Mengal’s Political Blunder
By Malik Siraj Akbar
The unilateral decision of former Balochistan Chief Minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal to return to Pakistan to support the country’s Supreme Court will hurt Baloch interests. Sardar Mengal, who heads the Balochistan National Party (BNP), certainly has a democratic right to make his own decisions but his actions will tarnish the international image of the Baloch nationalist movement.
At a time when the United Nations sent a Working Group in Balochistan to investigate the cases of enforced disappearances and also come up with recommendations criticizing the Pakistani military, this was not the right step for a senior Baloch leader to express faith in the Pakistani Supreme Court. Balochs have reached some steps away from a next U.N. intervention or decision on Balochistan but Sardar Mengal’s return will provide the United Nations a reason to step aside and treat Balochistan as Pakistan’s “internal issue”. At this point, the Baloch interest lies in internationalizing the issue so that more international human rights groups and representatives of the media observe transparency in resolving the Balochistan conflict according to the wishes of the Baloch people.
With such a dramatic decision, one is compelled to doubt the depth and clarity of B.N.P.’s political vision for Balochistan. The B.N.P. had previously asked for provincial autonomy for Balochistan but subsequently hardened its stance and began to ask for the right to self-determination. People seek the right to self-determination when they fully lose confidence in a state. Expression of trust in the Pakistani Supreme Court completely disqualifies B.N.P.’s plea for international intervention in Balochistan.
2012 was a glorious year in Balochistan’s history when the nationalist movement made extraordinary achievements. In February, the United States Congress held a hearing on Balochistan and members of the U.S. Congress, both from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, supported the Baloch right to self-determination. On March 27th, these congressional friends of Balochistan addressed a press conference in Washington DC’s National Press Club to once again reiterate their support for the Baloch people’s right to self-determination. As the Baloch issue gained more international attention, the United Nations also sent a Working Group to probe the cases of missing persons. With his return, Sardar Mengal has made Islamabad’s job easier: to shut down all doors for future U.N. interventions in Balochistan. Because, as understood from Sardar Mengal’s decision, Pakistani institutions can internally manage the Balochistan imbroglio.
We agree with the Baloch Students Organization (BSO-Azad) that Sardar Mengal’s action amounts to joining hands with those who are responsible for killing the Baloch people.
The Supreme Court has been bluffing with the Baloch people. While this court has remained in place for ages, the first disappearances (in the ongoing insurgency) began in early 2000. A decade after the initial disappearances, this Supreme Court has not been able to punish a single official for their illegal action. There is an enormous wealth of evidence that proves the security establishment’s involvement in brutal actions against the Balochs. The Chief Justice has been using the Baloch missing persons as a political card but failed to deliver.
It does not make much sense when Mr. Mengal says that the Supreme Court is last hope for the Balochs. How can one trust the Pakistanis when their executive and legislative branches of government have made no confidence building measures to appease the Baloch? While the issue of the missing persons is the most sensitive and critical one, it is not the sole bone of contention between Balochistan and Islamabad. Balochistan’s problem is not as narrow as the issue of human rights. Balochistan’s is a much more complicated political vendetta which cannot be resolved only by addressing human rights issues. However, if Islamabad genuinely addresses the issue of human rights then it should be considered as a confidence building measure to start dialogue on other outstanding political issues.
Balochs have been receiving bullet-riddled dead bodies even during the visit of the working group. The so-called Pakistani liberal politicians like Senator Raza Rabbani have gone public to express their anti-Baloch intentions by brazenly announcing that the United Nations would not be allowed next time to send another mission on Balochistan. When Pakistani politicians and opinion makers unite against the Baloch people, our leadership must also learn the art of putting forward Baloch demands without mincing words.
We do not fully know the details of Sardar Mengal’s understanding with the Pakistani government that culminated in ending his four-year self-imposed exile. We consider it a political blunder by B.N.P. which may offer it some temporary benefits but any contacts with Pakistan at this point will harm the broader Baloch interest. While some Baloch parties criticized Sardar Mengal in 2006 for not consulting them while quitting parliamentary seats in protest against Nawab Bugti’s killing, he now deserves his share of criticism for making another decision without consulting other key stakeholders. B.N.P. is going to isolate itself and end up getting itself recognized among soft pro-Establishment parties like the National Party or the Jamori Watan Party. (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal)