Time to rethink

A complete shutter down strike was observed in most parts of Balochistan on Friday to protest against the murder of Mir Nooruddin Mengal, a senior member of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M). Mengal was shot dead in Kalat by unidentified men on Wednesday. After the murder of Habib Jalib Baloch, secretary general of the BNP-M, Nooruddin Mengal’s assassination leads one to believe that the state’s oppression against the Baloch is not going to end despite paying lip service to the ‘Balochistan package’, which is only visible on paper while the ground realities reflect otherwise. The situation in Balochistan has now become quite alarming.

The pattern that is emerging is not only worrying but also downright dangerous, both for the province and the unity of the federation. The BNP-M is a nationalist party that is wedded to the democratic process and believes in raising the issue of Baloch rights in parliament instead of resorting to violence. Murdering nationalists who are part of the political system will only serve as an impetus to radicalise the nationalist movement, whose parliamentary adherents have so far distanced themselves from militant insurgency. Apart from target killings, the Baloch have been assaulted, abducted, tortured and sometimes killed by the intelligence agencies.

The state must understand that there is a difference between the Baloch movement and the jihadi movement in the country. The jihadi networks were unleashed by our military to wreak havoc for ‘strategic’ purposes while the Baloch problem dates back to Pakistan’s independence. The Baloch have been asking for their just rights from the very beginning but have only been oppressed by the state. Those who have taken up arms and want separation are still in a minority in Balochistan but with the way things are going, it is only a matter of time before the separatist sentiment gains strength. The Baloch may not have the strength to separate on their own steam but the geo-strategic importance of the province apart from its potential mineral wealth makes it a very tempting target for great powers for their long-term goals. It must be noted that the Baloch insurgents are the only ones who have not been labelled as ‘terrorists’ post-9/11 by the US.

The only way to solve the Balochistan imbroglio is through a political dialogue, as it is capable of being solved within the constitutional ambit. Time is of the essence. The government should act fast before it is too late.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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