Dawn News

There’s life after divorce

I trudged up the trail to the top of Chamcook Mountain a couple of days ago, and was pleased to see that I could still make it to the top without too much huffing and puffing. Let me hasten to add that technically speaking, Chamcook is not really a mountain as it’s only 637 feet high, so it doesn’t exactly need super fitness and ropes and pitons to climb up. But don’t tell the locals that their beloved Chamcook is only a hill.

Once you are up there on the peak, the views are magnificent, with the wide sweep of the St Croix River on one side, and Fundy Bay on the other. On a clear day, we can see the American state of Maine in the distance. New Brunswick is a verdant state on the east coast of Canada, and is home to only around 750,000 people. Driving along, there is hardly any traffic, and the sense of vast spaces is overwhelming.

Every two years, a friend lends us his lovely holiday home in the tiny town of St Andrews, and at night we can hear the tide rising swiftly in the bay. Often, we can see deer feeding placidly on the property. Canadians are a very civil people, and I am invariably greeted with a ‘hello’ or a ‘good morning’ by total strangers. If I am waiting to cross the street, drivers will often stop their cars and signal me to go ahead.

The place is so remote and cut off that the temptation to switch off the news from the rest of the world is great. But local papers are full of the coming elections in Quebec. This French-majority province has long been mired in a debate over independence, with many Quebecois clamouring for their own nation where they can govern without interference from Anglo-Saxon Ottawa.

However, this desire to separate from Canada is now largely confined to the older generation who tend to speak only French.

Younger people are usually bi-lingual, and often move to Toronto with its cosmopolitan character and greater opportunities.

Other Canadians cynically point out that Quebec is a deficit state subsidised by Ottawa, and profess to be pleased at the prospect of the French-speaking territory going its own way.

This debate is echoed to an extent in Britain where there is a campaign being waged by First Minister Salmond for an independent Scotland.

It already has its own parliament, but there is a growing demand for statehood. Many Scots argue that if they were to retain the revenues from the North Sea oil that is being brought up from its territorial waters, they would not need any subsidies from London.

The issue is highly contentious, with Salmond being accused of playing to the populist gallery. Currently, around a third of all Scots favour independence, and the Yes Scotland movement hopes to convert enough people to win the referendum scheduled in two years.

The point here is that in two countries, the discussion about the possible separation of member provinces is being conducted in a reasonable, rational way. No troops have been sent into Quebec or Scotland to crush separatists. Both countries realise that in this day and age, it’s not the end of the world if members of a union decide to go their own way. In other words, there is life after divorce.

In Pakistan, it seems we have learned no lessons from our disastrous failure to keep East Pakistan in the federation. Hundreds of thousands died in West Pakistan’s bloody attempt to save a failed marriage. We appear to be travelling the same route now in Balochistan.

I have met many people who point out to the large subsidies the province receives from Islamabad, but this misses the point: if enough Baloch feel they no longer wish to remain in the federation, it’s time to take them seriously and begin talking about alternatives. Sending in more troops is to increase their sense of alienation.

It is entirely possible that when offered independence, many Baloch might wish to reconsider their options. But clearly, endless force is no solution. Thus far, no mainstream political party has seriously engaged with the province and its problems other than offering vague apologies and promises. Successive federal governments have simply tried to buy off local sardars in the expectation that they will be able to keep their tribes in check, and maintain the status quo.

There has been much dark talk about foreign interference in Balochistan that is fuelling the separatist flames. While this is entirely possible, outsiders can only influence events if there is fertile soil to assist their efforts. In Balochistan, there has long been a nationalist streak that has been repeatedly suppressed by state violence.

As we can see in the Canadian and British examples, civilised dialogue and debate are far better options than force. Currently, our military response has led not just to great hardship among the Baloch, but has also precipitated counter-violence against peaceful non-Baloch settlers. Clearly, this bloodshed cannot be endlessly accepted, specially at a time when our armed forces are fighting a brutal insurgency in the tribal areas against extremist militants.

The difference between the Baloch situation and the debate over separatism in Canada and Britain is that in the latter two countries, it is the political leadership that has been conducting the discussion.

Needless to say, in Pakistan it is the army that is in charge, and soldiers tend to think that force is the answer to all political problems. They need only to recall the events of 1971 to see how misplaced their faith in their guns really is.

There are fears in Islamabad that deprived of gas from Balochistan’s Sui area, Pakistan’s energy problems would be exacerbated.

But Britain depends heavily on North Sea oil, and is not using this as an excuse to deny Scots their right to secede if the majority so decides two years from now.

In this day and age, people cannot be held down by force indefinitely. Like the Quebecois and the Scots, the Baloch should be allowed to decide their own future.

Comments (45) Closed

Aug 20, 2012 12:59pm
Dear Husssain bhai, when II read about divorce, I immediately oened your column, as my son was going through divorce, but then I found you are talking about countries divorce, which was also of interest, to me as I arrived in Canada at the wrong time when the Party seeking independenceI came to power and all my friends were leaving for TORONTO, but thank the Lord and Mr. MAH Ispahani, my previous employer, I was offered a job by the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa, and all has been well with me from then, HILARIO PINTO
Aug 20, 2012 10:45am
Excellent and thought provoking article.. I wonder how the Pak army will react to your suggestion; God forbid they charge you with treason...
Aug 20, 2012 02:16am
Logic ...!! never .....!
Aug 20, 2012 02:00am
My dear friend Irfan Husain -- you are even braver than the Baloch to write - "Baloch be allowed to decide their own future".
Aug 20, 2012 02:07am
Is this not a late column
Aug 20, 2012 12:56pm
You might as well right Azad kashmir right to be free of Paklstan, or SWAT to break off. What is it with journalists who cannot focus on writing about unity. What has Paksitan achieved after being split from India? Where is it going? - are we living in Jinnat's vision?
Agha Ata
Aug 20, 2012 02:39am
Simply beautiful.!
Dr Imran Ahmed
Aug 20, 2012 11:12am
This issue is being discussed dispassionately in the land of irrationality hence your viewpoint will never be understood.
J. Chaudry
Aug 20, 2012 01:14pm
Those who want to see Balochistan separation may be less than 3% of Pakistan’s population – trying to steal 43% of its landmass. Just as the US is anxious to build and maintain military bases in Afghanistan, it is naturally keen to see Balochistan’s severance from Pakistan to find direct route into the Caspian region via Gawader, Balochistan and Afghanistan. The examples of Scotland and Quebec have no similarity to Balochistan. I wonder how much money the writer received from CIA to write this hogwash. J. Chaudry
H. Being
Aug 20, 2012 01:35pm
How is this pertinent to the issue under discussion?
Aug 21, 2012 10:08am
That is tthe reason the army is under so much pressure. It shoots first and then wonders why people arent happy. It should learn the lessons of East Pakistan again. Force does not keep countries united
muhammad arif baloch
Aug 20, 2012 12:17pm
wonderful article the should be determine their own future.
Omar Chakarzai
Aug 20, 2012 12:14pm
Very true, but the problem with Pakistan is the politicans and parliament are powerless. It's a direct military rule, and it's vey difficult to make a military man to understand a political situation and go for a political solution.
Rani Sharma
Aug 20, 2012 11:37am
Before Partition both Baluchistan and NWFP had voted to stay with India. They should be allowed to rejoin India.
Aug 20, 2012 01:12pm
Very corragious and brave perspective - we have to give Baloch people an option to choose their destiny and should get rid of this bloodshed as Candians and British are giving Quebec and Scotland repectively.
Aug 21, 2012 01:51pm
wel, i believe in unity of Pakistan with the core of my heart, but y to be scared of Balochis that haaaaawww, if they get the chance to live with their own choice. and if they revolt, suppress them. u can dump the few but not all. are not all of us in Punjab, Sindh and KPK living with our own choices, if yes then it should be the choice of Balochis too. a fear, just beacuse the three provinces depend on the Balochistan's natural resources, harbor and a big land hails more than 43% of Pakistan and many other important factors. learn to accept Balochistan our real part, with providing them with all those freedoms which we enjoy in rest of the provinces. i think if they like to be separate, let them decide it with a political dialogue with the government, there can b many solutions to Balochistan's issue instead of Army issue. the own guns r good for security not for scaring. i think there won't be any need for separation as this won't help a new country "Balochistan" is anyway. so a right and just solution to it, taking Balochistan a province not a "land of weak minority". or there is also a solution in severe case, that if Balochis do not like to be with Pakistan, make the Balochistan a Pakistani colony, the government can make a contract with Balochistan to provide those facilities which it acquire to be stable and in reward Pakistan can still be with Balochistan. though its hurting to separate Balochistan from my Pakistan. i pray that Allah give us the perseverance to keep all the Pakistanis in unity.
Aug 21, 2012 01:50pm
There is no similarity between Scotland and Baluchistan people of Scotland are educated and can vote for themselves, there are no private jails in Scotland and they are not prevented from getting education. The oil from north sea benefits the whole uk and not one tribe lays claim on it. If a referendum is held tomorrow not a single soul is going to vote against the will of their sardars . I agree the article is a bit naive and perhaps a filler.
Aug 21, 2012 10:06am
Mr Chaudry should visit Baluchistan and talk to Baluchis. And if he has the time he should read the Hamoodur Rahman report and talk to Bengalis.
Abdul Rafay
Aug 20, 2012 04:42am
hahaha... funny article! you will be penalized of wasting my time...
Mian Zain
Aug 20, 2012 05:29am
Utter common sense really. You are right my friend. The politicians are incompetent AND do not care. We scream we scream we scream. They still sit in the parliaments. People like Rehman Malik run this country. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is our prime minister. Zardari is our president. Altaf has not returned to this country since more than a decade. I mean i've literally come to the point that i dont know where this is going. All i see is chaos and incompetence. Put me in room with all these executives and not bragging, i'll probably have more sensible, logical and result oriented arguments. why? simply cuz they do not give a rats ass about Pakistan.
Aug 20, 2012 05:48am
Irfan Sahib, you have conveniently overlooked the biggest difference between Pakistan/Baluchistan and the countries you mentioned. It is in their educational level, nay their I.Q. level. You can expect educated, sane people to talk their differences through, but cannot expect the same to occur in a nation of illiterates and uneducated... they will only degenerate into some sort of violence. Pakistan can only be salvaged through good and solid education and for it to come to fruition will take at least a generation if not the 60 years that have been wasted in travelling towards self destruction.
bilal anwer
Aug 20, 2012 07:04am
The examples of modern day Europe is inspirational but one should keep in mind that similar dynamics don't exist in other parts of the world, let alone Pakistan . The power of feudal system for once will not ensure a decision taken by individual balochs but rather by selected few whose sincerity for social development and freedom of entertaining difference of opinions is complete antithesis of our European people. Though force is a never considered a decisive means to draft a conclusion, it does start a basis for ensuring step towards diplomacy. The intention and will to create better future for balochs with a change in tone and whole hearted actions will win hearts. Hope this approach will see the dawn soon.
Aug 20, 2012 01:13pm
Mr. Irfan Hussain. I feel you have overlooked a major difference between those societies and ours. Just compare the literacy rates. I believe that before your inferences and ideas become applicable, it is crucial to bring education of an ordinary mindset of Pakistan to the same level as those societies.
Rehman Khattack
Aug 20, 2012 07:13am
Another indulgent holiday then. Sir you can not make value judgment about fate of the largest province of Pakistan whilst on a freebie holiday. Try visiting Quetta for a short break or any where else in Pakistan then we may take you point of you seriously. Do carry on enjoying the the luxuries that the first world offers you and let the people who live in their country to determine it's fate.
fida sayani
Aug 20, 2012 07:53am
Mr. Hussain I fully concur with your article. Baluch have right to decide their own future.
Aug 20, 2012 08:13am
a very naive article
Rehana Kanji
Aug 20, 2012 08:17am
excellent article.... liberals are quiet because their point would not make any difference to that so called Mr.swords.... because in their point of views they're representing Islam by determining on their set mindsets that who is Muslim or not..... unlike them if liberal would raise voices only the so called liberals will read, listen and make opinions....... this is what we're living in.
Rehana Kanji
Aug 20, 2012 08:21am
the above comment is wrongly posted to this article....
Gerry D'Cunha
Aug 20, 2012 08:54am
Your comments are so true and does make sense.
Aug 20, 2012 05:27pm
This is a very difficult article for the Pakistani rulers to understand. The real rulers only know the language of guns and the unreal ones are interested only in making money. They know how to exploit the nation and have no interest in the well being of the nation. Take note that Rehman Malik may looks busy but does nothing. What about law and order?Railway? PIA? Steel mill? Taliban? Mullahs? Eid on three different days? Target killings, etc. etc. etc.? When they changed the name of east Bengal to east Pakistan, and refused to accept that they were in the majority. Making west Pakistan one unit, they abolished the rights of Sindh, Baluchistan, and the frontier provinces. This forced them to give up their right to be different provinces. The end result was the creation of Bangladesh. At least Irfan Hussain has the courage to try and advise them, that it makes sense to act a bit civilized.
Aug 20, 2012 06:59pm
I think what Mr. Hussain is trying to say is Divided We Stand. United We Fall.
Aug 20, 2012 09:03pm
Mr.Irfan, why not write similar article about Karachi?
Afzal Khan
Aug 21, 2012 11:57am
Dear Brothers and Sisters country is going down the drain....the collective character of our nation is the root cause of all our ills....
Aug 20, 2012 10:13pm
Irfan Huassain, Since when Pakistan is in the category of high civalised nations like Canada or England.Pakistan has to go a long way to reach to the levels of said countries.As a matter of fact Canad or Egland has seen the same phase of history as that of Pakistan of today.Entire Baluchistan has a population less than Lahore city.Where as East Pakistan had population of eighty million with it's area half the size of Baluchistan and above all physically more than thousand kilometer apart from mainland. Regards.
H. Being
Aug 21, 2012 12:55pm
Please read Dr. Imran Ahmed's comment above. I think he had people like you in mind.
Aug 21, 2012 01:13am
mr ifran, i regulart read your articles with interest. you are the best journalist in south asia. keep up the good work.
Aug 21, 2012 06:09am
Army has better things to do than read worthless articles !!!!
Al Rodrigues
Aug 22, 2012 11:37am
How right you are!
I Ahmed
Aug 22, 2012 12:53pm
It is easy to write this sitting on Chamcook Mountain, once Mr. Hussain is down we will ask him again. There is huge difference in the analogy he has put forward. Firstly, we lost East Pakistan mainly because of ineptitude and insensitivity of 'government' of West Pakistan. Secondly, the Scotland and Quebec issue is happening in countries where political and social awareness is very high (they stop the car for you to cross the road!), and this has come from years of 'sensible' and 'caring' rulers - name one in 65 years we ever had? Scotland shunned away their feudal and tribal mentality long time ago, have we? Get rid of the chaudhry's and nawabs from the politics of Pakistan then talk about whether army is required or dialogue is required.
Rehman Khattack
Aug 21, 2012 08:28pm
Surely you mean this article is dispassionate and irrational. How can an eternal free loader be be passionate about a land and it's peaple?
Azaad Freeman
Aug 21, 2012 09:27pm
Chaudry saheb, come on!!! Pakistan is not that important to US and the world. There is no superiority in a route to Caspian through Gwader over other options. The day we understand this will be the day we can do REAL work on improving our situation. Pakistan has become a sad, dark place where religion breeds not love, but violence and dread, where minorities cower in fear, where the few terrorize the many. Pakistanis do not deserve this. Forget your silly Geopolitcal drivel.
Aug 22, 2012 12:54am
No they didn't. NWFP clearly voted for Pakistan in a referendum; one which the Red Shirts made their peace with. Baluchistan joined Pakistan in a council of tribal leaders. The Pakhtunistan movement is now dead in the water, and the Baloch insurgency is no stronger than the Moaism in YOUR country, which you might want to sort out first.
Aug 22, 2012 03:50am
Hey Dawn, What is the deal with this totalitarian censorship that you impose while, ironically, enjoying at the same time the absolute freedom of expression that allows you to publish in your newspaper anything and everything, no matter how absurd, such as this article? Not only do you almost NEVER allow critical comments but even a comment that exposes some loophole in the writer's "argument" (and, it goes without saying, I use that term loosely) never sees the light of the day! All the endless fawning comments to the effect of "You are the BEST in Asia," "BRILLIANT ANALYSIS" blah blah, at least some of which seem to be left by the writer himself/ Dawn's staff, while purging any comment that dares to disagree just make a mockery of your newspaper. I am afraid your standards are going down the drain, and if nothing is done to arrest this decline, hitherto fans of your newspaper like myself will have no choice but to stop reading it.
Aug 22, 2012 08:12am
Literacy is unfortunately often considered synonymous to intelligence. Alas, if only we could see that literacy has nothing to do with the freedom of the spirit, sense of justice and tolerance for the "other". We need to sit up and start thinking!
Aug 23, 2012 08:18am
'Army has better things to do' , e.g. killing fellow citizens.