BNP unlikely to participate in APC, Sanaullah Baloch
In the wilderness of Balochistan, former Senator Sanaullah Baloch, central secretary information of the Balochistan National Party (BNP), is wonderful man to exchange views with on the politics of Balochistan. Unquestionably, I consider him as the smartest of all Baloch politicians. He is an articulate speaker and a remarkable writer.
One of the reasons for my liking for Sana is that he does not come from an elite or tribal background. Sana is truly a self-made person who comes from a middle class Baloch family.
It is not bed of roses in this tribal society to survive as a politician until you have very strong roots in the tribal system, possess huge lands and share links with the mafia. Sana does not have these advantages yet he, in my views, is the best of all the Baloch politicians in terms of his understanding and presentation of the Baloch case.
I met Sana over lunch at his residence in Sattalite Town of Quetta. We mainly spoke about the upcoming All Parties Conferences on Balochistan being convened by Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani.
It is true that the success of this APC largely depends on the response given by the Baloch nationalist parties and armed groups. Prior to a formal announcement by the government of the schedule and the agenda of the proposed APC, I wanted to ascertain Sana’s views on the government plans to resolve the Balochistan issue through an APC.
MALIK: What is the BNP response to Premier Gillani’s decision to convene an APC on Balochistan?
SANAULLAH BALOCH: There is no need for an APC on Balochistan because one does not still see a policy change in Balochistan since the arrival of the PPP into power. Such conferences are held by the government only to gain media publicity. They are meant to divert attention from the actual issues of Balochistan. The government uses such conferences as a pretext to hold the Baloch nationalists responsible for the failure of talks in case the Establishment hampers the breakthrough and progress in talks between Balochistan and the Center.
We do not need all political parties to cogitate on the Balochistan issue because there are only two parties involved in the conflict: The Baloch and the Establishment/Centre. An APC would be spoiled if different political parties participate and waste the opportunity by coming up with their own lists of complaints and suggestions. Since the Balochs have solely been the victims of the conflict, we want the Baloch and Islamabad to directly negotiate without the presence of other political parties, whom we consider irrelevant at this occasion..
MALIK: Do you not think this APC would become more meaningful after saner voices, such as the one from Nawaz Sharif, seem to be supporting the idea?
SB: Basically, APCs in the past have always proved to be a sheer waste of time. They do not resolve political disputes. The reason I keep saying that we do not need an APC is because the Balochs are not at war with a single political party. It is the Center that has waged a war against the province. If Nawaz Sharif is sincere towards the settlement of the Balochistan issue, he should give a civil disobedience call to all the Punjabi civil and military officers posted in Balochistan to stop killing the Balochs, arresting our political activists and adding to the miseries of the Baloch people. We expect the Punjabis to stand united with the Baloch at this juncture. They should cooperate with us as enthusiastically as was seen during the judicial movement.
MALIK:It seems that the Baloch nationalists are running away from negotiations by making one excuse or the other. How can you reject an APC on the basis of assumptions and fears that you have even not experienced yet?
SB: We are not running way from talks. The Baloch political parties passionately participated in the Mushahid Hussain-led committee even though the country was being ruled by a military dictator. Yet, the committee, which was responsible to give its recommendations on Balochistan in 90 days, failed to table recommendations after 900 days.
How are negotiations going to succeed when Islamabad does not recognize the conflict in Balochistan? What does it mean when the federal government talks of an APC on the one hand and accuses us of getting external assistance on the other hand? Someone in the Center bills as ‘anti-state’ and the other describes as ‘traitors’. In different phases of the history, the Balochs were dubbed as the agents of India, Afghanistan, Iran and even Iraq. No one truly heeded our democratic demands.
The government should prove by its actions that it is trying to build confidence in the province. Even if one or two culprits responsible for causing bloodshed in Balochistan are brought to justice, it will bolster the Baloch confidence.
MALIK: So does it mean that the BNP will boycott the APC?
SB: Yes, we have no intentions to join the APC. Islamabad does not need to engage different non-Baloch political parties in talks about Balochistan. It should only talk to the actual representatives of the Baloch people because the actors and the victims of the conflict are the Balochs.
Until everyone, including the leaders from the BNP, National Party (NP), the Balochistan Republican Party (BRP), Jamori Watan Party (JWP), Baloch National Front (BNF) and all the armed groups, are taken on board, efforts for rapprochement are likely to fizzle out. Regardless of the demands of the separatists, they should be recognized as a concerned player in the conflict in Balochistan and invited to negotiate.
The level of mistrust between the Baloch and Islamabad has reached such a high level that we will not achieve any results without having “international mediation” between the province and the center.
MALIK What do you mean by “international mediation”? Who is acceptable to the Baloch as a mediator?
SB: We do not trust Islamabad. The Establishment will surely make every effort to sabotage talks between the Baloch and the Center. Therefore, we think that the United Nations or the European Union or some internationally reputed individuals, whom the Baloch should be entitled to nominate once Islamabad concedes to this demand, should be allowed to work as a mediator or observer to monitor the talks between the province and the Center. This will minimize the possibility of sabotage of negotiations. If we have no problems with a foreign mediator, why should Islamabad have any? Let the world know who is being naughty here.
MALIK:Do you think the Pashtoons of Balochistan should be included in the détente?
SB: The Pashtoons have always supported the Baloch struggle and demands. However, the current conflict entirely revolves around the Baloch people. The Pashtoons have not faced military operation, disappearances, torture, freezing of bank accounts, enlisting of names in the Exit Control List (ECL) and suppression. If a long-term settlement of the Baloch issue is desired then we can go forward even by excluding the Pashtoons.
We expect Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the leader of the Pashtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party, to respect the Baloch sentiments. If the Baloch parties boycott the APC, he should not pretend to represent the Baloch on such a platform. We deeply respect him but he has no mandate to represent the Baloch case.