Balochistan: false promises

The government is at it again: making promises it will never be able to fulfil when it comes to Balochistan. Apparently, the federal government has ‘authorised’ the provincial government of Balochistan to begin dialogue with all political forces in the province. This is akin to just going through the motions because the provincial government itself confesses to being powerless. On August 14, Prime Minister Gilani said, “The government is in touch with leaders of Balochistan and the effort and desire is that a uniform strategy should be drawn in consultation with the leadership.” Now this is something that we have been hearing for a long time but has the government made any effort to find someone who can reach out to the Baloch leadership is the question that needs to be asked. So far there are no signs on the ground that can point to the government’s ‘plan’ of reaching out to the Baloch leadership. As far as the provincial government is concerned, it has no power to stop the military operation going on in Balochistan. If the government is serious about negotiating with the Baloch leaders, those in Pakistan and those living in exile, it has to first end the ongoing military operation. Every single day, the Frontier Corps (FC) and our intelligence agencies whisk away Baloch people, torture them and in most cases kill them. Bullet-riddled bodies of the Baloch are found all over the province on any given day. If this is the way things are going to be, no Baloch leader would be willing to talk to the government.

The government cannot keep dishing out packages like the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package while completely ignoring the genocide of the Baloch. The government should also pay attention to what the members of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Inter-Provincial Coordination said about giving due representation to the people of Balochistan in the oil and gas companies. PML-N’s Javed Hashmi pointed out, “If I were a resident of Balochistan, I would also stand for independence because of successive military operations that pushed the people of the province towards the wall.” The government has to realise that the separatist sentiment in Balochistan is gaining momentum. On August 14, the people of Balochistan were not celebrating ‘Independence Day’; they were protesting against state oppression and asking for azaadi (freedom). More recently, Mir Humayun Marri and Jamil Bugti are being harassed by the authorities and Marri has accused them of plotting to kill him. Intimidation of Mir Humayun Marri and Jamil Bugti is not an isolated incident. It is a clear message to Jamil Bugti who is pursuing Nawab Akbar Bugti’s murder case while targeting Humayun Marri may be an attempt to indirectly hit at Nawab Khair Bux Marri. This is how our military and intelligence agencies operate in Balochistan.

By creating a climate of fear, intimidation and terror, the military is not doing the federation of Pakistan any favour. The Baloch cannot be cowed down by oppression. The sooner the military understands this the better. The federal government keeps whitewashing the situation by talking about a dialogue but negotiations with the Baloch are a non-starter under the prevailing circumstances. The Baloch are asking for the right of self-determination and there are some big powers in the world who would not oppose this. If the government and the military establishment want to save Pakistan, they need to wake up and smell the coffee instead of massacring the Baloch.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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