Remembering The Women Of Balochistan By Sanaullah Baloch
Women are discriminated against in the country at large, but in Balochistan they are discriminated by the state.
The ongoing dirty war in Balochistan has affected society at all levels. Women – mothers, sisters and daughters – are particularly affected because of the magnitude of the so-called ‘missing persons’ issue. Hundreds of men – fathers, husbands and sons – have gone missing, presumably abducted, killed and dumped on roadsides in the province.
However, some tearless Baloch women are bravely pushing the cultural and traditional barriers and campaigning for justice and truth, taking part in sit-in camps outside the Quetta and Karachi press clubs and sometimes on Islamabad’s “Constitution” avenue.
Politically conscious and culturally well endowed, resource-rich Balochistan is Pakistan’s least-developed province with a high rate of maternal mortality, female illiteracy, unemployment and gender disparity. Inflexible social customs and practices are widely blamed for the plight of Baloch women but the reasons are different and have more to do with state-sponsored discrimination against women in the province.
Islamabad has always tried to blame the Baloch themselves for their appalling state. However, facts and findings on health, education, communication, political empowerment and economic development clearly indicate that human development in Balochistan has been deliberately ignored by successive central governments – so, to blame the Baloch themselves is not entirely correct.
Women are discriminated against in the country at large, but in Balochistan they are discriminated by the state. They have no access to enabling opportunities, required for empowering women in any modern and civilised society. Discriminatory policies are not only resulting in slowdown of gender empowerment but effecting the overall social and economic development process.
The most devastating consequence of underdevelopment in any society is a high fatality rate. As a separate region, Balochistan has among the highest infant and maternal mortality rates of many underdeveloped Asian and African countries. For example, the maternal mortality rate for Karachi is 281 per 100,000 lives birth compared to 750 for rural Balochistan. The increasing rate of preventable maternal mortality is a symptom of larger social injustice.