Baloch grievances - Rizwan Asghar - Saturday, March 19, 2011

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The insurgency in Balochistan shows no signs of dying down. The upsurge of violence so far this year has involved blowing up of gas pipelines on a much larger scale. Bullet-riddled bodies of missing persons are often found in various parts of the province. The assassination attempts on the governor and the chief minister of the province reflect the state’s collective failure in the maintenance of law and order.

Now people openly talk of secession. In many districts of Balochistan the subject of “Pakistan studies” is not being taught in schools any more, and Pakistan’s national flag is publicly desecrated. Some moderate Baloch who talk of finding a solution within the federation of Pakistan are also being targeted.

For its part, the PPP-led government in Balochistan has failed to take any positive steps for removal of the sense of deprivation amongst the Baloch people. Its performance on developmental work in the remote areas of Balochistan has been poor from the start. There are no signs of any sincere effort for the resolution of the conflict by the provincial or federal governments.

The initiatives taken so far have fallen short of encouraging a coherent approach to the problem. The military operations launched from time to time have only resulted in loss of life, property and displacement of Baloch people. Resultantly, the Baloch people have gradually lost hope that Pakistan’s discriminatory political system will provide them with justice.

We cannot leave the situation to the intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces. Recently, Salahuddin Mengal, the advocate general of the province, alleged that the Frontier Constabulary is persecuting innocent people. According to human rights groups, as many as 13,000 people are missing in the province. The issue of missing people is very sensitive for the Baloch people and cannot be ignored.

The government should hold a political dialogue with all the stakeholders. At the same time, it should engage with the common people of Balochistan by wooing them through trust-building measures.

The people of Balochistan have the primary right over the minerals and other natural resources of the province. This right has always been denied to them. The major part of the income from these resources should be spent on the welfare of the people of Balochistan.

First priority should be accorded to addressing Baloch politico-economic grievances and resolving the issue of missing persons. The intelligence agencies’ meddling in Balochistan’s political affairs should also stop immediately.

Meanwhile, the Baloch people have to realise that despite the fact that their province has been neglected by the federal government, some Baloch sardars are equally to blame for the sad plight of the people of Balochistan. For instance, Balochistan’s first elected assembly was dissolved by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in collusion with Baloch sardars.

Similarly, during the Musharraf government Nawab Akbar Bugti had demanded an abnormal rise in land rent, but when the federal government refused to concede his demand he started clamouring for Baloch rights. Many Baloch sardars have always opposed the establishment of schools in their constituencies. During this persistent friction between the federal government and Baloch sardars, it is the common Baloch who have to bear the brunt.

Email: rizwanasghar7@yahoo. com

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