From The Baloch Hal | October 28, 2013 | Dear Mr Prime Minister
In this very critical moment of history I am compelled to write this brief letter to remind you about your role as the chief executive of Pakistan, and the commitments you have made to the people of Pakistan, more particularly the downtrodden people of Balochistan.
While your government may have pleasant stories for some, Balochistan is on the verge of death with a sharp increase in human rights violations, humanitarian crisis, and socio-economic erosion.
It’s a heart-wrenching fact that since your takeover as prime minister around 90 barbarically tortured corpses of Baloch youth have been dumped in different parts of Balochistan and Karachi.
Beginning from the All-Parties Conference held in London on July 7-8 in 2007, and as a leading opposition figure before the May elections, you made countless commitments condemning atrocities against the Baloch and demanded fair and just rights for them.
The London APC’s resolution said that “today Balochistan bleeds under the heels of an army operation, where gunship helicopters are used for silencing dissenting political voices.”
In reality, the current situation in the province is far worse than what it was in 2007. Balochistan’s sufferings have increased manifold. The province’s home and tribal affairs department’s recent report revealed horrific accounts of kill-and-dumps. The report says that 592 mutilated, killed and dumped bodies of Baloch political activists have been found from 2010 to September 2013.
The worrying fact is that this barbaric trend has seen a sharp increase during the first three months of your government.
Mr Prime Minister, Balochistan has unique socio-cultural and political characteristics including countless resources. This you are aware of and you recently signed a number of MoUs with Chinese companies without reaching out and initiating any ‘memorandum of political understanding’ with the people of Balochistan.
My concerns are not just political – I worry because the ongoing conflict, military operation and immunity and impunity for crime and corruption have severely damaged Balochistan’s social, economic and political fabric. All this will have severe consequences both for the Baloch and the region.
The province’s statistics depict a very bleak scenario – much worse than war-torn African states. Just imagine – 63 percent of its population lives below the poverty line compared to Punjab’s 19 percent. Data on health, employment, nutrition intake, infrastructure and education is equally grim and sadly terribly below the national average.
Mian Sahib, there is a difference between being in opposition and being in power. The people of Balochistan are expecting much more from you. I would like to remind you that glitzy mega-projects without a genuine conflict resolution process are seen as an attempt to further exploit and marginalise the people.
Skyscrapers and guzzling machines are no guarantee for peace. Huge, but controversial, mega projects failed to legitimise General Musharraf’s policies. His disguised-in-development colonisation didn’t envisage any political harmonisation, local participation and economic trickledown. His visionless and dictatorial policies further weakened the very delicate relations between the Baloch and Pakistan.
Mr Prime Minister, it’s time to move on from political rhetoric. It’s time for genuine political action.
If you remember, during our meeting in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on June 12, 2013, I shared a brief note with you on behalf of the Balochistan National Party – a list of CBMs and recommendations on political stabilisation, economic development and a plan for the socio-economic uplift of the people of Balochistan.
But regrettably instead of taking into account those CBMs, your government unilaterally signed a number of controversial projects with Chinese companies on contentious projects. Gwadar is one of them.
Instead of sober, genuine and tested political process, your government is encouraging further militarisation of the already heavily militarised Baloch region. The recent supply of bullets and machine gunsis not a political gesture; it symbolises war and conflict escalation.
Musharraf ruled Pakistan for nine years; he used sophisticated weapons and barbaric torture methods but miserably failed to subdue the politically conscious Baloch people.
Balochistan demands respect, justice, and fair political partnership, not machine guns and soldiers. It is a society deprived of basic human needs. Sixty percent of its people lack drinking water, electricity and basic health facilities. Despite sitting on the world’s largest copper-gold deposit, two million children in Balochistan lack decent education.
Mian Sahib, it’s impossible to rebuild Baloch trust on the state and its institutions without a time-tested conflict resolution process. A policy of more guns and more soldiers will only lead to more chaos and distrust.
There is no doubt that security-sector reform is a crucial aspect of the Baloch problem. But these reforms should not be limited to enhance the killing capacity of the non-ethnic Baloch security apparatus to single out and suppress the ethnic Baloch.
Your government must engage experts and identify the victims and ‘beneficiaries’ of the conflict. ‘Baboos’ with fancy PowerPoint presentations have misled many leaders in the past – and I am scared that they will continue to influence your policies too.
Death and destruction in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan, have become a huge money-making opportunity. Many powerful elements within the state structure prefer a continuation of suppressive policies.
The conflict in Balochistan has created a complex power imbalance. And genuine conflict resolution process will definitely expose such elements and diminish their unnaturally grown role and authority.
The rubberstamped Balochistan Assembly has no value and has miserably failed to deliver on pertinent issues as a legitimate legislature. The May 2013 election was political management of high standards. In Balochistan, state machinery, as usual, ensured fulltime ‘free, fair and transparent selection’.
Mr Prime Minister, it’s a harsh but undeniable fact that Pakistan has physically shrunk in a few districts. Except a few areas in central Punjab including Lahore and Islamabad there is no place where people walk or sleep without fear.
Following political and economic marginalisation, ethnic and religious minorities are struggling for their physical survival. A transparent profile of killings, human rights violations and marginalisation indicates the systematic targeting of marginalised communities with impunity.
Mian Sahib, a leader who believes on rhetoric can neither reverse this cycle of violence nor correct this deliberately created chaos. To deal with such complex issues a leader must demonstrate extraordinary courage and political will to undo the damage.
Balochistan deserves a politically mature and daring solution such as a comprehensive peace agreement with the real stakeholders.
The multi-step process must focus on issues such as cessation of hostilities, implementation of agreed CBMs, talks and agreements on political, economic and security aspect of the crisis. And most importantly, avoiding a complete sale out of the Balochistan coast, coal, copper-gold, gas and natural wealth until the conflict is fully resolved.
Balochistan’s political conflict and its unaddressed genuine grievances need courageous decision-making by a brave leader.
The writer is a former senator from Balochistan. Website: www.sanabaloch.com