The Futility of the Senate Debate on Balochistan
The more the Balochistan issue is debated, the more complicated it gets. After the recent debate in the Upper House of the Parliament on the prevailing situation in the province, we do not seem to be going anywhere from here. Let’s forget about a solution to the problem; the government even does not know how to properly describe the situation in the mineral-rich land. Here are three absolutely divergent versions of the government’s description of the situation.
On July 18, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, while speaking in Islamabad at the National Defense University, did not agree that the uprising in Balochistan could be equated with an ‘insurgency’. Underestimating the unrest among the Baloch people, the newly appointed head of the government proposed ‘immediate quelling’ of the unrest in ‘small pockets’ of the province. Otherwise, he warned, these ‘small pockets’ would expand across Balochistan.
On August 3, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the Senate that at least 46 insurgent camps operated inside Balochistan besides 24 other training camps which, according to him, are located in the vicinity of Khandahar in Afghanistan.
On August 3, Changiz Jamali, a federal minister in Prime Minister Ashraf’s cabinet and a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (P.P.P.), who belongs to Balochistan, told B.B.C. Urdu that security forces were actually involved in the killing of political opponents in his native province. According to the B.B.C., it was the first time a cabinet minister made such a public confession of security forces’ involvement in human rights violations in the province.
Among the above three statements, someone must be either lying or telling the truth. But three different versions of the same problem narrated by three important members of the government show an absolute absence of coordination among the members of the government. It seems there is not one official truth or lie about Balochistan. The civilian government appears to be too subservient of the military while speaking about Balochistan. All inaccuracies and inconsistencies in their statements are caused because of the fear of the military’s wrath.
Let’s further analyze this confusion in the official ranks.
If Interior Minister Malik is correct that 46 insurgent camps are operating in Balochistan then he is proving the Prime Minister wrong. The alleged presence of 46 camps is enough to conclude that the situation in Balochistan is far from normal.No normal place on the earth would have 46 insurgent camps. Since the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister are not from Balochistan and do not fully understand ground realities of Balochistan, here is a better way to paraphrase what they should have said: The insurgency, which was until 2006 confined to only two districts (Dera Bugti and Kohlu), has expanded across the province, including the areas of Mekran where there are no tribes and chieftains to be blamed for, what Musharraf used to call, ‘blackmailing’ the government.
The Prime Minister’s denial of unrest in Balochistan is extremely disappointing. By saying so, he is giving a blank check to the security forces to continue with human rights abuses in Balochistan. Furthermore, he is also showing no commitment to address the current situation. Once the Primer treats Balochistan as an insignificant issue where ‘the government is not going to talk to people who do not respect the Pakistani flag’, then he is simply inviting the military to take control of the affairs there.
Since 2004, Islamabad has made at least four failed attempts to resolve the Balochistan issue through formation of conciliatory parliamentary committees but every initiative ended up in an abysmal failure. There is catch-22 situation attached to such initiatives. There is always one major reason that leads to the failure of people like Mushahid Hussain Syed/Wasim Sajjad (heads of 2004 Parliamentary Committees on Balochistan), Babar Awan (head of 2008 committee to convene an All Parties Conference on Balochistan), Raza Rabbani (2009 architect of the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package and the mind behind the 18th Constitutional Amendment) and and Naveed Qamar (head of 2012 Prime Minister’s Special Committee on Balochistan): None of the above belongs to Balochistan. Neither they understand the dynamics of Baloch society and politics nor do they possess the local connections to reach out to truly influential Baloch nationalist leaders. The harder part of such efforts is Islamabad’s unwillingness to trust a Baloch leader to head such an initiative. While there are minimum chances of trusting a Baloch leader to bridge the gap, there are fewer and bleaker chances of Islamabad’s (read the military’s) willingness to accept and implement the recommendations made by a committee headed by a Baloch.
The highly misleading and provocative assertions made by the Interior Minister on the floor of the Senate about Balochistan are only going to add salt to the Baloch injuries. The more officials in Islamabad speak with historical and factual distortions, the more they expose their ignorance about Balochistan. Putting things out of context and using political rhetoric to address such an important issue will only contribute to the Baloch alienation.
This editorial was originally published in The Baloch Hal on August 4, 2012