Behind the lenses – TBP Editorial

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Baloch students have been under protest for the last fifteen days against the unavailability of the internet for online classes in Balochistan. The first protest camp was set up in Sindh’s largest city Karachi and later similar camps were set up across Balochistan for their demands of internet connectivity and other facilities for the students.

On the 24th of June, student alliances in Quetta tried to hold a demonstration in front of Balochistan High Court but unlike what they planned, they were subjected to humiliation and faced aggression by the police force as tens of male and female students were arrested after being beaten up and dragged on roads, and that all happened in front of cameras.

Within a few minutes, video footages of the students being beaten up by the police went viral and a region-wide hashtag trend succeeded in gaining the attention of rights organizations as well as other activists and politicians. Under the immense pressure, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan confessed his helplessness in a Tweet and said that the orders of the arrest did not come from the provincial government (but somewhere else).

However, this raises a few questions about whether the provincial government controls the security apparatus in Balochistan or some other powers? If police force, which is not even infamous for its brutalities unlike the Frontier Corps (FC), can do something as heinous as beating up young female students in front of the camera, that too in the capital city Quetta, what would have been happening behind the camera in other parts of Balochistan?

Perhaps the answer lies in a 2010 news published in Pakistan’s daily newspaper, Dawn. The news draws a grim picture of indiscriminate firing by the security forces (Frontier Corps) on students during a protest rally in Khuzdar city of Balochistan. As a result of the firing, two students died on the spot, Ali Dost and Saddam Baloch, whereas, four others sustained injuries including a student named Liaqat Ali, lost one of his limbs.

This one incident was reported in Pakistani media, but many more go unnoticed. This not only answers CM Jam Kamal that who ordered the arrest of students in Quetta but also answers why the internet facilities in Balochistan remain suspended after half a decade. The mindset continues to prevail among the security establishment of Pakistan that whatever happens in Balochistan, must stay in Balochistan.

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