The recent killing of a driver in Nokkundi by the Frontier Corps has spurred waves of condemnation and protests in different areas of Balochistan. In Nokkundi, Dalbandain and the adjacent areas, hundreds of protestors brought the dead body of the slain driver to the RCD and blocked it in protest. The protestors chanted slogans against the Pakistani security forces and demanded justice for the slain driver. The forces tried to disperse the protest and reopen the busy highway for the incoming traffic and a scuffle broke out between the protestors and the forces and the latter opened fire on the former, injuring several protestors in the process. The injured were shifted to Nokkundi Rural Healthcare Center for medical treatment and two others were further referred to Trauma Center Quetta. No fatalities have been confirmed from the episode yet.
The slain driver was identified as Hameedullah Baloch who was killed by the Pakistani security forces in the Panch Naik area near the Pak-Afghan border when he allegedly sped away after being signalled to stop. The forces opened fire on his vehicle and Hamedullah was killed on the spot.
Several drivers and hundreds of residents of Nokkundi brought the body of the slain driver to the RCD and blocked it in protest. A freight train coming from the Iranian city of Zahedan was also stopped in protest. The protestors reportedly set fire to the main gate of a government building being used by the security forces. The forces opened indiscriminate fire and injured several protestors.
The protests were called off after negotiations between the local authorities and the protestors. The freight train was allowed to resume its journey and the RCD was reopened. According to local officials, the protestors’ demand for the reopening of the entry point at the Pak-Afghan border for trade was also accepted. The officials also assured the drivers that the vehicles captured by the security forces will be handed over to their respective owners.
The trade at the Afghan border has become a source of employment for the people living in the areas near the border. According to the details, the Pakistani security forces stopped several vehicles near the border. They reportedly poured sand in the vehicles’ radiators and took out their batteries, thus making them useless and abandoning the drivers in the scorching desert heat during the holy month of Ramadan. The drivers say that the forces confiscated their vehicles and told them to leave the area on foot. Nokkundi and the Afghan border are several hundred kilometres apart – the drivers were told to make that journey through the desert on foot without any food or water.
The drivers were compelled to leave their vehicles and make the arduous journey back home. After several hours of trekking in the desert, some fortunate souls spotted a vehicle and sought help, but others did not survive. At least three drivers died of dehydration and starvation while making the journey. In a video viral on social media, the dead bodies of the drivers can be seen sprawling in the desert.
The video spread like a wildfire on social media, spurring a series of condemnations and demonstrations. In a media statement, the Baloch Women Forum said that the “oppression of the Baloch” has not stopped even in the holy month of Ramadan. The Nokkundi incident is reminiscent of the killing of Hayat Baloch, Taj Bibi Baloch and countless others who were slaughtered in cold blood. The group said that the border trade has become a lifeline for the people of Balochistan and the people in power must realize that. They said that the silence of the political parties, government and judiciary is only worsening the crisis and leading to a human rights catastrophe. The group announced carrying out a demonstration in Quetta against the Nokkundi incident and demanding justice for the slain drivers.
The Baloch Yakjehti Committee also announced that it would carry out a protest in Karachi on April 17 to demand justice for the slain drivers and fix responsibility on the culprits.
The Baloch Student Organization Azad (BSO-Azad) also condemned the Nokkundi incident in a media statement, saying that it is the continuation of the colonial policies of the Pakistani state. BSO-Azad said that since the “occupation” of Balochistan, the Pakistani state has inflicted horrendous atrocities on the Baloch nation and yet the world powers and human rights groups are still silent.
BSO-Azad said that the Nokkundi incident – and countless other such incidents – shows that the Pakistani state considers “genocide” as the only solution to the Baloch national issue. The Baloch youth are forcibly disappearing throughout Balochistan and the bullet-riddled dead bodies of the Baloch missing persons are discovered thrown in random places or buried in mass graves. BSO-Azad said that this cruelty is not limited to any specific area or a tribe – the entire Baloch nation is suffering from it.
BSO-Azad said that the silence of the human rights groups on this humanitarian crisis is only adding fuel to the fire – it is time to hold the Pakistani state accountable for its human rights violations in Balochistan.
Religious and political leader Abdul Ghani Zamurani also condemned the killing of the drivers at the hands of the security forces. He said that the Pakistani state has made the Baloch like foreigners in their own land. He said that the lack of employment and economic growth has pushed thousands of people n Balochistan to starvation. He said that this indifferent behaviour of the state in Balochistan is not acceptable, and the rulers must realize that. The Pakistani state has created a Karbala-like situation in Balochistan even in the holy month of Ramadan.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also took notice of the Nokkundi incident. In a media statement, Hina Jilani, the Chairperson of the HRCP, said that the government has neglected Balochistan for too long. The security forces are inflicting cruelties on the people of Balochistan. She said that the provincial government must take notice of the incident and bring the culprits to justice.