PM Kakar ‘loses his cool’ over Baloch protests in capital

Published January 2, 2024
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar addresses a press conference in Lahore on Monday. — PID
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar addresses a press conference in Lahore on Monday. — PID

LAHORE: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Monday took exception to the support lent to Baloch protesters, who have been staging a sit-in in Islamabad for more than a week for the recovery of their loved ones and extra-judicial killings in the province.

The caretaker premier, who spent more than 15 minutes of a 20-minute press conference on the issues of Balochistan at Lahore’s Central Business District, appeared visibly irked.

Speaking about those who are supporting the Baloch protest, Mr Kakar said they could go join the Baloch militants.

“Advocates of terrorists in Balochistan should go and join them if they are convinced on the veracity of their issue and fight the state along with them, so that we know where they stand and how to deal with them,” he said, alluding to rights activists and journalists standing with the Baloch marchers.

Challenges those championing rights of Baloch to ‘go and join the militants’; claims those protesting are relatives of ‘people fighting against the state’

Responding to the media on the issue of police violence against Baloch protesters in Islamabad, the caretaker premier said that some of the people — media persons included — were trying to “mislead everyone, turning themselves into fake heroes of human rights and damaging the state”.

The caretaker PM insisted that those protesting in Islamabad are the “relatives of those fighting against the state” in Balochistan. He, however, added that the state had a beef with militant outfits, not the Baloch people.

“We still respect their right to protest because their dear and near ones disappeared. But they should also know that they [militants] were fighting against the state, with the help of RAW funding and aided by India. It is an armed rebellion, with foreign help,” he said.

Mr Kakar said those trying to create human rights issues out of the use of water cannons against protestors should also explain who is killing common people in Balochistan.

“Who is engaged in armed mutiny against the state of Pakistan? I am sure if these so-called advocates go to Balochistan, they would be killed as well. But please, go and join the BLF or BLA so that the state knows where you stand. The state is clear on how to deal with this menace. Please clarify your position,” he demanded.

“Should we ignore the fact that over 90,000 innocent people have been killed and not even nine criminals have been convicted so far? Our criminal justice is weak, and cannot punish terrorists. Should we let them go on a rampage? Have these false advocates [of human rights] tried to unmask those who are behind this carnage? Who is doing it? Isn’t investigative journalism part of their duty? If they are turning the handling of protestors into a human rights issue, taunting me about my Balochis­tan origin, and raising an uproar about how can it happen right under my nose, they must also bring out the other side of the picture,” he added.

“There are organised attacks taking place on security forces on a daily basis. Why not demand the arrest of killers of security forces and innocent people? Drawing a one-sided picture and then trying to take social, professional and political mileage out of it will not be allowed because it damages the state,” the caretaker PM added.

“I insist and support their right to protest for their dear ones. My problem is with those trying to project the wrong interpretation of the issue and exploiting it for their ends,” he added.

According to Mr Kakar, protest within the ambit of law was everyone’s right, the state has to respond if a limit is crossed. “After all, what happened on May 9? The PTI people were also protesting. Why are they taken to task? They crossed the legal limit. Everyone can protest but only with legal limits,” he added.

Known for his soft-spoken demeanour, Mr Kakar did not hold back on the first day of the new year and, at certain points, his tone was bordering on hostile. During the talk, he also told a journalist to stay quiet as they tried to interject with a question while he was speaking.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2024

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