SOURCE: SUNDAY GUARDIAN LIVE
I was reminded of the concentration camps that were operated by the Nazis in Auschwitz as I started turning the pages of the book, “Balochistan-bruised, battered and bloodied” (Bloomsbury publication) authored by Italian journalist Francesca Marino.
This 230-page-plus readout which will be released on 28 November, starts with tracing the ancient history of Balochistan and concludes while detailing about the numerous Chinese CPEC projects that are being executed in the region. In between these are pages that bring to light the tragic and heart-breaking stories of how the common Balochi, for decades now, have suffered in the hands of successive Pakistani governments, be it either a democratically elected PM or an army chief who has gained power through a coup.
The tragedy which the Balochis are going through—which the author has tried to bring out for the global readers—is impossible to be summarized in one book, but Marino has done her best to give her readers an immersive picture of what is happening in the land where accessibility to outsider and non-residents is very strictly monitored. However, Marino—who has extensively covered Pakistan in the past—has been, as the books shows, able to reach out to people on the ground while drafting her book.
As one moves from one chapter to the other, the words that have been used to describe the poignant situation in which the common Balochis are—devoid of any human rights whatsoever—start weaving a series of pictures in front of you. Picture of a 10-year-old boy who is shot four times after being tortured for four days by the Pakistani military because his elder brother is a Balochi freedom fighter, pictures of Balochi women being raped as a punishment and pictures of mothers and father, broken and sitting on their doors of dilapidated houses, waiting for the return of their sons and brothers who were picked up by the military years ago, never to be heard again. It seems in the forsaken land of Balochistan, only hope is alive, rest everything has been taken away by the Pakistani rulers.
The book also has a collage of black and white photographs that were clicked by a local photographer, Roshaan Khattak, while keeping his life at stake, depicting the Balochis and their lives. These pictures add more pain to the sad tale that Balochistan is right now. The term “missing persons” might come as a shock to most readers, but in Balochistan, it is a part of life, and so are mass graves and mutilated bodies lying on the road side, bodies of those poor souls who are picked by the Paksitani military and death squads that function under the patronage of the Pakistan army. The present-day reality of Balochistan is hidden, depressing and saddening and the latter two emotions stay with you long after you have given this book a rest.
The reason for that is that the human mind is not conditioned to accept that such atrocities, trampling of even basic human rights like right to life, are still taking place. The book also raises, at some point, the relevance of international human rights agencies as they have failed, for years now, to give even a cursory look at what the people of Balochistan are facing every day.
The book has managed to explain the past and the present reasons that have put the Balochis and their land in such a pitiful state. And it has also, perhaps rightfully so, stayed away from predicting the future. For the future of the Balochis, as was the past, looks an ending tale of depth of sorrow and death.
“Balochistan, bruised, battered and bloodied” is not a leisure reading, but a book that extracts empathy from its reader.