ISLAMABAD, Jan 27: Major political parties, constitutional experts, civil society and government representatives on Saturday called for halting military operation and initiating a constructive dialogue with genuine representatives of Balochistan to resolve the ongoing conflict in the province.
Speaking at a roundtable dialogue titled “Accommodating differences through federalism”, they underlined the need for a participatory federation providing constitutional guarantees for social, cultural and economic rights to the people without any discrimination.
The dialogue was arranged by US-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) in collaboration with Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO).
Bob Rae, former chief minister of Ontario, Canada; said there was no single model of federalism in the world but each country’s constitution always had the last word in any federal system.
“Shared and self-rule is the basic spirit of federalism in which disputes are settled through courts or a referendum,” said Mr Rae.
He said Pakistan had no other option but a real federal system which genuinely represents the present and future of the country, as the idea of federalism is about participation, not secession.
Deputy Chairman of the Senate Jan Mohammad Jamali said Balochistan needed justice and fairness honouring the rights of the people. “The Canadian model of a federal system should be followed in which rights are guaranteed through the constitution,” he added.
Opposition leader in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said there was no conflict in Balochistan but a struggle for rights. He said the constitution provided a balanced federal mechanism but it had been abrogated and violated many times. He called for making the Council of Common Interests and the National Finance Commission effective, besides changing the mindset of civil-military bureaucracy of the country.
Mr Rabbani said the solution to the current situation in Balochistan was the release of all political prisoners, end to the military operation and a dialogue with genuine political representation of the province.
Chairman Pakhtunkhaw Milli Awami Party, Mehmood Khan Achakzai said the Baloch did not want to break up the country but wanted to live with dignity and honour. “Multinational status should be acknowledged in Pakistan in which we should be treated as equal partners,” he said.
He said the question of nationalism was as important as the question of democracy. He called for an elected senate with more powers and an equal share for all provinces in the governance of the country.
He said at present all the provinces were under the rule of Punjab. He alleged that intelligence agencies were framing foreign and internal policies of the country.
Senator Dr Abdul Malik of National Party said the only way to resolve the crisis was to give the Baloch their due rights and treat them at par with other provinces.
Abdul Wali Kakar of the BNP said the military had ruled the country for most of its life with the support of western powers and it had never allowed democracy to flourish. He demanded a 25 percent quota in civil service and important positions like that of governor and police chief for Balochistan.
During an open discussion, representatives of various political parties, civil society organisations and other stakeholders called for a dialogue to address the ongoing issues within and between the provinces to strengthen the true spirit of a federal system.
Former governor Balochistan Lt-Gen (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch said the army should not be given a chance to come into power. “We need to bring back undiluted democracy in the country,” he remarked.
He said the role of agencies had to be decreased and there should be a proper democratic dispensation in the country. He said there was an immediate need to halt the military operation, release of all political prisoners and stop the practice of arrests by people in civilian dress.
He said only people in uniform with proper arrest warrants should be allowed to arrest a person when so is required under the law.
Leader of Jamhoori Watan Party and former senator Amanullah Kunrani criticised what he called the hostile attitude of President Musharraf against the province.
He referred to the killing of Akbar Bugti and said there was a time when the problem could have been solved by giving autonomy to the province. “Provincial autonomy has become irrelevant under the prevailing circumstances and only a dialogue with the people who matter can address the situation,” he said.
Others who spoke on the occasion included Farhatullah Babar, Dr Kaiser Bengali, B. M. Kutti, Naseer Memon, Bismillah Khan, Fouzia Wahab, Rubina Irfan, Dr Ishaq Baloch, Rashid Rahman, Raziq Bugti, Barrister Zafarullah, Haider Abbas Rizvi, Mir Manzoor Hussain Langove, Yar Mohammad Badeni, Suleman Kakar, Sultan Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani, Syed Shahid Hussain, Prof Naila Qadri, Abdul Razzaq Langove, Sadiq Raisani, M. Riazul Haq, Hairul Din Baloch and Dr Ishaq Baloch.