Mengal’s no-nonsense message

It was a rare sight to see senior Baloch nationalist leader Sardar Ataullah Mengal in the media. On Monday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif went to see Mengal sahib in Karachi and later they held a joint press conference. While condemning the killings of Punjabis in Balochistan, Mr Mengal posed a very pertinent question: “People get killed in Karachi and Frontier [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] every day but our ‘beloved’ army does not react on these killings. Why does it only react in Balochistan? Mutilated bodies [of the Baloch] are found only in Balochistan. I am sorry to say but this army is only for Punjab, not Pakistan. It only reacts when Punjabis are killed. Either that or I am not part of Pakistan,” said Mengal sahib. He further added that “Balochistan has reached a point of no return” and the youth of Balochistan are the ones in control of things and they do not want to remain with Pakistan “because they are being systematically eliminated and forced to seek refuge in the mountains”. Mr Mengal’s hard-hitting statements should serve as an eye-opener for the authorities. Due to the military’s continued atrocities in Balochistan, we are again at a point when the unity of the federation is under threat.

The people of Balochistan have faced state oppression for many decades now. A fifth military operation is currently underway in the province ever since General Musharraf’s tenure. The PPP-led government has not been able to put an end to the military’s brutalities in Balochistan despite introducing the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Pakistan, which the Baloch nationalists have dismissed as nothing but a façade. That Mian Nawaz Sharif took the initiative to visit Mengal sahib and reached out to the old Baloch leadership, which is consistent with his attitude towards Balochistan in particular and generally towards the smaller provinces in the past few years even though his party is the ruling party only in Punjab. “We love Balochistan and it is an important part of Pakistan,” said Mr Sharif and he vowed to fight the case of Balochistan in Pakistan. Mr Sharif said that Mengal sahib’s concerns are legitimate and promised to talk to the young Baloch insurgents and address their grievances. To see the leader of a mainstream party showing interest in forming an alliance with Akhtar Mengal, Ataullah Mengal’s son, is also of utmost importance. The Baloch have long suffered at the hands of the military. They have tried to resolve the crisis by taking part in parliamentary politics but had to take up arms once again in the end as a last resort. If the PML-N somehow manages to bring them back into the mainstream and also wins the confidence of those fighting in the mountains in Balochistan, it would be a great achievement. By highlighting the plight of the Baloch openly in the media, Sardar Mengal and Mian Nawaz Sharif have done the necessary and right thing. The rest of Pakistan is being kept in the dark through state propaganda against an indigenous Baloch movement. The military has no right whatsoever to terrorise the Baloch who have only been raising their voice for their just rights.

It is time to put a stop to the military’s highhanded approach towards the Baloch. Only a political solution can help remove the trust deficit between the Baloch insurgents and the federation of Pakistan. The nation must not turn a blind eye to the plight of the Baloch; they deserve our support.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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