|Wednesday, April 17, 2013|
A FEW WORDS: Balochistan belongs to the Baloch —Dr Qaisar Rashid
One thing is very clear: for the peace and stability of Balochistan the forthcoming elections are going to be vital
The history of Balochistan has entered the next phase characterised by two events: first, general (retired) Pervez Musharraf is back in Pakistan; and second, general elections are round the corner.
Musharraf is the most hated person amongst the Baloch who consider him responsible for the assassination of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the face of Balochistan. Musharraf used to claim his popularity amongst certain Baloch tribes but he avoided filing his nomination papers with the Election Commission (EC) to contest the elections from any constituency in Balochistan. That is the difference between bragging on TV talk shows about one’s popularity and the reality on the ground. Musharraf, who landed in Karachi, discovered later that Chitral was the area that appreciated his talent most. It is now obvious that not Pakistan but Chitral may be in need of Musharraf. The question is this: how the rest of Pakistan will view the slogan expectedly raised by Musharraf: ‘Chitral first’ (sab sey pehley Chitral)?
The disgruntled Baloch should consider this point that the reason for making the EC independent through the 18th and 20th Constitutional Amendments was not only to save the electoral process from politicians who could exploit the process to their advantage but also to rule out manipulation done by any intelligence agency to affect the results of the elections. Musharraf had to find electoral solace in Chitral is one manifestation of the independence of the EC. Musharraf is still guilty of abrogating the Constitution on November 03, 2007. Constitutionally, to hold him accountable on that account is the job of the parliament and not of the Supreme Court. The disgruntled Baloch leaders, including Brahamdagh Bugti and Harbiyar Marri, can think of a scenario in which they take part in the elections, join assemblies and hold Musharraf accountable for his deeds.
Sardar Akhtar Mengal is right in implying that the preferred method to secure rights for the Baloch is by adopting a political (democratic) means. The armed struggle launched by the discontented Baloch leaders may not gain popularity in Pakistan owing to two main reasons: first, the people of this country believe in democracy; and second, the country was obtained through a political (democratic) process. Had Pakistan been a product of an armed struggle, the armed struggle launched by the Baloch would have been appreciated. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, was so concerned about Balochistan that he demanded legislative reforms in Balochistan in his famous Fourteen Points in 1929 when there were no signs of the Second World War. It is the country’s yearning for democracy that has ostracised and cornered Musharraf. The discontented Baloch leaders should rethink their strategy of finding the rights of the Baloch through the armed struggle. Civil society and the media will appreciate their effort if it is passes through a democratic process.
The intelligence agencies of Pakistan should also revisit their policy of dealing with the Baloch nationalists in a coercive way. Is it honourable for the intelligence agencies that they are being blamed for the assassination of the Baloch nationalists? By using proxies to punish the Baloch dissidents, the intelligence agencies can escape the clutches of law but their role is detested. The incidents of abducting the Baloch nationalists, and later dumping their dead bodies have brought disgrace to all Pakistanis. How to live with this shame is not known. Pakistan cannot run in this way. The harmony in society cannot be created by resorting to coercive measures. Three points need elaboration: first, the Pakistan Army is not the sole custodian of national interests; second, a Pakistani who is not in uniform is not a lesser or an unpatriotic Pakistani; and third, Pakistan is not a product of any army’s adventure.
The Balochistan package indicates two main points: first, it is recognition of the fact that Balochistan was kept deprived; and second, Balochistan belongs to the Baloch. If the government of Pakistan has itself acknowledged its faults, why do the intelligence agencies misbehave with the Baloch of any hue? Apparently, the Pakistan army and its allied departments including intelligence agencies such as the ISI are not trained rationally to deal with (ethnic) nationalists. At the Staff College Quetta, at least three chapters should be taught to trainee officers: first, how to tackle an ethnic nationalist struggle in a federation?; second, what is the role of the intelligence agencies in a country which is ethnically not a nation state?; and thirdly, to what extent should it be realistically expected from a Baloch to be as flexible and adaptive as a Punjabi is?
The Balochistan of today needs to return to the national political mainstream. Boycotting the elections of 2008 made the Baloch nationalist parties languish and frustrated. In the forthcoming elections, there is an opening for them to enter the assemblies, make their voice heard and safeguard their interests. The attitude of Awami National Party (ANP) is a best example in this regard. The ANP launched a political struggle, got mandate of introducing reforms in the province and got the name of the province changed.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) should be appreciated for acknowledging its past mistakes of the removal of Akhtar Mengal’s government in 1998, and looking for possibilities for seat adjustment with Mengal’s party, the Balochistan National Party-Mengal. Caretaker Prime Minister, Justice (retired) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso should also shoulder his responsibility for persuading the Baloch nationalists to take part in the elections, offering them equal opportunities for conducting their election campaign.
One thing is very clear: for the peace and stability of Balochistan the forthcoming elections are going to be vital. All should make efforts that this opportunity should not be squandered. All Pakistanis, whether they are in uniform or not, should assure the Baloch that Balochistan belongs to the Baloch. Give the Baloch the sense of security, participation and belonging, the Baloch nationalist movement will abate automatically.
The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org