LAHORE: Politicians representing small provinces were unanimous in deploring what they called undermining of the constitution by the powers that be, holding them responsible for almost all the ills they were faced with.
They were speaking at a session moderated by senior lawyer Salman Akram Raja at the Asma Jehangir Conference 2021.
Mr Raja opened the session by asking the panelists -- National Party president and former chief minister of Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik, PPP senator Taj Haider, former senator Afrasiab Khattak, Awami National Party’s Zahid Khan, rights and climate change activist from Gilgit Baltistan Baba Jan and president of Qaumi Awami Tehreek Ayaz Latif Palejo -- what ails there areas.
Replying to the question, Baba Jan lamented that the GB people had been voiceless for the last 70 years as they were deprived of the right to vote for the National Assembly. He said his area was being run from Islamabad, while its resources, especially minerals were being plundered by grabbing lands of locals.
He regretted there was no project for the GB in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). he urged the people of Punjab to stand for the rights of people of periphery who had been marginalised since long. He was of the view that only a socialists revolution could save the country.
Mr Palejo began with asking a rhetorical question on the behalf of Sindhi people: “Do we exist at all, or not.” He continued that the Sindhis were peaceful people who could neither pick arms against the state, nor block the roads by staging sit-ins, nor climb mountains with weapons.
He was of the view that because of this peace loving nature they were being exploited. He regretted that despite their commendable role for upholding the constitution, the judges from Sindh like Rana Bhagwan Das and Justice Sajjad Ali were not mentioned in the conference that tells a lot how the province was being discriminated against. He said a corrupt ruling class had been imposed on Sindh because it suited the powers that be as their ‘B Team’.
He said Sindh’s villages had been destroyed by commercial housing projects. Mr Palejo deplored Sindh was sidelined in the fight between the PTI and Nawaz Sharif.
Manzoor Pashteen of the Pushtun Tuhaffaz Movement (PTM), who received a big round of applause when invited to podium, said people of North Waziristan and Balochistan were being subjected to enforced disappearances and killed in fake encounters, and through systematic torture.
He regretted that a bill had been passed by the parliament for Indian spy Kalbhoshan Yadev, but the government is not ready to give justice to Ali Wazir. He lamented that despite having rich resources in their native area, his people had to find employment in big cities or Dubai.
MNA Mohsin Dawar from North Waziristan Agency blamed the federal constitutional structure for deprivations of small provinces. He said size of a province or its population did not matter, when it came to exploitation. He cited example of former East Pakistan, saying despite having 56pc population, Benaglis were deprived of their rights and finally had to quit.
He said Tehreek-i-Labbaik was being treated softly because establishment did not want to annoy Punjab, adding that was why TLP chief Saad Rizvi had been released from jail while Ali Wazir was still languishing.
Senator Taj Haider said all areas had participated in the struggle for Pakistan, but if certain nationalities felt they were being undermined it should be alarming for the state.
Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2021