What Justice Sharif does not know yet?

By Malik Siraj Akbar

As a staunch supporter of an absolutely free judiciary, I would not like to see an orator judge. I wish judges refrain from publicly commenting on political matters. More importantly, they look better as long as they avoid offending certain nationalities within the federation of Pakistan with their objectionable remarks.

Chief Justice of Lahore High Court Khawaja Justice Sharif took his recent visit to Quetta (to attend the meeting of National Judicial Commission) as an opportunity to pose as the spokesman of the people of Punjab and say about the Balochs what even many politicians hesitate to utter. Leaving us absolutely clueless about his sources of information as we do not know if the government has already established such a registration center in Quetta or elsewhere in Balochistan to register the non-Balochs leaving Balochistan, the LHC Chief Justice informs us that at least 35, 000 (Punjabi) families have left Balochistan. The figures are highly exaggerated and unverified.

He went on to publicly remind the Balochs that a significant number of Balochs also resided in the Punjab but was never subjected to any kind of violence by the local majority Punjabis.

Justice Sharif needs to understand the difference between the state of the Balochs living in the Punjab and those living in Balochistan. Likewise, the political realities of both the provinces are entirely dissimilar from each other. Correspondingly, he needs to recheck the facts if he thinks every thing is hunky dory in Punjab with the Balochs (belonging to Balochistan). After all, the BBC Urdu Service informs us that the Muslim Students Federation (MSF), a wing of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), is actively engaged in beating up, torturing and harassing the Baloch students. We further learn from reports emanating from the Punjab that Baloch students are publicly billed “Indian agents”, their hostel rooms are raided and the local administration and policemen do not take action against the offenders because they are the members of the same ruling party which, ironically, also sends 12 trucks of relief goods for the Baloch cyclone-affected people of Mekran.

Last time when I raised the issue of violence against Baloch students in Punjab, our Chief Minister Nawab Raisani sent me a message in response to the editorial via a ‘messenger’ that the Balochistan government did not have moral grounds to ask its counterpart in Punjab to guard the Baloch students because the Balochs were allegedly target killing Punjabi teachers. I said there was hell of a difference between what the non-state actors were doing in Balochistan and what the students’ wing of the ruling party in Punjab did with the Baloch students enrolled in different professional colleges and universities. MSF never takes an action without the prior consent of the PML-N big guns.

Furthermore, not a single Punjabi student has been driven out of schools, colleges or universities in Balochistan to date. On the other hand, Punjab has lost the moral ground by driving Baloch students out of their hostels and colleges and then the university and college administrations refusing to take action against the perpetrators. One wonders why the Chief Justice of the Punjab has not taken exception of these developments at his home province before raising fingers at the Balochs.

The Balochs living in Balochistan, unlike their brothers residing in the Punjab, have faced deadly military operations in Balochistan. They have been driven out of their homes and denied of their own natural resources. Perhaps the Balochs or Punjabis living in the Punjab would react in the same manner in the other provinces if their beloved ones were whisked away and held in torture cells. The causes of frustration and anger in Balochistan need to be firstly identified rather than solely talking about the affects of the conflict.

One reason for which the Balochs are very disappointed with Punjab and its people is the latter’s lack of protest in support of Balochs. The country’s military, bureaucracy, media and the civil society are heavily dominated by the Punjabis or the people belonging to that province. In spite of these plus points, the intellectuals, human rights activists, judges and lawyers have not moved forward to denounce the injustices being done with the people of Balochistan. When was the last time when the Punjabi intellectuals and human rights activists came out of their homes and told their brothers and cousins in the country’s military to stop carrying out the military operation in the most backward province of the country? How many of these important government, media and civil society figures belonging to Punjab ever bothered to get out of Quetta and travel inside Balochistan (as the province has 29 other districts apart from Quetta) to see how badly the province had been treated equally by the central government as well as the Islamabad-backed warlords of the province?

Let’s hope that Justice Sharif talks in favor of all the people who have become the victims of this deadly conflict rather than speaking about the people who are closer to his heart against the children of less gods.

(The writer is the editor of The Baloch Hal: editor@thebalochhal.com)

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