Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Daily Times Editorial June 4, 2015
APC on Mastung An All Parties Conference (APC) in Quetta on the Mastung massacre in which 22 passengers were pulled off two buses and killed by armed men, unanimously passed a resolution condemning the incident and vowing to eliminate all those committing such acts. So far, so good. But from here on, there are only questions, no answers. The national narrative on incidents like Mastung has been confined of late to blaming local elements collaborating with enemy foreign forces to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Mastung is being subsumed within that narrative, if the address of Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif at the APC and separate statements by Advisor for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar are perused. While underlining the improvement in security and law and order in Balochistan, the PM did leave room for further improvement. Such improvement can only be achieved if the terrorist sectarian groups active in the province against Shias in general, and Hazara Shias in particular, are taken to task. While such groups as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), self-confessed perpetrator of the massacres of Hazaras and other Shias, are left untouched within Balochistan and elsewhere in the country, particularly Punjab, considered their ‘home’ base, the virtually total focus of the security forces is on the nationalist insurgency in Balochistan. Critics of this policy ascribe this anomaly to an attempt (dangerous, as experience shows) to use groups such as LeJ against the nationalist insurgents. As far as the latter are concerned, one of the difficulties of trying to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table to seek a political solution to the strife in the province is their fractured nature. Take for example the Mastung massacre. The United Baloch Army (UBA) claimed responsibility for Mastung, arguing it was in retaliation for alleged civilian deaths in the security forces’ recent operation in Kalat. This is a patently absurd justification at many levels. First and foremost, killing innocent bus passengers, even if in retaliation for innocent civilians’ deaths in Kalat, cannot be justified by any means. Killing one set of innocent civilians to avenge the alleged death of another set of civilians is tantamount to arguing that two wrongs make a right. Second, the Mastung victims were almost exclusively Pashtuns, which raised fears of the old Pashtun-Baloch divide in the province once again rearing its ugly head. Fortunately, the combined wisdom of the Baloch and Pashtun moderate leaders as well as the families of the victims scotched any such fallout even before it took off. Third, targeting innocent civilians may seem the easiest way to hit back by some insurgents, but arguably it only damages their own cause. No cause, no matter how just in the eyes of its protagonists, can hope to succeed if it loses the moral high ground. In this case, as in other such targeting of innocent people of ethnic identities other than Baloch, it is the perpetrators and their cause that is ultimately the final loser. Fourth, all the other nationalist insurgent groups, some ironically reversing themselves on targeting innocents, condemned the Mastung massacre. If this be belated wisdom, it is welcome. Whether the victims are Punjabi and Sindhi labourers or Pashtun travellers, no movement can possibly justify their coldblooded murder. Having said that, it is disconcerting and worrying to see how conveniently and easily all Pakistan’s troubles are by now being dumped into the ‘foreign hand’ basket. Not only is this a familiar and tired script from our past, the fact that the dominant ‘foreign hand’ is now ascribed to India and its intelligence agency RAW is feeding into Pakistan and India’s current (periodic) bouts of verbal sparring, with implications of the war of words escalating into actual sparring. If the national narrative in Pakistan has slipped back into the convenient and all too easy recourse to blaming India for terrorism and the Baloch nationalist insurgency, Indian commentators are not helping by making warlike noises about paying Pakistan back in the same terrorist coin. Indian Defence Minister Parrikar put the cat among the pigeons by declaring India would fight the terrorist fire with similar fire. This has raised a storm of protest on this side of the subcontinental divide, with the prime and other ministers latching onto this foolish statement to cry triumphantly: “See, we told you so!” While such convenient labelling and dumping of all problems in the India basket may ease the conscience of those at the helm of affairs for their share of responsibilty in bringing the country to this pass, it is questionable on many grounds. First, where is the evidence for all this bandying about of the ubiquitous RAW hand? This agency must be quite chuffed at being credited with turning our homegrown terrorists, springing from our own adventures with proxies, into their cat’s paws. Quite an achievement, considering these terrorist johnnies are even more virulently opposed to Hindus than what they consider deviant Muslims. As for the Baloch nationalist insurgency, this charge echoes every such claim in every insurgency in that benighted province since Pakistan came into being (this being the fifth such ruction). In Pakistan, it seems, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Or in Einstein’s classic formulation (and with due apologies to the great man), perhaps we are wedded to the insanity of doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.