Suicides surge after Pakistan Military’s violence in Balochistan

| Updated: 24 June, 2024 10:11 am IST
(Photos of people who committed suice, starting from top – Akhlaq Ahmad, Noorjan, Lutfullah Yalanzahi, Chakar Majeed, Muheem and Najma)

The extent of state atrocities in Balochistan is difficult for those outside the region to comprehend. Balochistan has long been a strategic area in the geopolitical games of world powers. Colonialism devastated the culture, geography, and social structures of many nations, and the Baloch nation is among those deeply affected. British imperialism brought many misfortunes to our region, but the cruellest act was against the Baloch nation. After the partition of India, Pakistan was given power and provided all kinds of support to occupy Balochistan.

Due to the occupation of Balochistan, Pakistan became a security state rather than a democratic welfare state. A large army and the military’s complete control over state decisions are rooted in the expansionist policies of the occupying state. These policies instil fear in the minds of the ruling powers, creating a psychological state that fosters violence and denies citizens their rights at all levels.

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Balochistan is a country that has not only lost its identity but has been politically, economically, and socially destroyed. Balochistan, once an economically strong region due to its opportunities and resources, is now fragmented because the occupying Pakistan sees only its minerals and Gwadar port. Social development, political consciousness and urban amenities threaten the interests of the Punjabi-majority army, so they seek to destroy them.

Beyond conventional weapons, the Pakistani military has used enforced disappearances as a weapon against the Baloch Movement from the beginning. Those who survive prolonged and life-long enforced disappearances are often left psychologically devastated, living lives worse than death. Many of these individuals have committed suicide due to constant fear. On June 19, 2024, Akhlaq Ahmad, a resident of Mullahi Bazar Turbat, District Kech, Balochistan, committed suicide. He was forcibly disappeared twice by the Pakistani Army and subjected to torture. Even after his release, he was constantly called to the military camp and subjected to mental and physical torture. This was unbearable for the teenager, so he decided to end his life.

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If we observe the life of Akhlaq Ahmed, it is also known that he was an orphan. Survivors of enforced disappearances generally avoid mentioning the violence inflicted on them. However, the limited information that does emerge mentions unspeakable violence. What remains undisclosed is the torture and sinister tactics used by the Pakistani Army, which include sexual violence, leading to a loss of humanity. Following recovery, efforts are made to address the victim’s mental health rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Balochistan lacks facilities for mental health treatment and rehabilitation, with little attention given to this issue. Despite court rulings, the state fails to offer compensation or support for victim rehabilitation.

Akhlaq Ahmed’s incident is not the first of its kind, but people have committed suicide in Balochistan because of military oppression. Ironically, this trend continues to this day. Balochistan is also one of the regions of the world where the trend of suicide is at an alarming level, with the suicide rate of youth and women among the total population being the highest. Psychologists believe that suicide tends to increase in war-torn areas, a problem with several factors in Balochistan. Many young people contacted me to express despair and suicidal tendencies; they are disgusted with the oppression of the Pakistani army in Balochistan, and they are ready to risk their lives to end this oppression, for them the freedom movement is the only ray of hope.

An accurate record of those who committed suicide as a direct result of Pakistan Army atrocities is unavailable due to the lack of a reliable data centre in Balochistan. However, the Baloch National Movement (BNM) highlighted this issue in November 2022 and launched a media campaign. BNM revealed that in 2021, 80 people committed suicide in Balochistan, while till November 2022, 56 people had taken their own lives.

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BNM published a short list of people who committed suicide as a direct result of violence by the Pakistani Army:

– On May 20, 2021, Noorjan, a resident of Awaran, was continuously pressured by the Pakistani army to submit his daughter to the military camp. Unable to bear this pressure, he committed suicide.

– On March 10, 2022, Chakar Majeed, a Class 9 student, took his own life after being forcibly disappeared by the Pakistani Army.

– Muheem, committed suicide on August 30, 2022. He had been tortured by the Pakistani Army during his enforced disappearance. After his release, he faced severe psychological problems, leading to his suicide.

– On November 10, 2022, Amirzadi, a resident of Kharan, committed suicide due to continuous army raids on her house. Following her death, her husband, Lutfullah Yelanzhai, also committed suicide by shooting himself.

– On May 15, 2023, Najma, a school teacher and a resident of village Zek in the Gishkaur area of Awran district, committed suicide after being blackmailed by a police officer, Noor Bakhsh, a tool of the Pakistani Army. The officer pressured her to spy on Baloch freedom fighters.

The darkest aspect of these incidents is the neglect of justice for the Baloch nation, leading to greater helplessness and despair. It seems that not only was Akhlaq Ahmed an orphan, but the whole of Balochistan is orphaned, with no hope of a better future.

The ongoing violence and lack of accountability in Balochistan create a grim picture for its residents. The systematic oppression and psychological torment inflicted by the Pakistani military have led to an alarming increase in suicides, highlighting the urgent need for international attention and intervention. The world must recognize the plight of the Baloch people and work towards ensuring justice, rehabilitation, and a future free from violence and despair for Balochistan.

The author is the Information Secretary of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), columnist, Balochi linguist, twice elected General Secretary of Gwadar Press Club, and founder Director of Zrumbesh Broadcasting Corporation.

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