Balochistan needs careful handling
A lot has been written about government intervention to stop a discussion in one of the private sector universities about the situation in Balochistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement issued on April 17: “It is extremely unfortunate and highly condemnable that the discussion on Balochistan scheduled for April 9, under the re-mapping justice series at LUMS, had to be cancelled on the orders of the government”. This scribe is of the considered opinion that such an exchange should be encouraged in academic environment; but is also in the know that how such discussions carried under similar noble banners go astray and, advertently or inadvertently, serve the political agenda of pay masters of such events—academic freedom does not mean unregulated behavior and conduct. No state allows this. A renowned architect of modern social science, Max Weber, stated: “A state is a human community that claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a given territory”. Any government worth the name has to establish the writ of the state.
Since the start of the Gwadar port project, a lot of loose money has been readily available from some of the foreign NGOs and think tanks for sensationalizing the Balochistan situation. It will be worthwhile for the prestigious university to look into the timing of such an event. Maybe the organizers unknowingly walked into trap of holding the event just prior to the visit by Chinese President, who is expected to sign a number of mega projects for Balochistan. It is being portrayed that the reason for stopping the event was the inclusion of Mama Qadeer Baloch, leader of the Voice of the Baloch Missing Persons, in the list of speakers.
Not a long ago, Mama was given a freehand to carry out a long march from Quetta to Islamabad and he has also been allowed to organize sit-ins at various major cities. Last year, Mama Qadeer Baloch, had a meeting with UN officials in the United Nations office in Islamabad, and presented a memorandum for the UNSG. The document demanded of the UNSG to investigate issues of missing persons, target killings, enforced disappearances and alleged involvement of agencies in heinous crimes. By doing so, he disappointed all those who had been supporting the cause of missing persons all along.
Besides international intrigues, anti-Pakistan elements are also conspiring against the province of Balochistan with a view to destabilize the province by exacerbating dissent, sectarian violence and stirring sentiments of separatism. Balochistan is resource-rich province of Pakistan, and its geostrategic location has significance for international business and transit trade. Thus world powers and regional countries, including some ostensibly friendly ones, have designed their respective Balochistan specific game plans. Most of them are covertly working to create conditions to control and influence the resource rich zones.
As a great majority of the people of Balochistan are patriotic Pakistanis, a relentless effort is being made to create confusion in their minds by floating horror stories about Balochistan. Balochistan has been a battlefield of mischievous interests of anti-Pakistan elements for the last many years. Most of the time there is an artificially created atmosphere of lawlessness, chaos and anarchy. Innocent people are killed, sometimes in the name of sectarian conflict and sometimes in the name of linguistic and ethnic differences; ethnic cleansing is another sorry state of the overall picture. The state does not subscribe to any such activity. Terrorists are doing their best to enforce the impression that the law-enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies are behind the bloodshed in Balochistan. Keeping in view the mega projects planned for Balochistan; vested interests both domestic and international are working overtime to keep the pot boiling so that such projects do not translate in to on-ground infrastructure.
The National Commission on Missing Persons/Forced disappearances, headed by Justice Javed Iqbal, in 2010, had put to rest exaggerated claims of missing persons in Balochistan. Findings brought to light that the number was less than one hundred, and the other three provinces and AJK each had a larger number of unaccounted for persons. Later, a delegation of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances carried out its ten-day official visit to Pakistan on government’s invitation. During the visit, the Working Group held a number of meetings with representatives of all sectors of the civil society including NGOs, activists, lawyers and a number of relatives of disappeared persons in all parts of the country. It reported: “The invitation extended by the Government to us and other special procedures of the Human Rights Council is a testimony of its will to cooperate and take human rights issues seriously…Meanwhile, Pakistan is facing important security challenges…The State has to deal with multiple threats, coming from terrorist movements or violent groups. The conflicts taking place in neighbouring countries or territories is an additional factor of insecurity. The Working Group acknowledges these threats and the need for the State to ensure the right to life of their citizens”. Working group received a number of complaints, but found nothing close to fairy tales of “hundreds of thousands of missing persons”.
On April 11, twenty construction workers were killed and three others injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire on them in a pre-dawn attack on a labourers’ camp near Turbat. The victims belonged to Sindh and Punjab. The banned Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) promptly claimed responsibility for the attack. Chief Minister Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch believes that RAW is behind all these; he has stated that terrorists, receiving funds from RAW, were involved in this heinous act. In a recent interview with the Oneindia portal/website managed by the RAW, Dr. Allah Nazar, chief of BLF spelled out in detail various issues ranging from the attempts made by the Chinese to have foothold in Balochistan with the help of Pakistan, and also the role that India could play in Balochistan. In 2004 also, the BLF had claimed responsibility for attacks on Chinese engineers in Gwadar.
In a follow up to the April 11 incident, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif along with Chief Minister and Governor Balochistan attended a briefing at FC Headquarters Quetta on April 15. During his trip the General warned foreign governments and intelligence agencies against meddling in Balochistan and thereby sustaining the insurgency that he vowed would be defeated “comprehensively”. He said: “We will unearth terrorists, their abettors, sympathisers and financers. None of them will find any place in the country to hide.”
Well, the nation has had enough of rhetoric over the last decade or so, it is time for the General to walk the talk, show tangible results and let the results speak for themselves. And at the same time it’s also time for self-reflection for prestigious institution— LUMS; it should not lend its forum for such contentious events. Human Rights is a sacred concept, but has increasingly become a political tool at national and international levels applied selectively to achieve some other objectives. This misuse of the banner of HR as a carrier of additional agenda has lowered the credibility of some of the HR watchdogs. These entities tend to operate in a static environment, losing sight of broader dynamic ground realities. Due to its peculiarities and complexities, Balochistan certainly needs careful handling.