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A costly failure

Published Jul 20, 2012 09:03pm


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WHEN the balance sheet of the current PPP-led government is finalised towards the end of its term, its paralysis over Balochistan must stand out as a major minus, a huge failing.

If this paralysis could be explained away by its inexplicably self-destructive lack of interest in good governance, it would have been bad enough. That it chose to take this course mainly to keep the military onside spoke volumes about its leadership and character.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s statement on Tuesday at the National Defence University is a prime example. He displayed utter lack of imagination when he said he wasn’t prepared to talk to those who are against Pakistan’s territorial integrity and disrespect its flag.

Very few in the country would side with those avowedly striving to separate from Pakistan but the prime minister would do well to consider two issues. Is his stance an endorsement of the kill-and-dump policy that’s been the state’s response to these elements in the province for years now?

Also, has he examined why some people who have lived in Pakistan since its inception and even as they agitated for their rights did so within the ambit of the federation, are pursuing separatist goals now?

One can be sure that when we create such a mess the inevitable ‘foreign hand’ PM Ashraf alluded to could get to work exploiting the chinks in our armour. But we ourselves are responsible for these vulnerabilities. Others merely use them to further their goals, if that.

Did the prime minister and his party ever ponder how things got to this pass? Did they trace the recent history of how Balochistan and the Baloch have been dealt with, particularly starting with the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti in an army operation in 2006?

When did Akbar Bugti, one of the most loyal servants of the federation, talk of separation or taking on the state of Pakistan? What were the circumstances in which he was forced at his age to head for the mountains, in a symbolic Baloch gesture of defiance?

Not a day passes when bodies aren’t found of young men, mostly Baloch nationalists/separatists, who have not been arrested and tried for their beliefs or crimes but kidnapped and summarily executed.

The Supreme Court says it finds this unacceptable and castigates those responsible. But PPP MNA from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Noor Alam says the court’s proceedings and statements were ‘demoralising’ the security forces. Perhaps the governing-party legislator was again appeasing the military at a time the government feels fresh pressure from the judiciary.

It is strange that the state has a history of talking to the Taliban and cutting a number of deals with them. Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who has ordered a stop to the polio vaccination campaign in North Waziristan, is but one. Who wouldn’t recall the ‘peace deal’ with Baitullah Mehsud in 2005 in South Waziristan?

That deal marked a costly mistake of the state which was eventually to take a toll of more than 3,500 of our soldiers. We support people such as the Haqqanis who can strike Kabul at will but cannot check Mullah Radio’s gang of marauding murderers in Kunar province as they launch attack after attack on our land.

The wisdom of our security apparatus appears infinite. It opposes talks with the Baloch. There are indications that the agencies have infiltrated the separatist movement in Balochistan. There are also plans afoot to insert Jamaat-ud Dawa into the province, as if more religious zealots would solve the puzzle.

Having tried to brutally crush the separatists and having chosen to look the other way as Shia Hazaras have come under murderous attacks with increasing regularity by the sectarian Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, the secu-rity set-up is now said to be playing a suicidal game by fanning Baloch-Pashtun differences.

Yes, it is equally mindless of some elements of the separatist movement — which is rooted in the legitimate demand for rights — to see it fit to kill innocent poor people such as, recently, the Swati miners, dealing a blow to the credibility of their whole cause.

Statements such as the prime minister’s won’t encourage even the saner among them to the negotiating table. One can be sure nobody has bothered to explore whether some of their separatist rhetoric is mere posturing by those who feel wronged and violated by the state and are lashing out in desperation.

Consider the utterances of Islamabad and Washington starting with the Salala attack and through the period when the two sides were negotiating the restoration of Nato supply routes. Their relations seemed irreparably damaged. And what happened? Both made concessions.

Just a few months ago, after yet another pronouncement by the former prime minister of wanting dialogue, Mir Harbiyar Marri’s younger brother told an interviewer: nobody has knocked on our door. Wouldn’t you get the sense that this meant they wouldn’t be totally averse to talks?

It seems like a long time ago when President Asif Ali Zardari first talked about addressing the issue. Himself Baloch, there was hope he would use his effective negotiating skills to quickly make a breakthrough.

But nothing happened. Perhaps the president found it too much to challenge the wisdom of the GHQ on this matter. Remaining on the right side of the military has been and continues to remain a key priority of the PPP-led government.

How successful this policy has been was evidenced during ‘memogate’. The military establishment thought nothing of trying to pull the rug out from under the feet of a government that has owned many of GHQ’s decisions and repeatedly taken flak for them at home and abroad.

As the terms of the government and the president near their end, critics would point to ‘corruption and misgovernance’ as two significant failings. To many like me, Balochistan would rank right up there with them. Perhaps even higher. An utter and complete leadership failure.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.


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Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.

He tweets @abbasnasir59.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (10) Closed

mazar.baloch Jul 21, 2012 02:05pm
A very realistic and correct analysis of facts. it is a fact that each passing day is widening the gap between Baloch and Pakistan. Even the moderate Baloch intellectuals and youths dont see any future for them in this country and the politicians who are still interested in playing a role within pakistani federation are finding it very very difficult to explain their political stand to the general public, specially to the youth. it It is very very strange that the military establishment, after failure of four military operations, are still thinking that solution of Baloch problem lies in use of force and that this is only a law and order issue. This is what the new PM said a few days back. How unfortunate and ill advised our rulers are. Mazar baloch
mazar.baloch Jul 21, 2012 02:19pm
you are very right. the rulers are going to make this land hell for us, mazar baloch
Ali Jul 21, 2012 11:35am
(2)To go to Kholu one has to go to the outskirts of DG Khan and then come to Kohlu and similarly to reach Dera Bugti one has first to approach Jacobabad. The direct access link from Quetta – Sibi Road to Kohlu and Dera Bugti, which is hardly 40 kilometers has been consistently opposed by the Bugti and Marri Sardars. Even the efforts by the incumbent government to construct these links is being marred by interruptions through frequent IED attacks perpetrated by Marri and Bugti terrorists against the construction party of FWO. There has also been a persistent pressure on government not to establish any school in these areas as enlightenment in the area will get these poor locals free from the strangle hold of Sardars. contd....
Ali Jul 21, 2012 11:35am
(3)The poor Punjabi teachers settled in Balochistan were intentionally targeted by the BLA under the sinister leadership of these Sardars, so that the former class had to flee and consequently an entire Balochi nation was pushed in the darkness of illiteracy. These are only few hundred misled and de-tracked separatists in mountains, who are the real enemy of the Balochistan and its people, keeping them aloof of education and road links and a new prosperous life. The BLA and other anti state organizations are clandestine organizations of these Sardars and run as their fiefdoms. Even today if freehand is given to these self serving Sardars, rest assured, tomorrow everything will settle down in this turbulent province. I will request the analysts to have some mercy on people of Balochistan in specific and people of Pakistan in general and do not distort facts in your columns. Go and see the situation on ground. There is much more to the story and real causes of abject poverty in the Province.
nanajan Jul 21, 2012 06:23pm
The writer has the nerve to pen issues that most choose to ignore. Talking of the oppressed may they be the Baloch or the Hazara shias, does not make a meaty piece. Yet hats off to AN for taking up issues and disecting the truth from the false. The article is thought provoking.
@engrtariqmalik Jul 21, 2012 06:39am
"Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s statement on Tuesday at the National Defence University is a prime example. He displayed utter lack of imagination when he said he wasn’t prepared to talk to those who are against Pakistan’s territorial integrity and disrespect its flag." A transitory statement by a transitory prime minister. What else?
jawad Jul 21, 2012 06:41am
It is a real shame what is happening in Balochistan. We should each one of us ask ourselves, why we find our country at such a juncture. Balochistan is going to remain a major challenge for any future government. Instead of brushing aside their legitimate needs, the government should address the concerns of the Baloch and hold a serious dialogue with them. This would indeed require a steely determination on behalf of the authorities, considering the stranglehold of the armed forces on policy making and the myopic view of the military in dealings with those it in its blinkered world-view considers "traitors".
Hanif Samoon Jul 21, 2012 08:41am
Sir. fully agreed with your write-up today. Now people like you also must write about the similar situation emerging in Sindh for last couple of the months. The Balochs of Liyari and those ling in the Right Bank of River Sindh, after being pushed to wall by this government, are reportedly getting help from Separatists of Balochistan. presently they do not pose any threat, as they are not operating openly, but in near future this factor will emerge as the irritating issue for those, who still love and want to see the map of our motherland unchanged. Hanif Samoon. Badin
Safi Jul 21, 2012 12:54pm
A superb and impartially written article. Congratulations for having been so courageous in a strangulated atmosphere around!
jagmohan Jul 22, 2012 03:50am
Indeed the article is totally impartial and honest in calling a spade as spade. If the Federal government for any reasons find it impossible to bring Generals to see the situation impartially in the long term integrity of the Country,then how even an impartial Supreme Court can solve politico-ethnic matter burning over decades.The situation demands reconciliation among a wide variety of stakeholders,give and take solutions and dispense with age long prejudices and rivalry.Ultimately it is the sacred duty of Federal Government to prepare the honest and solid ground for reconciliation.