ISLAMABAD: Describing the suicide attack by an educated woman on Chinese nationals in Karachi as a “new and dangerous trend”, the country’s mainstream and nationalist political parties on Wednesday asked the authorities concerned to take the incident as a “final wake-up call” and resolve the issue of missing persons at the earliest as a major confidence-building measure to end the sense of deprivation among the Baloch people.

Key political figures belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the National Party were unanimous in saying that the solution to Balochistan’s woes lies in political dialogue and not military operations.

Several political leaders also expressed their displeasure over the recent statement of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during his visit to Balochistan, where he had reportedly said he would raise the issue of missing persons with “powerful quarters”.

“Mr Sharif should not have uttered these words, as by doing so he has actually proved that there are some other quarters that are more powerful than the government,” said a senior politician now in the government. He then added that though the prime minister was right in saying so, he should not have at least said it publicly.

Mainstream political parties express concern over new trend in terrorist attacks on Chinese; call for recovery of missing persons

A female suicide bomber targeted a vehicle carrying faculty members of Karachi University’s Confucius Institute, killing three Chinese nationals and their local driver on Tuesday. The attack was later claimed by the banned Majeed Brigade of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which stated that this was the first time they had employed a female suicide bomber. The group also shared a photo of the bomber, referred to as Shari Baloch alias Bramsh.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain said the way forward, according to him, was to “stop treating Balochistan as a political plaything, frequently picking, choosing and changing favourites, end the shameful crime of missing persons, ensure benefits of development for local communities and end border harassment and corruption”.

He believed that Tuesday’s terrorist attack was not a normal one, as the involvement of an educated woman proved how deep the sense of alienation had been penetrated among the Baloch people. He stressed the need for continuing the local political process instead of controlling the province through remote control while sitting in Islamabad.

He said the missing persons’ issue must be resolved immediately. He questioned the utility of the commission on the missing persons and termed it a “joke” with the nation.

Mr Hussain said that after the Karachi incident, alarm bells should be ringing not in the government circles in Islamabad but in the “military establishment” as well.

The PML-N senator, who is also the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence, described the Karachi incident as a “monumental failure and breach of security.” He regretted that there were some 26 intelligence agencies operating in the country, but it seemed there was no coordination among them at all.

He said it was the same old story that the security warnings went unheeded and the system of security was outmoded and the end result was that “the terror groups can strike at will at a time and target of their choosing whether its Karachi, Dasu, Gwadar or anywhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”.

The senator also drew attention to the alleged harassment and corruption by the security officials deployed at the border. He said the Baloch people recently protested when the law enforcement agencies resorted to firing on the people who were accused of smuggling oil.

Similarly, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, in a statement, condemned the suicide attack within the precincts of the Karachi University, saying these attacks were aimed at destabilising the strategic relations between Pakistan and China.

“What is alarming is the fact that these terrorist organisations are recruiting women as suicide bombers, who belong to the educated middle class and have a family background of academics,” he said, adding that the state must realise the significance of this fault line.

“Extreme nationalism has permeated to such an extent that educated women are willing to lay down their lives,” Mr Rabbani said. “This means that the seeds of oppression, suppression, alienation and the sense of deprivation are so deep that it motivates violent reaction against the state and its strategic interests.”

The state, he said, must realise that the question of missing persons, particularly in Balochistan, was a mistrust of the state in the judicial system.

Mr Rabbani, who had previously served as the Senate chairman, said a national consensus of all political parties and stakeholders had to be achieved, as was done by the PPP when it announced the Aghaz-i-Haqooq Balochistan programme.

Meanwhile, National Party Punjab president Ayub Malik also urged the new federal government to take urgent steps to resolve the issue of enforced disappearances, as it was vital to restore permanent peace in Balochistan.

He said that in the past, the party’s president and former Balochistan chief minister, Abdul Malik, had initiated talks with the groups sittings abroad after consulting all the stakeholders and some of them were amenable to the idea of solving the problem through dialogue. He regretted that those talks were abruptly discontinued and insisted that the use of force or military action would only exacerbate the situation.

“Efforts should be made to solve the problem through political dialogue within the parameters of the Constitution,” he said but added that some confidence-building measures must be taken before that happens, such as the recovery of missing persons.

Talking to Dawn, a senior PML-N leader from Balochistan and a member of the party’s central working committee Sydaal Nasar disclosed that the woman who had carried out the suicide attack in Karachi had been sitting outside the Quetta Press Club for the past over four years, as many of her family members were among the missing persons.

The PML-N leader suggested that the gravity of the situation demanded that the country’s top political leadership, including the prime minister, should immediately reach Balochistan and stay in the province for at least two weeks.

During their stay, he said the leaders should hold talks with the Baloch people, including students, lawyers, labourers, traders, businessmen, fishermen and others, and listen to their grievances.

Mr Nasar was of the view that those sitting abroad should also be approached. He also suggested setting up a “powerful grand jirga” comprising elders of all the tribes to engage the dissidents. This jirga, he said, must be on the pattern of Shahi Jirga, which existed at the time of the partition of the subcontinent.

The PML-N leader said mere announcements of constructing roads and bridges would not resolve the issue. He said the policy of employing the people on daily wages should also be eliminated.

In a Twitter post, PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar said a new wave of repression against Baloch was feared as a result of a suicide attack in Karachi.

“It will be a disaster if, instead of reaching out and applying balm on wounds of Baloch, they are hounded. (The) state hasn’t yet recovered from Musharraf’s humiliation of Baloch people,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2022

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