A Mere Ritual Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The provincial government openly admits that they have no say in the affairs and the FC runs a parallel government in Balochistan

As expected, the new prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf stated, “I categorically declare that Balochistan issue is on my priority list and I have invited disgruntled Baloch leaders to start dialogue with the government to resolve the crisis at the earliest.” He also regretted that Balochistan remained on low priority in the past, and therefore, its progress remained very slow. Anyone unfamiliar with Pakistani state’s attitude and treatment of Baloch while listening to these pronouncements would think that an entirely new Baloch-friendly party and state apparatus had come into existence and the policy of systematic deprivation and organised violence against Baloch would end forthwith. Sadly, the reality is different. Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was at the helm for four years also belonged to the Pakistan People’s Party, and all through his term, even though he promised his burning desire to create a paradise for Baloch on earth, he presided over the worst human rights abuses against the Baloch. And it is not going to be any different during the new incumbent’s term.

This ritual of promises to solve Balochistan problems is a part of the inauguration ceremonies here, as essential as paying homage to Jinnah in Karachi, for the newly installed presidents and prime ministers. The promises of rivers of milk and honey to the state terrorism’s ravaged Baloch people remain lip service until the very end, because people’s rights and state exploitative interests are at complete odds. It is apparent that the state is interested in resources of Balochistan and not its people. Lukewarm and slipshod actions, if any at all, have always followed these promises and these are not going to pacify Baloch anger.

Disregarding Baloch sentiments, the incumbent said, “Withdrawal of army and deployment of Frontier Constabulary (FC) brought tangible results.” The Baloch who are mourning their more than 500 dead by abduction and dumping during last 18 months, and have been protesting for their thousands disappeared for full 830 days now outside press clubs, hold the FC and army responsible for these and yet he considers its contribution as positive. The next step then in commending the activities of the FC in Balochistan would be to nominate it officially as a candidate for this year’s Nobel Peace prize.

Different heads of law-enforcement agencies in the prime minister’s meeting on Balochistan when asked about missing persons complained against unnamed elements’ attempts to malign and bring them into disrepute. The meeting decided to put up a strong legal team to defend the agencies’ role there, which, in reality means according them more impunity for their atrocities. Remarkably, these agencies have not yet apprehended a single culprit of the sectarian terror in Balochistan, though they seem adept at finding out Baloch who are supporting their brothers fighting for their inalienable right to life of dignity and freedom. At this meeting, however, quite surprisingly, Rs one billion were allocated for the internally displaced persons of Dera Bugti, thereby officially acknowledging the existence of IDPs, tacitly admitting that military operations severe enough to displace a large number of people did take place.

The civilian government in both Islamabad and Quetta are nothing more than a cipher in Balochistan; they stand in awe of the authority wielded by army in Balochistan and meekly submit to it in all sectors of governance. Consequently, there is nothing much that a politician could do, even if he wanted to, to roll back the organised and systematic oppression that has been the hallmark of Pakistani policy and attitude towards Baloch. The fact is that except for empty promises there is nothing else that this hapless prime minister can do because he too like all others before him bow to the wishes of the army, which dictates the orientation of policies and thrust on what should and should not happen in Balochistan. It is the army that organises even minor things like pet-shows in Quetta, proving that civilians are superfluous and redundant. The provincial government openly admits that they have no say in the affairs and the FC runs a parallel government in Balochistan.

Governor Zulfiqar Magsi recently whined about neglect at hands of the federation; he lamented the federation’s denial of due rights to Balochistan and warned that such policies would make it difficult for people there to adopt moderate ways of mounting protests. He overlooked the fact that people are already doing just that and that the federation in reprisal had launched a systematic ‘dirty war’ against them. Unfortunately, all he and the chief minister are interested in is the release of funds and do nothing about the organised assault on the rights and resources of Baloch people. Unconcerned about the problems that Baloch already face due to the unnecessary and inordinate presence of the FC, army, the coastguards etc, which results in harassment and travails for people, the pathetic Balochistan government has demanded deployment of 30 platoons of the FC to protect NATO vehicles’ Hub to Chamman movement.

Words cannot act as salve and balm for the real wounds inflicted by numerous military operations and active discrimination against Baloch people. The hollow, oft-repeated offers of talks have no credence and neither does the forming of commissions on missing persons have any palliative effect on the inflamed Baloch feelings at the atrocities that have been perpetrated in the name of ‘national interest’. The unaddressed demands and grievances have forced the Baloch to actively oppose the injustices and seek redress with all means at their disposal.

The US abolitionist, Frederick Douglass’s (1817 -1895) quote indisputably sums up the present situation in Balochistan. “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Those who demand rights in Balochistan are terrorised with abductions and killings. With the increase in repression, naturally the distrust and scepticism have increased by leaps and bounds. Yet, oddly the rulers, both at Islamabad and Quetta, fail to understand that the Baloch antagonism after shedding of so much innocent blood has now justifiably become intractable and reconciliation on the terms that the Pakistani state has in mind is well nigh impossible. Apparently, peace is not coming to Balochistan anytime soon.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at [email protected]

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