January Issue 2006

By | News & Politics | People | Profile | Published 18 years ago

“Accept us as equal federating units or we will try to get rid of you”

– Sanaullah Baloch, Senator (BNP)

Q: How do you characterise the situation in Balochistan today?

A: The situation is getting worse in Balochistan because the military has moved three brigades into District Kohlu and Dera Bugti. Twenty-one fighter jets flying from Sibi, Jacobabad and Loralai are involved in carpet bombing there. They have also used poison and phosphorus gases without declaring a particular target. Some 180 deaths have been caused by the bombing.

The military is denying access in the region to our political workers and even the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. However, when the military permitted the HRCP to visit the affected districts, the bombing was stopped to give a different image. So far, some 122 children have died; most of them belong to the nomad villagers who live in tents but keep migrating. Unfortunately, wherever the military sees some tents, they take these to be militant camps.

At the same time, the Frontier Corps has virtually surrounded Makran region. Some 450 people have been arrested from Turbat district. Chaghi, Kharan and the central districts of Balochistan are tense and face similar oppression. The government is deliberately trying to instigate the people of Balochistan.

Q: What is the reason behind this showdown with the government?

A: We do not accept the ruling military junta. We want to live in the country in a democratic manner as a federating unit instead of becoming a colony of Islamabad. We see Islamabad as another East India Company which had spread a network of roads, railway lines and tunnels to meet its objectives. Islamabad is working in a similar fashion to annex the natural assets of the Baloch people.

First of all, Islamabad exploited our natural gas resources and then used the province’s strategic location for testing nuclear devices and established cantonments but no development work was carried out.

Q: How do you want to deal with the East India Company?

A: Decisive moments come in the life of every nation. So far we have been adopting democratic and peaceful means but with little success. Khuda Baksh Marri and Attaullah Mengal have tried their best to seek the rights of the province through democratic institutions and being part of the government. I have been part of parliament for the past nine years and these institutions have become debating societies. The parliament has failed to deliver owing to a variety of factors. There are not many choices: either accept us as equal federating units or we will try to get rid of you, no matter what the cost.

Q: But there are differences amongst the Baloch leaders.

A: For the rights of Balochistan, all the leaders have come together and the old differences cannot overshadow the situation.

We have a four-party Baloch Ittehad on the lines of the PLO and the Hurriyet Conference. No doubt there are minor differences amongst the four parties about the alliance’s constitution, yet we have chosen to stay together for a larger cause. Baloch leaders are also part of ARD and PONM at the national level.

Q: What have Baloch leaders contributed when they governed the province?

A: From the 1948 accession to Pakistan till today, the Baloch nationalists have ruled for only 37 months i.e. the nine-month rule of Attaullah Mengal, a year of Akhtar Mengal and 16 months of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. During Attaullah Mengal’s term, the province’s first university, medical college and board of secondary education were set up. The same NAP government established the first industrial city of the province, in Hub. The government was dissolved after nine months because they were doing so much for the people. Let’s come to Akbar Khan Bugti’s rule of 18 months, the Benazir government could not agree with him on the rights of the province. Then Nawaz Sharif made a commitment with his ally Akhtar Mengal that after the passage of the 13th amendment, he would announce a mega constitutional package on provincial autonomy. Unfortunately, he could not come up with a package after 14 months despite forming committees and debating the matter for so long. None of the Baloch leaders have been allowed to rule the province for more than 18 months. Since 1948, 23 governors have been appointed in Balochistan, only 10 of them belonged to the province while the remaining were outsiders. General Rahim-ud-Din was in the chair for nine years in the Zia era.

Q: You don’t seem to accept the recent development packages announced by the Musharraf regime.

A: First of all, let me make it clear here that General Musharraf has not announced any package for Balochistan. It’s all propaganda and drama. China and Pakistan are collaborating to build the Gwadar port and no Baloch consent was sought before making the deal with the Chinese people. There is no development project in Kohlu as 450 million rupees have been earmarked for the establishment of a cantonment there and another 450 million for a road to a gas well. The remaining amount in the so- called package was announced some nine years ago for the Sibi and Dera Murad Jamali road. The money has never been released. From lack of clean drinking water to other amenities of life, everything is missing in the district.

The Baloch hatred against the Musharraf regime is extremely high because on September 23, 2003, the provincial assembly passed a resolution against the construction of cantonments. In utter disregard of the unanimous resolution of the assembly, he flies into Kohlu to inaugurate a cantonment on December 14, 2005.

Please acknowledge that the Baloch petroleum resources have brought prosperity for the domestic gas consumers, private sector and industry. The fertiliser industry and domestic consumers are being given a subsidy worth 20 billion rupees every year. Balochistan deserves a representative government without any involvement of the intelligence agencies such as the ISI. The sitting government is involved in the worst kind of corruption and over the past three years, it has resorted to an overdraft of 14 billion rupees.

Q: The government accuses the Baloch nationalists of politicising development issues and keeping the people backward to serve the sardars’ interests. Why do you oppose a network of roads, railway tracks and other necessary infrastructure?

A: This is a grave misconception which has been deliberately created by the military and intelligence agencies. Before establishing Gwadar port, we have demanded the setting up of a marine biological institute and a mineral development research institute near Saindak to train the local people. Similarly we have demanded the establishment of an arid agriculture research institute to tap the enormous potential of the province.

Some 35,000 paramilitary troops are stationed in Balochistan and each individual costs roughly 15000 rupees a month while there are 12000 teachers with an average monthly expenditure of 6000 rupees each. We want the government to abolish the FC and instead raise an army of teachers. I can bet no one would oppose the opening of universities and schools in Balochistan.

Q: It is said that the Baloch nationalist leadership belongs to the sardars and nawabs and is meant to protect their interests.

A: I don’t agree with such critics. I belong to a middle class family which was never involved in politics and parliament. Similarly, Rauf Mengal is the son of a small shopkeeper. All the representatives from the nationalist parties belong to the middle class. Even in Akbar Khan Bugti’s party, Senator Amanullah Karnani comes from a very poor family.

Q: How do you look at the acts of sabotage and militancy on the part of the Baloch Liberation Army or Baloch Liberation Front?

A: There is no doubt that the BLA or BLF enjoy enormous acceptance and respect amongst the common Baloch people. They have internationalised the Balochistan cause which we (the politicians) have failed to do. The BLA or BLF is targeting locations which were illegal and caused inconvenience to the people. There were 600 illegal checkposts of the paramilitary force where officers and JCOs alike were minting money from innocent people. They were posted on border routes and we have ties across the border so billions of rupees were being minted by the paramilitary forces. The BLA attacked only those checkposts which were harming the common people.

The militants have targeted only those railway tracks and pipelines which were used to suck up our petroleum and mineral resources but the due royalty was never paid to the people. The government has been violating the constitution’s article 158 and neither the judiciary nor the establishment have tried to get the royalty rights implemented. Naturally, there was a vacuum for a force which could stop an unconstitutional thing from happening. That is why the BLA or BLF enjoy a better level of respect than the Baloch political parties. Being a public representative, I cannot say that they are wrong. The first blunder was committed by the government by deploying the troops and giving a free hand to the ISI and other intelligence organs.

The next blunder was linking up of a cantonment with a mega project, thus giving birth to a perception that the military would come along to annex the resources and projects. The military is buying land and erecting housing schemes wherever there is a mega project or a vital natural resource. The BLA and BLF activists are not crazy. They are highly educated young people who are fully aware of the problems faced by their people.

Q: Do you get any kind of support from India which has two consulates close to the Balochistan border, in Iran?

A: This is totally untrue. No one has better relations with India than General Pervez Musharraf himself. The best chance for India to intervene was in 1973 when a full blown insurgency was underway. The fact is that the Baloch movement is totally indigenous, motivated by political frustration, fuelled by Islamabad’s decades of indifference. Such allegations are being levelled to create an excuse for a military operation.

Such movements take birth everywhere due to sheer inequalities. Pakistan should learn a lesson from Yugoslavia and Indonesia. The country is heading towards Balkanisation. Indonesia took a wise step after a series of blunders in East Timor and with Finnish mediation, the Indonesian government has agreed to give provincial autonomy to the Aceh freedom fighters. The agreement signed in Finland between the Aceh movement and the Indonesian government is greatly similar to what we demand from Islamabad.

Q: There is an energy and water crisis looming over the country, so why do you oppose the construction of the Kalabagh Dam?

A: As long as Sindh and NWFP don’t accept it, Balochistan will never accept the controversial mega dam. If Sindh is converted into a desert and its socio-economic situation worsens, then Balochistan would not be able to escape from its impact. We get six per cent water from Sindh for some of our irrigated lands.

There is no doubt that Pakistan would be an energy-starved country after 2010 but we would not let her explore more resources in the province through the use of force. The Baloch people would not even spare the trilateral pipeline if the excesses do not come to an end. Pakistan is dependent on Sindh and Balochistan for energy resources as 96 per cent of gas production comes from these two provinces but both are deprived of its benefits. There is a huge difference in gas prices in Balochistan and Punjab.

Q: What is the future of the movement against Kalabagh Dam?

A:I don’t think Islamabad is serious about building the dam. The issue was only raised to overshadow a military operation in Balochistan.

Q: What are the prospects for a political dialogue?

A:The parliamentary committee failed to deliver, despite a sincere dialogue over 70 days. Mushahid Hussain started inviting the land mafia people to committee meetings, which was strongly opposed by the Baloch leadership. He also tried to create a Baloch-Pashtun divide.

Senator Mushahid developed mistrust amongst the committee members and we lost confidence in him. Meanwhile, there was a blast in Quetta which claimed some lives. The government used it as an excuse to launch a military operation and 200 to 250 people were arrested in just one night. At this point we resigned from the committee.

Today, 490 days have passed and the committee report has yet to be presented and implemented. As usual, the committee politics is being used to suppress resentment instead of addressing it. Now whosoever from the Baloch side becomes party to the dialogue would lose his credibility. The issues have been identified and the government should have the political will to correct its blunders.