ISLAMABAD, Jan 15: A group of eminent intellectuals and political activists has called for a halt to military operations in Balochistan and Waziristan, and revitalizing the parliament’s sovereign role to resolve the problems politically. Renowned poet Ahmad Faraz, National Workers Party president Abid Hasan Minto, writer and former diplomat Masood Mufti and former vice-chancellor of Quaid-i-Azam University Dr Kaneez Yusuf said in a joint statement issued at a press conference here on Sunday that in the medium term the role of the army should be curtailed to its basic and constitutional obligations of defending the borders of Pakistan.
They said the governance of the country should be handed over to the people through fair and free elections and the 1973 Constitution should be restored in its original form.
In the long term, they said, the Sardari system in Balochistan should be gradually replaced by a direct and democratic role of the people in that province.
They said the use of military force, instead of a political process, in Balochistan and Waziristan had resulted in loss of innocent lives.
That was alienating the patriotic population and making it resentful.
“The real issues are being confused in an unreal environment of violence, eliminating all chances of objective resolution of conflicts.
The existing credibility gap between the government and the people was widening to the level of open confrontation,” the intellectuals said.
They found a growing perception that the nation was not being properly informed of the real gravity of the situation. There was a general apprehension that a crisis like 1971 was fast developing, when obstinate mishandling of the situation had pushed the country to civil war and break-up.
They appealed to other writers, intellectuals, artists and the masses to raise their voice and register strong protests with the decision-makers against the current policies in Balochistan and Waziristan which, they said, were endangering the future of the federation and the country.
Ahmad Faraz rejected the government’s claims that it was providing good governance and said the government had failed to ensure peace in the country and provide justice to the masses. He lamented that while the government was seeking assistance for relief and reconstruction in the earthquake stricken areas, a colossal amount was being spent to purchase two VVIP planes for the prime minister.
Faraz accused President Gen Pervez Musharraf of violating his oath of defending the constitution and recalled that another general had dismissed the constitution as a mere bunch of papers.
Eminent constitutional expert and NWP chief Abid Hasan Minto described the situation as dangerous and said basic problems cannot be resolved through use of military might. He denounced the government for handing over Pakistani nationals to the United States without any judicial process.
Referring to the US air strikes on three houses in Bajaur, he said it was not for the first time that American missiles had landed in Pakistan.
“It is nothing but an assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan,” he asserted.
Even after the insertion of the 17th amendment, he said, the constitution was not operational.
Masood Mufti said the situation obtaining in Balochistan and Waziristan looked same as that he witnessed in Dhaka in 1971. The mindset of the rulers seemed to have not changed.
Dr Kaniz Yusuf called upon the people to struggle to secure their democratic rights. She criticized the government for relying on external powers for support, reminding that history bears testimony that they never helped Pakistan.