APC on Balochistan

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has consistently been reaching out to the Baloch leadership and trying to mend fences with the people of Balochistan. On Friday he met National Party President Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Tahir Bizenjo and chief of the Jamhoori Watan Party Nawabzada Talal Akbar Bugti. Mr Sharif asked for an immediate end of the ongoing military operation in Balochistan and called for an All Parties Conference (APC) on Balochistan. An APC on the Baloch issue with all political forces across the board will be able to put pressure on the military to desist from pursuing its ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan. Mr Sharif even mentioned the brutal killing of Balaach Marri, something that most mainstream politicians have not done. He reached out to Sardar Ataullah Mengal recently and his consistent efforts to raise the issue of Balochistan in the mainstream media and political circles are courageous and commendable. The issue is surely bigger than one party and if some critics feel that the PML-N is trying to score political points in this regard, they should be reminded that the PML-N does not have too much of a political stake in Balochistan at present.

Remedial measures in Balochistan, if not taken immediately, can result in dire consequences for the federation. The Baloch are a resilient lot but it does not mean that the state of Pakistan take them for granted. Thousands of Baloch are missing to date and tortured, bullet-riddled, mutilated bodies of the Baloch are found in the province almost every day. It is astonishing to see the apathy of this nation towards its Baloch brethren. The security establishment is carrying out an oppressive and callous military operation in the country’s largest province and yet there is no outcry. The Baloch mourn the loss of their loved ones every day and yet there is no end in sight. That we lost East Pakistan in 1971 because of such repressive tactics has not taught anything to our ‘beloved’ military. The political class should take stock of this situation and unite in the face of such brutal oppression. If they cannot rein in the military, the least they can do is create awareness in the country about the military’s killing spree against the Baloch. The blood of the Baloch has painted this country red. We cannot allow this state-terrorism to continue unabated. It is time to call a spade a spade and call the repression what it is: genocide.

Apart from the political class, the media must play its due role and not blackout the news from Balochistan, honourable exceptions aside, as it did in the case of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Mian Nawaz Sharif’s calls for an end to the military operation in Balochistan should be listened to. The Baloch deserve our respect. They have been asking for their just rights, something this country owes them. If state repression is not ended, we cannot deny them their right to self-determination. Since nobody wants the disintegration of Pakistan, the political class need to put an end to brute force being used in the province and initiate a political dialogue with the Baloch nationalists. A political solution is the only solution. All missing persons should be set free, the military operation should end immediately and the grievances of the Baloch must be addressed. This is the least that we owe them and ourselves.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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