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Home > National Interest vs People’s Interest > Pakistan: Plight of Displaced Balochs

Pakistan: Plight of Displaced Balochs

by Salam Dharejo, 13 January 2009

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Buried in alien land would detach me from my ancestors, I wish to be among them after death, my soul will be in peace if buried in ancestral graveyard. Ailing 85 five years old Mashkool Ali Bugti lying on deathbed tells his will to family members. Sad state of displaced Bugti and Marree tribes living in different parts of Sindh and Balochistan manifests the picture of miseries and deprivations of socio- political entitlements, people face after becoming landless refugees in their own country.

Intimidating silence on the faces of self-esteemed displaced Balochs does not dare me to ask how life goes on? Every thing in the makeshifts camp was self-expressive that how survival becomes terrible after forcibly displacement. Half covered Children were desperately looking at the open kitchen where a 10 years old girl was busy in cooking. Malnourished goats were drinking from the pond of saline water; an old age woman was fetching contaminated water from the same pond for drinking use. Two donkeys were roaming in search of grass inside the fences surrounded to makeshifts of around 15 families of Bugti tribes who have taken refuge at the Marri form nears Dera Allahyar. This was the portrait of thousands of scattered shelters of dislocated Marri and Bugti tribes who had been displaced from Dera Bugti and Kohlu Districts by military in 2005.

According to the report issued by United Nations offices in Islamabad in 2006, around 84,000 people had been displaced from Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts. The report has mentioned that among internally displaced persons total number of women is 26,000 and 33,000 are children. While, the fact- finding team of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which visited Balochistan in December 2005- January 2006, reported that 50,000 people had fled alone from Dera Bugti as of July 2006. The report reveals that 8,000 to 10,000 people died due to exodus, malnourishment and diseases.

Contrary to the number of displaced persons mentioned above, Rafique Khoso, the senior member of Balochistan Republican Party claims that alone in Dera Bugti district more than 1,25000 persons belonging to Bugti tribes have been deprived of their homes. While Mir Mureed Khan Bugti, the member of Central Committee of Balochistan Republican Party (BRP) told Newsline that number of displaced Murri and Bugti from Dera Bugti, and Kohlu districts are more than 0.3 million.

In fact, the official figures about the displacement of Balochs had been collected by UN and other agencies two years back, while the migration of Balochs from Dera Bugti, Kohlu and other areas is still continuing because of on going operation against Baloch militants. So, keeping in view the continuous migration from conflict prone areas, numbers of displaced persons would be more than as reported previously. Ironically, no recent survey either by government or other independent agencies has conducted after passing two years of displacement. Hence, no statistics have been appeared about the socio- economic problems of displaced persons, which of course have been increased due to lack of proper shelter, health and education facilities including with unavailability food and safe drinking water.

Terrible moments started when rockets fired from the military camps on the Dera Bugti town. “We had no time even to carry the clothes of children, in the thunder of blasts and heavy shelling of rockets, we escaped in the state of horror even forgot to carry the belongings, without knowing where to go for refuge we left homes.” Recalling the horrible journey of migration from Dera Bugti on the day when army directly targeted the Bugti house, Essa Bugti who left his home along with 106 member of his family unfolded the story of one of miserable migration of the recent history of Pakistan. “We were traveling by foot for continuous five days and nights. Mass exodus was on their way, due to continuous traveling and lack of food and safe drinking water, helpless refugees had to pass through terrible loss of bodies. During the way I saw two children died, which were buried in the way by wrapping with chader. Migrants had nothing to share with victim family except tears to
console. The mother who lost her children stayed for a while on the place were children were buried and started walking with snobs and tears rolling down from her eyes to cheeks.”

Bitterness of displacement has not only affected the innocent people belonging to Bugti and Marri tribes majority of whom had nothing with the political dictum of self determination which Baloch nationalist and insurgents claim their militant insurgency as the resistance movement to secure their homeland from plunder. But the mind-blowing plight of peace loving two thousand people belonging to Hindu community is another glaring awful episode of anecdote of forcibly displacement, which shakes the conscience of humanity. Living since many generations in Dera Bugti, Hindu community had nothing with politics. They are pure merchant and were running their profitable business with a comfortable life under the protection and patronage of slain Akbar Bugti.

“We rushed out of homes in wilderness when military fired rockets directly targeting the Bugti House on March 17, 2005. We were not prepared for such a brutal action in which 36 Hindus were killed. We came back after three days to take dead bodies for immersion. All was smashed, our houses were destroyed and shops were looted. We find nothing there except the dead bodies. The military operation has not only destroyed our livilihood but turned us from a rich businessman to a debited refugees.” Says Sewak Ram Bugti 55 years Hindu Businessman who has lost his three storied house and five million worth electronic shop at Dera Bugti, now living in a rental house along with seven family members in Dera Allahyar without having proper business and employment.

It is on record that dilemma of displaced Hindu businessman has not been recognized by the then government of Parvez Musharaf. The previous government and paramilitary official had denied the UN report about the displacement saying that almost all the migrated people have returned to their homes in Dera Bugti and Kohlu except according to then government’s claim 15,00 people, a majority of whom are Hindu businessman who have established their business in the cities are not willing to come back. Ram Chand who was earning seven to eight hundred rupees daily having shop of Bicycles in Dera Bugti has taken refuge along with his family at Baba Giandas Darbar (Mandir) at Dera Allahyar. Fifty-five years old Ram Chand has no source of income and place for living. “ We are living in Dharamshala, where food and shelter is provided free of cost. My two young sons are working on daily wages earning 2000 to three thousand rupees per month. The earning is insufficient to live in a
rental house and feed six family members.” He added.

Hindu businessmen who are forced to flee as consequence of military operations carried out against perceived millitants, has left them in wilderness. Those who have been living in side-by-side having with blood relationship have lost their sense of community integration. Living in distant areas often failed in getting together in religious festivals and cultural rituals. Most of them have shifted to different cities of Balochistan and Sindh to their relatives. Apart from cultural isolation and sense of community deprivation, many families finding no source of income and shelter have taken refuge in Dharmashalas at Quetta, Kashmore and Rohri. Some of them are living in Sadha Ram Rahrki Sahib Mandir, district Ghotiki in Sindh Province. According to Ram Chand, seven marriages of displaced poor couples have been arranged at Rahrki Mandir. The Saen Sadha Ram, the guardian of temple, has afforded all the marriage expences.

Worst affected of displacement are the children and women. According to the internal assessment report carried out by UNICEF two years back reveals that malnutritional crisis has severely affected the children. The report disclosed that 28 percent children under the age of five were ‘acutely undernourished’, out of them six percent were in the state of ‘severely acute malnutrition’ and 80 percent of the deaths among the internally displaced persons were children under the age of five. They cautioned that six percent of the children were so underfed that they would die without immediate medical attention.

Though, it has been reported two years back that children are facing harsh health hazardous. But now a day children who are living in makeshifts seems on the brink of “social genocide”. Virus of Hepatitis has rampantly crept in the stomachs of tender aged. Several had been dead and thousands are taking their last breaths without having treatment and care. Helpless families have no resources and access to medical treatment to save their offspring. “ With the assistance of a welfare organization (requesting anonymity) Essa Bugti showing the test results to Newsline told that he brought 85 children to Quetta Medical Hospital for blood screening, Hepatitis B and C virus was found among 82 children. Showing swollen stomach of children, Molla Bux Bugti taking high breath told that his six children are the Hepatitis patients. “ I am father of six children who are going to die.” We have spent all belongings on the kidney surgeries of children. Putting off the shirt of three
children, Moulla Bux showing the cuts on stomach of three child who have gone through the kidney operation which had been failed due to use of contaminated water, helplessly confess that he has nothing to sell more to bring them in hospitals for treatment. Self-esteemed Baloch does not look for charity. “What is written in our destiny, we would have to go through, its against our value and ethics to beg for survival.” Says aged Baloch who was not ready to handover ill children to orphanage.

It’s not only the health issue, which has threatened the lives of thousands of children who will be dying one day helplessly. But at the same time thousands of school age children have been deprived of their right to education, which is leading new generation towards the illiterate future. School age children have been compelled to work. Six year Usman holding a heavy hammer in small tender hands was busy in striking at big stones, he comes early morning with his father and crashes stones till the sun set at Kotdiji, district Khaipur.

Having no access to schools and frequent migration has left thousands of children on the mercy of destiny. “We can bear the loss of property and land which has been forcibly snatched from us. But it is intolerable for us to leave our children illiterate.” Says Ghulam Qadir Kalpar Bugti, who is providing informal education to 35 children on ground without furniture even shelter. “I am trying my best to educate them but my education can enable students to read or write only but they will not be able to utilize their education with out having certificate he added.” Once Meva, Ummar Khan and Shakeel Bugti were studying in class six at Sui, now without enrolment in formal school they have continued getting tuition from the private institution some seven kilometers way at Dera Allahyar. Due to migration almost all children are out of school. According to Ghumam Qadir, some of other places at Kotdiji in district Khairpur. On self-help basis educated displaced persons are
providing education to children. Qadir added.

Unfortunately, the plight of the displaced has been overshadowed by the conflict in the area, which has been aggravated by the killing of Akbar Bugti and than the mysterious killing of Balach Marri. The present democratic government has ignored listening the cries of voiceless refugees. Ironically, human rights organizations have turned their blind eyes towards socio-political miseries of displaced families who have not only been forcibly uprooted from their own land but deprived of fundamental rights living in desperate situation being as refugees. “ Since last two years no humanitarian organizations have come with relief package.” Says Essa Bugti, self less social volunteer who is consistently knocking each and every door for the plight of displaced families living in Balochistan and Sindh province.

Silence of mainstream media on the atrocities of refugees is questionable. Why miseries of displaced Baloch tribes are not being taken in to account? There may be other factors, which does not suite to corporate oriented media for which exposing miseries of displaced Baloch makes no contribution to their business ventures. But another aspect of under reporting regarding to refugees is a threat to journalists from security agencies. “ Alone in Naseerabad and Jafferabad districts more than seventy working journalists are engaged in their professional responsibilities but not a single journalists can dare to write about what is happening inside Balochistan. I have tried to report, but many times I have received phone calls from security agencies to remain silent” Says Hashim Khoso, the local reporter of leading News channel and newspaper.

Strangely enough, forcible displacement not only snatches socio- economic entitlements but it compels migrant families to keep theirselves aloof from the local population. Displaced Baloch tribes are living in such a bleak way where local people seem indifferent and have not extended their cooperation and sympathy towards them. “ We are living in isolation and being treated like alien by the local people in Sindh even in Jafferabad the district of Balochistan. We are known as muhajreen (Refugee) would you tell me what the word refugee Stands for”? Essa Bugti’s question shakes the conscience of humanity and needs explanation of the paradox of independent citizen of the sovereign country!