On the 26th of the last month, a woman named Shari Baloch, aged 31, detonated herself at the entrance of the Confucius Institute of Karachi University, killing three Chinese instructors and a local driver. On one hand, this incident has raised concerns that China-Pakistan collaboration is becoming a target for separatist resistance. On the other hand, people almost from all the ranks in and out of Pakistan are trying to find the reasons behind Shari Baloch`s becoming a suicide bomber. More interestingly, Shari Baloch was from a family who is not a direct victim of any kind of oppression. Then what led her to become a suicide bomber?A few case studies and research papers on understanding the psyche of suicide bombers might help us to find the answer.
In 1985, Sana Mheidleh, sixteen, drove a car with 440 pounds of explosives killing two Israeli soldiers while injuring the other two near the village of Jezzine, 19 miles southeast of Beirut. She becomes the first female suicide bomber the world has ever known. She is highly praised for sacrificing her life, killing Israeli occupiers, who had occupied parts of Lebanon during the civil war there. She is known as the ‘bride of the South’ for her act, whichthe Lebanese called ‘courageous.’ The last letter she left for her parents said, “Do not be sad for me. The south must be liberated.”The only regret her mother had was, “I wish she had told me. I wish she kissed me goodbye.”
Understanding the matter better
Understanding Sana`s motivation to die is not as challenging as understanding Shari Baloch`s motivation is. Because researchers argue that a teenage brain goes through dramatic changes. Therefore, it is challenging to divert a teenager`s mind from the complexes he/she is facing. This makes a teenager vulnerable and volatile.
Similarly, in September 2014, two teenage friends, Yusra Hussein, 15, from Bristol, and her friend who was 17, from London, reached Istanbul to head for Syria to join the so-called Islamic State. Researchers pointed out that young are commonly deemed to be easier prey to radicalize than older ones. Some estimates show that a human brain is completely developed at the age of 25. While Shari Baloch was 31__ here comes the challenge to understand what caused her to become a suicide bomber despite having, at least apparently, an established family and two cute children. Remember, Allah Almighty has compared His love with thelove of a mother, not anyone else.
According to a journalist named Kiyya Baloch, Shari Baloch was a school teacher in Kech, her hometown. She had degrees of B. Ed, M. Ed, and M.Phil. Her husband is a dentist, her father is a director in a government agency, her brother-in-law is a lecturer, and her family is highly educated and ‘peaceful.’ None of her close relatives are missing.
It is claimed by the so-called “MajeedBrigade” of the banned group Balochistan Liberation Army that she presented herself for the sacrifice without any coercion. In an email to Al Jazeera, the group stated, “The mission was carried out by the first female fidayeen (martyr) of the Brigade,” and, “Targeting director and officials of Confucius Institute, the symbol of Chinese economic, cultural and political expansionism, was to give a clear message to China that its direct or indirect presence in Balochistan will not be tolerated,” the email added.
The reason behind targeting the Chinese is given in BLA`s email to Al Jazeera but the question of why an educated married female with an established family becomes a suicide bomber is not that easy to answer. Here goes a list of reasons that are not possible to motivations behind Shari Baloch`s this act; Firstly, it is clear that Shari was not heavily drunk for ‘Jannah’, as many religiously motivated suicide bombers are. Secondly, her sophisticated move of getting closer to the targeted vehicle and pressing the button at the right time indicates that she was mentally alert. Thirdly, she had nothing personal with the people sitting in the vehicle.
Then what could be the reason?
According to Ariel Merari, an expert in psychology, suicidal tendencies, depressive tendencies, and previous non-terrorist suicide attempts are three similarities in suicide bombers. He and his team deduced this after conducting psychological tests of preemptively arrested suicide bombers. David Lester, a British psychologist, states in his essay, ‘Female Suicide Bombers: Clues for Journalists’that there can be five typical motives behind a female becoming a suicide bomber, (1) Strategic Desirability; (2) the influence of men; (3) revenge; (4) desperation, and (5)liberation.In Shari Baloch`s case, revenge for her people, desperation to get rid of the state she was convinced is not good for her people, and liberation from that state, Pakistan, can be the possible reasons for her becoming a suicide bomber.
Furthermore, Paul Gill, a professor in Security and Crime Science, writes in one of his papers that pre-existing familial ties and in-group radicalization through internalization and polarization of the group`s values and norms can be the reasons for choosing to sacrifice oneself. Shari Baloch might have gone through volumes of stories of violence against her people, Baloch, during these two years when she was in contact with the outlawed group.While in choosing the target, “Majeed Brigade” might have helped or used her, which is quite visible in the group`s email to Al Jazeera.
A great limitation in understanding the mindset of Shari Baloch becoming a suicide bomber is that researchers have researched religiously motivated suicide bombers while this is not the case with Shari Baloch. Her case might resemble the suicide bombers of the Tamil rebels, who fought for decades for a separate state from Sri Lanka, a similar cause BLA is fighting for. “[Suicide bombing] is the supreme sacrifice I can make. The only way we can get our Eelam (homeland).
This is the only way anybody will listen to us. Even if we die,”said a young suicide bomber of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This desperation and prediction can be similar between Shari Baloch and that young Tamil suicide bomber. Shari Balochmight also have been convinced that this is the supreme sacrifice and since her death, she is the talk of the town, people are trying to listen to her even though she is dead.
In May 1991, a female suicide bomber of LTTE got through the crowd in Madras and detonated herself killing then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and eleven others. Since then, the trend of recruiting female suicide bombers has been seen as a rising trend. BLA`s Shari Baloch`s sacrifice, what the group calls it, can be a tool for it to provoke young Baloch males that if a female can do it for her motherland, then why can`t they. If Shari Baloch can do it without facing any personal tragedy, then why can`t they, if they have faced any. If she after being a mother could do it, why can`t they?
Read more: The organized chaos in Balochistan
These questions and incidents like the killing of Hayat Baloch, profiling of the Baloch students in Punjab and Islamabad, the grave concern and decades-old issue of the Baloch missing persons, extrajudicial killings, death squads, and political engineering in Balochistan can provide suicide bombers to the outlawed groups like BLA. This begs the question; what should the State do? This ought to be pondered upon by the stakeholders.
First and foremost, the issue of Baloch missing persons should not be delayed any further. There are a number of Baloch females who have spent most of their lives protesting in front of different press clubs. Nationalist and sub-nationalist politicians have been asking for the release of these missing persons too. If Shari Baloch`s killing of Chinese citizens can hurt peaceful protests and genuine demands of Baloch sisters, mothers, and daughters for their loved ones, it can also motivate many such sufferers who out of desperation cannot see any possibility of their loved ones coming back. Therefore, the State should take this issue as seriously as it can and remove a possible strong reason for recruitment by banned groups like BLA.
Secondly, economic stability can be a strong force to earn patriotism
According to Dr. Kaiser Bengali, an economist with 40 years of experience in teaching, research, and policy advice, there are an estimated 1.5 million families living in Balochistan and a job in each family can bring financial stability to these families. This can decrease the chances of youth recruitment in banned groups drastically. While proper management of the Pak-Iran border can increase bilateral trade and further decrease unemployment among Baloch.
Thirdly, State should make 5G internet available in the province so that young Baloch can get quality education and earn online. Ask the social media companies to set up offices in Balochistan so that fake information can be removed as soon as it gets uploaded. Fourthly, take notice of the profiling of the Baloch students in Islamabad and Punjab. Last but not the least, there are misconceptions or no proper concepts about Balochistan in many parts of Pakistan.
The Single National Curriculum can help other Pakistanis to know about Balochistan, the people living here, multiple ethnic/racial demography, and not only Baloch, their vastly varied culture, and the rich minerals found here. A wide gap between the people of Balochistan and citizens of other parts of Pakistan exists primarily due to a lack of awareness, and misconceptions that are only further alienating them, creating further aloofness.
To conclude, desperation is a common reason behind every suicide bomber and Shari Baloch is not an exception in this regard, except that her own life and the lives of her near-loved ones was not threatened. While radicalization is a process that takes time, particularly when the bomber is not a teenager. It takes even more time to convince someone for such an act when she is educated, married, and has an educated family and children. Understanding her desperation becomes more complex when one realizes that she did not do it for a better afterlife.
The concerns of Baloch citizens and their grievances should be the priorities for the State rather than exploring the mindset of Shari Baloch. More weightage should be given to the possible solutions to obviate such occurrences and practical and serious steps should be taken by the governments, both federal as well as provincial. The State should ensure that as far as a possible motivation for any Baloch to fall prey in the hands of the outlawed militant groups should be mitigated.
The writer is a Research Assistant at Balochistan Think Tank Network, BUITEMS, Quetta. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.