ISLAMABAD: The newly-formed struggling coalition government under Shehbaz Sharif on Monday received a jolt when members of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) boycotted the National Assembly proceedings over the alleged firing by the security forces on protesters in Chagai, saying it would be difficult for the party to be a part of the government if military operations continue in the province.
The issue was raised by Agha Hassan Baloch of the BNP-M after Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf allowed the members to speak on points of order as the house had no business to carry after disposal of the motion of offering thanks to President Dr Arif Alvi for his address to the joint sitting of parliament in September last year.
Perhaps finding themselves in hot waters after forming the government last week, PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja Asif suggested early elections in the country which, according to him, was the only way to save the country from bloodshed and a possible civil war.
“On April 16, a heart-wrenching incident happened at Chagai when the security forces opened fire on unarmed and oppressed Baloch people in which six persons were martyred and many others injured. As usual, the past attitude has not been abandoned. Today (Monday) again, the peaceful innocent Baloch protesters were fired upon resulting in more killings,” alleged Hassan Baloch while taking the floor as the first speaker of the day.
Khawaja Asif calls for early elections to save country from ‘civil war’
The BNP-M member regretted that the Baloch people had been the victim of extrajudicial killings since 1947 and this was happening even today.
“The cheapest thing available in the country right now is the blood of the Baloch people,” he said, adding that for the BNP-M, the Baloch people were more important than anything else.
“Why have the security forces been given too much powers? We condemn it and stage a walkout. How can we stay in the government in these conditions?” Mr Baloch said before leaving the house with other party members.
It was after nearly an hour that the speaker sent Ayaz Sadiq and some other MNAs from Balochistan to bring back the BNP-M members, but perhaps by that time, the protesting lawmakers had already left the Parliament House.
The issue of the ongoing operations and missing persons in Balochistan had also been raised by BNP-M chief Akhtar Mengal during his speech in the assembly on Saturday. Mr Mengal had even asked the prime minister to resolve the issue of missing persons before Eidul Fitr, which is just two weeks away.
In the absence of PM Sharif from the house, PML-N’s Khawaja Asif responded to the protesting BNP-M lawmakers, stating that the Balochistan issue had been there since the 1960s. He admitted that excesses had been committed with the people of Balochistan and agreements with them were violated.
“Our Balochistan province is bleeding,” he said, adding that it would not be justified to blame only one institution. Without naming anyone, the PML-N leader said that “institution is fulfilling its duties”.
The PML-N leader said terrorism was still there in Balochistan where army officers and personnel were being attacked and martyred. He said all the institutions needed to work together to resolve the issue.
Mr Asif was of the view that Balochistan was facing the present situation due to the failure of the politicians, particularly those from the province, to solve their problems politically. He said the Balochistan Assembly had not been playing its due role in this regard and the members of the assembly were not proving themselves as the people’s true representatives which was evident from the frequent changes of chief ministers in the province.
He also admitted that it was the mistake of the previous PML-N regime to change the government of Dr Abdul Malik in Balochistan and appoint its own chief minister.
“Shame to have such a government in a province of Pakistan,” he said, adding that if they wanted to see the armed forces and FC going back to the barracks then they would have to play their roles. He said when they abdicated their space for personal and short-term gains then there was no fault of the armed forces. “We owe it to Balochistan to find out a solution.”
The PML-N leader asked the BNP-M to use parliament considering it the last forum to resolve their issues and not to abandon it.
Talking about the prevailing political situation in the country, Khawaja Asif said the new coalition government should think about seeking fresh mandate of the people who should be given an opportunity evaluate the situation emerged in the last four years. He alleged that former prime minister Imran Khan was inciting the people for violence. He said they could also respond to the violence but they did not want to vitiate the atmosphere.
“Controlling price hike is a gigantic task before the new government…. it will be good to seek fresh mandate of the people as early as possible as there is a danger of civil war in the country,” said the PML-N leader. He warned that Pakistan could face a situation like that of Sri Lanka which had gone bankrupt.
“Elections must be held in any case. Even Iran held two elections during war [with Iraq],” he said.
The PML-N leader was of the view that parliament, judiciary, armed forces, media and bureaucrats would have to do something on a common platform for the sake of 220 million people of the country. “There is a need to heal the wounds, otherwise it will be too late and the situation could become irreversible,” he warned.
Rubina Irfan of the Balochistan Awami Party also spoke about the “excesses” being committed with the people of her province where, she said, the youth were jobless. She also expressed concern over the Chagai incident and regretted that the people of Balochistan did not even have roads, electricity and other facilities.
PTI dissident Noor Alam Khan asked the speaker to allocate them seats on the opposition benches. He hit out at Imran Khan for calling them turncoats and denied the charges of getting money for the regime change.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2022