It seems that for all those opposed to the writ of the Pakistani federal government, murder of innocents and hatred for each other has now become a norm. There are, at the moment, two main militant movements against the state: The Taliban with their Al-Qaida allies, and the Baloch nationalist group the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) that claims members both from Mari and Bugti tribes.
In the process of their fight against the government, both groups–one religious and the other secular nationalist–have unleashed indiscriminate violence against common citizens of Pakistan. Just recently, BLA murdered Dr. Nazima Talib, a professor from the department of Mass Communications of Balochistan University. This was no random act of violence: the murderers knew whom to kill and they killed professor Talib while she was on her way home in a rickshaw. The purpose: to drive fear into the hearts of all non-Baloch residents of Quetta and Balochistan as the BLA’s stated mission is to create a Balochistan for Baloch people only.
Not surprisingly, though, the media and the Pakistani bloggers (Like Beena Sarwar and Urooj Zia and many others) have condemned this killing and these politics of hate and murder. But so far the leading Baloch leaders have voiced no such condemnation.
In my research on this topic, I also came across quite a few blogs by the Baloch nationalists. I was mostly sympathetic to their grievances against the past and present governments, but where I disagree with them the most is how they all tend to rationalize their violence against the innocent in the name of their brand of nationalism. Also interesting to read was the way the term “Punjabi” is mobilized by them as an overarching signifier of otherness. I just wondered as to how many of them had ever met a Punjabi and also as to whether one can really cover everyone living in the Punjab province as simply as a Punjabi. Being the most populated province of Pakistan, Punjab is extremely diverse in its ethnic, cultural, and class make-up. There are millions of Punjabis who live below the poverty line, are oppressed by the feudals or by the rich, and most of them struggle to live their lives peacefully despite the intolerable living conditions. I am pretty sure that if the Baloch nationalist and these disenfranchised Punjabis ever met and broke bread together, they will find quite a lot in common.
As my fellow blogger Beena Sarwar pointed out in response to my comments on her blog, no matter what the case, Taliban or BLA, the ultimate victims of their violence usually tend to be women. It is as if both in its religious and nationalist expression, the Pakistani militant movements find women to be the biggest threat and also the easiest victims. As a literary critic, I cannot help but see these acts as a sort of unconscious violence by men against women, because the figure of an educated, independent, or self-reliant woman must be the most haunting and emasculating image for these pseudo-men.
As Kishwer Naheed aptly suggests in one of her poems about Taliban:
Keep courage, believe this
that those who were frightened even of girls
what pygmies they are
Announce in every city:
Keep courage, believe this
That those who were frightened even by girls
they are such pygmies.
(Translation by Mahwash Shoaib, Pakistaniaat)
What good is the martial posturing of the likes of Balach Mari and Hakeemullah Mehsud, both with guns bought in the black market or probably with the guns provided by their foreign masters, if their precious manhood is destabilized simply by the presence of women.
Theses are not men but mere shadows of a deranged and emasculated manhood masquerading as manly, but is, in its essence, a mask for their cowardice and unbridled cruelty.
It is our duty as scholars, writers, and human beings to condemn these murders no matter what the attenuating circumstances for their actions. There are always reasons for violence and we must pay attention to them, but there is no rationalizing narrative for violence against the weak, the powerless, and the oppressed. We should, therefore, stand against these cowards and condemn their cowardly acts repeatedly and without fail. That is the least we can do as moral human beings.