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The Pashtun question

December 16, 2012

The mainstream Pashtun nationalist parties endorse the longstanding demand of Baloch nationalists for economic, political and social rights within the parameters of the state. They appear to be on the same page with the Baloch nationalists when it comes to the denial of rights to small nationalities in the country. The Pashtun nationalists perceive that Punjab-dominated establishment has failed to address the grievances of the Balochs, Pashtuns, Sindhis and Saraikis.

“Islamabad’s authoritarian approach towards the small nationalities is the main reason behind the prevailing unrest in Balochistan,” says Rauf Lala, Central Secretary of Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP). The party, which represents the majority of ethnic Pashtuns in Balochistan, is critical of the Baloch ruling class and demand a separate province. Pashtun nationalists were part of the defunct National Awami Party, which formed governments in Balochistan and NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhawa) in 1970s.

When One Unit was abolished, the Pashtun dominated urban British Balochistan was merged into Balochistan province. Khan Shaheed Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, founder of PKMAP, was the only Pashtun nationalist leader who opposed this move, and demanded Baloch-Pashtun parity in the newly established province.

“We do support Balochistan comprising Baloch areas, not Pashtun areas,” Lala clarifies. He, however, says that there is an increasing polarisation among Balochs regarding Balochistan issue. “All Baloch exile leaders have repeatedly stated that it is a Baloch movement,” he says, adding that there is no space for other nationalities to become part of the ongoing movement.

The Pashtun nationalist leader expresses the hope that peace can return to this part of the country if constitutional, political, economic and social rights are given to the Baloch people.

The Awami National Party (ANP), another Pashtun nationalist party, terms the unconstitutional moves on the part of successive governments as the main reason behind the conflict. Aurangzeb Kasi, provincial president of ANP, argues that the dismissal of Sardar Ataullah Mengal-led government in 1973 was the turning point that created gulf and distrust between Baloch nationalist leaders and Islamabad that widened with the passage of time.

“The killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a strong supporter of federation, worsened the situation,” says Kasi. He wanted Baloch people’s control over the coast and resources of Balochistan. Pashtun nationalists still think that the provision of maximum provincial autonomy could resolve the issue.

“The Federation should hand over all subjects to the provinces except defence, trade and currency,” suggests Kasi.—Saleem Shahid