Balochistan and hollow promises

Prime Minister GilaniAt the passing out parade of recruits for the Pakistan Army belonging to Balochistan, Prime Minister Gilani urged the Baloch insurgents to shun violence in order to bring peace to the restive province.

“Those who do not want peace to prevail in the province would repent at the end as they are causing a huge loss to their own people,” warned the prime minister. Mr Gilani said that the induction of Baloch youth in the armed forces would strengthen the defence capabilities of the armed forces, ironically the same armed forces that are accused of spreading terror in the name of ‘national interest’ in Balochistan. More than 200 dead bodies of missing persons have been found in Balochistan during the last 14 months. This is a pattern that has increased in frequency as mutilated, bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch nationalists are found from different areas of the province every other day.

Even if we accept Mr Gilani’s argument at face value that the prosperity of Balochistan is linked to non-violence, why is the prime minister only urging the insurgents to lay down arms but not asking the state authorities to shun violence? The Baloch believe that the Frontier Corps (FC) is responsible for thousands of missing persons in the province and the deaths of hundreds of Baloch activists. The federal government’s approach to resolving the conflict in Balochistan is not viable. Unless and until the government convinces the security establishment to stop the ongoing military operation in Balochistan, all developmental ‘packages’ offered to the Baloch by the Pakistani state would just be a façade and nothing more. This has to be a two-way street. The government cannot expect the Baloch to remain ‘peaceful’ while the FC and intelligence agencies wreak havoc in Balochistan.

So-called development will not produce any results unless the government goes down a very different path than the one it is treading right now.The PPP-led coalition government has been making noises over the last three years that it wants reconciliation with the dissident Baloch leaders and is ready to hold talks with them. So far, there is no indication of any steps being taken to get in touch with the Baloch leaders, either in Pakistan or those living in exile. There is an inherent contradiction in Mr Gilani’s statements. On the one hand Prime Minister Gilani talked about reconciliation with the Baloch but on the other he mentioned a ‘foreign hand’ helping the Baloch insurgents. Pakistan has failed to provide even a shred of evidence to prove its allegations of the ubiquitous ‘foreign hand’ destabilising Balochistan.

Many human rights organisations, be they local or international, have pointed out the atrocities being committed by Pakistan’s military in Balochistan. Instead of adopting an ostrich-like approach when these things are pointed out by all and sundry, the government should assert itself and ensure that it does not continue to follow in the footsteps of General Musharraf’s repressive policies towards the Baloch. It is unfortunate that under a democratic dispensation’s watch, such atrocities are being committed in Balochistan.

The reason why Baloch nationalists boycotted the recently held All-Parties Conference (APC) should have made it obvious to the government that development packages cannot replace serious political negotiations with the dissident Baloch leadership. Committing acts of barbarity against the Baloch is not just unjust but downright disgusting. The only way to avert a disaster in Balochistan is by reaching out to the Baloch and redressing their grievances. – Dailytimes