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Former chief minister Balochistan Akhtar Mengal speaking to media representatives after a meeting with Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan at Balochistan House. — Photo by Online

“I have no faith in our killers. I have no expectations from the institutions that have spilt the blood of our young, or shed the tears of our mothers and sisters. I expect little – or nothing – to change,” said a visibly exhausted Akhtar Mengal, the leader of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, late Saturday night at Islamabad’s Balochistan House to Dawn.

For a man who just completed a four-day trip to Islamabad – visiting the Supreme Court’s law and order hearing on Balochistan, giving numerous interviews to national TV channels and newspapers, and holding joint press conferences with major political leaders – Mengal seemed especially sombre about the purpose and outcome of his meetings.

Even media appearances with the likes of Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Syed Munawar Hasan of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) received tentative reviews from Mengal. “I appreciate the sympathy and solidarity that political parties have shown. But they will have to clearly point out who is behind Balochistan’s problems, whether they are ready to stop – and twist – these people’s hands, and, most importantly, whether they are ready to punish the perpetrators. Sympathy and solidarity is not enough – we need practical results now,” said Mengal.

Mengal’s visit – and his now sombre tone – has raised a key question: If Mengal never believed that he could make a difference, why did he bother to come?“I came to do my part,” Mengal answered. “There are certain people who have been wondering whether a political solution can work. Well, now I have tried. The ball is in their court now. If they want to play fair we are ready to play fair. [But] if they want to kick the ball in our face, [then they should remember that] we have faced this ball not once, not twice, but five times,” said Mengal, referring – among other – to what the Baloch see as the 1948 annexation of their province; the 1958 betrayal by General Ayub Khan, when he promised guerrilla leader Nawab Nouroze Khan Zarakzai a safe return, only to hang his son and five others; and the 1973 military operation by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, when 80,000 troops joined Iranian pilots in F-14 fighter jets to crush the third Baloch uprising.

Diplomacy or betrayal?

If Mengal is taken on face value, his concerns that nothing would change does not negate his decision to show up in Islamabad. For Mengal, the decision was a part of a “final stand” with the central government, at a point where the situation is coming to a head. Hundreds if not thousands have gone missing, bodies of young Baloch – many in their early 20s – continue to be dumped, and their bodies remain unrecognisable, after repeated torture by their kidnappers.“Elections will become selections if we hold them in the war-zone that has become Balochistan,” says Mengal, stopping short of declaring an all-out boycott if the situation remains the same.

But Mengal’s nationalist – and separatist-inclined counterparts in Balochistan disagree, arguing that Mengal should have stayed out of Islamabad altogether.

“I think Akhtar made the biggest mistake of his political life. No one will listen to him, no one will care,” said Dr Hakeem Lehri, a member of the Central Committee in Bugti’s Balochistan Republican Party, to Dawn. Lehri believes Mengal legitimised state institutions that have been persecuting the Baloch by visiting Islamabad.

The now exiled and former leader of Opposition in the Balochistan Assembly, Kachkol Ali Baloch, said Mengal had caused “irreparable damage” to the Baloch nationalist movement. And there is little indication that Khair Bakhsh Marri, Brahamdagh Khan Bugti and Dr Allah Nazar will develop trust in the state establishment. All of them are critical of Mengal’s move and have major support in the areas where both the uprising and the violence is at its peak, namely Kohlu, Dera Bugti and the Makran Coast.

According to US-based Malik Siraj Akbar, the Editor of the banned Baloch Hal, the Provincial Minister for Mines and Minerals Abdul Rehman Mengal and Member of the National Assembly Usman Advocate are BNP-M sympathisers who have failed to challenge establishment policies, indicating that Mengal is also ready to bend over to gain access to power, and that nothing substantial will change. Akbar is also critical of Mengal’s meetings with opposition leaders.

“He has even forgiven Nawaz Sharif, who ousted him in 1998,” said Akbar, pointing to what he sees as Mengal’s politicking to woe major opposition parties with influence in the Punjab before he lines up to gain access to power.

The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood, went as far as accusing Mengal of brokering a deal with the security establishment to further his political career. “No one can return to Pakistan without making a deal,” said Dawood in an interview with a private news channel, reports Baloch Hal.

“I know what everyone else says. But we have a clear position. We believe in democracy and the unity of Pakistan, and that is why I am here,” said Mengal.

“But even I must admit the situation is becoming untenable. I do not believe in fantasies. I do not think the establishment will stop its operations just because I ask them. I have come here to increase pressure on them via this country’s civil society and its political parties, and will have to wait and see what happens,” said Mengal.

Comments (43) Closed

imran Oct 01, 2012 07:50pm
PTI, PPP, PML-N and other political parties need to get together for this issue. The territorial integrity of Pakistan is not up for negotiation. Short of that anything and everything should be open to discussion.
Nabi Soomro Oct 01, 2012 06:28pm
The Baloch leadership is ready to involve in a meaningful discourse. Negotiations should be given a chance for resolution of problems between Baloch leadership and the Center or "Establishment" to be more appropriate.
Sajid Riaz Oct 02, 2012 09:48am
We should appreciate the courage shown by this brave baloch sardar by coming all the way to Islamabad and make a case for Balochistan. I beleive all sides are at a point where they see no other soloution other than a political one and will come to terms. Islamabad should act rationally and address the legitimate concerns as raised by Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Let's all bury the past and look towards a brighter tomorrow.
Mustafa Razavi Oct 01, 2012 06:19pm
He has no faith in anything. A feudal overlord only has faith in feudalism.
pathanoo Oct 01, 2012 06:27pm
I am sad to say that Akhtar Mangal is right when he says that nothing will change. Pakistani powers to be don't learn their lesson. Bangla Desh should have opened their eyes but I believe that defeat has made them maddeningly angry to the point that they can not think of accomodating the Balochs and only want to teach the Balochs a lesson. Bangla Desh lesson may yet be repeated, unfortunately; or a disastrous civil war may get uglier yet, if that is possible.
Zaheer Oct 01, 2012 12:17pm
The change MUST come in military's attitude. Elected leaders dare not go against their direction. If Benazir at the height of her popularity was forbidden from visiting nuclear activity sites as PM in office because she was considered a security risk, what chance do others stand. Hamid Gul took pride in confirming that in a TV chat show show that I was watching. It made me feel sick that such people are invited guests.
Syed rizvi Oct 01, 2012 03:34pm
Have lot of respects for balochis and salute mr Mengal for his Approach for solution. Same time army and politicians should handle balochistan issue carefully. please do not give a chance to enemies of Pakistan to take advantage of unrest in Baluchistan We already had a tragedy of east Pakistan. Hope all will heed. Pakistan Zindabad. Syed rizvi Toronto
hyat Oct 02, 2012 03:01pm
Pakistan need a brave leader who wipe out all anti-state elements and save baloch innocent people. otherwise we already too late to do that.stop operation in NW and start in balochistan
Shafiq Oct 01, 2012 06:29pm
There is a descent patriotic man has come forward and has shed the light on the current situation in Baluchistan and have proposed solutions to remedy the long overdue suffering of the province. He must be heard and his ideas taken into consideration. Baluchi's are peace loving people and they simply want their God given rights!
Nadia Khanum Oct 01, 2012 09:12pm
Nadia Khanum Oct 01, 2012 09:08pm
But are we listening in this deafening time of noise artists?
Tariq Abbasi Oct 01, 2012 12:08pm
Tariq Abbasi Oct 01, 2012 12:07pm
Stop beating drum for PTI keeping aside the corrupt creed which IK inducted.
Asif Chaudhry Oct 01, 2012 12:04pm
I absolutely agree with Mengal's approach and appreciate his positive role and positive thinking, we need more leaders like him to sort these difficult issues out, also I would appeal to Gen. Kayani that he should make a statement showing interest in Mengal's six point plan to the problem and cut away from this current dummy and puppet government who knows nothing but to do corruption and embezzle public funds in the name of democracy.
Ahsan Oct 01, 2012 02:05pm
I dont know if someone is pushing him to do what Mengal is doing or if there are any personal gains for him in doing so, but it is a positive sign as he looked positive and had hope from the democratic system. The way other separatists are damaging the state and getting nothing in return is worthless. I think political perties should invite all other nationalists and separatists as well to sit on the table and sort out how they can disarm them and make the role of army in Baluchistan as little as it can be.
EmMoosa Oct 01, 2012 03:26pm
All our politcal parties leaders are power hungry. They are supporting Mengal now but if they are getting power they will treat the Baluchistan problem with the same attitude how is being taken by the present regime. Pakistan is being suffered by hypocrites. They are every where. No justice for common man at all.
wahab Oct 01, 2012 07:19am
Whatever needs to be done, should be done and PPP, PML, PTI should sit together and find a solution and then implement it at all costs
adam memon Oct 01, 2012 02:03pm
Wish you good luck.Long live Pakistan.
Cyrus Howell Oct 01, 2012 01:11pm
"I expect little
Cyrus Howell Oct 01, 2012 01:13pm
Never fear. When the house falls down it will be rebuilt, but apparently not before then.
Cyrus Howell Oct 01, 2012 01:14pm
Pakistan needs a righteous man.
Mustafa Razavi Oct 01, 2012 06:21pm
We can never determine who really represents the Baloch people till we get rid of the Sardari system.
Khakhan Oct 02, 2012 01:39am
Are you all Pakistanis or what? This man does not recognize Pakistan and you all are covertly agreeing to him. There is a state and all discussion should be within state rather than to break. In this case start negotiating with all criminals to so that they don't use power. State are not run on the threats to brea away. Nonsense and this sudo CJ is part of this noon-sense. He is proving to be an authentic PCO judge to fuel the separatists. A Pakistani
Ayaz Soomro Oct 02, 2012 05:39am
it is time to solve the baloachistan issue, as otherwise we will see another 1971 era time when we loose a part of pakistan
Sheikh Z. Shafiq Oct 02, 2012 02:04am
You have to ask youself the question why this man who was at one time the chief minister of Pakistan does not feel the same way now? Just like in the past, Sheikh Mujeeb, who was once in Muslim League, and once a minister in the government, lost faith in Pakistan. Going further back, why did Quaid e Azam, who was once a member of Indian Congress Party, left to join Muslim League and led the movement for separation from India for Pakistan?
HM, Canada Oct 02, 2012 06:16am
Mr Mengal should be asked when he was chief minister what he did to improve the situation in Baluchistan. They were then bargaining for more bounty money from center. If he becomes the next CM still things will again go under the carpet... Story is same election after election.
munir from sacramento Oct 01, 2012 06:54pm
Mengal is a sombre political leader. I have heard his interviews with media men and political leaders and found him a patriot down to his bones.It is time for the adventurists to stop, admit thier mistakes and let such mature Baloch leaders to play their role in national politics.
Amir Khan Oct 02, 2012 03:49am
Why can't we let Balochistan be autonomous like other provinces without interference from state agencies and institutions. Balochistan needs development, education, health, infrastructure and jobs to bring it at par with the rest of Pakistan. The Government has to provide a soothing touch to regain the trust, confidence and approval of Balochis and bring them back into the mainstream. We must remember and learn from our past mistakes and avoid repeating them. The Government is responsible in ensuring that Balochis feel part and parcel of the country and that there future lies in the integrity, unity and boundaries of Pakistan. Finally justice, fair play, equality and impartiality is the need of the hour. Otherwsie I feel it may be too little too late.
EmMoosa Oct 01, 2012 02:54pm
I second you. Hamid Gul is the person who is responsible of the today's dirty face of the political Pakistan.
Murtaza Oct 01, 2012 02:54pm
lets build a better pakistan where every one can live with dignity and loyality
Salman Ahmed Oct 01, 2012 11:04am
I for one was impressed with what Akhtar Mengal did. This is what was needed and shows the good intentions and a positive side of the nationalist movement. Those sitting out and not coming before the local media are not adopting the right approach. I am sure that there are many others I firmly believe that things will change but it will take 3 or 4 years for it to happen - maybe less if PTI comes to power.
Cyrus Howell Oct 01, 2012 01:16pm
If you are able to get them all rowing the ship of state in the same direction.
EmMoosa Oct 01, 2012 03:16pm
The whole situation is confused one. We should not forget the Bangladesh episode. At that time Mujeeb was soft like Mengal and Tajuddin was firing the shot as our enemy wanted. The purpose of both was to get liberation from Pakistan. We should be very careful about these sardaars. What they have done for Baluchistan in the past?. They have always been the rulers of the province and kissing the feet of the Islamabad regime. Akhtar was also the the chief minister of Baluchistan. They are not trustworthy at all. Still one sardar is the chief minister of the province and the other is governor.
Rashid (UK) Oct 01, 2012 01:54pm
Now or never its like we treated East Pakistan and Baloch people are right they are the owner of that land and resources. Army and political institutions must sort this out and it has to be quick to remove their sense of being the deprived. Blood shed in any shape or form in any part of the world should be discourged. I am sure other countries are playing part in this as well but if we cannot sort this out with ISI help it means our institutions are weak. Pakistan Zindabad Hope it remains a single entity in coming years. From UK
M Khan Oct 01, 2012 09:17am
We must salute this man Akhtar Mengal, that he is taking this bold step in favor of Pakistan's integrity, to sort this issue, despite facing opposition from his own people. BUT ALAS SADLY I donot expect the rulers both military and civilian will move to rectify this... Please act before its too late.
Concerned Citizen Oct 01, 2012 04:20pm
I would like to see more analysis by this newspaper of what the 'establishment' is thinking about Mengal's demands and visit.
Hassan Oct 01, 2012 08:23am
Shahid Latif Oct 01, 2012 12:54pm
An initiative by a legitimate Baloch leader should be taken very seriously and worked on. All is not well. Mr. Akhtar has spoken some very encouraging words. To let him into national leadership role will do good. Mr. Akhtar! An ordinary Pakistani loves Baluchistan as much as any other part of Pakistan. Let the civil society continue to rise to solve all problems of Pakistan including Baluchistan. Chief Justice has rightly focused on the issue of missing persons.That should give you some confidence in one of the state institutions.
Kashif Oct 01, 2012 04:14pm
May Allah have mercy on us and give a wisdom to our leaders to see. Its time for all national parties to unite for once and find a solution for Balochistan and tell establishment that its enough. I will hold political parties equally responsible for the mess, they all are waiting for election and hopping that they will win and sort the problem but time is running out and they have to act now to save Pakistan.....Please we have already lost half of the country and cannot afford to loose other.
bilal Oct 01, 2012 04:10pm
Without Pak Army's permission even Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto could not enter Pakistan leave alone rough-up Pak Army. I think Mr Mengal is the new Pak Army candidate for Baloch leadership for next elections and the consequent government. Whatever he is saying is just to get on the right side of the Baloch people.
YOUSUF HUSSAIN Oct 02, 2012 04:32am
Killing should be stop at every cost.That will cool the situation in Balochistan,I do not Know how the agencies are unable to catch the killer with in Quetta city.
syed Oct 02, 2012 02:13am
I appreciate the bold move of Mr Mengal at the cost of the enmity from his own people. The government of Pakistan must listen to him and must learn lesson from the past as a result of which we created Bangladesh, Bengalis and Baluch are not against Pakistan, but enough is enough the government should give serious consideration and act not just listen to resolve the worsening situation in Baluchistan. I know Baluch never wants to see the disintegration of the country. They have suffered a lot they are peace loving Pakistani and have always stand for the cause of Pakistan. I respect and believe in Mr Mengal's words. He is here to see the united and strong Pakistan, lets not miss this chance. Pakistan Zindabad.
Sheikh Z. Shafiq Oct 01, 2012 11:46pm
Like most people, I have great appreciation for the brave effort made by Akhter Mengal to save Pakistan, by taking the iniative to lay the foundation for resolving the Balochistan issue. I was in East Pakistan from 1969 to 1971 and saw the progressive deterioration of the situation as our "leadres" in West Pakistan committed one serious blunder after another; until after the military action of March 1971, the Bengalis had had enough and launched the armed struggle for their liberation. On the West Pakisan side, both the military and political leaders shared the responsibility of causing the tragic disintegration of Pakistan. Are we set to repeat history?