Rising violence in Pakistan’s warring Baluchistan

The murder of a part-time journalist and a gunfire attack on the house of the president of the Turbat Press Club, both on May 28, underscore the nature of the escalating violence in Baluchistan. According to the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, which monitors violence across South Asia, at least 10 people were killed in Baluchistan on May 28 alone.

Abdul Qadir Hajizai, the principal of a middle school who also worked as a journalist for a private Baluchi-language TV channel, WASH TV, for two years, was gunned down by men on a motorcycle in the Basima area of Washik district on Monday, local news reports said. Hajizai died in a nearby hospital, the reports said. The motive for the killing was not immediately clear.

On the same day, in an apparently unrelated incident, the house of Irshad Akhtar, the Turbat Press Club’s president, was fired upon by unknown gunmen, according to news reports. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists reported that Akhtar said he had not received any threats. No one was harmed in the attack, news reports said.

The unexplained murder of Hajizai is another example of the lawless atmosphere in which Baluch journalists and citizens must cope. Sadly, the situation does not look likely to improve in the coming years. For their own protection, and with the knowledge that they cannot rely on the local or federal government, journalists must band together to confront the rising threat to their profession. Part of that response is pressuring the authorities to address the violence that has become a daily reality for them.

The Baluchistan Union of Journalists has appealed to the Supreme Court and the Baluchistan High Court in a statement, asking them to address the rising levels of threat to journalists–a wise and necessary move. But, as we’ve seen in other parts of the country, journalists’ organizations must act much more proactively to confront the violence themselves, which means strengthening journalist organizations, training them to handle threats and violence, and having appropriate protective gear close at hand.

Baluchistan, Pakistan’s poorest region, is a scene of protracted violence, where clan and ethnic animosities are aggravated by the area’s extreme poverty. With little or no public security or investigation into crimes in most areas, it is difficult to determine the motives for attacks on journalists.