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Balochistan ‘consensus’

October 13, 2012

ALL significant statements on the national level these days lead to Balochistan. Last month, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the self-exiled Baloch leader, came up with his six-point demands for the state to start the process towards normality in Balochistan. Then, some 10 days ago, Gen Ashfaq Kayani pledged the army’s support for any political process within the constitution for an end to the province’s woes — also saying that the armed forces abided by the government’s directives. The momentum picked up when, within the span of a few hours on Friday, both the National Assembly and the Supreme Court added their weight to the ‘campaign’ for a solution to Balochistan. In Quetta, the apex court strongly censured the provincial government and sternly asked the centre to look for remedies — within the constitution. The court said that while Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani’s administration had lost the authority to govern, all the federal government had done was to deploy the Frontier Corps in the province. Around the same time, in Islamabad, the National Assembly adopted a rare unanimous resolution seeking an ‘all-parties’ commission to “rectify past mistakes and ensure the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law and dispensation of justice” in Balochistan. The House recognised that the urgently sought commission will also have to include parties outside the elected assembly to be effective.

In theory, this appears to be a concerted push towards exit from a precarious situation. But Balochistan and its people have for far too long been victims of clashing interpretations and positions which are not always reflected in statements and vows for upholding the constitution. In fact, these grand pledges often thwart a realistic look at the issues.

The problem in the province is taking ever newer dimensions and the bomb blasts at Sibi and Dera Bugti recently are brutal reminders of the intent on the other side. Against this threat, the allusion to the need of political process would mean reconfirmation of Balochistan not just as a law and order issue but as a political problem. An earnest follow-up would require more than a rhetorical recourse to the constitution. The politicians are supposedly in charge of the effort, yet they happen to be the least trusted and the most easily blamed. They are also the ones who have set an example by owning up to “past mistakes”.

The Supreme Court order, the resolution by parliament, the soldier’s oath will only live up to their theoretical promise if the academic exercise of swearing by the constitution yields to an honest and frank acceptance and assigning of responsibilities with regard to the parties involved.