The tides of political instability, national disintegration and socio-economic grievances that had resulted in the separation of East Pakistan are again assuming horrific proportions in view of the prevailing Balochistan crises.
On February 23, 2012, the grandson of Nawab Akbar Bugti (who was assassinated by General Parvez Musharraf’s regime in August 2006) and President of the Jamhoori Watan Party, Shahzian Bugti, announced eight point demands for negotiations with the Pakistan government: Retired General Pervez Musharraf should be arrested in the Akbar Bugti murder case. Military operation should be stopped and all forces should be withdrawn from Balochistan.
Controversial security posts should be abolished from Balochistan. The killing of innocent people should end. 13,000 missing persons of Balochistan should be traced. The role of intelligence agencies in Balochistan should come to a close. Any Baloch being prevented from returning to their homes by intelligence agencies should be allowed to go back, and The responsible officials of intelligence agencies who carried out the attack on Chief of Baloch Republican Party Barahmdagh Bugti’s sister and niece on January 31 in Karachi should be arrested.
I believe that all the Baloch leaders support these demands although many leaders such as Barahmdagh Bugti, another grandson who is now living in exile in Switzerland, are demanding full independence for Balochistan where a brutal military operation is underway against the nationalists. Home to seven million people, the province of Balochistan represents 43% of Pakistan’s land area. Mostly desert and mountain, it is rich in untapped resources: natural gas, uranium and possibly oil. Since 1948 ethnic Balochs have demanded greater autonomy and more control over revenues from their gas fields, and the Pakistani government has put down four insurgencies; the fifth and current rebellion started in 2003, led by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and other militant groups.
Human Rights Violations Grave human rights violations is a big issue in Balochistan that let to this month’s hearing in the US Congress and introduction of a resolution that called for the independence of Balochistan. A fact finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan visited Balochistan in May 2011 and confirmed the human rights violations and give credence to Shahzian Bugti’s demand. The HRCP fact-finding mission found the situation in Balochistan to be extremely precarious because, among other things: Agents of the state (read army), as well as the insurgents and extremists operating in the province share a common disregard for rights of the citizens. The insurgents have murdered settlers in targeted killings with impunity. There is strong evidence of involvement of the security forces in enforced disappearances and killings. FIRs registered against personnel of security agencies remain uninvestigated without exception. The police have not even managed to get an audience with the personnel of security forces accused of abducting the citizens, much less investigate them, and the courts have failed to ensure compliance with their orders.
Enforced disappearances continue to be reported from all parts of the province. Little headway has been made in ensuring the release of a large number of missing persons from unacknowledged custody of security agencies. In a new and worrying trend mutilated bodies of victims of enforced disappearance have started turning up by the roadside and in desolate places. These include several cases where witnesses had held agents of the state responsible for the disappearance. Not a single case has been investigated. All authority in the province seems to vest with the security forces (read army) which enjoy complete impunity.
Though an overwhelming majority of elected representatives in Balochistan are pro-Islamabad and the pro-federation political forces outnumber the ones demanding independence, it would be wrong to dismiss the Baloch nationalists and separatists as insignificant, according to Islamabad Policy Research Institute report on Balochistan. They have the capability to keep Balochistan unstable through political means and armed struggle. Acts of sabotage and targeted killings aim at keeping up the pressure on Islamabad to accede to the separatists’ demands.
According to Islamabad Policy Research Institute, the Indian consulate in Kandahar, a border town, provides a firm base to train, arm and dispatch militants across the border to undertake sabotage activities in Balochistan. Indian companies have been awarded contracts on various projects to link Kabul with Balochistan near Iranian border; and in the bargain it makes the job of RAW easier. The paramilitary force, the Frontier Corps, fighting militants has seized weapons and equipment that bear Indian marking from the possession of militants killed or captured during action. Adviser to Afghan government, Ehsanullah Aryanzai, in a statement disclosed that India was using Afghan soil to conduct across the border anti-Pakistan activities. [Islamabad Policy Research Institute report on Balochistan 2010]
Time is ripe that the grievances of Balochistan people should be addressed and Balochistan should be given provincial autonomy to ensure peace, harmony and co-operative co-existence in the country. If history has any lesson, the ruling elite in Pakistan should revisit the debacle of East Pakistan. History repeats itself because nobody listens or History repeats itself because the world doesn’t learn. The poet and philosopher George Santayana says: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
-The writer is the Executive Editor of the American Muslim Perspective (www.amperspective.com).