Blackmailing the Balochs?
Blackmail may be the only appropriate word available right now to describe the recently adopted bizarre attitude of the Pakhunkhawa Milli Awami Party (PKMP) in the Baloch majority province of Balochistan. Officially, the PKMP has recently opened a new front with three demands at a time when the Baloch leadership is struggling to cope up with a war-like situation and dig out thousands of missing Baloch citizens. Tactfully realizing that the genuine Baloch leadership is currently languishing outside the country due to the antagonistic policies initiated by former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf and continued by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) against the Baloch, the PKMP has put three more demands to further overburden the Baloch with political pressure.
First, as elaborated by PKMP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai in an interview with Dunya TV, the Pakhuns demand a division of Balochistan and incorporation of Pashutn areas of Balochistan with the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP).
Second, equal rights in Balochistan with the majority Baloch population because, according to Mehmood Khan, the Pashtuns, ironically, are less empowered than the Punjabis and Balochs in the federation of Pakistan. Perhaps he forgot for a while to count the Pashtun representation in Pakistan army, intelligence agencies and, more importantly, the belligerent anti-Baloch force called the Frontier Corps (FC).
Third, Senator Abdul Rahim Mandokhel of the PKMP was reported by Independent News of Pakistan (INP) suggesting the renaming of Balochistan as Balochistan Afghania.
In politics, no demand can be described as unreasonable because politics is entirely the art of negotiations and hammering out solutions. Therefore, the PKMP cannot be blamed for whatever demands it has for the welfare of the Pashtun population it represents. However, what has pained many Balochs is the timing the Pashtun leaders have chosen to put these demands. PKMP fully knows that the Balochs have been facing a severe military operation since 2004. Thousands of Baloch political activists and civilians have gone missing. Top leaders like Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti, Balach Marri and Gulam Mohammad Baloch have been killed. All prominent leaders like Nawabzada Hairbayar Marri, Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Dawood, Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal feel too insecure to return to Balochistan as they fear being targeted by the anti-Baloch elements for their political views.
Surprisingly, the Baloch leaders have kept silence on these Pashtun demands as if they have stopped reading newspapers and watching television. There is not a single response reported on the part of the Baloch leadership. They are, understandably, too busy either in fighting their war of survival of observing silently as to what extent the Pashtuns would go to put their demands.
One would have appreciated if the Pashtun leadership had understood the hard time their Baloch brothers are going through at the moment. They surely have a century-old valid claim which could be put forward either much earlier or in the future once the Balochs overcame the current phase of antagonism.
Now that the cat is already out of the bag, we believe the Baloch leadership should speak up on the issue so that these matters are amicably sorted out without an unpleasant confrontation between both the ethnic groups. Balochs and Pashutns have had a historic link of mutual cooperation and brotherly relations which seems to be currently spoiled by some shortsighted and selfish leaders who believe it is the right time to open a front against the Balochs by taking benefit of their conformation with Islamabad.
In the backdrop of this situation, the Balochs surely have no problem with the first demand of the Pashtuns i.e. the incorporation of the Pashtun areas with the NWFP. However, the remaining two demands of giving equal rights to the minority Pashtun population equal to Balochs and changing the name of the Baloch province are unreasonable. Geographically, the Balochs are populated on the Baloch land and vice versa. For instance, the population in Zhob is 100% Pashtun while the population in Gwadar is 100% Baloch. Thus, there is no controversy over Balochs having occupied the Pashutn land and vice versa. They both live on their distinctive historical lands. Only some leaders want to play the dirty political card of hatred and ethnic strife.
The Baloch leadership should break its silence and push for a demand for division of Balochistan so that the Pashtun demand of being incorporated with NWFP is met peacefully. It is quite strange that the Pashutuns are struggling in NWFP for a name for their province but they have now asked for depriving the Balochs of the historic name their province has gained. It is no secret that the Afghan refugees brought on the Baloch land during the Cold War to cause demographic changes in Balochistan and now the same population is being used to ask for ‘equal status’ in Balochistan.
If the Baloch have no problems with the Pashtun demand for the name of Pashtunkhawa and incorporation of their districts into NWFP then it is unfair by the Pashutns to demand the renaming the Baloch province. Such strange demands are generating speculations that PKMP is acting on the behest of some anti-Baloch elements in the establishment to please the interests of some vested interest.
The Baloch leaders should come up with a joint stance on the Pashtun demands while strictly keeping in view the history of friendly Baloch-Pashtun ties. It is highly expected of the Baloch leadership to make sure that the old amity between Baloch-Pashtun people is not taken hostage by some Pashtun nationalist leaders who are currently playing the politics of hatred and blackmailing the Balochs. If separation and division is the way forward for the Balochs and Pashtuns, let it occur peacefully, democratically and historically.