Monday, June 8, 2015
Daily Times Editorial June 9, 2015
Balochistan conundrum Balochistan’s bloodletting shows no signs of ending. On Sunday, five more Hazaras were shot dead in an attack on two shops in the commercial hub of Quetta, Bacha Khan Chowk. The assailants got away scot-free despite the police and Frontier Corps (FC) being deployed barely 300 yards away from the incident. Markets closed in response to the atrocity, traffic went off the roads, and a belated police sweep of the area yielded 33 of the cast of usual suspects, many of whom will probably be eventually freed since these arrests are clearly barking up the wrong tree. A crowd of the Hazara community came out on the streets with the coffins of the victims and as they have done in the past, refused to bury the dead till the perpetrators were caught. On Sunday night, the Balochistan administration and the protestors were still in talks to vacate the sit-in. There has been no claim of responsibility so far but if the past is any guide, the killings bear all the hallmarks of the author of previous such murders, i.e. the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has never been shy of such claims and may still come forward to claim the ‘prize’. Unfortunately, the security forces in Balochistan, led from the front by the FC, have failed to protect the Hazaras or lay their hands on the self-confessed killers of the LeJ. Disconcertingly, the LeJ operates almost openly in Punjab but has never been laid hold of there either, with their leader Malik Ishaq freed by our flawed justice system. The Hazaras have been crying hoarse since the spate of killings of their community began that they are being subjected to genocide, but the response of the state has been less than satisfactory, if there has been any response at all. The pattern of killings is by now well established, and the response by groups such as Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen and Hazara Democratic Party too predictable. The former has called for five days of mourning and a strike on Monday (yesterday). The latter has called for three days of mourning. These calls have been supported by almost all the parties of Balochistan. Unfortunately the response of the federal and Balochistan governments too is all too predictable and inadequate. Mere condemnations and compensation to the families of the victims does not quite cut it. Ironically, Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch was in Lahore on Sunday attending a meeting of his National Party. At almost the same moment as he was boasting of having improved the law and order and security situation in his province, the five Hazaras’ light was being extinguished. To his credit, the chief minister did argue in his address in Lahore that what was needed for the province was to persuade the Baloch, especially those estranged, angry, in the mountains or abroad, with love, negotiations, mainstreaming, not mere reliance on force or even development projects. This is of course correct and logical, and the chief minister must be appreciated for at least stating this view consistently, even if he is unable to do much about it because his hands are tied, the approach to the nationalist insurgency is dictated by the security forces and not the elected provincial government he heads, and therefore his credibility and ability to deliver even if some of the insurgents agreed to talk to him have big question marks over them. Unfortunately, of late a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to terrorism and the Baloch nationalist insurgency has seen both the civilian and military leadership dump everything into Indian intelligence agency RAW’s basket, obliterating thereby the important distinction between terrorism fuelled by fanatics not amenable to reason, and the nationalist insurgents struggling for a political cause of long standing that revolves around deprivation of rights, the separatist sentiment that has flourished because of the authorities’ hardline approach notwithstanding. Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch is from and a man of his people. His words should be listened to with far more seriousness than has been accorded them to date. But to make the paradigm shift to what he advocates, i.e. a political solution through negotiations of the Balochistan conundrum, he has to be empowered in principle and practice before he can cut anything but a sorry and helpless figure whom the insurgents do not take seriously.