Murder in Kech

Farhatullah Babar calls for a judicial probe into the killing of Hayat Baloch

Murder in Kech
The images of a mother, face contorted with pain and arms stretched towards the sky as if asking whether God was seeing or hearing her cries upon seeing her son’s blood soaked body in Kech, Turbat, will remain etched in the nation’s psyche. It will haunt the people till eternity.

Hayat, hailing from a very poor family, was a student of BSc physiology at Karachi University. The first in his family from the remote town of Kech who left his home for higher learning to nurture a dream: to lift the family from the pit of abysmal poverty and deprivation. As multiple bullets were pumped into him and the essence of life oozed out of his motionless body, the dream he nurtured also evaporated into darkness. His name ‘Hayat’ in Urdu means life. Brutally cut down in the prime of his life on the eve of nation’s birthday, Hayat could not have been more miscalled.

A convoy of FC was passing through the area when it was attacked with an IED explosion resulting in injury to three soldiers. Adjacent to the road was a date farm. According to accounts, Hayat Baloch was harvesting dates with his father at the time. Troops of the Frontier Corps barged into the farm, picked up Hayat and dragged him to the other side of the farm. Pleadings by the father that Hayat had been on the farm since morning fell on deaf ears. Hayat was kicked and dumped on the ground as a uniformed soldier pumped bullets into him - not one but eight. The parched land was instantly soaked in blood as Hayat lay dying and the troops left.

Initially the FC remained silent. In a similar gruesome incident in the Indian occupied Kashmir, the ISPR would have issued some half a dozen press statements in as many days, made jingles and songs and what. But it too chose to remain silent. The all-pervasive silence indeed was deafening.

It took full one week for the FC to issue a statement on Wednesday that sprinkled salt on the wounds of people. This is what it says: “It was a crime by an individual.” A heinous crime like this cannot be laid at the door of a solitary individual. The commanders who train, motivate and supervise the commanded are also culpable and cannot be absolved. Can they be?

The press note said, “The FC had deplored the tragic incident and strongly condemned the IED blast by terrorists and expressed solidarity with victims.”

Initially the FC remained silent on the murder of Hayat hoping that this too, like other extra judicial killings, shall be forgotten as no evidence will be found. Victims of the blast were the FC soldiers and no one else. Strongly condemning the IED blast, expressing solidarity with its victims only and keeping quiet about Hayat is sprinkling salt on the wounds.

The press release claimed “it (FC) handed over the suspect to police within two hours, before his nomination in the incident.”

Such an assertion only confirms the dim view uniformed forces have of the intelligence of “bloody civilians.” How was the father of Hayat expected to know the name of the killer FC soldier, Naik Shadiuallah? All that the father could say in the FIR was that an FC soldier had killed his son and that he could recognize him in an identification parade, which he did.

All along the incident has been sought to be played down. Police statement on the day of occurrence said, “A student of Karachi University belonging to Turbat has been killed in the blast and three FC personnel injured in a roadside explosion in the Turbat area of Kech district.” At whose instance the police made this outlandishly untenable claim?

First, it was claimed that Hayat was killed in the blast. Later, it was given out that Hayat was killed when the FC personnel opened fire after the blast. It clearly indicated attempts at misinformation and cover up. The accused soldier could not have ordered the cover up.

As the Pakistan Bar Council said today, “It is the height of lawlessness that a soldier of a state institution committed the heinous crime in presence of several witnesses, including family members of the victim, and then remained at large for a couple of days before his belated arrest.” Naek Shadiuallah remaining at large for several days would not have been possible without the connivance of command at some level.

A cover up was also attempted in the 1992 incident in Tando Bahawal in Sindh in which nine villagers were killed in cold blood by troops. When the media persisted in its reports, making the cover up impossible, the troop’s commander, a major and other commanders along the ladder were also punished. There is no escape from doing the same in this case also.

The account of FC alone is not sufficient to lay bare the truth and provide justice. There must a judicial probe. Indeed one would have expected the commander, accepting a measure of responsibility, to have voluntarily stepped aside and called for a judicial probe.

Next Friday the commanders of Frontier Corps Balochistan and other responsible officers will appear before the Senate Human Rights Committee meeting. One likes to believe that our commanders possess the inner strength to look into their own failings with hope, candour and confidence.

The writer is a former senator.