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Thursday, February 28, 2013

‘Chota ae par zehr da tota ae’



Wednesday, 27 February 2013 00:00
Written by The Spokesman

Published in Exclusives


The Spokesman


MIRZA KHURRAM SHAHZAD

QUETTA: ‘Chota ae par zehr da tota ae’ was the response of a young Pakhtun soldier of the Frontier Corps when one of them joked that his force can’t control a small city like Quetta.

“This small city is calm for most of the time, but when something happens, it is very poisonous,” said the soldier guarding an important crossroad in the Quetta city.

“Then the impact of that event is not small. It is huge and kills dozens of people, so do not call it a small city,” he said.

The capital of Balochistan, with a complex and diverse population of over 2.5 million, is right now in the grip of sectarian violence. Two major attacks in two months have killed around 200 people from the minority Shia Hazara community.

A trip around the city suggests that the security forces are present but their activity is useless because they are not available where and when they are required.

Almost all the crossroads of the city and important avenues have a heavy presence of FC and Police, but they are not seen at the Sariab Road, around Afghan refugees’ localities and the vicinities where the Islamic hardliners take refuge.

The soldiers remain posted at various places in the city for the whole day but as the sun sets, they are nowhere except their permanent posts and the rest of the city is open to all kinds of criminals and terrorists to roam around.

In Sariab Road, which is the hub of hardliner Islamists and Baloch ethnic groups, hardly a soldier is seen there. Wall chalking at the Sariab Road in favor of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and ‘Independent Balochistan’ suggests that the security forces are reluctant to operate there and remove the anti-state slogans.

Just on Saturday, when Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) announced a shutter down strike after some LeJ workers were arrested and a few others were killed during an encounter with the forces, the administration handed over the city to them.

The workers of ASWJ and sympathizers of LeJ were openly roaming around the streets on motorcycles armed with weapons and clubs and there was nobody to stop them.

Many of the ASWJ workers were seen forcing traders to close their shops and breaking the glass and gates of the shops which were opened. They also assaulted many of the shopkeepers.

But for the administration, it was part of their efforts to bring peace back to the city. 
 
“As you know they protested yesterday with dead bodies of their workers killed in the encounter and blocked the roads, so we provided them some room to solve the problem,” a senior administration official said when asked why they were reluctant to take action against the law violators.

Asked about the Sariab Road status, he said: “Our forces do operate in the whole city and get deployed wherever they need to. I am not aware of any illegal activity in that specific area or the fact that there is no presence of the forces”.

But not only at Sariab Road, in Akhtarabad, which is very close to Hazara town and where most of the ASWJ workers live among a huge number of Afghan refugees, there is also no presence of the forces. Even the deployment around the Hazara town and Alamdar road was almost zero before the two deadly attacks on January 10 and February 16, in which 92 and 90 people were killed respectively. 

The Hazara community members complain that the LeJ activists get refuge in Akhtarabad after attacking their fellows but the forces don’t take any action.

“We have limited resources and can’t operate everywhere. We can’t go to every doorstep and search for the law violators,” admitted a senior police official who requested anonymity.

“What will happen if we launch a search operation, we will go door to door and will also arrest some of them and confiscate the weapons but some other people will emerge and start operating,” he said, adding that the problem will not be controlled until state policies are not changed.

“Hundreds of seminaries in the country are producing thousands of religious extremists every year. The extremists’ organizations are being funded by the rich businessmen who have a liking for them. Sympathizers are in the society which provides them refuge, so police and other forces can’t overcome everything. We need to change mind of the society,” the police official, who heads special operations, said.

Where paramilitary troops are deployed they also act casually or authoritatively. There is no sign of any professional training which enables a soldier to identify a criminal on the first gaze. At most of the posts soldiers are found talking to each other instead of observing the passersby professionally. And when things are tight and they are asked to monitor everybody closely, they humiliate and disrespect the people. 

Otherwise, everybody gets a go-ahead after replying to some questions like “who are you”, “where are you going” and “from where have you come?”

A senior official of the Frontier Corps (FC) agrees that the soldiers are not well trained but still insists that they are doing well.

“Of course they are part of our society; they get mixed with the people of other forces. If the officials of two other soldiers are relaxing and not doing their job well, how can FC soldiers stay away from these habits?” he asked and added they are still doing great.

“Both Baloch and Islamic militants are getting weakened. They are not that powerful now and that is because of these soldiers. A few incidents to which you are referring are exceptions and exceptions are always there,” he said.

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