March Issue 2012

By | Editorial | News & Politics | Opinion | Published 12 years ago

It took a US Congressional hearing and resolution on Balochistan last month to shame those in the portals of power to sit up and take notice of the grave situation prevailing in the province.

The media had been crying hoarse on the enforced disappearances and target killings in the region, but to no avail.

Now, suddenly, President Gilani convenes an All Parties Conference on Balochistan and the incorrigible interior minister, Rehman Malik, offers amnesty to all Baloch leaders in exile if they return to Pakistan. But the young nationalist leaders, who are now calling the shots, are not impressed.

Promises made in the past, in the full glare of publicity, have not been honoured. Assorted government-appointed committees have made several fact-finding missions to Balochistan, but their reports and recommendations are probably gathering dust in some remote corner.

The present government’s Aaghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package, too, has done little to rectify the situation that is deteriorating day by day. According to an Amnesty International Report, Balochistan is one of the most militarised regions of Pakistan, with the military, the paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Levies and the police stationed across the province.

There are reports of Baloch nationalists being kidnapped and of their tortured, bullet-riddled bodies being dumped in public places by law enforcement agencies. The nationalists, in turn, are retaliating by blowing up gas pipelines and security installations, and targeting FC personnel and, in certain instances, other ethnic groups (mostly Punjabis) in the province.

A war-like situation exists in the province and Raisani’s government seems totally helpless — in fact, most legislators cannot even visit their own constituencies.

The mantle of leadership has now passed on to the young Baloch sardars, who are unwilling to settle for anything less than independence.

So, is the country destined to see yet another partition?

Yes, if the power-brokers continue to play too clever by half. Yes, if the state does not stop the use of violence as a tool of oppression. Yes, if the army is not reined in and the killings don’t stop.

Yes, if the rulers do not concede the right of the people of the province to its resources and recognise their democratic aspirations.

The government has to move fast to bridge the trust deficit, create an atmosphere of reconciliation, bring all stakeholders, including the leaders in exile to the table, draw up a watertight agenda that addresses the legitimate grievances of the people and sets a timeframe for the implementation of the agenda. They do not have the luxury of time on their side to implement it at will or play politics to serve their own vested interests.

If we want Balochistan to stay with us, we will have to stay the course and deliver — the time for playing games is over.

Look out for the latest March 2012 issue of Newsline at newsstands across Pakistan.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.