The most important issue to be addressed as part of any efforts to end the unrest in Balochistan is to immediately investigate the matter of missing persons and the recovery of mutilated bodies thrown by the roadside in the province, said a ruling party senator on Saturday.
“No other measures to bring about economic justice or political stability will succeed till such time as this issue is resolved and immediately nipped in the bud,” said Senator Raza Rabbani of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
He was speaking at the launch of a book titled ‘Balochistan Ka Masla Kiya Hai?’ (What is the Balochistan issue?) by Mujahid Barelvi at the Arts Council here on Saturday.
Rabbani said the aspect of missing persons was the greatest violation of human rights and had alienated the people of Balochistan apparently beyond repair.
Without countering this pernicious trend and taking to task those perpetrating this heinous phenomenon, no economic package, no political reforms, and no remedial administrative measures would be any use, he said.
In principle, the PPP senator proposed six points for mitigating the feeling of alienation in Balochistan. They could be summed up as under:
i) The issue of missing persons and mutilated bodies found by the roadside should be tackled on a war footing and the missing persons recovered immediately. Those responsible for this gravest human rights violation should be duly punished.
ii) The Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package should be implemented immediately.
iii) The arbitrary powers of the Frontier Corps (FC) should be curtailed.
iv) Dialogue should be held with all political forces within the ambit and parameters of a united Pakistan.
v) The cabinet report on Balochistan should be made public. Senator Rabbani disagreed with a provision in the report which had come to public notice to the effect that a troika comprising the governor, the chief minister and the corps commander should be formed in Balochistan, the way it is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), to tackle issues, as he felt that the nature of the issues of KP was totally different from those of Balochistan.
vi) Elections — and not selections – should be held in Balochistan and genuine political leadership be allowed to come up through the next general elections. “We need a grand national dialogue to resolve matters. Dialogue is not easy. The state has to overcome, and compromise on, a lot of issues,” Rabbani said in a tone of profound contemplation. He said the adoption of the Bizenjo doctrine offered hope.
Trust deficit between the province and the centre, he said, should be removed immediately and that would not be possible till the economic and cultural rights of the people of the province were fully restored. “Strong provinces represent a strong federation.”
The PPP leader was happy to note that Balochistan’s share in the divisible pool had gone up from 5.1 percent to 9.1 percent.
He said it was still time to save Balochistan; otherwise, if we adopted a callous, selfish interest-centric line, international conspiracies, which were rife in the province, could play havoc there.
Senator Lashkari Raisani said Balochistan had never been a part of the Indian subcontinent. He said it was culturally and geographically a part of Afghanistan, Turkestan, and the Iranian plateau. He noted that it was in 1920 that the imperialists conspired to create a strip starting from Chitral all the way through Balochistan to counter the communist influence from Moscow.
Balochistan was a multidimensional, highly complex issue, he said. Decrying the trend among the rulers to blame Balochistan, the Baloch Sardars and the “separatists” for all of Pakistan’s ills, he said that it was neither the Baloch Sardars nor those who hoisted black flags atop their houses and other buildings on Pakistan’s Independence Day who had wrecked the most vital institution of the country, the railways.
It was the rulers, he said, who had been entrusted with the task of preserving institutions and assets by the electorate.
“The Baloch Sardars or the so-called separatists have not indebted Pakistan to the tune of 70 billion dollars to the international donors,” Senator Raisani said in an angry tone. “Are the Baloch Sardars creating trouble in Fata where so many innocent women and children are being killed?” he queried.
He said Balochistan was contributing 43 percent to Pakistan’s development. “Why then the bulldozing of houses and why the missing persons?”
“Who wrecked the most precious asset of the state, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)? the Baloch separatists, the Baloch Sardars, or the rulers?” he asked.
He said that the Balochistan crisis was one of ownership.
Another speaker, Nadir Leghari, bitterly deplored the “step-motherly” treatment that, he alleged, had been meted out to Balochistan. He said the Baloch had been totally deprived of education and healthcare.
The Baloch, he said, were totally ignored in public services and the only Baloch in the foreign service right now was a chauffeur at the Pakistan High Commission in London. It was this state of affairs, which had brought patriotism in Balochstan to its lowest ebb, he remarked.
Governance in the province, he said, was deteriorating fast each passing day. Successive Pakistani governments had totally neglected their duty of integrating the communities, he said.
Tahir Bizenjo said successive military and civilian leaderships had never bothered to delve deep into issues plaguing Balochistan. Blaming the erstwhile British rulers for the province’s deprivation, he said this policy continued up until 1972 but it was in that year that the National Awami Party (NAP) took over in Balochistan and it was then that the Bolan Medical College and the Balochistan University came into being. “And then, this government was unconstitutionally removed.”
Commenting on the recovered bodies, he said that most of them turned out to be those of middle class, highly educated people.
MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi said that in Balochistan, it was always “too little, too late”. He bitterly condemned the fact that Baloch dissidents were induced to come down from their hilltop hideouts on the most solemn of promises and once down they were hanged. He said the allocation of Rs120 billion for Balochistan in 12 years, which translated to 10 billion rupees a year, was just not enough.
Hasil Bizenjo lamented that only state-sponsored violence had brought the province into focus, and that there was no social uplift there. After five years of a military operation, he said, Pakistan government should have pondered over the problem more poignantly and devised a more acceptable and viable solution to issues. Sadiq Umrani, however, blamed all of Balochistan’s troubles on internal squabbling and personal interests of those that mattered, taking precedence over issues critical to the prosperity of the province. Shahnaz Ahad and Faazzil Jamili compered the programme.