Source The Daily Times
Author Talimamd Khan
The gruesome murder of Professor Ibrahim alias Arman Loni and PTM’s core committee member by the police in district Loralai, in the South Western province of Balochistan is another grim reminder of the precarious situation of the rule of law, state excesses and the sense of impunity in the security apparatus while dealing with non-violent rights activists.
Prof Arman was a lecturer of Pashto literature in Quetta Degree college and a poet. Hailing from a modest family background, his father was making ends meet as a driver. The hardships of life could not deter Arman from learning to sharpen his political vision and activism. During student life while working seasonally in coal mines, mostly during vacations as a labour clerk and part time as tailor as well, he was introduced to the realities of life and politics. However, the difficult life sprouted from economic hardships could not discourage him from taking part in practical politics as a student.
Social and political sensitivity was engendered into the very environment the family was living in. Arman’s younger sister, Wrranga Loni, a politically aware poetess in a conservative tribal and tradition bound society, became a hallmark of the PTM’s struggle. Both of them would arrive at the area a week earlier to campaign and take part in the management of the forthcoming rally. However, it was mostly Wrranga who would give speeches from the stage while Arman preferred to be behind the stage.
This role exposed them to constant threats from the state security apparatus and state patronised tribal figures. One of the excuse was the leading role of Wrranga as a woman in the PTM postulating a threat to the patriarchal tribal code. It represented a deep anomaly of the state regarding inclusivity and also exposed its Machiavellian approach wherein all available tools were used whether religious or tribal against dissenters – Zubeida Jalal was presented as a blow to the tribal ridden society and politics of Balochistan but Ms Wrranga was not acceptable to deliver a speech from the stage because she was on the other side of the fence.
The manipulation of grafting unrest and insecurity in the Pukhtun belt in Balochistan is reminiscent of similar methods used in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to create ‘safe havens’ for the Taliban
A few years ago, the Loni family had migrated from its ancestral village Sanjawi to Quetta. After the inception of the PTM, the Loni siblings became actively involved in the movement. Resultantly, their family was continuously intimidated by the LEAs and the tribal figures. Arman was summoned by the Loni tribe chief who cautioned him to cease his activities as the agencies were unhappy with him. Finally, the family decided to take refuge in Qilla Saifullah, hometown of Nawab Ayaz Jogaizai, a leader of PkMAP. While addressing the mourners on February 3, Nawab Ayaz revealed that last year Arman had confided in him about threats to his life.
Arman’s fears turned into reality on the evening of Saturday, February 2 when he was beaten to death by the police. Videos of eye witnesses circulating on social media accused the police of intentional murder. One of the videos accounts that after the sit in at Loralai was called off, mainly organised to protest against the bomb blast at the police centre in the district, Arman went inside the Loralai club to have tea. He was approached by his friends who told him that the police were looking for him. When he came out he saw the police and offered voluntary arrest without resistance. He requested the police not to use force but as soon as they saw him, the police party headed by ASP Attur Rehman Tareen, a retired Air Force officer, started beating him at the outset with a rifle butt. Shouting at one of his constables the ASP screamed, “you don’t know how to hit”, snatching his rifle to hit Arman’s neck. After receiving the fatal blow Arman collapsed.
Why did the police attack Arman when the protest sit-in was already called off and participants were dispersing peacefully? Why was Arman singled out? Why did the police not allow anyone for 20 minutes to rescue Arman to a hospital? How could a senior police officer commit murder in daylight if he did not enjoy a pat on his back from powerful quarters?
Ironically, there will be no answers to these questions because the same state institutions will be probing the murderers who are the primary accused.
If the ASP was a lone wolf and acted on his own, why did the mainstream media completely black out the news of Arman’s murder and his funeral attended by a multitude in a sparsely populated region? The historical shutter down strike called by the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party was observed successfully on February 4 in every big and small urban centres as well as in towns of the Pakhtun belt of Balochistan province. But the media remained criminally silent.
Such mayhem is connected through an embryonic cord with the policy environment controlled and dictated by the non-elected power centres. These policy choices, strategic assets and the enabling state paradigm had been maintained at a great cost by the powers to be after 9/11. Evidently, they intend to preserve the interventionist policies to retain hegemony after the US withdrawal from the region.
The manipulation of grafting unrest and insecurity in the Pukhtun belt in Balochistan is reminiscent of similar methods used in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to create ‘safe havens’ for the Taliban. In case remnants of the Quetta Shoora relocate to Afghanistan, as a result of successful peace negotiations by the Taliban, the Pakhtun belt bordering Afghanistan in Balochistan will be a potential epicentre of a new phase of violence. The recent attacks on levies and police in the region seems a prelude.
Strangulating the PTM through every means whether by connecting it to the TTP or extra judicially killing its members is a prefabricated scheme to pursue the strategic objectives post US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Innocent voices for peace and fundamental rights like that of Arman’s, are clashing with vested interests that want to nip them in the bud. However, the criminal silence of mainstream political parties, particularly the PML-N in this crucial juncture of history indicates that these parties use the constitutional and civilian supremacy over state institutions merely as a cover for self-interest. However, the blood of Arman and many other like him will not go in vain. History has its own court of justice where many powerful stand condemned.
The writer is a freelance journalist currently contributing to @dailytimespak