“Monday’s appearance in the Supreme Court (SC) of the missing Adiala prisoners,” wrote a columnist, “was a reminder of the human aspect of this story, providing the media with direct access to the sadness and horror of the lives of Pakistan’s missing people. As such it was a rare public manifestation of the lack of humanity of this opaque system in which perceived troublemakers are picked up and held without trial. The seven survivors of the group of 11 men who were rounded up by intelligence agencies from Adiala Jail in May 2010 after being acquitted were frail, ill and distraught when presented in the SC on Monday. They could barely walk or talk.”
Another columnist observed, “The chief justice himself admitted to be badly shaken.” The never-ending talk shows have been trying to awaken the people of Pakistan to the plight of the seven surviving Adiala inmates. Their families have been given long stretches of prime time where they have denounced even the inviolable intelligence agencies. It has widely been reported in the print and electronic media that the mother of two of the Adiala Seven died after seeing her sons in such a bad shape.
Even a bearded passerby was interviewed who raged: “Scenes of one prisoner limping and another carrying a urine bag along with him had moved everyone, but those responsible for all this misery seemed
An English-language daily editorialised: “The shock and heartbreak a mother suffers after seeing her children in miserably unrecognisable conditions cannot be underestimated.”
One can go on and on citing instances where the media, the judiciary, civil society, the right-wing Islamists, indeed the entire humanity in Pakistan, has gone overboard in their condemnation of the treatment given to the Adiala Seven. With such a deluge of compassion, mercy, and empathy sweeping the entire country, one may ask: “Who are these Adiala Seven?”
Before one answers this question, it is pertinent to note that the day the Adiala Seven were presented before the SC, the bullet-riddled body of Sangat Sana was found dumped at Murgat in Turbat. Thirty bullets were found pumped into his chest. The media did not denounce Sangat Sana’s inhuman murder. Only a few seconds were given to the news of his murder and within hours, his news disappeared from the media. The print media published a few cliché-ridden lines about his murder.
Sangat Sana’s family was given no space on any of the countless talk shows whereas the media widely reported about Rohaifa, an Adiala Seven mother, “After a sleepless night following the meeting, 60-year-old Rohaifa developed a heartache. She had earlier witnessed the disturbing sight of her sons, Abdul Majid and Abdul Basit, looking emaciated in tatters, with urine bags protruding out of their trousers.” No one told us that since 2008, Sangat’s father has been protesting his son’s kidnapping by the army (or the FC). Whereas some talk shows invited the Adiala Seven’s lawyer to tell the world: “You can imagine, when somebody is in custody or jail, you cannot have the facilities you have at home,” no one was invited to tell how it feels when one’s bones are broken and flesh is slashed before being shot 30 times in the chest. Did Sangat not have a mother, a father, siblings, or friends? The Adiala Seven shook the chief justice. What about the hundreds of Sangats whose bodies are found dumped almost every day?
Would he like to fly to Balochistan and take a hard look at Sangat, or a Sangat?
Now here is the answer to the question I posed above. The difference between the Adiala Seven and the hundreds of Sangats is that the former are Punjabis and Deobandis and the latter are Baloch and secular. The Punjabi conscience is hurt when a Punjabi is tortured even if he belongs to a terrorist organisation and openly claims to want to kill anyone who does not subscribe to his fascist ideology.
Punjabi anchors and judges can take on a most revered and lionised institution, the army, when a Punjabi is kidnapped or tortured. But let the entire Baloch nation be brutalised, and no media conscience is hurt. It is not that the media does not report the inhuman atrocities unleashed on the Baloch. Newspapers do editorialise on the Baloch. But mostly it is the English language newspapers that do so. Very few Pakistanis read English language newspapers. Whenever our Urdu newspapers report the Baloch problem, they temper it with banalities like ‘foreign hand’ and ‘Baloch terrorists’. Our talk show anchors do discuss the Baloch problem. But they always bring on ‘experts’ who denounce Baloch human rights campaigners (such as Sangat) by calling them Indian agents. Mostly these ‘experts’ are retired generals or their lackeys.
The Punjabi ruling elite has not learned any lesson from history. In the past it was the Bengalis whom the Punjabi media and the Punjabi generals called traitors. What the Bengalis wanted were their fundamental human rights. Now the same arrogant mindset is calling the Baloch a bunch of traitors financed by India, Israel, and the CIA. And Rehman Malik has the shameless chutzpah of declaring ‘amnesty’ for Baloch leaders. His own colleague, Israrullah Zehri, Federal Minister for Food Security and a Baloch himself, has said that he does not trust Rehman Malik. Amnesty for what crime? Is demanding one’s natural rights such a crime that the queasy Punjabi conscience is outraged and then the same conscience is filled with compassion for the traitors and consents to offer them amnesty?
I believe we can save Pakistan from being dismembered for the second time. I believe that the Baloch leaders will opt to live with and in Pakistan if the abusive and anti-Baloch Frontier Corps (FC) is withdrawn from Balochistan, its abuses and atrocities investigated and made public, and the culprits in its ranks punished. The Baloch should be given provincial autonomy as per Pakistan’s constitution. This can be a good beginning. But I am afraid that the Punjabi mindset is not tailored to treat others with respect. Punjabis can either enslave others or be willing slaves to others. One sincerely hopes that some sense will prevail before it is tool late.