Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province rich with natural gas, gold and copper. Located on the borders of Iran and Afghanistan, land of the Balochs, where the first Baloch confederacy was founded in 1666, has had a bitter history of exploitation and suppression by a strictly centralized federal government heavily influenced by the country’s military. While the central government and the province confronted each other four times since the forceful annexation of the Baloch land into Pakistan in 1948, the ongoing movement entails more systematic and radical dimensions. Malik Siraj Akbar, editor of the The Baloch Hal, the first online English newspaper of Balochistan, takes a look at the last one decade how the dimensions of the Baloch movement changed. A Hubert Humphrey Fellow at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Malik reveals the “enforced disappearance” of hundreds of Baloch political workers and their brutal murder by the Pakistani security services under a “kill and dump” policy during detention in a phenomenon similar to Argentina’s Dirty War. The book analyzes growing state-sponsored radicalization in secular Balochistan. Malik is the most widely quoted journalist on Balochistan. He insists that the killing of former governor Nawab Akbar Bugti, 79, by Pervez Musharraf’s regime proved as the 9/11 of Pakistan’s relations with the resourceful province. The Balochistan question merits attention of the international community not only for a stable Pakistan but also to provide the world alternative options for a secular buffer state between Iran and Afghanistan if Pakistan falls in the hands of Islamists.
Malik Siraj Akbar is the editor of The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English language newspaper. He is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow with Arizona State University‘s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Phoenix. In November 2010, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned The Baloch Hal because of its fiercely objective and critical editorial policy. Malik termed the ban undemocratic, a “ban on expression’ and vowed to fight in spite of all challenges. Liberal writers from all over Pakistan stood with The Baloch Hal against the official ban. Formerly, Malik served for five years as the Balochistan Bureau Chief of Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper Daily Times and its sister publication in Urdu, Daily Aajkal. He has extensively covered the military operation in Balochistan, Baloch nationalist movement, issue of enforced disappearances, target killings, sectarian violence; secrete Taliban operations in Balochistan, women’s rights issues, lawyers’ movement, religious radicalization of Baloch society and several natural disasters such as the Mekran flood, Ziarat earthquake and others. As a journalist, he has covered several local and general elections held in Balochistan. His articles have been published in two of Pakistan’s most reputed current affairs magazines, Herald and Newsline. Born in Panjgur District on July 9, 1983, Malik holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Balochistan. He is the first Pakistani male journalist to be awarded South Asia Foundation (SAF) Media Scholarship. He attended the prestigious Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai, India, to specialize in politics, gender and identities politics. In 2010-11, he became the first Baloch journalist in the country to be awarded the coveted Hubert Humphrey Fellowship in Journalism and Mass Communication by the U.S. Department of State. As a political analyst, Malik has been interviewed and quoted by several national and international media and human rights organizations such as the New York Times, Washington Times, BBC (Urdu Service), Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian, International Herald Tribune, The American Chronicle, Express Tribune, Dawn, Daily Times, The News International, Geo News, Headlines Today, News TV One, Saama TV, Pakistan Television, Vash TV, KTN, Radio Gwank, Sindh TV, HD Net (USA), International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights Commission, Reporters Without Borders and several others. As a professional media trainer, Malik trained one hundred (100) rural journalists of Balochistan on Media, Democracy and Human Rights in five phases under a project by Balochistan Institute for Development with the collaboration of the US-based National Endowment for Democracy. In addition, Malik worked with international organizations like ActionAid Pakistan and Oxfam as an independent researcher on the issue of Balochistan’s internally displaced persons (IDPs). Malik is a member of several international journalists’ organizations such as the USA-based Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) and South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA). He has actively participated and spoken on Balochistan in national and international conferences held inside Pakistan, India, USA and Singapore while he has attended media-related programs in Germany.