August a dreaded month in Balochistan

August is a dreaded month in Balochistan. It’s full of important, painful dates, with almost every year adding yet another death anniversary in the calendar. This year has already added Hayat Baloch to the list — and, frighteningly, we are still only about halfway through the month.

In August, Balochistan experiences violence as the security forces and armed separatist groups attack each other on important dates. The army brings out its proxies, local armed gangs called death squads, to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day on August 14 and burn Narendra Modi’s effigies on India’s Independence Day on August 15. Other major dates that are marked or celebrated with violence include Balochistan Liberation Front commander Dr Khalid’s death anniversary, August 08, Balochistan’s ‘Independence Day’, August 11, and Akbar Bugti’s death anniversary, August 26. There are also other dates, far too many to mention here.

Due to this situation, the entire month is tense. The army’s attempts to show that the Baloch are loyal to Islamband through mock ceremonies and the heightened security arrangements to thwart perceived attacks from militants have caused the people of Balochistan much misery. It becomes hard to differentiate between the security forces’ alertness and their paranoia. On the numerous checkpoints, the soldiers ask the common people to explain where they have been, where they are headed, where they were the previous day and where they would be the next — and the explanation has to be convincing. This is still a normal day. If you happen to be passing near the soldiers in the immediate aftermath of an insurgent attack, it’s highly likely that they will beat you, abduct you or shoot you dead, as happened with Hayat Baloch in Turbat on Thursday.

The month of August causes a great deal of emotional confusion too. The FC orders government servants to attend functions to celebrate the birth of Pakistan. These employees, local teachers mostly, have to decide whether to grieve the death of someone they knew or take part in August 14 ceremonies of songs and dance and firecrackers arranged by the FC, the very force that killed him. Kids are growing up wondering why the Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan (Long Live Pakistan) songs in the evening after the Pakistan Murdabad (Death to Pakistan) chants earlier in the day.

In fact, it is the nature of the relation between the State and society in Balochistan that aggregates the already-unfortunate situation. The base of this relation is neither consensual nor moral. Rather, it has been built on pure coercion. You wonder why all these attempts to prove the Baloch are happy about the creation of Pakistan when on the ground the situation is entirely different. And that too despite the fact that Pakistan’s military establishment cares little about the opinion of the people of Balochistan in most other matters. As long as this situation persists, people like Hayat Baloch, killed by Frontier Corps soldiers in cold blood in front of his parents, will continue to suffer.

It’s not like the rest of the year is peaceful in Balochistan. It’s just that in August everything is more visible and the month opens old wounds while also adding new ones almost every year.