Is the PPP a friend or a foe of the Baloch?
Forget about Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The madness shown by Senator Raza Rabbani and Pakistan’s new ambassador to Washington DC, Sherry Rehman, over last week’s highly successful Congressional hearing on Balochistan reflects a very interesting fact: No matter how liberal some Pakistanis claim to be, their liberalism immediately transforms into hypocrisy when it comes to the issue of Balochistan. It is ironic that the same senator, Raza Rabbani, who was entrusted the Pakistan People’s Party the responsibility to address the Balochistan conflict by encouraging a peace process, has acted shamelessly on the floor of the Senate against some friends of democracy who have raised voice against the Baloch genocide. Both Mr. Rabbani and Ms. Rehman have done themselves a disfavor by showing us all what it actually means to be a liberal and democrat in Pakistan.
Ambassador Sherry Rehman has truly disappointed all those people, particularly in America’s democratic institutions, by strongly condemning a proceeding in the US Congress which has called for the people’s right to self-determination. Does Ms. Rehman not believe in human rights? Does she have a problem with those who stand by the Baloch people and condemn those who exercise extra constitutional measures to weed out political process and curb fundamental freedoms?
Why didn’t the PPP or liberals like Sherry Rehaman and Raza Rabbani have a problem when sixteen American scholars signed a letter to Secretary Hillary Clinton seeking a fair trail for Husain Haqqani? A that point, we were told, Americans were the true friends and defenders of democracy because they were not raising voice for a Baloch activist but for a member of Pakistan’s liberal elite club. Nobody complained that Pakistan’s sovereignty was violated when Ambassador Haqqani was released on American pressure. Why should the Islamic Republic’s sovereignty be threatened now when pressure is being exerted in the right direction to stop human rights violations in Balochistan?
What else should we conclude from the double standard of PPP’s phony liberals? Perhaps, Colonel (R) Ralpha Peters provided the right answer to the US Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs: “In Pakistan… it is a democracy only as long as its military rulers allow it to be a democracy.” Thus, Mr. Rabbani and Ms. Rehman represent the same version of democracy. They have fooled the entire country of Pakistan by posing as champions of democracy when deep down in their minds resides a military mindset. They are as selectively democratic in their approach and the orders of their democracy are stretched as far as the red lines defined by the military. Otherwise, in Pakistan democracy is not more important than (what is always and exclusively defined by the military) the so-called national interest.
The PPP still owes a logical justification to the Baloch people for the brutalities its founding father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, committed in 1970s. The Balochs have neither forgotten nor forgiven the PPP for removing the popular provincial government of National Awami Party (NAP) and then sanctioning a deadly operation against the Baloch. Today, the bulk of PPP leadership has voluntarily become a tool in the hands of the Pakistani army. Ambassador Rehman has overdone herself in terms of pleasing the army considering the tragic exit of her predecessor Mr. Hussain Haqqani.
One thing is clear: Sherry Rehman is not Hussain Haqqani nor does she have his charisma and extensive network of friends and contacts in Washington DC. While siding with the camp of a military which carries out atrocities against unarmed civilians in Balochistan, she is inviting trouble and tough questions for herself in America’s think-tanks, media and all platforms where she will be invited to speak in the future. With limited experience of diplomacy, Ms. Rehman is almost committing diplomatic suicide in the West where no compromise is made on the issue of human rights. Rhetorical terms like ‘national honor’, ‘sovereignty’ or ‘internal matter’ only sound good as long as one is interacting with a Pakistani general or speaking on a private news channel of the country. In the west, the civilized world does not, as it must not, surrender before oppressors by just calling it as an internal issue of one country.
With their immature reaction, the leaders of the PPP have further lost whatever trust and respect they had before the Balochs. Now, it is clear that the PPP does not even have an independent thought over Balochistan. The ruling party has just become a pawn in the hands of the army. The dominance of the army into the country’s polity was the root cause of the failure of the Mushahid Hussain Syed Parliamentary Committee and the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package. Hence, the PPP leaders have undermined their own credibility, leaving the Balochs more skeptical about the former’s mandate to talk to the Baloch leadership.
Until the PPP liberates itself from urban elitism and anti-Baloch mode, will not have moral justification asking the Balochs to negotiate. People’s future lies with progressive and liberal people like the Balochs not the so-called champions of the national sovereignty. A country may survive while partly losing its sovereignty but it cannot survive when it loses its motherly status and respect in front of its citizens due to its repressive policies.