EDITORIAL: Pity the nation... - Friday, February 25, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\02\25\story_25-2-2011_pg3_1

Two mutilated bodies of Baloch political workers — Mehboob Wadela of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) and Rehman Arif of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) — were found in Gwadar district on Wednesday. Mr Wadela went missing in April 2010 from Karachi while Mr Arif was abducted four months ago. On the one hand the number of disappeared Baloch keeps increasing with every passing day while on the other hand the bullet-riddled bodies of the ‘missing’ Baloch people keep appearing in every nook and corner of Balochistan. In its recent report on Balochistan, Amnesty International (AI) called on the government to “immediately provide accountability for the alarming number of killings and abductions in Balochistan attributed to government forces in recent months”. According to the information compiled by AI, “In the last four months, at least 90 Baloch activists, teachers, journalists and lawyers have disappeared or been murdered, many in ‘kill and dump’ operations...Their bullet-ridden bodies, most bearing torture marks, have been recovered across Balochistan.” This report should have raised alarm bells in the power corridors but as is usual in this province’s case, our ruling elite has chosen to stay quiet.

Balochistan may be the largest province of Pakistan but it is also the province that has suffered the most in the last six decades. The Baloch were alienated right from the beginning when Balochistan was forcefully annexed to Pakistan. The state could have made things better but it chose not to. The powerful military establishment, which is mostly dominated by Punjabis, created further trouble by conducting military operations in Balochistan on a number of occasions. During Musharraf’s regime, the woes of the Baloch increased manifold after he launched another military operation just to satisfy his ego when rockets were fired in protest at his arrival in Kohlu. He publicly vowed to take revenge and created a parallel government in the province by deploying the Frontier Corps (FC) there. Since then there has been no looking back. Nawab Akbar Bugti’s assassination by the military forces was ‘celebrated’ by General (retd) Musharraf. When the PPP government came to power in 2008 and Musharraf was later ousted as the president, the people of Balochistan thought that some relief might come their way but it was not to be. Despite the NFC Award and the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package, the condition of the Baloch still remains the same. Thousands of Baloch are missing and their families are still waiting for justice. Previously, only the Baloch separatists were targeted by the military establishment but now even moderate Baloch nationalists are not being spared. Targeting the moderate Baloch nationalists is a dangerous trend and could lead to grave consequences for the federation because it will increase extreme views and separatist sentiment. The democratically elected government remains powerless while the powerful establishment calls the shots.

The Baloch have only been asking for their rights all these years. Our state has failed to address their grievances. By refusing to give in to their just demands and killing the Baloch people left, right and centre, the state has not done any favour to either the federation or Balochistan. We must not forget what happened back in 1971 when West Pakistan refused to address the grievances of East Pakistan. It is hoped that we will not make the same mistake again. It is time that the government talks to all Baloch leaders, those in exile and those in Pakistan. Unless and until a political solution is reached, the Baloch will not give up armed insurgency. The Baloch have suffered enough. It is time to bring back peace in the lives of the people of Balochistan. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Money cannot solve everything

It looks as if the richest monarchy in the Arab world and the largest global oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, may be getting jittery at the history-changing events developing across the Middle East. The ouster of decades’ long autocratic rule in Tunisia and Egypt and the wave of protests sweeping across Bahrain, Yemen and Libya have prodded Saudi Arabia into action to placate an ever-increasing disillusioned public. Returning home after three months spent abroad for medical treatment, King Abdullah announced an extravagant aid package — to the tune of $ 35 billion — aimed at benefiting lower and middle income groups and unemployed youth, and addressing housing problems and high-inflation rates besetting the Saudi economy. This is an attempt by the Saudi monarchy to throw money at the problem as though that is all that is required. The Saudi monarchy is watching closely the rising stem of revolts in the Arab world, deeming it necessary to address issues before the people take to the streets of Saudi Arabia. As most of the reforms in the package aim to address the woes of the youth, it is quite obvious that the Saudi rulers have taken note of the fact that it is the tech-savvy youth demographic that is most active and passionate in the Arab protests.

The Libyan uprising has been reduced to an isolated, hate-spewing dictator watching his iron-clad grip quickly loosening in the face of angry protests and Yemen is seeing nine ministers resign from public office. Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, the Arab public has finally decided that it has had enough of autocratic regimes, and no place epitomises a seemingly unshakeable monarchy like Saudi Arabia.

There have long been opponents of the Saudi regime but they have always been silenced by the kingdom’s repressive laws and policies. Many political opponents and underground groups have long demanded more gender equality, free elections to municipal councils, etc. However, for a theocracy like Saudi Arabia, introducing reforms that endanger the political-religious status quo will be out of the question. While this aid package is a premeditated move to curb any rising dissent within the kingdom, it must be asked: how far will doling out money go if it is not accompanied by freedom? Money can only go so far when the inhabitants of an oil-wealthy country are boiling over with frustration over the denial of their political, civil, human and gender rights. *

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