Raisani Should Go as Quetta’s “Arab Spring” Gains Momentum
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Protests that erupted in Quetta and across the country in the aftermath of the killing of nearly one hundred people in three bomb blasts in the provincial capital on Thursday are showing no signs of respite. People’s angry reactions are finally the harbinger of a public awakening and revolt against the current government of the Pakistan people’s Party (P.P.P.). If these protests continue for a few more days, they can generate a new popular movement in Balochistan. Thursday’s killings were the tipping point for what could eventually culminate in Balochistan’s Arab Spring. The Pakistani media outlets are self-censoring the Quetta story which is, on the contrary, being overshadowed by the news and analyses of a long march called by an obscure Canadian clergyman who intends to occupy Islamabad on January 14th. Yet, some extremely big developments are brewing in Quetta. The world is eagerly following updates and streams from Quetta through social media at a time when the Pakistani media has failed to commit ample editorial time and space to the Hazara genocide.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and prominent opposition leader from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (P.T.I.) Imran Khan both arrived in Quetta on Sunday. While the government’s top most priority at this point is to persuade the protesters to agree to bury their dead relatives, whose bodies they have been carrying with them during the protest for the past three days in the harsh winter. The government realizes that the intensity of the strike will gradually fade away once the dead are buried. A previous attempt by federal minister for religious affairs Syed Khurshid Shah did not materialize in successful negotiations between the government and the protesters as both the sides did not concede to each other’s demands. On the other hand, Imran Khan, who is the most prominent mainstream leader to visit Quetta after Thursday’s carnage, is certain to gain tremendous public support among the Hazaras, Shias as a ‘caring leader’ in the wake of complete official indifference.
There are three major demands put forward by the protesters which, if met by the government, can bring an end to the ongoing protests.
First, most of the protesters are asking for Quetta city to be handed over the Pakistan army.
Second, the declaration of a state of governor raj is being widely requested in Balochistan.
Thirdly, Balochistan Chief Minister, who has ended up as a the most loathed political personality in the province, should step down.
While in our editorial Testing the Hazara Patience we strongly discouraged the idea of handing over Quetta City either to the Frontier Corps or the Pakistan Army, we believe the Prime Minister and Imran Khan should not leave Balochistan without brokering a win-win solution to the ongoing protest. The Pakistan People’s Party central leadership should help in removing Chief Minister Raisani because he has lost public respect and support at all levels. Raisani has indeed proven to be Balochistan’s most incompetent Chief Minister ever. During his term, the Baloch population experienced a policy of kill and dump which led to the killing of hundreds of people, mostly young men between the ages of 18 to 24. Raisani spent most of his time in Islamabad in a deliberate effort to stay away from the troubled people of Balochistan and the local media. He is known across the country more as a non-serious politician who loves to crack sick jokes even during the most depressing times.
The commendable and resilient Shia, Hazara protesters should rationalize their protest by setting realistic and pragmatic goals. If they keep sticking to their call for the military’s intervention in Balochistan, they may lose the support of Baloch and Pashtun progressive parties. They would, in return, also suspect sections of the Hazara clergymen, of having ties with the Pakistani Establishment. But if they keep asking for the resignation of Chief Minister Raisani, they will set a new precedence of successful street protest. Raisani’s ouster, however, should not lead to the dissolution of the Balochistan Assembly or the derailment of the democratic process.
The Chief Minister should step down because he has miserably failed to come up to the public expectations. Until the next general elections and prior to the arrangement of a an interim government, the Balochistan Assembly should elect a new head of the government. If the Hazara protesters, backed by protesters across the country, manage to oust Raisani, their protest will instill confidence and renewed faith among the people about their power to stand up against flawed policies and bad governance. The ongoing historic protest should not finish without a historic end.
Orginially published in The Baloch Hal on January 13, 2013