Why Can’t Gilani Visit Balochistan Without His Interior Minister?


By Malik Siraj Akbar

Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani may have good intentions while presiding over a meeting of the federal cabinet in Balochistan capital, Quetta. Such exorbitant exercises are too costly, aren’t they? When public tax-payers’ money is lavishly spent to fly dozens of outstation ministers only to attend a routine cabinet meeting then it is very likely that such opportunities would be translated by the ministers as a picnic.

The overall objective of convening a cabinet meeting in Quetta, according to the officials, was to analyze multiple issues related to Balochistan. These issues range from economic development to security-related topics. The Prime Minister said at a press conference that his government was willing to negotiate with enraged Baloch nationalist leaders.

Since the inception, much of the PPP government’s focus under the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package has been on Balochistan’s economic woes. The Prime Minister said that the federal government would be willing to assist the provincial government if it was planning to reinstate the sacked employees of National Commission of Human Development (NCHD). He also promised that Balochistan’s representation in all federal corporations, such as the Pakistan International Airlines, would be enhanced in order to eliminate the province’s lack of representation in the federal structure.

A significant outcome of the Prime Minister’s visit and the federal cabinet meeting was the decision to constitute a judicial inquiry into the murder of former governor Nawab Akbar Bugti. The seventy-nine year old former Baloch governor and the chief minister was killed on August 26th, 2006 in a military operation sanctioned by the then military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.

The killing of Bugti, a popular Baloch leader, actually proved to be Balochistan’s 9/11, triggering a wave of separatist demands. Such demands have been continuously increasing because of not investigating Bugti’s murder and bringing the perpetrators to justice. Of course, there are plenty of other genuine issues besides the Bugti murder case.

It is not the first time that the federal government has promised to probe Bugti’s assassination. At the end of the day, we need to wait and see what substance these promises entail in terms of action.

Although the task of repairing the damage caused by our intelligence agencies inside Balochistan is overriding, it can still be achievable if the Prime Minister avoids bringing his Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, to the province during his visits. Jokes apart, Rehman Malik has adds salt to the feelings of the families of the disappeared and killed Baloch youths.

The Interior Minister is seemingly more loyal to the security establishment than being loyal to the democratic government and the Pakistan People’s Party. While the Prime Minister was endeavoring  to fix the problems in Balochistan, the Interior Minister in a press interaction once again exempted the intelligence agencies from kidnapping, torturing and murdering political rivals.  As expected, he  blamed “foreign elements” for creating trouble inside Balochistan. There is more proof of the intelligence agencies’ and Frontier Crops’ involvement in the ‘kill and dump policy’ than what Islamabad has been able to substantiate about the involvement of  external forces in the violation of human rights in Balochistan.

While we do not see any signs of foreign involvement in Balochistan, the federal government’s indifference and Mr. Malik’s condescending remarks make the province very vulnerable to external forces’ exploitation.

If everything in Balochistan is the brainchild of ‘external forces’ and the security establishment has nothing to be held accountable for then what is the purpose of forming a new judicial tribunal to investigate Nawab Bugti’s murder? Moreover,  Balochistan will not get justice only if Nawab Bugti’s murder is investigated.

Every citizen, who has been subjected to enforced disappearance, abduction, torture and murder, deserves justice. Very citizen’s killing should be independently probed and investigated on merit. Societies perish if and when justice is imparted selectively.

With ministers like Rehman Malik in the federal cabinet, one sees little hope of success for Prime Minister Gilani’s efforts to reconcile in Balochistan.  Protection of people’s lives, not jobs,  is not the biggest issue in Balochistan. It is a clear issue of human sufferings which cannot be compensated merely with jobs and economic incentives. It is utterly meaningless to offer jobs to the Baloch on the other hand and throw the bullet-riddled and mutilated dead bodies of political activists, students, all aged 18-25, on the other hand.

By convening the federal cabinet meeting in Quetta, the Prime Minister has initiated a good process but he will have to do this again because the first chance was wasted due to the belligerent Interior Minister. Gilani must come to Balochistan again  to reconcile or to heal the wounds of the local people but, seriously,  he must not be accompanied by his Interior Minister next time. A good politician like Gilani should know how to remove “irritants” when trying to reconcile with a disillusioned population.

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