Rhetoric & optics

Published March 18, 2018

THERE was a time when governors were imported in Balochistan. Miangul Aurangzeb and Owais Ahmed Ghani, just to name two. A repugnant example of political expediency. This rightly enraged the Baloch. Thankfully, this counterproductive practice was discontinued. However, if one can ask, have the ‘Baloch’, an inclusive term denoting all inhabitants who display both a sense of ownership and duty towards Balochistan, felt less deprived by appointment of governors hailing from Balochistan? Beyond rhetoric and optics that is.

From the PPP tongue-twister ‘Aghaz Haqooq-i-Balochistan Package’ to the on-again, off-again talks prospects with ‘disgruntled’ Baloch leaders, to Foreign Office fulminations against the ‘Free Balochistan’ ad campaigns in Europe, what ground realities have changed in Balochistan to act as a balm to the frayed Baloch nerves?

The recent spectacle involving first the Senate election and then the election for its chairman too unfolded because those whose existence is intrinsically attached to peddling this mantra of ‘addressing Balochistan’s sense of deprivation’, know no better. Such cosmetic approach is akin to insulting the collective Baloch conscience, the most historically aware and injured in the country, lest we forget.

Let us ask the Baloch if having the same number of seats in the Senate as Punjab has provided even a vague sense of equality, leave alone any material succour to them. How will then Mr Sanjrani’s election as chairman Senate ameliorate any hardship that the Baloch face in their everyday lives? Will the terrorists stop targeting the Hazara community because a Baloch is heading the Senate? Or will they continue to be further marginalised even within the ghetto of Quetta’s Hazara Town. Not everyone wants to or can migrate to Canada and Australia.

How will Sanjrani’s election lessen Baloch woes?

Will Mama Qadeer continue to traverse across Pakistan on foot, protesting the forced disappearances, or will the deep state release all missing persons because Mr Sanjrani from Balochistan is chairman Senate now? Will the so-called Ferraris climb down from the hills and lay down their ‘Indian-origin weapons’ in deference to Mr Sanjrani? Or will the small little sardars continue to present bands of peasants as repentant insurgents in photo ops to curry favour with the establishment?

Will Brahmdagh Bugti, Harbyar Marri and Mir Suleman of Kalat return to Pakistan from their European perches because we have a Baloch chairman of the Senate now? Can the Reko Diq investment be brought back and will the Tethyan Company forego the fine against breach of contract and the resultant losses it incurred, well you have guessed it, because Mr Sanjrani presides over the Senate now?

Will anyone listen to Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s lament about the British Balo­ch­istan and the aspirations of the Pakhtun belt because Mr Sanjrani now heads the upper house of parliament? Or will Mr Achakzai continue to be suspected of espousing a foreign agenda because he wants us to respect Afghanistan’s right to be an independent, sovereign country, free to choose its friends and system of governance.

Mr Sanjrani may be a thorough gentleman, a competent professional dedicated to Pakistan’s progress, particularly that of Balochistan. We all wish him well. We must ask though how can a product of the rhetoric and optics brigade who has never been elected to any legislative office before, eradicate the sense of deprivation among the Baloch, and people from other smaller provinces? This, when seasoned and battle-hardened campaigners like Raza Rabbani had to vote for legislation that is an antithesis of democratic polity, albeit in a tear-jerking manner. This, when the party without any seat in Balochistan’s provincial assembly gets half a dozen Senate seats from there. This, when a ruling coalition had to surrender the provincial government to someone who got elected to the Balochistan Assembly with little more than 500 votes in 2013 general elections.

Voices calling for abandoning the indirect election of senators through their respective provincial and national electoral colleges in favour of direct elections through popular vote to make it ‘more representative of the federation’ must first consider the role they want to ascribe to the upper house. A legislative body cannot be a mere debating club, an illusionist’s stage, or a point-scoring playground for inflated egos of superstars, supreme leaders, super heavies, and supermen who, ahem, are also referred to as ‘men at their best’.

One cannot travel through Pakistan’s hinterlands without coming across terms like ‘half-fried’ and ‘full-fried’ with reference to how the twin menaces of road robberies and kidnappings for ransom were dealt with by the law-enforcement agencies. The former stands for a bullet to the knees, and the latter for death during encounter. In that violent vein, what we have now of the democratic project is scrambled eggs.

In conclusion, one would also like to commiserate with Hasil for the last-minute hiccup in his shoulder promotion.

The writer is a poet and analyst.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2018

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