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Will Gen Bajwa walk the talk?


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IN one of the most noticeable statements from the country’s military leadership, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa has proposed that a “people-centric approach based on local ownership” should be adopted as far as securing the “ongoing developmental activity and future trade” in Balochistan under CPEC is concerned.

The army chief also acknowledged that the province has been ‘unfortunately’ neglected in the past for a host of reasons but said that was not the case anymore. Gen Bajwa’s thoughts, shared with an audience in Khuzdar, are significant, given that the army has been the senior partner in the running of state policies, including security affairs, in the province for a number of years now.

If the army chief is prepared to walk the talk and if the government, with a new dispensation at the helm of the army and its intelligence set-up which isn’t hostile to it, feels empowered now to seize the initiative and roll out policy measures aimed at assuaging the pain of the Baloch, a new beginning can be made.

The army chief’s proposal for a people-centric approach to Balochistan is significant.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is supposed to bring in direly needed investment to the resource-starved ramshackle infrastructure of the country to boost growth in the economy, and eventually deliver its fruit to the people of Pakistan in the shape of more job opportunities, better standard of living etc.

Therefore, if many voices that represent the Baloch people are expressing concern at the prospect of being marginalised and overwhelmed by the influx of the non-Baloch as CPEC takes concrete shape, then these concerns need to be looked at and addressed.

That is why Gen Bajwa’s view that a people-centric approach and local ownership is needed to realise the benefits of the huge investment in infrastructure and the resultant trade appears significant.

Just as the government, after making CPEC controversial among the three smaller provinces and almost alienating them, decided to include the chief ministers of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in last month’s Beijing meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee to very positive effect, it should take the initiative to invite all significant voices expressing concern in Balochistan to sit around the table and address their misgivings.

One can understand the security establishment’s discomfort with leaders such as Brahmdagh Bugti who have now chosen to seek India’s help, which the Pakistani authorities believe is involved in fomenting violence in the province.

At the same time, there are many, many Baloch leaders (and I am happy to talk specifics should someone be interested) who are still struggling for the rights of their people within the ambit of democratic conduct and the federation. These voices must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to become despondent.

Side by side with such a move possibly by the government, the military, for its part, needs to debate within the institution how far it is prepared to go to repair the damage done to national cohesion by the utterly mindless, roughshod policies pursued by some of its past leaders.

The chain of events leading up to the transformation of Nawab Akbar Bugti, until then one of the iconic pro-Pakistan and pro-establishment figures in the province, into a rebel who took to the mountains and was killed fighting the military, are an abject lesson in how not to handle the Baloch and Balochistan.

Even after his killing, no attempt was made to apply the healing touch to the province and its poor yet proud people. Well before Indian involvement exacerbated the situation, the man described by his own army colleagues as near-psychopathic, one Maj-Gen Nadeem Ijaz, Musharraf’s DG MI unleashed a reign of terror in Balochistan.

Apart from his proximity to his relative Musharraf, there was no apparent reason why Military Intelligence was given the lead role in Balochistan areas traditionally seen as the responsibility of the Inter-Services Intelligence.

The idea here is not to dwell too much on the tragic, bloody past and a still uncertain present but merely to illustrate what may be needed to undo the damage done by callous state policies over the past decade and some.

I have repeatedly written about the disastrous policies of use of non-state actors, most notably sectarian elements, to curb those seen as separatists. The province is still reeling in the aftermath of that policy as characters such as Shafique Mengal are now openly identifying themselves with Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami and attacking the state itself.

If one wasn’t aware of all the sensitivities and sensibilities in the country and the institutions, it would have been easy to propose a general amnesty, and then a truth and reconciliation commission on the lines of the successful South African model headed by someone of the stature of Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

But no, it won’t work. We have no tradition of such openness and many of those who have wielded power of life and death over fellow Pakistanis, and exercised it once too often, would obviously not like to be identified as most of their actions were from the comfort of obscurity.

One hopes that the next time the prime minister, the army chief and the intelligence bosses sit down to discuss security issues they also have Balochistan on the agenda. I have had the privilege of having travelled in the beautiful province, falling in love with it and having many of its proud sons as friends.

If a foreign hand is indeed actually involved in fanning unrest, an iron-fisted security policy on its own won’t be enough. It rarely ever is. While those who remain hell-bent on breaking the law need to have the book thrown at them (not snatched, shot and dumped), the rest need to see a sincere hand extended to them. This is not rocket science.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2017

Author Image
Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.

He tweets @abbasnasir59.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (27) Closed

Gazaal Jan 07, 2017 01:13am

Senior partner need to become junior partner for any normalcy to return and let local government handle local issues. Senior partner only knows the language of gun and that is not the solution but problem itself.

Feroz Jan 07, 2017 02:23am

Excellent write up on what needs to be done to bring peace to Baluchistan. So far history has shown that the government has always voiced pious intentions but its actions have only bred additional discontentment. Bringing migrants from other provinces to Baluchistan in an effort to change the demographics there is only fanning discontent and resentment. Such strategies cannot and will not bring peace.

Salaman Jan 07, 2017 03:42am

When a sagacious, sincere and a patriot writes for his people one has no other choice but to endorse him at least for most of his sentiments and assertions.

Thank you, Mr. Nasir!

Given to Balochistan's largest size and scarce population, provincial government may want to allocate an at least 200 yard Plot each to a Baloch family for FREE.

As for 'Fishermen of Gawader Port' a well planned residential area (Not a Slum) with wide roads (Not wide enough roads), schools, hospitals needs to be built within Five miles from it and connected by a Bus Service.

Federal government may want to offer an one time 'Economic Package' to the poor Baloch of Balochistan.

Let The Healing Of Balochistan Begin!

Pakistan Zinda Baad!

ilyas khan Jan 07, 2017 06:33am

As a first step, the former states of Kalat, Makran, Kharan and Lasbela should be resurrected and their Khans, Nawabs, and Jams restored to the Gaddis. The Gwadar area , purchased from Muscut Oman by Pakistan, should be declared Federal Territory. Tribal reserve territories of Murri, Bugti, Jhalawan, etc should be established with the Sardars in power. The remaining old British Balochistan should be restored to its old name as Sewestan and Quetta should remain its capital. Then lets see how happy the locals are.

mazhar memon Jan 07, 2017 06:41am

If i were to describe voice of reason , writers has spoken with that voice, however our establishment is supposed to know more then we civilians do, one could have taken their opinion as voice coming from heavens but when it comes to deal with serious issues which are impending the real integration of peoples living in different provinces of Pakistan, we have observed not only failures but worsening situation. seriously and honestly pondering on some of the suggestions here and implementing those will create social and political space where further negotiations could be continued to bring about long lasting changes in situation in Baluchistan. However we can only hope that will happen, mean while people like myself who care about Pakistan will hold their heart in their hands and wait for miracles to make Pakistan a well integrated, prosperous and thriving country with its multiple ethnic groups, religions and traditions.

MALEEHA Jan 07, 2017 10:16am

We need maximum social development plans for Baluchistan.

Hope. Jan 07, 2017 10:24am

Baloch, the beautiful patriotic people, should know Pakistan loves them, they should be provided all modern day comforts, also an iron fist should be used to crush the militants and there supporters in Pakistan's eastern and western neighbors.

SHAH HUSSAIN Jan 07, 2017 12:55pm

Balochistan is a large province representing 42% of Pakistan's landmass. The population density is vety low with tiny pockets sprinkled in the vast expanse of the province.This creates problems for service delivery in social sector where ADPs and PSDPs rollout are promarily rooted in pipulation considerations.

Tariq Rashid Jan 07, 2017 01:47pm

We are here with all sorts of resources at hand to help Balochistan to get to mainstreams and align with the progress being made in the country in every sphere of life. We will at any cost ensure and to not allow the enemy to be successful in its nefarious designs and our baloch brothers are hand and gloves with us...

Waqas Jan 07, 2017 04:54pm

@ilyas khan Yes let's go back to good old feudal/nawabi system and then complain a few years later why the people are still poor and near slaves of these same sardars/nawabs.

Muzaffar Ali Jan 07, 2017 05:03pm

Excellent indeed Mr Abbas Nasir. This article also shows the interest of this paper in promoting peace and harmony in Baluchistan.

Gen Bajwa be the man you meant to be and bring peace and harmony in Baluchistan.

Dr.Shamir Baloch Jan 07, 2017 05:32pm

Thanks Abbas Nasir ,for your incessant love for the land and people of Baluchistan and also highlighting their legitimate demands through your writings ,who only wants self autonomy to run their affairs and safeguarding of their demography of their people within the constitutional boundary of Pakistan.

Irfan Husain Jan 07, 2017 05:42pm

A very sensitive take on the tragedy of Balochistan. I hope somebody's listening.

Khan USA Jan 07, 2017 07:26pm

Everyone is interested in ruling the country and not the people . They want to save every inch of the country at the cost of every person in the country . East Pakistan , then Baluchistan and now Karachi are the examples of our state of mind . We need co control over resources, money and power to increase our personal wealth and agenda .

sikander khan Jan 07, 2017 07:36pm

If COAS is intended to take initiative over the most burning issue which is not being portray and if he succeeds so it will not be forgotten ever and like general Raheel who gather much respect for rooting out terror, I am sure General Bajwa will be in eyes for resolving this flaming issue and he has the position the very position can change it neither anyone else

Safdar Jang Jan 07, 2017 07:41pm

Agree about your statements particularly regarding lack of concerted efforts to heel the process in the post Bugti murder period. There was also a feeling among some quarters that Nadeem Ijaz should have been brought to justice. It is a fact that some are above law if they are high-ups in socio-political circles or related to the mighty.

Imran ali Jan 07, 2017 08:57pm

This statement is only for media consumption..give full power to L.B and political rights to people of Karachi and Balochistan

Abraham Haque Jan 07, 2017 09:43pm

@Imran ali you got it brother

IBN E ASHFAQUE Jan 07, 2017 09:44pm

Gen Bajwa’s view that a people-centric approach and local ownership is needed to realise the benefits of the huge investment in infrastructure and the resultant trade appears significant. Can he solve the MISSING PERSONS issue..........these persons at least should be in contact with their families..........the STATE may detain or curb the freedom of miscreants as per law.

PR MAN Jan 07, 2017 10:32pm

The writer has correctly raised the issues of national importance. However, he should address these issues to civilian administrations; not encourage the military establishment to set the political agenda.

Muzaffar Ali Jan 07, 2017 10:52pm

Excellent title........Walk the Talk....

Many talk but very few mean what they say.

Time will tell how credible the talk is.

Ayub Jan 07, 2017 11:35pm

A good approach to tackle the feelings of deprivation amongst Baloch youths.

Riaz Ahmad Jan 08, 2017 12:34am

Just as the government, after making CPEC controversial among the three smaller provinces and almost alienating them, decided to include the chief ministers of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in last month’s Beijing meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee to very positive effect............... It was on the insistence of the Chinese, iniciated and forced by the Chinese on NS and his government, following the visit of the Chinese ambassador to IK's Islamabad residence to liston to his parties concerns. He conveyed the concerns of all the provinces short changed by PML-N mafia government.

Muzaffar Ali Jan 08, 2017 12:39am

Everyone talks.....

Follow through?

xyz Jan 08, 2017 03:14am

@Hope. Yes, Bloach are patriotic. They need development. Govt must invest heavily to improve infrastructure, jobs, manufacturing units, education and health facility. At the same time, govt must focus on developing all the regions of the country in a balanced way. Patience and preservance is the need of the hour. I feel Pakistan is entering into era of abundance. How far people take advantage of this situation, its up to them. Many thanks to CPEC and other allaiances with central asian and european countries.

Ali hassan Jan 09, 2017 07:52am

@Irfan Husain O yes. People are listening and silently working as well. Study the handling and managing of Chamalang mines. U will come to know about people who are actually working ...

Roshan Jan 09, 2017 04:59pm

Balochistan needs to be taken care of , we cannot progress without creating a peaceful environment in Balochistan