Usman Kakar’s ‘Death’ Must Be Investigated By An Independent Commission
Pale and swollen-faced, half-shaved, bruised, with a stitched skull and the rest of the body covered in a white sheet. This is the state of the almost unidentifiable corpse of one of the most outspoken, bold and personable politicians, Usman Kakar, of the Pashtuns in Pakistan and beyond.
According to Mr. Kakar’s son, Khushal Kakar, his father, who was also a former senator, was found brutally beaten and blood-soaked in the guest room in their Quetta residence. The news initially on social media was that Kakar had fallen in the bathroom while showering.
But as the story unfolded and the medical reports of the head injury surfaced in close circles and eventually on social media, it appeared there may have been an attempt to assassinate Usman Kakar. After a few days of critical hospitalization, he succumbed to his injuries in Agha Khan Hospital in Karachi.
A thorough investigation into the cause of his “death” is much needed, especially for a man of his caliber and candor who hails from a minority group in a country like Pakistan, where political opposition is tantamount to suicide. It also leaves a lot of room for doubt as to why this could very well be a political assassination.
What is more, he knew about the threats to his life and had even said on record in the senate that if anything happened to him and/or his family, Pakistan’s top two intelligence institutions would be responsible.
According to the opinion of medical experts, this kind of injury could only have been inflicted through the application of a substantial external force. Usman Kakar’s untimely demise marks a critical juncture in the history of Pashtun politics in Pakistan. While one awaits a thorough investigation into his mysterious “death,” it is essential to point out two possible responses by Pashtuns.
The first is silence and the second is noise. Silence will result in fear and hence further embolden the state’s capacity for coercion. Silence will also amount to acquiescence to the malfeasance involved in Mr. Kakar’s “death.”
What is more, silence will weaken the morale of the Pashtun and broader political opposition in the country. Silence and apathy will send this message to the rank and file of political workers on the ground: If a man of Usman Kakar’s stature could not remain safe, how can they be?
Then there is noise. To make noise is the second potential response. Noise in the street. Noise on TV. Noise on social media. Noise in the court. And noise in parliament.
Making noise is also the best way to pay tribute to Usman Kakar’s work in continuing to encourage and engage grassroots mobilization, all of which he was involved in from his days as a student. He made noise wherever he went. He roared like a lion in the senate when most were silent about dismal threats to people’s lives.
Noise may lead to a greater reawakening and transformation of the political soul of the Pashtuns and Pakistanis in other regions. To have a more significant impact, the noise has to be channeled as a concerted effort by Pashtun political parties and movements such as Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM).
Letting this go is not an option, as it is a matter of survival for the leadership and for a life of dignity and respect for the people. Beyond Pashtuns, no democracy-loving party, organization and individual should ignore the cause that led to Mr. Kakar’s demise.
The Pashtuns have witnessed and endured so much violence and pain in the past few decades in Pakistan. Mr. Kakar’s death marks the continuity of scores of political murders of clear-headed, brave and high-profile Pashtun political leaders.
The ANP, for instance, lost hundreds of political workers and top-tier leaders to violence by a mixture of Taliban and other “unknown” assailants— ostensible state-sponsored elements that operated under different guises. The Bilour family suffered the loss of Bashir Ahmed Bilour and his son Haroon Bilour.
Mian Iftikhar Hussein of the Awami National Party lost his only son to violence by the Taliban. There were several assassination attempts on the incumbent President, Asfandyar Wali Khan, of the ANP.
Most recently, Arman Luni and Arif Wazir, two of the key leaders of the PTM were allegedly killed by the law enforcement agencies. This does not include violence perpetrated against ordinary Pashtuns in the name of the War on Terror and during military operations targeting the Taliban.
It is high time all democratic forces in the country stood together as a solid front to fight institutions that have hijacked democracy and have taken total control of the country. The minority-based political parties and organizations are in dire need of a robust democratic alliance.
Political violence is not uncommon in Pakistan, as leaders of minority-based groups such as the Pashtuns, Baloch, Muhajir, etc., have been targeted in the past. This will not stop until an ethical and responsible commission is formed to end the state of sunken accountability and investigate the cause behind Usman Kakar’s death.
These statements may sound like political bromides, but given the long, tiresome and excruciating nature of politics, one has no choice but to continue to hope and work towards a better future for all. This is precisely what Usman Kakar did most of his life. To respect his soul is to continue to make noise and refuse to remain silent.