The price of ‘Pakistan Khapay’
The Baloch Editorial December 28th, 2009
By Malik Siraj Akbar
The assassination of former Balochistan chief minister and governor Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2006 was a golden opportunity for (President) Asif Ali Zardari to learn some strategic lessons from his Baloch cousins living in Balochistan. Had Zardari not pretended to be oblivious to the Baloch backlash to Bugti’s killing, he would surely learn to become a more confident man to confront the current military-judiciary-media-nexus, dominated by the Punjab, to dislodge an elected President belonging to a smaller province of Pakistan.
Nawab Bugti’s killing did not shake the foundations of Balochistan because he was the most popular Baloch leader or his Jamori Watan Party (JWP) had the highest number of followers in the country’s most exploited province. The only reason that everyone across Balochistan was dumbfounded over Bugti’s killing was the irreconcilable fact that Islamabad had killed the sole Baloch leader who spoke of coexistence within the federation of Pakistan.
Unlike his contemporaries, such as Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Ghose Baksh Bizenjo, Nawab Bugti had no nationalistic ambitions throughout most of his centrist political career. He was the biggest supporter of Islamabad in Balochistan. He voted for Pakistan during its creation and wore all pro-establishment caps to exhibit his ‘patriotic credentials’. When he was killed, everyone in Balochistan began to wonder about the fate of the “ordinary people” at a time when Islamabad was unwilling to spare kind of a man who was a Pakistani from head to toe.
A similar situation developed in Sindh after the tragic assassination of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, a Sindhi, whose father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, also a former elected prime minister, had been killed in 1979 by a military dictator. The people in Sindh reacted emotionally and said their “Sindhi leader” had been target killed by the “Establishment”. This was not the first but the fourth time that the Bhutto family had to give its blood to pay a price for its democratic contributions to Pakistan.
Reacting emotionally to the killing of charismatic Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, in Rawalpindi’s Liquat Park, many disgruntled Sindhi activists began to say “Pakistan Na Khapay” (meaning we do not want Pakistan). The federation of Pakistan was truly endangered after the killing of the country’s most popular leader in an act of terrorism. Otherwise, this high-profile political assassination was at least certain to unleash a new wave of Sindhi nationalistic movement for separation from Pakistan.
Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, was the only prominent leader from Sindh to dispel the slogans of the disheartened young Sindhis by saying “Pakistan Khapay” (We want Pakistan). He not only made sure that the PPP continued to symbolize the unity of the federation but he also agreed to give the ticket for the coveted office of prime minister to a Punjabi at the cost of another veteran Sindhi party leader, Makhdoom Amin Fahim.
This was the greatest contribution of Zardari to the integrity of Pakistan at a critical juncture though many pro-independence Sindhi and Baloch nationalists resented his assertion. The Balochs, however, knew that Zardari would be paid as mercilessly as Nawab Bugti for his loyalty to the federation. Worst still, Zardari, after becoming the president, did not work seriously to win the support of the people of the smaller provinces by undoing the discriminative and exploitative policies of the ruling Establishment
He should have realized that the establishment would not willingly concede to the rights of the smaller provinces. The Punjab-dominated federation is averse to Baloch and Sindhi leaders. Two former prime ministers Zulfiqar Ail Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto were killed presumably because of being Sindhi. Two other former prime ministers, Mohammad Khan Junejo and Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali were removed from their offices because they came from the smaller provinces of Sindh and Balochistan respectively.
President Zardari spoke at length about the possible plots against his government on the eve of the second death anniversary of his slain wife late Banazir Bhutto. It seemed he clearly knew the elements conspiring against him. His thundering response may have attracted some sympathies but is unlikely to silence the omnipotent opponents of his. Some sections of Pakistani media have demonstrated the worst form of partial and irresponsible journalism to humiliate the head of the state. This is in fact no journalism but sheer blackmailing.
Engulfed by the troika of anti-Zardari judiciary, military and media, the President has every right to use the so-called “Sindhi card”. After all, Sindhis are equal citizens of the country. Why is it that their credentials are often questioned because of wearing the traditional Sindhi cap or the ajrak? Why weren’t objections ever raised over the uniformed military dictators’ attire? It is the time that the Sindhi card was used to send a message to the powers that be that a federation can not run only on the dictations of one province and its ruling elite. An ending to this domineering attitude of Punjab is important for preventing a clash between the state institutions.
The Balochs and Sindhis have genuine reasons to question the independence of the judiciary. If the country’s so-called free judiciary had made history to adjudicate against President Zardari then why does it not take action for the missing Baloch persons or provide a justification for its actions taken back in 1999 to validate the military coup of Pervez Musharraf?
The Balochs are angry with Zardari for not having done enough for their province during his presidency as four prominent Baloch leaders, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch, Sher Mohammad Baloch and Rasool Baksh Mengal, were killed during his government. Yet, the people of Balochistan still believe that Zardari is becoming the victim of a system that has been the major cause of Baloch disappointment from the federation – denial of equal and dignified treatment in the federation.