From Baghalchur to Chaghi: A case of Baloch genocide

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Author: Hamza Baloch

On May 28, 1998 Pakistan carried out atomic test in Raskoh Chaghi and converted the whole area into hell for indigenous Baloch people residing there. Above and all the aftereffects of these atomic explosions are far worse than the time they were carried out. Till today thousands of inhabitants are suffering from cancer and many other fatal diseases, thousands of locally preserved livestock demised due to polluted water and most importantly the agricultural lands, which were the primary source of livelihood, become barren after the attacks. When we talk about the nuke tests carried out by Pakistan in Chaghi we must also not forget Baghalchur, a Uranium hub located in the suburb of Dera Ghazi Khan. Atomic explosions by Pakistan in Raskoh Chaghi and production of Uranium from Baghalchur are utterly correlated in the sense of exploitation of Baloch resources and Baloch land.

Situated in the mountainous tribal area of Dera Ghazi Khan district, Baghalchur remained an important site for uranium extraction for 22 years until further mining here was stopped in 2000. It is the second largest hub of “Yellow Cake” in the world after Mexico. Yellow Cake is a type of uranium which is considered purest and rarest in world. Baghalchur became the locus point of discussion on all national and international forums after Pakistan carried out nuclear test in 1998. Baghalchur is situated about 120Km west from Dera Ghazi Khan City. Site of Baghalchur is in vicinity to villages of “Roonghan” and “Matt Chandia”, the residents of two locally settled Baloch tribes. The villages have a populace of almost more than 80,000 and locals of both villages are deprived of the basic facilities. There is a wholly ruined muddy road that leads from city to both villages, which do not have a single well equipped hospital or educational institution. Most importantly for drinking water both villages are dependent upon rainwater which follow its course in narrow drains from hilly mountains and then preserved in locally established water pools named “Tarai”.

Being a newly born and fragile country Pakistan soon after its creation was in dire need to become an atomic power. In May 1959, the Geological Survey of Pakistan discovered Uranium at Baghalchur. It was the first ever successful survey of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission since the creation of Pakistan. Soon after the discovery of uranium, PAEC paved its path with the coalition of Pakistan army and started use of force and violence to evacuate the vicinity of Baghalchur. With the use of violence and some aiding tactics state lured the illiterate tribesman to exploitation of their own resources. In a patriarchal tribal society, the patriarchs have self-claimed authority to fill their own belly and live a luxurious life upon the resources of poor tribal people. State promoted the tribal elders to the forefront and promised the creation of job opportunities in poverty wrecked area. So, tribal people considered this project a God gifted opportunity to enhance their living standards but what happened next was totally unprecedented and awful.

Soon after creation of a safe environment, underground and surface mining along with milling operations, began between 1977 and 1978. Pakistan purchased additional mining equipment and launched full-scale mining operations in 1980. Poor Baloch residents of the area considered themselves the owner of project and dreamed for a prosperous life ahead. Unfortunately, all of their dreams vanished when technical people of Baghalchur were offered job as a labour for drilling and digging the uranium mines and simultaneously all higher officials ranging from a cleric to project manager were brought from Lahore and Islamabad. Drilling inside the mines of uranium brought havoc in the life of laborers. Uranium Miners were exposed to radon gas, a radioactive material thought to cause lung cancer. Uranium Miners were exposed to mining dust, thought to cause lung disease. Recently a study revealed that those who worked inside the mines of Baghalchur are likely to die sooner than the average population of the area.

PAEC stockpiled tons of uranium from Baghalchur in the timespan of 1980-1998. It is estimated that the primary source of uranium for making of atomic bomb was Baghalchur project because other projects such as Qabul Khel (Bannu Basin,1992) Rakhi Mun h(Suleman Range Dera Ghazi Khan District, 1995), Nangar Nai (Suleman Range Dera Ghazi Khan District, 1997), Taunsa Shareef (Suleman Range Dera Ghazi Khan District, 2000/2001) and Shanawah (Karak district NWFP, 2009) were started much later than Baghalchur project. The uranium grade was approximately 0.09 percent which is highest from all above mentioned uranium projects being carried out in Pakistan. So, by the above given statistics it is totally clear that atomic test carried out by Pakistan in Chaghi is the outcome of uranium extracted from Baghalchore. One may conclude that the resources extracted from the Baloch land were also used to create a rampage upon the Baloch people. People of Baghalchore were kept illiterate and politically unaware. They did not know that the uranium they are extracting with their hands will be a cause of havoc for their own people. So, Pakistan tested their atomic bombs near innocent Baloch people of Raskoh, Chaghi on May 28, 1998. Atomic test destructed the life of each, and every living thing resides there. Thousands of people are suffering from lung cancer, rate of abnormal growth of children is getting high day by day and livestock is getting rare on routine basis. So, life of people of Chaghi and adjacent districts became a hell since the nukes caused by Pakistan.

People of Baghalchur had to pay ultimate price after 2002 when Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission started dumping “radioactive nuclear waste” here. The mines which were previously drilled to extract uranium are now being used for dumping nuclear waste. Radon waves are emitting from nuclear waste which is the leading source of fatal diseases in area. PAEC is falsifying the reports and claiming that waste was being dumped underground in the tunnels and there had been no radioactive effects of it on the area population and its environs. But it is quite certain that dumped material is radioactive and effecting the populace and ecosystem. People residing in the surroundings of Baghalchur are suffering from lung cancers, abnormal birth of children. Water of local “Tarai’s” which is only source of drinking water is contaminated and effecting both livestock and human beings. So, either its Chaghi or Baghalchur Pakistan’s atomic nukes affected the lives on Baloch land. The resources of Baloch land became the source of genocide for Baloch people.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Balochistan Post or any of its editors.

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