since today we have lost lives of 31 journalists in Balochistan and 95 in entire country. So for certain journalists working under tremendous pressure by various groups — how could it be conceived that they are working in normal conditions and security situation for them is just fine? It is, therefore, in upper portion mentioned by me that journalists’ advocated organizations, unions and press clubs should initiate dialogue with all the pressure groups, even the security agencies, administrations and even with paramilitary forces to respect the journalism and journalists. It depicts the factor that journalist in the province is not secure at all. Neither he or she enjoys freedom of expression nor he or she enjoys to write news or comments freely.
 What do you feel for your fellow journalists being killed in Balochistan?
I feel very sad, you perhaps know or not my son (15) died on April 4, 2009, he was my sole son; believe me, whenever I hear about any news of killing of my fellow journalists, especially in Balochistan, my pain becomes same as was on April 4. 2009. Therefore, I travelled all along Balochistan for safety and security workshops.
 What sorts of facilities do Balochistan’s journalists not have?
 As far as facilities are concerned, the press club in Quetta is wonderful and fully facilitated. However, the press clubs in other areas are not having excellent state of facilities. But the facilities are relevant terms, normally the institutions for which you are working, are responsible to provide all the required technical and professional facilities. The security of Journalists, well a reporter, who is walking in the street with pencil and copy is open to all, and it is merely impossible for him or her to have gunmen for the security. So the only way as I mentioned above, to convince the society for the respect of the journalists and journalism.
How do you see freedom of expression in Balochistan?
 As far as freedom of expression is concerned, this objective could not be achieved at the cost of the life of journalists. But a dialogue could be initiated with all the pressure groups. If anybody or any of the groups has some complaints against the journalists, they can approach their unions or press club instead of picking up a gun. There are several more challenges being faced by the journalists in Balochistan, and I have explained above.
What role has PFUJ (Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists) been playing for the journalists of Balochistan? 

PFUJ (Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists) is not only raising its voice against the killing of the journalists in the country, especially in Baluchistan, but also with PFUJ an international journalist body representing 100 journalistic unions in the world, i.e., International Federation of Journalists (International Federation of Journalists) is also raising voice against killing of journalists in Balochistan or any other part of the country. This is the job of the PFUJ; PFUJ with the cooperation of IFJ and IMS (International Media Support), had held over 70 training workshops (most of these were held in Balochistan) for capacity, safety and security. PFUJ is working for the insurance and compensation if a journalist gets killed in line of duty, from the government of Pakistan. Moreover, PFUJ is also working with international organization, including UN, to continue training and safety workshops. PFUJ also succeeded in establishing Pakistan Journalist Safety Fund (with the coordination of International Media Support (IMS) that provides assistance to the journalists under threat, dislocating them as well as assisting the bereaved families with financial support. Besides these all, PFUJ provided Umbrella to all those journalists working in the far flung areas in Balochistan. We also stand side by side with them in their home towns, when we visit them for training workshops.