A tale of Palestine and Balochistan
Conceived out of the great Hindustan, the Land of the Pure is but a child given birth to by the British occupation. Just as the British helped carve out this nation from the body of the beast they had managed to tame, they similarly also helped carve out a nation called Israel.
In both cases there were riots, there was violence, there were protests. These were not decisions people took lying down. These were not decisions many agreed with. These were, however, decisions that stuck. These were decisions that solidified boundaries, separated people and ensured that a “separate homeland” was given to the people that required it. Does the “separate homeland” slogan sound familiar? Like one was created for a Muslim minority, another was created for one that was Jewish.
However, this piece of writing is neither in defence of Israel, nor in favour of it. It only hopes to draw parallels between two places to outline Pakistan’s twisted sense of “us” and “them”. For the rest of the world these ingroups and outgroups mean something significantly different. They have a fairly coherent idea on who counts as part of their ingroup and who falls into their outgroups. But in Pakistan the concept of “us” and “them” starts at home. The “us” often includes peoples and nations that have nothing to do with the country’s populace. While the “them” often counts for people who are, as our misfortune would have it, a part of the country.
Saudis are our people just as the Palestinians dying in Gaza are. We cry for those dying in Iraq and felt the pain of the suffering that took place in Egypt. We do all this as we blatantly turn a blind eye to carnage and chaos taking place right at home. We talk of the genocide that’s being inflicted on the poor men and women of Palestine while ignoring the mass graves that the Baloch sleep in. This is as real as a genocide gets, ladies and gentlemen, but evidently it isn’t our problem.
Pakistan dabbles in an awkward appropriation of genocide. Her people will routinely applaud Hitler for wreaking all manners of horror on people because of their faith (and stupendously, this while many simultaneously deny that a holocaust ever happened to begin with). Hitler is the man that really put genocide on the map, as history would tell us, and this man is celebrated. But when the tables are turned and Palestinians die, suddenly genocide becomes a horrible thing. A life lost, irrespective of faith or lack thereof, is a life lost. There is no game of addition or subtraction which one can play that makes it okay for one community to be happily killed while the other is victimised.
Genocide isn’t an alien concept for Pakistan. It’s been happening for years, it’s been happening to the Baloch. The province of Balochistan accounts for over 44 percent of Pakistan’s land. It’s quite literally almost half the country, but houses only 5 percent of the nation’s total populace. What is happening to the Baloch people is no less horrific than what we see happening in Palestine. But as masters of this land we choose to ignore it all. We’ve got an all-you-can-eat-buffet of horrors setup for the Baloch, from abductions to mass murders.
Balochistan, ever since it became a part of Pakistan, has always warred against it. The Baloch people have revolted and resisted as best as they could and they’ve done so over and over and over again. They’ve met with military operations, martial laws, and assassinations of leaders. If it’s grotesque treatment of Palestinians that keeps you up at night you should by logic never sleep again with whatever has happened to the Baloch people. But where is the great hue and cry? Where are the slogans against the human rights violations that can rock a person to their very core? Where is the outrage that we’ve fashioned out of our sensibilities for the values of lives that are lost in Palestine? How are the Baloch, who are a part of this country, any less important than the Palestinians we continually mourn for?
When Latif Johar went on a hunger strike for the plethora of human rights violations that no one seems to see or care about, the country sighed in unified disinterest. This is the worst possible time for the Baloch to have a problem of human rights because we have other things to worry about, namely the Taliban. And like any good cellular network they were told to try again later when it’s more convenient for the people to care. There were no display pictures uploaded in his honour, no cover page paid tribute to his great sacrifice. We saw a trivial number of tweets fighting for his cause and no one bothered instagramming pictures in their support. But drop “Gaza” into a conversation anywhere in the country and see how the tables turn.
It’s actually plain and simple: If Israel is wrong in whatever it is doing to the people of Palestine, we have been disgracefully wrong in how we have chosen to deal with Balochistan until now. If our actions as a country thus far have been justified in the name of the sovereignty of the nation, then we need to suck it up and let Israel have its way with Palestine. If anything our course of action right now should be to focus on our own problems before we go and condemn a nation that’s trying to defend itself against a group of terrorists — and that is precisely what Hamas is!
What the Pakistani public consistently and perpetually continues to do is similar to a woman handing out her sympathies and tears to a beggar that is passing by, while her own house burns down. She wails loudly as the roof falls to the ground, not because she sees the carnage behind her but because her heart breaks for the beggar’s tattered clothes and shoes. It makes all the sense in the world to ignore one’s own problems and pray so that the rest of the world somehow finds a way to remain at peace. Yes, it makes all the sense in the world indeed.