EDITORIAL: Resolving Balochistan the sane wayResolving Balochistan the sane way - Monday, November 29, 2010

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\11\29\story_29-11-2010_pg3_1

PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif hit the nail on the head when he said that the situation in Balochistan cannot be resolved at gunpoint and Balochistan’s stability is vital for peace in Pakistan. Mian sahib’s words are critical in the present situation because he is heading the leading political party in Punjab, the province that the Baloch have come to dislike because of its disregard for other provinces. Mr Sharif condemned the increasing incidents of target killings of the Baloch and acknowledged that the recovery of bullet-riddled bodies in recent days has “further aggravated the political situation”. He urged the government to take “concrete and revolutionary steps to resolve the problems in a political manner”.

Balochistan is on fire, more so in recent months. As if thousands of abductions of the Baloch was not enough, now they are being killed brutally and mocking notes like ‘Eid gift for the Baloch’ are being attached to their dead bodies. The Baloch leadership, including Balochistan’s chief minister, have pointed fingers at our security establishment. The only ‘sin’ the Baloch have committed is to ask for their just rights. This has made our security establishment fear the Baloch nationalists, who have been dubbed as a threat to the country. Our intelligence agencies seem to have their own way of dealing with perceived ‘threats’ to the undefined ‘national interest’. It is the same highhanded manner in which our establishment dealt with the Bengalis in the past, which finally ended up in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. If our establishment thinks that it would be in our ‘national interest’ to further separatist sentiment in Balochistan, then they are on the right track. Otherwise, the only sane way to deal with this situation is to bring about a political solution by addressing the grievances of the Baloch people.

Mian Nawaz Sharif rightly blamed General (retd) Pervez Musharraf for the current wave of unrest in Balochistan. Musharraf not only started another military operation in the province, he also killed Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. What is worse is that Musharraf does not even regret his mistakes. As Mian sahib pointed out, Musharraf is “publicly saying that he would repeat his actions if faced with the same situation”. Instead of apologising to the Baloch people, Musharraf is adding fuel to the fire by giving such statements. A man who has just launched a new political party — the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) — and is vying to get back into politics through the power of the ballot, as opposed to a military coup through which he came to power previously, needs a reality check. Before contesting the next general elections, Musharraf should be put on trial for the murder of Akbar Bugti and other crimes against humanity.

We cannot afford another East Pakistan debacle. We are fighting terrorists in every nook and corner of the country, there is a terrorist insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, the jihadi networks in Punjab and Sindh are getting more active and the nationalist insurgency in Balochistan is gaining momentum. The political leadership must recognise the gravity of the situation. The PML-N’s solidarity with the Baloch cause would go down well but Mr Sharif also needs the PPP and its coalition partners on board. For starters, the government must put its foot down and stop the military operation in Balochistan. The Baloch leadership, both living in exile or inside Pakistan, must be brought to the negotiating table. Resolving Balochistan the sane way is the only solution to end the current imbroglio. Saving Balochistan would in effect save the country. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Intolerance is blasphemy

Aasia Masih’s blasphemy case is not just gaining momentum, it is leaving a torrent of controversy in its wake, where extremism and draconian views are being upheld instead of endorsing basic human rights and tolerance. After being sentenced to death by a district sessions court in Nankana Sahib, Aasia’s case has become the poster-child issue for civil society, private NGOs and the international community, all of whom are appalled by this medieval and harsh punishment because of a controversial law. However, it is saddening to see that some of our politicians are coddling the mullahs who have found in Aasia’s case a reason to once again froth at the mouth.

Babar Awan has said that the blasphemy law can only be altered or repealed “over his dead body”. It sounds as though the federal law minister is taking some direct lessons from the extreme right and intolerant hate mongers who have been directing our society towards the brink of anarchy due to their regressive ideas about religion. In the same vein, activists of different religious parties including the Jamaat-e-Islami, unleashed their anger at the accused and even Governor Salmaan Taseer who is campaigning for the president to pardon the poor Christian woman. They protested against any possible pardon and swore that if such a compromise took place, there would be a countrywide backlash. For the law minister to voice the same message puts him in the same league as these venomous mullahs, many of whom are responsible for riling up angry mobs and murderous vendettas against the minorities. It is unfathomable that a man of Mr Awan’s standing in the government should come off as no better than a hate spewing cleric himself.

The last thing Pakistan needs right now is any vindication granted to the clerics. It is these people who have condoned the extra-judicial murder of anyone accused — many falsely — of blasphemy. It is these clerics who support Taliban-like causes and even outrightly provide ideological and, at times, strategic support to the militants who are ravaging our nation. If members of the ruling party side with their inhumane verdicts on religious matters, little hope is left for our minorities and the cultivation of a society that protects the rights of its citizens. Someone needs to knock some sense into those who mollycoddle the intolerant. They have done enough harm to Pakistan already. *

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