Author: Waseem Baloch
Tootak is a small village in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan, predominantly inhabited by the Qalandrani tribe. The village is surrounded by mountains and farms, making it very scenic. The community thrived in harmony, with residents living as one extended family. The residents were financially stable, and the young people were focused on their studies. For many, Tootak was their paradise.
However, February 18, 2011, marked a tragic incident in Tootak when Pakistani authorities conducted a raid on Tootak village, resulting in the tragic deaths of two members of the Qalandrani family. Additionally, over 50 individuals were taken into custody. While some were subsequently released after a week, 16 individuals, including the elderly Rahim Khan 80 years old at the time and 14 years old young Nadeem Qalandrani, remain unaccounted for to this date. This incident intensified tensions in an area.
In the aftermath of the Tootak incident, families have been displaced, livelihoods destroyed, and communities torn apart. The trauma experienced by survivors is profound, leaving psychological scars that may last for a lifetime. The Tootak victims not only experienced the immediate terror of the incident but are also dealing with the ongoing consequences of being unintentional pawns in a larger political game involving the Pakistani establishment and state backed Death Squad Head, Shafiq Mengal. As the conflict in Tootak intensified, civilians found themselves caught in a situation beyond their control.
After the Tootak operation, Shafiq Mengal, the leader of death squad and a relative of the Qalandrani family, emerged as the mastermind. He orchestrated killings, including those of his close relatives in the region, as well as hundreds of other innocent people from various tribes and political backgrounds in Balochistan. With support from the Pakistani establishment, he solidified control in the area. Alarmingly, over 200 mutilated dead bodies were discovered from various mass graves in and around his compound among the mutilated dead bodies some of them were identified as previously abducted Baloch missing persons, yet no legal action has been taken against him to date. Further raising concerns, he plans to contest the 2024 general election with backing from Pakistani authorities.
The resilient people of the Qalandrani tribe in Tootak have consistently faced terror from the Pakistani establishment. The establishment’s repeated failures are clear, especially when innocent teenagers and tribesmen are unjustly abducted without sufficient evidence. These individuals, already victimized by state-sanctioned brutality, and they are still being punished without any conviction.
These actions by the Pakistani authorities suggest a deliberate attempt to provoke Tootak residents into taking up arms against the Pakistani army. The youth in Tootak, having experienced significant losses due to the brutalities of the Pakistani establishment and its death squad members, the continued blackmailing and terrorising tactics may force the people of Balochistan, who are leading ordinary lives, to take strict actions against Pakistani authorities and its local death squad members. The situation highlights the urgent need for a resolution that respects the basic human rights and security of the innocent and victimised residents of Tootak and beyond.
The recent abduction of two innocent teenagers, aged 16 and 17, from the same Qalandrani family and residents of Tootak, by Pakistani authorities has compounded the woes of Tootak’s residents. One of them is the brother of missing Aftab Qalandrani forcefully abducted during Tootak operation on 18th of February 2011. The other teenager is the nephew of two uncles Imtiaz Ahmed and Nadeem Qalandrani both were abducted during the Tootak operation. Despite the profound personal losses suffered by these families, the state continues to instil fear in Tootak victims families who are not involved in any activities.
Pakistani authorities brutality in Tootak exemplifies the failure of the state’s policy, causing distress among innocent residents. The heavy handed approach has led to the abduction of teenagers and intensified the suffering of families who have already experienced significant losses by the Pakistani Army.
It’s high time that the residents of Tootak must break their silence just like other state victims elsewhere in Balochistan, as the state continues its relentless brutality against victims of enforced disappearances who are not engaged in any political activities. It’s time to speak up and end the silence againts these injustices. Silence is not an option; your silence gives impunity to the state to commit human rights violations without accountability.
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.