Balochistan: The Sc And The Media Dr Qaisar Rashid

If someone is interested to raise the issue of missing persons and target killings in Balochistan, the streets of Islamabad are made available to stage a sit-in and display banners but no corridor of power is available to listen to and resolve the matter

The force of disorder is powerful enough to instigate an order. The adage stands true nowhere else but in Pakistan. It was Advocate Hadi Shakeel Ahmed, President Balochistan High Court Bar Association, who filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court (SC) on the worsening law and order situation in Balochistan.

In response to that, on January 20, a three-member bench of the SC headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry showed its dissatisfaction on the report submitted by Amanullah Kanrani, Advocate General (AG) of Balochistan. The report was compiled by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on the law and order situation in the last three months. The court ordered to furnish the report in a paper book form on the next hearing on January 27. The court also declared that a lager bench would be constituted at the SC Quetta Registry to give the case a regular hearing as was done on the issue of target killings in Karachi.

It seems that things are finally moving in the direction called Balochistan. In the case of Pakistan, neither the executive nor the legislature but the judiciary is burdened with showing its concern on the worsening law and order situation in Balochistan and has been making efforts to improve it.

Earlier, on January 16, the AG presented a report on behalf of Balochistan’s chief secretary, which was also rejected. The report forwarded three types of argument: first, the law and order situation in Quetta was representative of the whole of Balochistan; secondly, the law and order situation in Quetta had improved; and thirdly, the law and order situation in Quetta was not as bad as in Karachi. Hence, no need of worrying about Balochistan. The point to regret is that if the government of Balochistan itself is bent on hiding the truth, what should the rest of Pakistan do for Balochistan?

In principle, the Balochistan Assembly should have shown its concern on the worsening law and order situation and should have taken measures to ameliorate the situation. Then there arises a question: should the Balochistan Assembly invite the military (or the FC) to help the administration or should it invite Baloch dissidents to speak out their mind and settle the issue? Obviously, it is the incapacity of the Balochistan Assembly to address the issue. This point leads to the next question: is the Balochistan Assembly powerful enough to debate the problem and come up with a solution?

The replies of Balochistan’s chief secretary show that he is interested to save his post only. His arguments are flawed to the level of ridicule. He reduced Balochistan to Quetta and then tried to compare Quetta with Karachi to paper over the matter. Fortunately, the court rejected the report for being a farce. The court’s decision to do a regular hearing at the SC Quetta Registry shows that the legislature of Balochistan is virtually dysfunctional.

On January 16, the court (a member of the bench, Justice Khilji Arif) also uttered the memorable words: “No one can live without a soul…and Balochistan is the soul of Pakistan.” One wishes if the media of Pakistan could also hear these words.

The media, especially the national electronic media, is discussing the matter of division of existing provinces (whether or not along ethnic lines) but it is disheartening to see that it is uninterested in raising the voice of the Baloch who are getting disillusioned with the federation. Perceivably, the entry of the multinational companies in Pakistan’s media sphere has modified media objectives and affected the thinking pattern of the media people. Today, the rating of a TV programme is an issue bigger than that of missing persons in Balochistan. Secondly, the economic survival of the anchorpersons and the producers takes precedence over the physical survival of the Baloch dissidents. Thirdly, perhaps, Balochistan is not an issue unless supported by multinational companies. That is, if the Baloch cannot buy biscuits and cannot eat burgers, why should such a programme be funded by giving advertisements? Similarly, for a meagre population of Balochistan, why should anchorpersons compromise their programmes’ rating? Of course, both the multinational companies and anchorpersons have to survive – whether or not the Baloch survive. Similarly, one can find just an occasional appearance of editorials and opinion articles on Balochistan in the national print media. Balochistan does not deserve a treatment of this sort.

The Baloch do not know that in Pakistan, issues more important than their issue are how to defend the NRO (on the part of the incumbent government) and how to prove the existence of a memo (on the part of the opposition). The best legal minds are available for these matters but not for the Baloch cause. Regrettably, the electronic media blows certain issues out of proportion and then feed on that – overlooking the real issues deciding the future of the country such as ones pertaining to Balochistan.

If someone is interested to raise the issue of missing persons and target killings in Balochistan, the streets of Islamabad are made available to stage a sit-in and display banners but no corridor of power is available to listen to and resolve the matter. That is how Balochistan is prejudiced against. Why lament the past, the present is equally lamentable while the future is foreseeable.

The messages of the Tunisian upheaval, which spurred the famous Arab Spring, are quite clear: the authoritarian mode of government is a failure; the masses cannot be silenced by oppression; citizens are not ready to compromise their social, political and economic rights even for the so-called ‘national interests’. The messages have implications for Pakistan.

The forthcoming court proceedings would be a chance for the Baloch to be heard through lawyers. The media will have no choice but to highlight and discuss the Balochistan issue. The Baloch should wear a smile.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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