Most of those killed in mysterious circumstances over the years were critics of this `establishment'. Are their murders, often at the hands of "unknown assailants" or dubious organisations, mere coincidence?
The assassins "may perhaps belong to different groups", said the HRCP, but the murders were `the work of militants out to eliminate anyone who raises his voice against persecution of the vulnerable people". Naeem Sabir, associated with HRCP since 1997, had been targeted off and on "by minions of the state" for "his truthful coverage of human rights abuses". A shadowy group calling itself the `Baloch Musala Defai Tanzeem' (Armed Baloch Defence Committee) claimed responsibility.
Saba Dashtiyari was not exposing human rights abuses but he was doing something more dangerous – opening young minds to progressive thought. Although he received his basic education in the slums of Lyari he shared a wealth of knowledge, running "kind of a (liberal) university within the (strictly controlled) university,” writes his former student Malik Siraj Akbar.
In April last year, another professor at the University of Balochistan, Nazima Talib was murdered – the first time a woman was target-killed in the province. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) said it had killed her in response to the security forces' killing of "two Baloch women in Quetta and Pasni and torture of women political workers in Mand and Tump".
One can empathise with the anger of the Baloch. But revenge killings cannot be justified or condoned. When victims become oppressors, it becomes even harder to emerge from the downward spiral.
The murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti in Gen. Musharraf's military operation of August 2006 contributed to this downward spiral, sparking off a wave of target killings of non-Balochis, particularly educationists and civil servants. Those killed since include Balochistan Education Minister Shafique Ahmed and Hamid Mehmood, Secretary Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education.
Journalists remain vulnerable, walking a tightrope between the military and the militants, as Saleem Shehzad did. At least half-a-dozen Baloch journalists have been target-killed over the past nine months alone: Rehmatullah Shaeen, Ejaz Raisani, Lala Hameed Hayatan, Ilyas Nazar, Mohammad Khan Sasoil, Siddiq Eido and Abdus Rind. These murders have neither been investigated, nor has the mainstream media taken any notice of them.
Many compare the situation to 1971. Just before Bangladesh's liberation (albeit with foreign intervention), extremists trying to kill progressive ideas in the new country massacred progressive intellectuals. Is a similar mindset at work in what's left of Pakistan? Extremists know they cannot win the argument so they silence the voices that make the argument.
Terming it a `rampant `intellecticide', the CPP urged the international community to take note "as not a day passes without the target killing or kidnapping of a university professor, chancellor, doctor, enlightened teacher or a leftist, democratic, progressive political worker."
Let this blood not have been spilt in vain.