Ignorance is not bliss

Balochistan is in turmoil, more so than ever before. President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Asma Jahangir has voiced her concerns regarding the alarming situation in the province. “Balochistan is burning; if this fire is not brought under control, it will engulf the entire country,” Ms Jahangir warned. The SCBA president addressed the Balochistan High Court Bar Association, a seminar and a protest rally in Quetta. It is astonishing that many people, including the president of the SCBA, have understood how volatile the Balochistan issue is but our government remains oblivious. Ms Jahangir further said, “Use of police powers by the Frontier Corps (FC) is illegal and the FC should be stopped from using these powers…We demand from the government to send paramilitary troops back to their barracks, otherwise the lawyers will start a protest campaign from Quetta involving major political parties and representatives of civil society.” Ms Jahangir accused the government of not being serious about tackling the problems of Balochistan.

The government keeps claiming that it has done a lot for Balochistan through the NFC Award, the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package and other such measures. What the government is blissfully unaware of, or pretends to be, is that the civilians are still not powerful enough to counter what the military is doing in Balochistan. That the FC runs a parallel government in the province is no secret. The increase in target killings and missing persons is something the government should be worried about but by the looks of it, it is not. The Baloch have blamed the FC and our intelligence agencies for the disappearances, torture and deaths of their brethren. Granted that the military is the country’s most powerful institution but the government must put its foot down and make the security establishment realise that they are not doing any favour to the federation if state terror continues in Balochistan.

Balochistan is not just the largest province but is also highly important geo-strategically. It has immense wealth of natural resources. The Gwadar port project could have led to employment of Baloch youth, instead it has only led to a sense of apathy because of flawed planning and indifference of the authorities to its real potential. The brutal killings of Baloch nationalists are not just criminal but are proving counter-productive. The Baloch insurgents will not rest until and unless the government addresses their grievances and gives Balochistan its rights. Pakistan cannot afford further destabilisation. To save the country, we must save Balochistan.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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