Editorial: Chasing “Ghandi’s grandchildren”
By Malik Siraj Akbar
The BBC Urdu Service has recently reported in detail about the violence and discrimination the Baloch students enrolled in different medical colleges and universities of the Punjab province face. The Baloch students, according to the report, blame the Muslim Students’ Federation (MSF), a wing of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Nawaz), for directing this uncivilized attitude towards the guest students. As a result, many Baloch students have been forced to leave classes of higher learning in the country’s largest province owing to threats posed to their lives.
Many Baloch students interviewed by the BBC complained that they were often billed by their colleagues as “Indian agents” or “kafirs’ (a derogatory word used to describe a nonbeliever of Islam). The issue is so depressing that the students told the BBC that they could not talk to the media about the hardships they were facing as it could culminate into serious physical or academic trouble for them. Thus, they agreed to speak to the BBC outside their campus for security reasons. This self-evidently narrates the growingly alarming situation being created for the Baloch students in order to drive them out of the country’s leading educational institutions located inside the Punjab.
Baloch students came under attack in the Punjab for the first time at a technical college in Sahiwal in which five Baloch students were injured. Three weeks later, ten more Baloch students were seriously injured after they were assaulted three times at a technical college in Multan. The wave of anti-Baloch violence continued and expanded in Faisalabad where two more attacks —including a case of firing— occurred in second largest city of the Punjab. As a result, seven Baloch students received injuries in these two different cases of violence in Faisalabad.
Even though cases have been registered in Multan and Sahiwal against the increasing terrorist assaults on the Baloch students, no proper action has been by the local police as the suspects nominated in these cases are the loyalists of the ruling PML’s students’ wing. As the situation deteriorates, the Baloch students have formed an action committee to raise voice against the chauvinist attitude of the Punjabi students against them. They have called on the Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif and requested for protection. Defending his party’s activists, the Punjab CM reportedly ruled out the possibility of the involvement of MSF activists in violence against the Baloch students.
There is no respite in threats being issued to the Baloch students allegedly from the activists of the MSF who keep enticing the students to either join the MSF or leave Punjab (i.e abandon their education) for good.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Punjab has always remained too arrogant to share the certificate of patriotism with the citizens of three other provinces. It has a had a deplorable history of boasting to house all “patriot Pakistanis” against the so-called “anti-nationals” residing in Balochistan, Sindh and Pashtunkhawa. This mean attitude has remained a major stumbling block in the national integration in Pakistan where a powerful section of dominant Punjabis have always accused the remaining Pakistanis as ‘foreign agents’, ‘lesser-Muslims’ or ‘traitors’.
It is unfortunate that the Punjabi kids are leveling the same allegations against the Baloch kids which were once leveled against the followers of great Pashtun leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Ghandi. Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi, founder of modern India, who was a staunch supporter of non-violence, surely has admirers around the globe but when a Baloch, Pashtun or Sindhi is termed as a follower of Ghandi or an agent of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) then it means the ruling elite in this country is unwilling to share shelter and food with the impoverished members of smaller provinces by suspecting them of being disloyal.
This is a grave mistake which could jeopardize the national integrity. No one province or political party should have the right to issue certificates of patriotism to the fellow countrymen. Significantly, such decades-old behavior has already irked the younger generation of Balochs to such an extent that one hardly finds anyone who would still proudly call himself a Pakistani. The militant sections of Baloch nationalists may not care much about being billed as “loyal Pakistanis’ or “anti-nationals”. This will, nonetheless, disappoint the moderate forces in Balochistan who are still trying to find a peaceful, constitutional settlement of the Baloch issues with the federation via dialogue.
Campuses in Punjab have remained notorious in the past for the belligerent attitude of the notorious Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), a wing of the right-wing Jammat-e-Islami, against the local progressive students. It is the first time that a students’ organization (read MSF) has overpowered IJT while resorting to a disgraceful approach towards guest students.
We believe political issues should not impact the educational atmosphere of Balochistan as well as that of the Punjab. Centers of learning should be kept away from political matters so that students maximize the time they have for learning.
The Balochistan government should immediately take up the issue with the Punjab government and ensure the protection of Baloch students there. One is still not sure how much such a contact between Chief Minister Raisani and Shahbaz Sharif will lead to an end to the wave of violence against the Baloch students as the latter has already discredited the Baloch national movement on a plenty of occasions as the brainchild of and ‘Indian conspiracy’. If Sharif believes India is responsible for the Baloch movement then his followers at the MSF cannot be solely held responsible for the violence against the Baloch students.
Attacks on Baloch students in the Punjab are surely going to come as a setback to whatever popularity the PML-N has gained in the recent times in Balochistan. The country’s largest opposition party has already been endeavoring to consolidate its base in Balochistan.
Former Balochistan Governor and Corps Commander General (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch and chief of Jhalawan Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, two highly influential Balochs who joined the PML-N in January this year, should take the initiative to convince Shahbaz Sharif and the PML-N top echelon that violence and repression will not churn out loyal Pakistanis. This attitude may be counterproductive for the federation of Pakistan as well as the future of PML-N in Balochistan, a province that is already at war with the center demanding fair treatment.