Baloch-Pakhtun rivalry rears its head at CPEC meeting

Published May 29, 2015
Prime Minister  Nawaz Sharif chairs the All Parties Conference on China Pak Economic Corridor at PM House. — APP/file
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chairs the All Parties Conference on China Pak Economic Corridor at PM House. — APP/file

ISLAMABAD: Thursday’s all-parties conference (APC) was meant to smoothen over differences between the government and the rest of the political parties in parliament over the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC).

However, unwitting remarks by one of the participants took the discussion in an unexpected direction, as a debate on the decades-old issue of Balochistan’s Baloch population versus its Pakhtun population, reared its head again.

When National Party chief Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo was given the floor to express his concerns over the corridor, he took well over 20 minutes highlighting importance of the CPEC’s western route, which connects Khunjerab to Gwadar through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Read: Parties give go-ahead to China-Pak corridor

As other participants impatiently awaiting their turn to speak on the matter, Mr Bizenjo took many Pakhtun leaders, present in the meeting, by surprise when he, out of nowhere, asked the government to address the issue of Afghan refugees settled in Balochistan.

Mr Bizenjo wasn’t available for comment following the APC, but a participant of the meeting quoted him as saying, “I request the government to repatriate Afghans settled in Balochistan as they are disturbing the demographics of the province,” he said.

With more investment coming into Balochistan under the CPEC, “I fear more Pakhtuns will come to Balochistan in search of jobs, squeezing the Baloch population further,” Mr Bizenjo went on to say, adding that the issue of Afghan refugees and unregistered Pakhuns must be settled before the census, which the government has announced to hold next March.

Unable to contain himself, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai interjected and sarcastically took Mr Bizenjo to task. “By repatriating Pakhtuns to Afghanistan, you mean to say all of us Pakhtuns sitting in the meeting should also leave the country,” Mr Achakzai was quoted as asking the NP leader. “Asfandyar Wali Khan, Aftab Sherpao and Pervez Khattak all have their roots in Afghanistan. Wali Khan’s ancestors are buried there and there are many families who continue to live on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border. You want to send all of us to Afghanistan,” the incensed PkMAP leader asked.

This tirade had participants chuckling and left Mr Bizenjo stunned. Both PkMAP and NP are, in fact, coalition partners in the Balochistan ruling alliance.

Confirming the incident, PML-Q Senator Mushahid Hussain said the Baloch versus Pakhtun issue in Balochistan was an old one and reared its head at various forums. Recalling the proceedings of a sub-committee which he headed in 2005, he said, “Our committee suggested a parity (50-50) formula between Balochs and Pakhuns when it comes to distribution of resources and representation in assemblies.”

Last time when the Gwadar port came to the fore under General Pervez Musharraf, Balochs nationalists raised the issue and objected to non-Balochs coming to the area with heavy investment.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play

Opinion

What a tangled web

What a tangled web

So poorly kept is this secret about the opposition’s real hopes and no plans that even the government has figured it out.
Climate threat over South Asia
Updated 26 Oct 2021

Climate threat over South Asia

Water shortages, drought, floods or landslides and tsunamis are not constrained by national boundaries.
Losing heritage
26 Oct 2021

Losing heritage

It’s not a good idea to turn Mohatta into a college.
The long impasse
Updated 25 Oct 2021

The long impasse

Management of Pakistan-India tensions is likely to remain the main focus of sporadic backchannel efforts.

Editorial

26 Oct 2021

Perfect in every way

GLORIOUS. Gratifying. Liberating. Pakistan’s thumping victory over India in their opening fixture of the T20 World...
26 Oct 2021

Balochistan CM’s exit

ON Sunday, Jam Kamal Khan Alyani’s name was added to the long list of chief ministers of Balochistan who ...
Minister’s odd logic
26 Oct 2021

Minister’s odd logic

THE government’s contradictions and confusion appear to have no end when it comes to dealing with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan.
25 Oct 2021

Party to a vile campaign

THE PTI government’s hostility towards the media and its intolerance for dissent is well known. The target of ...
Financial crisis
Updated 25 Oct 2021

Financial crisis

DESPITE having progressed to ‘very good step’ and being ‘close to concluding the agreement’ a few days back,...
25 Oct 2021

Morals and Pemra

TIME and again, Pemra has come under fire for issuing arbitrary instructions to TV channels on matters ranging from...