If Pakistan calls itself a federation, then none of these issues could touch a raw nerve. Provincial autonomy on the basis of power-sharing is the bottom line without which no federation could prosper.
The region with its immeasurable energy resources could not be left alone to have its cake and eat it too. Pitching Balochistan, held together by a weak federation, as a warfare theatre thus came handy
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani enjoys the ‘immunity’ to say anything. He can argue, doubt and criticise the judiciary on its wisdom. He can defend his president even if the latter is on the wrong path. He can praise the constitution for providing immunity to the president, even if the nation has to lower its head on the conduct of its head of state. He could suggest implicating parliament on contempt of court charges over its defiance to protect the president under constitutional cover. The prime minister is on the loose to say and do anything for the president. Lately he spoke about his allegiance to the PPP and showered kudos on himself for the loyalty he had shown to the cause of the party all these years. In a similar fashion, he went on to suggest in his latest press conference in Lahore about holding a referendum in Balochistan. Previously, he had been generous enough to call the All Parties Conference to find a solution to the battered province. Now that we know that our prime minister could say anything to stretch the PPP’s rule, we should also be aware that he is not saying what could save the nation from coming apart in the wake of foreign aggression piled up on our eastern and western borders and in the midst of the insurgency stirred up by local and foreign elements in Balochistan.
What the prime minister does not know is that Balochistan is a complex issue that needs a simple political solution. Why on earth had this or any other government in the past been unable or reluctant to manage this affair? Looking at the demands of the leaders of Balochistan and of its people, the riddle needs no genius to solve it. Economic, political and cultural freedom makes sense. Resources generated from Balochistan should first serve the localities; that rings true. The royalty given by the Centre to the local Sardars (tribal chiefs) against resources generated in Balochistan and used across the country should be reinvested in locating and dispensing new resources in the province; that carries no nonsense about it either. Political participation, self-rule and respect of Baloch culture on ethnic grounds sound sane. Security arrangements given to the Baloch should include control over civil and armed forces and that draws potentially nothing odd against the government. All these demands, in fact, sound simple.
If Pakistan calls itself a federation, then none of these issues could touch a raw nerve. Provincial autonomy on the basis of power-sharing is the bottom line without which no federation could prosper. However, if the government becomes party to avarice in power-sharing and begins strengthening the hands of its enemies to fill its own coffers, then no strategy could help find a solution to the bloodshed forced on Balochistan. Interestingly, the more one reads about Balochistan and the insurgencies spread across its length and breadth, the more suspicious one becomes why Balochistan has been chosen to create anarchy within and without Pakistan. There were other areas in the region as well. No matter how hard one thinks, the answer that leaps to one’s mind hovers around typical ailments: lack of political will and lack of seriousness and unwillingness of the political leadership to connect to the nation as a whole. There always has been some disconnect between the ruling elite and the ruled. Both have lived on different agendas. The former have had personal interests superseding nationalism and the latter find nationalism the only source of respect and deliverance from the miseries heaped on them in the form of relentless inflation, spiritless institutions, corrupt governments and now war on terrorism. These are the facts our PM is not talking about.
The sore called Balochistan began festering soon after partition. As the US became the moderator of Pakistan’s economic matters and later, the feeder to the ever-bloating financial ambitions of its army, insurgencies in Balochistan became a regular feature to compound as Pakistan aged in years and maturity. Balochistan’s geopolitical position that binds it to Afghanistan and Iran through connecting borders, while giving support to China through Gwadar, could not have been more mouth-watering to the US in its quest for dominating the Central Asian countries of the Caspian region. The region with its immeasurable energy resources could not be left alone to have its cake and eat it too. Pitching Balochistan, held together by a weak federation, as a warfare theatre thus came handy.
Post-9/11, Afghanistan was bombed into the ‘Stone Age’. The objectives, to eliminate the al Qaeda leadership, dismantle al Qaeda’s military training camps and taper off the effects of the Taliban had been achieved in a matter of weeks. It, however, took the US eleven years to decide to leave the country. Amidst this long exhaustive war, with Indian ambitions anchored to every nook of Afghanistan, Balochistan defected into a new turmoil. The liberation forces of Balochistan dabbled more fiercely with the government in the Centre. In the meantime, the governments in Pakistan and its other ruling elite minted money in the name of the alliance on the war on terror. Instead of calling on the US to leave its bordering area once it was finished with its business, the toll was left to stretch with the result that dismembering Pakistan itself has become a topic of discussion in the US Congress. These are the facts our PM is not talking about.
Intriguingly, a resolution was tabled recently in the US Congress seeking Balochistan’s secession from Pakistan. The Human Rights Watch report on the inhuman conditions in Balochistan motivated the originator of this resolution to be as blunt as to ask for nothing short of separation. The matrix of the debate had missing persons, bullet-riddled bodies, underdevelopment, shrinking job quota and ethnic disparity layered across it. The punch line of the resolution blamed the security agencies, aided by the army, to be the game changer. The government of Pakistan had been quick to respond to this ‘crass’ piece of paper by issuing a number of actions to redress the grievances of the province. The latest being the idea of conducting a referendum in Balochistan. It seems that the prime minister has formed the habit of seeing things from the prism of the judiciary that has parked itself on the door of government. Balochistan, however, is a different ball game. The volatility of it could blow up in the face of the government if anything close to a referendum is called to determine the wishes of its people. Does the PM think or has he decided to get the referendum voted by the government puppets filling the Balochistan Assembly? If not, has he then rolled up his sleeves to get the thorn out once and for all? These are the facts our PM is not talking about.
The writer works in Business Plus and can be reached at [email protected]