Zaman Khan Chalgari Marri, a practicing lawyer, was kidnapped on August 19, along with another lawyer Munir Ahmed Mirwani from Quetta. On September 6, his mutilated body was found in Mastung. He leaves behind an inconsolable wife, seven daughters, a son, a grieving family and an angry Baloch nation.
On August 24, the Balochistan Bar Association had gone on a three-day strike and accused intelligence agencies of kidnapping both the lawyers. The Balochistan High Court chief justice, who took suo motu notice of the kidnapping, had asked the authorities concerned for both the lawyers’ safe and early recovery. However, these directives went unheeded because those who kidnapped him are answerable to none. He has been murdered because he is a Baloch and every Baloch is now deemed a suspect by the state.
Khalid Hayat Jamaldini was also harassed because he too is a Baloch. Fortunately, he was a bit luckier and was spared the fate that befell Zaman Khan.
However, the rate at which atrocities are being perpetrated in Balochistan, sooner or later, Jamaldini’s luck too will run out, as will happen with many other Baloch before our struggle puts a final end to such crimes. Such atrocities become a reason for the unyielding and unforgiving stance of the victimised nation. Their attitude then – to put it in French Revolution’s best known figure Maximilian Robespierre’s words – becomes, “To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is barbarity.” The Baloch people will never forgive these atrocities.
I have never written an obituary before in my life, but this truly painful incident has compelled me to do so. I came to know Zaman Khan’s family before I knew him and when there were military operations during 1974 in the Marri area, some of us stayed in the same area where their family used to live during winters. They shared their meagre grain rations with us when ours ran out and couldn’t be replenished the same day.
Once when I was travelling to Kabul from Helmand during my stay in Afghanistan, Zaman Khan’s now deceased father, Mehrab Khan, came to me and took me aside and offered me some money so that I could use it during the trip. At that time, he like thousands of other Balochs and myself, subsisted on the meagre monthly stipend from the beleaguered Afghan government. I didn’t take the money from him, but the feelings with which he tried to help me are still etched on my heart.
I first met Zaman Khan in the refugee camp in Kalat, Afghanistan, when I went there in 1978. He was in his teens and a keen student and a good football player. Though the life at the camp was anything but easy, his spirits were buoyant and his approach to life positive. His infectious cackling laughter still resounds in my ears. That laughter and the happiness in his family have now been extinguished forever by the state, whose never-ending rhetoric claims Zaman Khan and other Baloch as its citizens.
He was the fastest of all, playing barefooted on the graveled grounds that we used as our football field. He used to play football in the freezing weather with the same adeptness that he had during milder weather or in the sizzling heat. Always ready to share the ball as willingly as he shared whatever he learnt with his junior students. The school that I managed had just me and another Baloch as teachers and there were hundreds of students anxious to learn. I would assign the students of the higher grades, on a rotation basis, to teach the students in lower grades.
He willingly and diligently performed his role as a teacher with the care that his less endowed fellows deserved. The students he taught always looked forward to his next class. Zaman Khan never tired of helping the students who were slower than others and it was this sense of responsibility, which distinguished him from others. He was ever enthusiastic to learn and teach by asking questions and seeking answers. He then went to the Soviet Union for further studies along with other Baloch refugee students as education there offered more opportunities. He was diligent as ever and soon qualified as a lawyer and on his return started practicing law in 1994.
The Pakistani state it seems is bent upon eliminating Baloch people whom the intelligence agencies or the Frontier Constabulary presumes unsupportive of their policies. Each Baloch death is an indictment of the Balochistan government, the supposedly democratic government at the centre, the deafeningly silent media (Zaman’s death was only reported by Daily Times) and also the civil society. The government does not seem to get tired of making false promises and presenting hollow packages, which the Baloch know are as shallow as their response to these atrocities. The media is rightly protesting Umar Cheema’s torture, but it is deafeningly silent on the murder of an advocate whose crime was nothing more than pursuing cases of the missing persons in Balochistan, including his own maternal nephew who is still missing. Such atrocities would not have passed unnoticed anywhere else in the world.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, a jailed American activist, writes, “When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refuse to defend it — at that moment you begin to die. And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about justice.” How long will the Baloch keep tolerating these atrocities without their anger erupting in another intifada? How long will they keep mum about this slow genocide?
I don’t think that Baloch cherish the idea of becoming walking corpses. Instead, they definitely prefer to die fighting. These ceaseless atrocities will increasingly drive them to subscribe to a separate Balochistan state, a state where abductions and extra-judicial killings will not await them in the streets. For a person as dedicated and diligent as Zaman Khan, whose refusal to bow to the will of the brutal state became the reason for his death, I want to end his obituary with the poet William Ernest Henley’s (1849-1903) poem ‘Invictus’. Had he submitted to what they wanted him to admit and accept, he would have lived, but he preferred that his ‘bloody head remains unbowed’, he preferred death over a life of ignominy. ‘Invictus’ also represents Baloch feelings towards the ceaseless atrocities and is their united answer to all those responsible for these crimes.
Out Of The Night That Covers Me
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.