The lack of transparency in Pakistan media’s coverage of the freedom struggle in Balochistan has forced Baloch activists to use social media as a major weapon to push ahead with their cause on the international platform. Currently, the most urgent demand of the Baloch activists is the lifting of the ban on human rights NGOs that have been the only source of relief for the Baloch people. The activists are also seeking “guileless” news coverage of Balochistan.
“News checkpoints, screening and manipulating facts and the absence of a systematic media machinery have prevailed for long in Balochistan because of which not even half of what happens at the grassroots level makes it to mainstream news. If the real scale of the ongoing manslaughter remains unknown, our cries for help are bound to be lost in the wilderness. Unless the Pakistan government is forced by the international community to allow international media to cover the ground situation in Balochistan, the world won’t be able to able to feel the seriousness of the cause. A major source of information for the common people, who are now starting to take interest in Balochistan’s demand for freedom, is the social media. Use of social media platforms has helped a lot in propagating the freedom struggle of the Baloch people,” said Mazdaak Dilsaad Baloch, a Baloch activist-in-exile living in Canada since 2014, who is currently visiting India.
“It is not safe to identify the people who run various pages and accounts on Facebook and Twitter and upload pictures and videos from the grassroots in Balochistan. They are doing it so that the world knows what Pakistan is doing in Balochistan. The known Balochistan activists who further share these Facebook and Twitter posts often make sure to cross-check their validity as they know some people on the ground and have sources,” said Mazdaak.
A Baloch activist requesting anonymity said, “There is a video that went viral recently about some Pakistani soldiers asking two Baloch men to run for their lives. When the two young men started running, they were shot in the back by those soldiers. It is obvious that a Balochi couldn’t have recorded the video, but it was done on a Pakistani soldier’s device which later was leaked and reached the hands of social media activists who then posted it. The reality is that since there are no reporters here who can use the power of the electronic media, such covert sources have become a major source of information for people outside Balochistan. Social media has become a weapon for us.”
Mazdaak said, “There are some accounts where you will find scenic pictures of a ‘peaceful’ prosperous Balochistan. This is the image that the Pakistan government wants to project worldwide though the truth is different.”
Umar Daud Khattak, mission commander, Pashtunistan Liberation Army, helped The Sunday Guardian connect to a Baloch resident through email. The resident said: “On 12 August, the Pakistan Frontier Corps, police, paramilitary forces, ISI and Military Intelligence carried out a massive house to house search in Quetta City and arrested around 200 Baloch people. The next day, Pakistani forces raid New Kahan (known as the Gaza Strip of Balochistan) and arrested 45 people. They were ordinary people, some of them were students. The locals do not know their whereabouts. In the same week, four people were killed in the Dera Bugti Naseer Abad area. The ISI threw the dead bodies of two previously abducted Baloch students, namely Gazain Baloch and Sulaiman Baloch, who belonged to the same family and were abducted in February 2015. The Frontier Corps and Home Minister of Balochistan Sarfaraz Bugti lied to the media and said that these Baloch youth were terrorists and killed during an encounter in Quetta. The relatives of Gazain and Sulaiman categorically denied the allegations and provided records and documents of their abduction in 2015.”
Khattak said, “Recently, Pakistan attacked a hospital where over 70 people, including 40 Baloch and Pashtun lawyers, were mercilessly killed. Killing the lawyers means dumping the cases of 20,000 Baloch missing persons because two days before, Nasurrullah Baloch, chairman of the ‘Voice for Baloch Missing Persons’, a rights group, had demanded a judicial commission to probe the mass abductions of missing Baloch persons. Nasurrullah refused to cooperate because in Balochistan, the army is the judge, judiciary and executioner. Experts believe that after eliminating prominent Baloch and Pashtun figures, Pakistan army will deploy Punjabi-origin lawyers and judges to execute Baloch prisoners.”
Azizullah Bugti, secretary general of the Baluch Republican Party, said, “Baloch people welcome the Indian PM’s stand against Pakistani army’s human rights violations in Balochistan. Baloch leaders or activists haven’t been approached by the Indian government, but we request Indian authorities to hold direct talks with the Balochis.”