Address the Baloch grievances

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 14.12.11

Balochistan has been afflicted with a variable level of insurgency – sometimes low,
sometimes high – especially since the 1970s. The recent severity in the ferocity of
insurgency was bequeathed by the deeds of the military regime of General Pervaiz
Musharraf.

In principle, the Balochistan package of 2009 should have won over the hearts and minds
of the Baloch but it seems that this is not the case. An in-depth study of Balochistan
indicates that the Baloch are harbouring grievances of two types. First, the Baloch are
stricken by a sense of deprivation which is a product of historical neglect. Poverty is
rampant and underdevelopment is ravaging the province. Secondly, the Baloch believe that
the natural resources of Balochistan are utilized by other than the Baloch themselves. The
sense of deprivation and the feeling of exploitation are being expressed not only in terms of
hatred against settlers (whom the Baloch call the non-Baloch settled in Balochistan for
political or economic reasons) but also in terms of an anti-federation tendency. The
Balochistan package has yet to yield its fruits and soothe the nerves of the Baloch.

Nationalism is not a contemptuous idea to indulge in and nor is ethnic (or provincial)
nationalism to practise. In the system of federation, all units possess a right to ensconce
themselves in their individual identity. The concept of provincial autonomy is meant for
serving the same idea. In 2004, three Chinese engineers were killed and several wounded
in a car bomb blast in Balochistan. The Chinese were working on a local hydropower
project. That incident inaugurated the latest fifth conflict between the security forces and
the Baloch insurgent groups. Sensing the situation slipping out of hand, the Baloch
politicians Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri presented a 15-point agenda on
the autonomy of the province in 2005. Acceptance of the agenda could have pacified the
Baloch insurgents (that their demands were being paid heed to at a formal platform) while
the agenda could have provided an opportunity to the federal government to stay away
from a conflict. Unfortunately, Nawab Akbar Bugti was condemned by the ruling military
regime and considered a part of the problem. The condemnation bolstered up the cause of
the Baloch dissidents and made both politicians Baloch nationalist heroes. Further, Nawab
Akbar Bugti was considered a traitor by the federation and killed at Kuhlo in 2006 and
Balach Marri was killed in 2007 but, later on, in 2010 parliament passed the 18th
Constitutional Amendment and granted provincial autonomy to all the provinces including
Balochistan. The rest of the demands of the agenda had already been accepted in the
Balochistan package. The ultimate cost of the Baloch cause was paid by the Baloch
leaders: is the strategy of meeting demands but after exterminating the Baloch leaders
justifiable?

The present history of Balochistan is a witness to the fact that the consequences of
mishandling political issues by a military regime, which prefers the method of coercion to
settle issues to a dialogue, are grave and mostly lasting. The act of the killing of Nawab
Akbar Bugti has now proven a major stumbling block in the way of addressing the Baloch
grievances. The Balochistan package had a provision for the case of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s
killing but no one has heard of concrete inquiry proceedings on the case. No doubt, the
Balochistan High Court has recently issued warrants to present General Musharraf and
other accused before the court, the federal government has not yet shown its willingness to
comply with the orders.  

This is not only the demand of the nationalist Baloch but also of the nationalist Pakistanis to
evaluate the causes and events that led to the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti. If Nawab Akbar
Bugti was a traitor why was a case not registered against him to be tried in a court of law?
All intelligence agencies were at the disposal of General Musharraf and collecting and
presenting evidences in a court should not have been a problem. Was General Musharraf
authorized by the law to hold Nawab Bugti accountable at his own discretion and order his
killing? Further, why did General Musharraf discontinue the process of political
reconciliation mediated by the politicians of the PML-Q, refuse to accept their
recommendations and resort to a military action?

In the context of Balochistan, one’s status as a tribal head means a lot to the Baloch. Did
the federation not know this point? No doubt, the sardari system is incongruent with the
present age; the system is still practised in both Balochistan and the FATA. The sardars
are respected and their followers lay down their lives for them. Moreover, Nawab Akbar
Bugti was also an important political figure of the province and represented the Baloch
sentiment. His stature was higher than any government servant including the chief of army,
for he was a public representative and held several important provincial and national public
positions. Is Pakistani state so ruthless to eliminate in cold blood its own politicians who
served the state for years in various capacities? What has happened to the collective
morality of the nation?

To add fuel to the fire, the dead body of Nawab Akbar Bugti was buried in the absence of
his family and relatives. He was buried as if he were Saddam Hussain of Iraq. Nawab Bugti
was a father figure for the Baloch. His death anniversary is now observed as a day of
mourning in Balochistan. The federation cannot shirk its responsibility for giving respect to
Nawab Akbar Bugti. When a politician who is treasured in a province is humiliated by the
federation, what sort of reaction should be expected from his followers? Ironically, the same
federation presented a guard of honour to General Musharraf who abrogated its
Constitution and fled the scene subsequently. Was that act of General Musharraf not a
condemnable one? The federation of Pakistan has dipped its morality standard too low to
be praised. The better option is hold the killers of Nawab Akbar Bugti and Balach Marri
accountable.

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