Balochistan crisis

Balochistan crisis

The families of the Hazara Shias killed in the bomb blasts in Quetta have been sitting in protest in freezing weather for the last three days.

Their demands are that the Balochistan government be replaced by Governor’s rule, the city be handed over to the military, and the perpetrators of these atrocities be brought to justice. They are adamant that until their demands are met, they will neither disperse nor bury the 87 bodies they have placed in the street in the middle of their sit-in. Although they have reposed their faith in the army as the only force capable of protecting them and bringing the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi self-confessed murderers to justice, some amongst them have angrily demanded to know what COAS General Kayani has done with the three years extension he got from the government.

The sight of men, women and children sitting in freezing, wet weather with the dead bodies of their loved ones lying unburied under the pouring skies has shaken the country. Protests in solidarity with the Shias being subjected to a virtual genocide have broken out all over the country, from north to south. Highways have been blocked, at least one case of blocking the railway near Lahore has been reported, strikes called and shutdowns in a number of cities in evidence. While the protestors freeze, it appears the authorities’ hearts melted at least to the extent of a flurry of sudden activity to somehow try and defuse the protest. PPP federal minister Khursheed Shah was dispatched to Quetta to negotiate an end to the sit-in with the Quetta protestors.

However, since he threw up his hands to say the government could not give in to their demands, the protestors could not be persuaded to end their sit-in. He was followed by a posse of federal ministers and finally the Prime Minister (PM) himself. The President is said to be following the situation closely. The PM has ordered Chief Minister (CM) Aslam Raisani to return from Dubai (he is expected today). The government has ordered police powers to be given to the Frontier Corps (FC), announced compensation for the victims, and ordered a special air force plane to take the injured to Karachi for treatment. However, it appears the government is reluctant or unable to impose Governor’s rule, which according to the Balochistan Advocate General, can only be imposed at the request of the CM or if the provincial assembly passes a resolution to this effect.

Failing these, parliament can take up the matter. The government appears reluctant to hand over Quetta to the army, fearing this could be the thin edge of the wedge of ‘third force’ intervention, based on past experience. Hence the resort to the FC. However, it is common knowledge that the FC is the most hated force in the province because accusations of following a ‘kill and dump’ policy have been laid at its door and even endorsed by the Supreme Court (SC).

The SC’s strictures against the Balochistan government have been vindicated by these latest developments and all Aslam Raisani’s manoeuvrings in the Assembly to remove the Speaker and garner a vote of confidence seem to have been washed away in the cold rain pelting down on the participants of the sit-in on Alamdar Road, Quetta. The only other option open to the government could be an in-house change of bringing in another CM from within the PPP ranks, but it is not certain at this stage whether that would satisfy the protestors and help defuse the crisis, especially since the miseries of the Hazaras are by no means at an end.

On Saturday, two more were killed in Quetta by a bomb blast and targeted shooting.Since the last four years, 900 Hazaras have been killed and thousands injured in Balochistan, according to Hazara Democratic Party leader Abdul Khaliq, who is on a three day hunger strike along with his supporters in front of the provincial police chief’s office. The desperate community has finally decided to take things in its own hands. The support it has received from across the political spectrum and citizens all over the country is heartening.

However, it would be even better if people all across the country spared a thought for the Baloch being killed and dumped allover the province by the security forces. With whatever new dispensation being introduced in Quetta, while it must deal with the terrorist bloodbath, it may also be afforded an opportunity open channels of negotiation with the Baloch nationalist insurgents to bring a just peace to the troubled province. – DailyTimes