The Shahabaz Sharif paradox

By Malik Siraj Abar

During his recent visit to Balochistan, Punjab Chief Minister Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif lashed at India for its alleged involvement in causing instability inside Balochistan and Waziristan. According to him, the government has ample evidence of India’s “heinous designs” vis-à-vis Balochistan.

Sharif is surely not the first big gun in the country’s ruling class that has mentioned foreign elements’ involvement in Balochistan. He simply rephrased what had already been asserted by Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and his interior minister Rehman Malik in the past. Sharif once again said that government had “credible evidence” to expose the Indian involvement inside Balochistan and Waziristan.

Since such crucial evidences are only present with the government, one deems it premature to comment on the allegations of the Punjab Chief Minister. However, the people of Balochistan are surprised why such evidence is never brought public in front of the masses who are in a state of denial that the Baloch war of resistance is initiate by themselves after being pushed in a state of war.

Today’s world politics does not solely revolve around rhetoric alone. Debates, evidence and logic win contemporary arguments. One does not understand why Islamabad did not even expose the proof of Indian involvement in Balochistan after the Mumbai blast when Indian directly held Islamabad responsible for the terrorist attacks.

On the other hand, Shahbaz Sharif has, at the same time, offered to build a huge cardiac hospital in Balochistan as a goodwill gesture from the government and the people of Punjab for their counterparts in Balochistan. One surely welcomes this huge project but in a highly politicized political culture of Balochistan the Punjab chief minister should firstly clarify what he ultimately wants to achieve by giving such statements.

There is no better way to offend a Baloch than billing him as a foreign agent. A Baloch would find it hard to accept gifts offered as “goodwill gestures” after being billed as traitors and agents of India. The Punjab chief minister has publicly offended the Baloch and has indirectly indicated that there is no Baloch sense of deprivation and exploitation if India stops its “heinous designs”.

The people of Balochistan believe that holding foreign hands responsible for their backwardness and struggle is a well-organized strategy to divert attention from the actual Baloch problem.

There is forceful demand in Balochistan that former dictator General Pervez Musharraf should be brought to justice because he allegedly had a key role in the murder of Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti, the former chief minister and governor of Balochistan. Did India really entice Musharraf to kill Nawab Bugti? Did the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) prepare the plan for the deadly military operation in Balochistan? If Shahbaz Sharif’s answer is in affirmation then it should safely conclude that the people of Balochistan view him as an enemy of the Baloch.

The Baloch problem cannot be settled merely by providing scholarships to Baloch students and building hospitals for the province that too by the official funds of other provinces. We reminded the Punjab chief minister during his press conference that the people of Balochistan wanted to become the “masters” of their own destiny. They should be empowered to the extent of having so much control over their resources that they should no longer need the help of another province to build a hospital for the ailing Baloch.

Sharif’s attitude also indicates that his party is preparing to strengthen its hold in Balochistan by establishing various big projects in the province. The people of Balochistan are, at the same time, weary of the Sharifs for not taking out a long march in support of the people of Balochistan who had undergoing a military operation and the worst violation of human rights. Why did the Sharifs not organize a similar long march for Balochistan which was done for the restoration of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Why did the Sharifs speak angrily against the Kerry Lugar Bill but kept quite over the murder of three Baloch leaders, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch and Sher Mohammad Baloch, who were allegedly picked up by the state funcationaries and subsequently killed?

The basic problem of Balochistan is that of winning hearts, not establishing hospitals. The Sharifs have an influential role in brining the people of Punjab in the streets to express solidarity with the people of Balochistan. They should conduct a long march on the behalf of the people of the Punjab to assure the Balochs that they do not support the military operation nor do they endorse Islamabad’s policy of discrimination and expoliation against the Baloch. Once the Sharifs win the hearts of then Balochs then they would learn that Balochistan’s problem is not that of “foreign involvement” but a case of dignity, trust, respect and ownership on the Baloch land.

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