Too little, too late?

“Now dreams are not available,
To the dreamers,
Nor songs to the singers.
In some lands,
Dark night and cold steel prevail,
But the dream will come back,
And the song break its jail” (‘Oppression’ by Langston Hughes)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, announced this week that the government will soon convene an All-Parties Conference (APC) on Balochistan. “There is a law and order situation in Balochistan, which has to be addressed,” said PM Gilani. His announcement comes days after a US Congressional hearing on Balochistan took place on February 8, 2012. While the Baloch leadership welcomed the hearing, the Obama administration distanced itself from it and Pakistan expressed its displeasure. The Baloch are hailing this as a big achievement because their voice is finally being heard at an important international platform. The Obama administration does not want to further alienate the Pakistani security establishment. The relations between the two ‘allies’ have hit rock bottom in recent months. Pakistan considers the Balochistan issue its internal matter and thus does not want any other country to interfere. What Pakistan is forgetting is that the crimes being committed against the Baloch are not going to go unnoticed in today’s world.

Thousands of Baloch are missing and hundreds of them have been found dead all over the province. These are not ordinary deaths; their bullet-riddled bodies are mutilated, bearing torture marks. The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights recently highlighted this dangerous trend. “No one is taking up the issue of missing persons and target killings seriously while the masses have pinned hopes on parliament and the judiciary to resolve the matter and put a halt to the dumping of dead bodies,” said Mr Afrasiab Khattak, who presided over the committee meeting. The Baloch hold the country’s military and intelligence agencies responsible for enforced disappearances and the deaths of their fellow brethren. The military’s ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan is no secret. Local and international human rights organisations have urged that the military must stop committing atrocities against the Baloch. What is beyond comprehension is how our military has not learnt anything from the past. It was due to the state’s oppression and brutalities that we lost half of our country back in 1971. Calls for independence are reverberating all over Balochistan now. The right to self-determination is something that cannot be taken away from any peoples. The Baloch leadership in exile is already discussing the Balochistan Freedom Charter. History could very well repeat itself due to the military’s highhandedness once again.

The apathy of the state and society towards the Baloch has alienated them further. Barring a few honourable exceptions, the media – especially the electronic media – remains silent on the Balochistan issue. State propaganda about the Baloch insurgency is one reason while another is that the military does not want its brutal policies to be exposed. But Pakistan cannot and should not turn a blind eye to the plight of its own citizens, at the hands of its very own military and its proxies.

It is no secret that the democratic government is almost powerless when it comes to our foreign and security policies. The real power still remains with the military. Holding an APC on Balochistan might be a case of too little, too late, but if the political class is able to build enough pressure on the military to stop its operation in Balochistan and end its ruthless kill and dump policy, it will be a great achievement. Balochistan needs a political solution, not brute force. Otherwise, there will be grave consequences for the federation of Pakistan.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


Popular posts from this blog

Religious extremism in Pakistan (Part V)

Freedoms and sport

The myth of September 6, 1965