Who Approached Senator Raisani?
What would happen if Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Senator Lashkari Raisani were journalists? They would probably have the highest number of news stories with ‘anonymous sources’. As senators, both the controversial minister and the former PPP provincial president are very skilled in making front page headlines. Yet, they are always reluctant to publicize their sources of information.
This time, Lashkari Raisani has even outdone Rehman Malik with a bombshell indicating that the Baloch insurgent groups have contacted him seeking reconciliation with the government. Raisani is not the exact Baloch version of Rehman Malik because he does not antagonize the local people but he does qualify as a local replica of the interior minister because of his sensational assertions. Now that Zulfiqar Mirza has ushered the season of ‘nothing but the truth’, we would like to track what Raisani has asserted in the media.
Senator Raisani, the younger brother of Chief Minister Aslam Raisani, says the insurgents, not the government, have initiated contacts. This is unprecedented. There are scores of times when the government either publicly announced amnesty for Baloch leaders or offered them to give up guns and peacefully negotiate with Islamabad. On some occasions, even the government did claim that it had established contacts with hardliner Baloch leaders whose demands exclusively revolved around Balochistan’s independence.
While we await the official confirmation or denial on behalf of the pro-independence armed groups and individual leaders, here is why we find Lashkari’s statement inconsistent and unconvincing.
Firstly, any moderate or hardliner Baloch group which is interested to become a part of the (future) government will contact the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Nawaz) rather than the PPP. The PPP government has become exceedingly unpopular in the province and the ruling party, as predicted by political pundits, will not even qualify in the future as a potential opposition party in the province. Many opportunist politicians who are changing their political localities foresee the PML-N forming the next government at the Center as well as the province. So, it is unlikely that some Baloch leaders would make a policy shift and still end up as losers by joining a government whose future prospects are bleak and current approval ratings are abysmally low.
Secondly, most not-so-nationalist-yet-influential-Bloch-personalities are a part of the PML-N. If the military establishment has truly decided to call off its battle in Balochistan, it will understandably seek the services of the PML-N rather than the PPP. For example, key people who may not have the capacity to influence the Baloch armed groups or disillusioned nationalists but can still be requested to play a re-conciliatory role are Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, a provincial minister who is tribally known as the Chief of Jhalawan, Nawabzada Jangiz Marri, the eldest son of veteran pro-independence leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri and General Abdul Qadir Baloch, a former governor and corps commander of Balochistan. All of the above three are currently members of the PML-N.
In addition, the Jamori Watan Party (JWP) of Talal Akbar Bugti and the PML-N have been dating each other for more than one year but their romance has not culminated into an engagement or a successful wedding. Both JWP and Talal Bugti do not qualify as nationalists. They are federalists and if they ever decide to bury the hatchet with Islamabad, they are also likely to form some alliance with the future ruling party headed by Nawaz Sharif.
Thirdly, here is why I ruled out the possibility of Sanaullah Zehri, Jangiz Marri and General Qadir playing the role of mediators. Because Islamabad has historically used non-resident interlocutors to reach out to the Baloch leaders. Interestingly, scions of powerful Baloch tribes living in Punjab and Sindh, who are still connected through blood relations and marriages with the prominent Baloch tribes inside Balochistan, are often approached for such high-level contacts.
For example, Balochistan’s former governor Owais Ahmed Ghani told me in an interview (The Friday Times July 14-20, 2006) that the government communicated with Nawab Akbar Bugti through Sher Ali Mazari, a son of the illustrated Balcoh leader Sher Baz Mazari .
Fourthly, armed struggle and surface politics are two different things. A good guerrilla fighter does not necessarily make a good parliamentarian. A lot of Baloch leaders, such as Hairbayar Marri, Bramdagh Bugti and the Khan of Kalat Suleman Dawood, who have sought asylum overseas, may not be returning to Pakistan to contest parliamentary politics anytime soon.They are unlikely to win more than one or two seats in the elections.
Similarly, Dr. Allah Nazar is most unlikely to win a seat of the Balochistan Assembly from his native constituncy because a) paralimentary politics has been polluted with a lot of black money and Dr. Nazar, as a member of the middle class family, does not have the required money to contest elections to defeat super rich provincial ministers and b) his popularity owes a great deal to his commitment to non-parliamentary politics and the idea of an indpendent Balochistan. He will lose all his popularity and support base even in his native Awaran district if he surrenders and chooses to contest elections.
Fifthly, if Lashkari Raisani takes a phone-call ( from a nationalist leader) to exchange Eid greetings as “an approach to reconcile with the government” then he must have surely received too many of them. A lot of nationalist leaders do call each other to greet on the Eid as a part of the Baloch tribal tradition but that does not always translate into political progress on outstanding issues. In that case, if Senator Raisani has been contacted by the leaders of the National Party or the Balochistan National Party (BNP), it does not mean a lot because these two parties are not contributors to the armed movement.
Sixth, Lashkari says he has informed Prime Minister Gilani about the contacts made with him by Baloch nationalists. That is no major headway because the best gift the Prime Minister could ever offer to Balochistan was his 2009 much-hyped Aghaz-e-Haqooq-Balochistan Package.
The Package proved to be a disaster because the governments and the center and province did not possess the power to stop the army’s unnecessary involvement and interference in Balochistan’s matters. The spymasters refused to release the disappeared people and dismantle anti-nationalist groups which killed hundreds of Baloch youths.
Finally, Lashkari Raisani is no Zulfiqar Mirza. People do not only want ‘disclosures’. They want leaders who take practical action not mere whistle-blowers wishing to make front page headlines. The people of Balochistan have enormously suffered in the hands of the PPP government for which both Lashkari and Nawab Aslam Raisani have to provide accountability to the Baloch masses. Ironically, the disappeared people were not killed during Musharraf’s regime until the ‘kill and dump’ policy was inducted during the PPP government. The Raisanis did nothing to stop the atrocities against the Baloch.
The PPP government has done to little to impress the insurgents and Baloch commoners. Only the Baloch leaders are in a position to end the insurgency. If that happens, it will remarkably shock their middle class followers. The power of Baloch tribal chiefs is overwhelming. When they chose to seek provincial autonomy over struggling for Balochistan’s independence in late 1960s, a top BSO [Baloch Students Organization] leader broke into tears and acknowledged forty years later “we could not go with them (tribal chiefs) and we could not go without them.”