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Only establishment can make a difference: BNP

September 30, 2012


Relatives of missing persons showing victory signs during a token hunger strike outside Quetta Press Club. — Photo by Online

ISLAMABAD, Sept 30: With the six-point charter presented by Balochistan’s former chief minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal being described as the last ray of hope for his restive province, one of his party colleagues has argued that only a change in the mindset of the establishment will bring about any meaningful difference in the situation.

In a candid conversation with Dawn, former senator Sanaullah Baloch said the establishment had the key to the resolution of all the problems faced by the province.

“They (the establishment) have to first accept that Balochistan is burning and only then can we all collectively begin taking corrective steps,” he remarked.

“Unfortunately, however, the military and civil establishments are presently in a state of denial, refusing to accept that the province is suffering from all kinds of human rights violations, sectarian killings and above all enforced disappearances,” he said.

“These are the ground realities which have been confirmed by the national and international human rights organisations separately. What Mr Mengal has said in his statement in the apex court is, let’s sit together and address these concerns, instead of shedding blood.

“But look at their reply in the court which the federal government submitted on Friday in response to Mr Mengal’s assertions,” said Mr Baloch, highlighting the government’s reluctance to accept what he said was happening on the ground. “First of all you have to diagnose the disease and then you can go for the required medicine. Not the random prescriptions which have been tried by the establishment. And the solution is only with the real Baloch leadership who can reach out to the estranged Baloch youths,” explained Mr Baloch, who sits on the central executive committee of the Baloch National Party (BNP).

Asked whether or not the Sardars or Mengals truly represented the middle-class Baloch youths, who have taken up arms against the state, the former senator said: “Only a few among us believe that violence is the best means to respond to the state.

“Once the state genuinely agrees to stop use of violence as a means, things will improve, but the confidence-building measures will take some time,” said Mr Baloch.

More or less, all nationalist political parties with mass support in the middle class present a unified stand. “So, result-oriented talks are the only way out of the crisis.”

He said that like Mr Mengal a special parliamentary committee led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had suggested to the federal government in 2004 that the role of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies be curtailed and the politicians be allowed to do their job.

Mr Baloch said: “Everyone knows what happened afterwards. What to talk about implementing this report, the establishment didn’t even bother to discuss it in public.”

With the real Balochistan leaders out of the loop, he said, religious elements, some of them enjoying the support of the Taliban, began filling the vacuum, which resulted in an increase in sectarian killings in the province.

Recently, many settlements have come up around Quetta, which clearly have non-Baloch population.

About the participation of the BNP in the general election, Mr Baloch said the issue at hand was to create a conducive environment for electioneering in the strife-ridden province and not the elections themselves.

“Yes, we have come back from exile with the hope that after the Supreme Court taking up the issue of Balochistan, genuine political forces will be allowed to take part in future elections, for which we all should work together,” he said.

Mr Baloch denied that the BNP leadership had returned to the country after receiving certain assurances from the powers that be. “Had we wanted to do this, we would have done it much earlier,” he said.