A Few Words: Balochistan vs General Pervaiz Musharraf —Dr Qaisar Rashid - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Source: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\03\21\story_21-3-2012_pg3_3

What General Musharraf has asked the ethnic Baloch is to barter away their political rights for the development work he did in Balochistan. The Baloch are declining that proposition

On last Wednesday March 14 and Thursday March 15, under the heading Understanding Balochistan, General (retired) Pervaiz Musharraf’s piece appeared (in two parts) in a national English daily. The quality of writing indicated that Dubai must be short of ghostwriters, otherwise, better written stuff could have been produced. If a piece of writing is a criterion to judge a writer’s intellectual calibre, one wonders who the fellows inviting General Musharraf to deliver lectures and earn millions of dollars are. The reason to attend his lectures is still explicable but the rationale to pay him in millions is beyond a Pakistani’s understanding. The public money of some foreign countries must be squandered by the ghost paymasters, I presume. 

Last Friday, on a talk show hosted by the TV channel associated with the same daily, General Musharraf chided Nawaz Sharif for his sympathies with the Baloch and tried to provoke him on the issue of the killings of the Punjabis in Balochistan. It was a cheap shot. Was Dr Shazia Khalid a Baloch? General Musharraf did not mention the Dr Shazia rape case that led to a confrontation between him and late Nawab Akbar Bugti. In fact, as the death of Bushra Zaidi in April 1985 in a traffic accident changed Karachi forever, the rape of Dr Shazia Khalid in January 2005 changed Balochistan forever. 

The second reason for the Musharraf-Bugti conflict was the construction of a military cantonment in the Sui area. Late Nawab Bugti was of the view that gas was discovered in 1951 and there had never been any problem of security for the gas installation, then what was the need to set up a military cantonment in Sui in 2004-05? 

On the talk show, General Musharraf also wondered how the issue of Balochistan could be raised at the US Congress by the exiled Baloch. He seems oblivious of the reality that human rights transcend geographical boundaries: It is the ‘human rights beyond borders’ formula haunting Pakistan now. Notwithstanding their ethnic identity, dissenters have an equal right to survive in Pakistan. They can be convinced and won over but they cannot be abducted and killed. The difference between these two extremes is the level of patience. The impatient General Musharraf discarded the recommendations of the Shujaat-Mushahid committee that had negotiated with Nawab Bugti. The committee’s report should be made public. 

In his write-up, General Musharraf claimed to have done a number of development projects in Balochistan. His efforts must have made him popular amongst the Baloch, as he himself says that the heads of only three tribes (Marri, Bugti and Mengal) agitated against his policies, as they were indisposed to development done in their areas. One can surmise that General Musharraf must be very popular amongst the ethnic Baloch who are not members of these three tribes. To rebut his critics, why doesn’t General Musharraf contest an election from an area (such as Turbat) in Balochistan not inhabited by any of these three tribes?

Pakistanis are interesting creatures. They tend to question the loyalties of one another. In search of ‘who is a better Muslim’, thousands have been sacrificed in Pakistan. Similarly, in search of ‘who is a better Pakistani’, thousands have been abducted and killed without compunction. No one in Pakistan knew about the theme ‘Pakistan first’... until General Musharraf surfaced to divulge that. To vindicate his theme, General Musharraf first constituted NAB and then utilised it to blackmail politicians to build up his political support group called the PML-Q. In the case of Balochistan, by manipulating the elections of 2002, Musharraf excluded the Baloch nationalist politicians and brought in new faces to form the Balochistan version of the PML-Q. The approach also undermined the authority of the moderate Baloch political leaders who used to talk about their rights within the realm of the federation. Consequently, the representative Baloch voice was muffled, which let the anger brew among the Baloch and led to the demand for independence. 

General Musharraf’s three sardars (tribal chiefs) model says that the sardars are averse to development. The Marri dwell mostly in Kohlu District, the Bugti inhabit Sui and Dera Bugti and the Mengal live in Khuzdar and Naushki Districts. Demographically, all three together constitute about 10 percent of the total population of Balochistan. Now, when the sardars are gone, some are killed and some are in exile, then why cannot the military or the FC restore law and order in the rest of Balochistan? 

Secondly, the RCD Highway from Quetta to Karachi passes through the Mengal area and was constructed in the 1970s. Sardar Attauallah Mengal and his son, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, remained chief ministers. They always participated in parliamentary elections, and wanted autonomy within the state of Pakistan. If they were anti-establishment or anti-development, why did they allow construction of a cantonment and an engineering university in Khuzdar before General Musharraf’s rule? 

What General Musharraf has asked the ethnic Baloch is to barter away their political rights for the development work he did in Balochistan. The Baloch are declining that proposition. General Musharraf might have eliminated 67 Ferrari (rebel) camps but the question is: why was there no such Ferrari camp before 1999? Secondly, why was there no voice for the independence of Balochistan from the three Baloch tribes before 1999? 

General Musharraf’s approach to deal with the ethnic Baloch created so much loathing for the federation in Balochistan that to bring the people back in the mainstream debate seems to be very difficult. The mode of burial of the dead body of Nawab Bugti elicited a huge reaction from the Baloch youth, who are now spearheading the unrest. The elimination of Balaach Marri in 2007 added fuel to the fire. Subsequently, abductions and appearances of mutilated dead bodies did more damage. The Baloch youth are not even listening to the moderates. Even those who are in exile have become the victims of circumstances, as now they cannot retreat from their stated positions. Certainly, General Musharraf committed a crime against the federation of Pakistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

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