Monday, May 28, 2012
Daily Times Editorial May 28, 2012
Balochistan Declaration The national conference in Islamabad on the ‘Balochistan Issue and its Solution’ called by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and attended by the leadership of all the political parties has unanimously adopted a 15-point Balochistan Declaration. The sputtering insurgency in the province that began in 2002 received an extraordinary fillip when Nawab Akbar Bugti was cruelly assassinated in 2006. Since then, the province has been gripped by extensive turmoil. The policy of extermination of the intelligentsia and political workers of the nationalist parties has led to some 500 killed so far. This policy of repression amounting to a slow genocide has only led to increased embitterment of the people of the province and stoked separatist sentiment to the point where association with the state of Pakistan has become a virtual anathema to most people in Balochistan. The Declaration seeks to address this grave situation. It emphasises that a military operation (the fifth in Balochistan since independence) can only exacerbate the problems of the province as experience and the current situation shows. What is critically needed is a political dialogue in order to bring the Baloch back into the mainstream from which they have never been as alienated as today. The hated Frontier Corps (FC), blamed for most if not all of the kidnappings, torture and dumping of dead bodies of dissidents, as well as the military (including the ISI and MI) should be withdrawn, all political prisoners and missing persons released, Bugti’s killers brought to justice, as the minimum conditions for paving the path to a dialogue. The conference suggested an inter-parliamentary committee be set up to issue a white paper on the Balochistan issue, an inquiry commission be created to look into the disappearances and other problems of the province, compensation be paid to all those killed or disabled. The Declaration emphasised the need for a new contract with the people of Balochistan to take stakeholders on board with regard to their demands, policies and development. That includes the right of the people of Balochistan over their own natural resources. In a pointed critique of the ground realities, the Declaration asserted that the “politics of the garrison” be replaced by civilian authorities genuinely representing the will of the people of Balochistan. This is a swipe not only at the military and its paramilitary and intelligence wings riding roughshod over civilian authority in the province, but also a reflection of the by now widely acknowledged truth that neither the provincial Balochistan government nor the federal government have any say in the manner in which things are handled in the province. It also reflects the growing perception that the present elected government of Chief Minister Aslam Raisani is unrepresentative, partly because the genuine nationalist leadership of the province boycotted the 2008 elections in protest at Musharraf’s cruelties, partly because Raisani’s administration is all but non-functional. The Declaration underlines the need for retraining the FC and police to respect the human rights of the people of the province, and the FC “strictly prohibited” from transgressing its scope. Political parties are advised to play a proactive role in promoting a democratic culture. They should consider signing another Charter of Democracy to gain the confidence of the people and play a leading role in resolving the problems of Balochistan rather than remaining resigned to the status quo. A genuinely neutral electoral mechanism has been called for, while religious leaders are advised to create a culture of tolerance and harmony. Settlers in the province of long standing and all other communities regardless of ethnic, cultural or religious background deserve equal protection and rights, the Declaration states. The heartening consensus at the SCBA conference both reflects the sinking in of the bitter truths about Balochistan into the consciousness of political and civil society, as well as their worry that the mistakes of the past in trying to resolve political issues through military force are being repeated. If this consensus manages to restrain the military and its wings from pursuing this course any further, the chances of the opening of a dialogue with the estranged Baloch people can be improved. If not, we should be prepared for another catastrophe that could overtake the country a la 1971.