Home | News | Articles, History, Analysis | ICJ-Related | Human Rights | Books | Treaties | Events | Baloch Sites | Audio, Doc | Blogs | Contact Us
Jan 23, 2010


by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The problem with the FC does not merely lie in its ethnic makeup, though it plays a major role in its attitude problem. The real problem lies with the mindset and its unbridled power compounded with a total absence of any accountability for its actions

Mohammad Aslam Bhootani, the Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly, though a member of the ruling coalition has a penchant for forthrightness that leaves many of his partners embarrassed. In May last year he said that the trust deficit between the Baloch leadership and Islamabad was a major impediment to resolving the Balochistan issue. He had also said there was “a perception in Balochistan that the Frontier Corps (FC) was running a parallel government in the province”.

The truth of his statement has presented itself in shedding of innocent blood in Khuzdar where two students, Ali Dost and Saddam Hussain, were killed and four others were injured. HRCP Khuzdar chapter accused the FC of opening fire on a peaceful rally organised by BSO-Azad to protest the recent Lyari killings. The FC denies this claim and states that it retaliated when a convoy of the Kalat Scouts commandant was attacked. So people were killed though versions differ. Who could be speaking the truth?

A look at FC’s history and its conduct — or rather misconduct — in Balochistan should set the record straight. A hundred years ago Lord Curzon bequeathed this region with the FC, an efficient and reliable instrument of repression. The devil be given his due, he created an outfit that not only fulfilled their needs then but serves their legatees even today.

The US provides the 80,000-strong force $ 75 million a year for five years from the $ 750 million FATA package. It also sustains FC in Balochistan because it is supposedly performing the duty of guarding Balochistan (from its own people I suppose?). In January 2003, US envoy Nancy Powell handed over 483 vehicles and 626 wireless sets to them under the $ 73 million security assistance package “to enable them to patrol rugged, remote locations in order to maintain law and order on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and to check terrorist activities, narcotics trafficking and other forms of criminality.” Probably the suppression of the people’s democratic struggle is conveniently lumped under the heading of checking ‘other forms of criminality’.

The FC’s colonialist behaviour and activities are a major reason for the resentment and anger of the people of Balochistan. This attitude has prompted defiance from the Baloch population and more often than not resulted in violence in which the unarmed people bear the brunt of state violence. The 37,000-strong Balochistan FC, like the Rangers in Sindh, draws hefty amounts from the provincial government in the name of internal security and operating in place of the police. At times it seems that conditions are created to prolong and perpetuate the presence of these forces in these provinces.

The misconduct and highhandedness of FC had prompted a debate in the Balochistan Assembly in August last year where it came under severe criticism from members of the ruling party because of its continued and unjustified harassment of the people. The House was told that the provincial government had allowed a public rally in Turbat on Bugti’s death anniversary but the FC resorted to unprovoked shooting, which killed a civilian and injured many people. The FC had also completely sealed the Pak-Iran border, resulting in a severe shortage of food in the border towns. It was revealed that the FC personnel rubbish the officially issued passes of the DCOs to the citizens wanting to visit their relatives in Iran. The Khuzdar situation too was pronounced as equally bad even then.

In July 2003, the FC in Quetta forcibly occupied a youth hostel meant for short visits run by Pakistan Youth Hostels Association (PYHA), a private charitable trust. An FC contingent surrounded the hostel and kept its staff hostage for several hours. Another FC contingent led by a Major surrounded the hostel secretary’s residence and abused him when he refused to hand over the keys. However, on the night of July 16-17, the FC contingent broke open the gates and locks of the hostel and forcibly occupied it.

The problem of hostel occupation is acute in Sindh as well where in June 2009 the Sindh Assembly was informed that 27 buildings of schools, colleges and hostels were occupied by the law-enforcement agencies (read the Rangers).

In October 2002 the Mekran Scouts wing of FC opened fire on a crowd protesting its highhandedness and killed Nisar Ahmed and Noor Mohammad; five people were injured. Though an FIR was reluctantly registered, nothing came of it. The track record shows that the trigger-happy FC personnel do not hesitate to open fire on peacefully protesting crowds.

This is not the only problem. The FC’s mandate to guard Balochistan’s borders with Afghanistan and Iran is a source of an equally grave evil of lucrative smuggling. This vice’s prevalence was serious enough to force the FC in October 2003 to suspend 45 lower ranks with the promise of action against some officers. This happened only after the finance ministry and other authorities had taken serious notice of massive smuggling despite increased deployment of security forces along the border.

The siege of three newspaper offices — Daily Asaap, Daily Azadi and Daily Balochistan Express last year, which eventually forced Asaap to cease publication, is among its dubious achievements in the battle to subdue democratic forces in Balochistan. Sadly, there was not a squeak from the national mainstream media.

The recent Khuzdar killings are a continuation of the long list of atrocities against the Baloch population and will not be the last. Following the gruesome killings of Balochistan National Movement (BNM) Chairman Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Muneer Baloch, Sher Mohammad Baloch of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), the Balochistan High Court (BHC) took suo motu action and the chief minister formed a three-member tribunal comprising of BHC judges to investigate the activists’ death. Nine months have elapsed with no results. The Home Minister has now ordered a judicial inquiry. Odds are that it too will suffer the same fate.

These outrages are countered only with worthless and insincere condemnations and denunciations simply because the writ of the chief minister and the governor does not go beyond the doors of their respective official residences. They are ineffectual and helpless when their orders infringe on the areas of influence of the military and paramilitary. The chasm between their rhetoric and actions has severely diminished their stature and credibility. Though their authority has a semblance of autonomy, it is as illusory as it is inane and in fact completely subservient not only to the Centre but also to the FC.

The problem with the FC does not merely lie in its ethnic makeup, though it plays a major role in its attitude problem. The real problem lies with the mindset and its unbridled power compounded with a total absence of accountability for its actions. It has repeatedly committed atrocities with impunity as commissions and judicial probes have never redressed the grievances. This ironclad guarantee against prosecution encourages it to ride roughshod and little wonder it acts like a parallel government in Balochistan. All this does not augur well for anyone.

Postscript: Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has accused the FC of running a parallel government in Balochistan (January 20, 2010). He has only confirmed the obvious, already put on record by Aslam Bhootani. He also complained that the federal government had rejected the scrapping of the Gwadar Deep Sea Port and Reko Diq project agreements; but bravely said that the Balochistan government would not allow any agreement that undermined the rights of the people. So much for the illusory authority that they are so proud of.

It should now dawn upon the power wielders that the Centre can ill afford to allow the FC to run a parallel government and that they can overrule the decisions of their very loyal provincial government at will and still expect the already alienated people of Balochistan to help them sustain the already endangered integrity of the federation.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com