The sublime and the ridiculous

Minister of state for defence production Abdul Qayyum Jatoi was asked to resign after he made controversial comments about the army, judiciary and corruption. Mr Jatoi made these remarks while addressing a press conference at Bugti House in Quetta. Not only did Mr Jatoi harshly criticise the holy cows, i.e. the army and the judiciary, his remarks about corruption, albeit tongue-in-cheek, were an embarrassment for the government. He said that the “sound of boots” does not scare the government and that instead of killing its own citizens, the men in boots should concentrate on protecting the country’s borders. He alleged that the army was behind the murders of Nawab Akbar Bugti and Benazir Bhutto. Mr Jatoi was highly critical of Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry and alleged that while he had been putting politicians in the dock for holding fake degrees, the CJ himself hailed from Faisalabad but held a ‘fake’ domicile of Balochistan, on the basis of which he managed to be appointed to his office. On corruption, Mr Jatoi was of the view that the “right of corruption was given to specific people” but he believed that “all groups – be they Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun, Seraiki or Punjabi – should be given an equal share in corruption”. He was summoned by Prime Minister Gilani for an explanation. It has been reported that the prime minister did not take too kindly to Mr Jatoi’s remarks as it could further worsen the government’s relationship with the army and the judiciary. After giving an unsatisfactory answer to Mr Gilani, he tendered his resignation and said that his statement was his personal point of view and not that of the PPP or the government.

It seems that Mr Jatoi got carried away after meeting with the heirs of late Akbar Bugti and made these remarks due to an emotionally charged atmosphere. But this still does not absolve him since such remarks by a sitting minister were bound to embarrass the government and create further complications in its relationship with the judiciary and military. Jatoi paid the price for voicing his ‘personal point of view’. Nevertheless, it must be conceded that Mr Jatoi’s remark that “Nawab Bugti was killed by the army on the directives of former president Pervez Musharraf” has a ring of truth. It is no secret that the military operation in Balochistan under the Musharraf regime led to many deaths. Dr Shazia Khalid’s rape in Sui in 2005, allegedly committed by an army officer, and later the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti the next year in a military operation further aggravated the already troubled situation in Balochistan. Nawab Bugti’s body was not handed over to his family; rather he was buried in a hurried and secretive manner. This obviously leads one to suspect that the Musharraf regime had something to hide. Bugti’s heirs are still looking for closure to this tragedy but the ends of justice have not so far been met. General (retd) Musharraf is living a luxurious life abroad while the Baloch still continue to suffer at the hands of the military. The PPP-led government paid lip service to giving the Baloch their due rights but the ground reality remains as dark as ever.

Abdul Qayyum Jatoi may have resigned but the government should not take his remarks about the military operation in Balochistan lightly. Jatoi is not the only one who feels this way; his words are a haunting reminder of Baloch sentiment.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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