National integrity at stake
When the situation was starting to worsen in Balochistan and the media was almost mum, it was then that I drew the attention of the authority and media towards the simmering state of affairs and wrote that the government and media should pay the requisite attention to this grave matter that it merited. It was happenstance that a resolution was then presented in the American Congress a few days later and that kicked up a furore. So much so that the matter was now being discussed everywhere and that discussion still goes on relentlessly.
First, the silence was inexplicable and now the outpouring of this disproportionate outrage is also so. The American resolution does not deserve the importance that we are according it. It represents the thinking of three or four congressmen and the sentiment that it represents has nothing to do with the wish of an Azad Balochistan; it has to do with the current tension in Pak-US relations. The discovery of OBL in Pakistan was a big jolt for the American public and policymakers.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Musharraf government milked the US government to the t after becoming its ally in the war on terror. Before that, the two countries had also had a historic win by cooperating against the Soviet Union. The American public and policymakers, by and large, considered Pakistan a trustworthy ally. They did get secret intel that Pakistan aided the Taliban that were attacking the Allied forces but these reports were dismissed as mere unsubstantiated rumours. But the discovery of OBL in Pakistan changed this and there was a severe backlash in the US, especially from those who considered Pakistan a close ally.
Pakistan former foreign secretary, Najmuddin Sheikh, has written that Rohrabacher, the man who has presented the resolution, has been a keen observer of Afghanistan for almost three decades. As a member of President Reagan’s speech writing team, he considered the Afghan mujahideen to be freedom fighters. Furthermore, Pakistan used to be a favourite in the US during Reagan’s time when even similarities between the founding fathers and the mujahideen were outlined!
The reason for Rohrabacher’s recent actions is not some misplaced love for the Baloch cause but his disenchantment with Pakistan’s role in the Afghan imbroglio. When asked about the reason for presenting the resolution, he said that he was regretful that the Pakistani policy was leading to many American deaths in Afghanistan. As usual, without looking at the context and investigating the background, we started the character assassination of the said Congressman and some writers went so far as to call him crazy, fanatical enemy of Pakistan.
As far as the resolution is concerned, such resolutions are presented aplenty in the US congress and it should not be forgotten that each congressman thinks himself to be an expert on foreign affairs. As Najmuddin Sheikh said, there are 536 foreign ministers in the US: 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 Senators and one Secretary of State. If we look at the current state of mind of the American public and representatives with respect to Pakistan, then it can be said that the resolution under discussion does depict their emotions to an extent. But harming Pakistan and its integrity is not yet an aim of US policy. But if Balochistan’s conditions do not normalise, then global powers will be forced to take note of the instability over there to save themselves from its effects and fallout.
The reason we should be worried about Balochistan is not foreign interference. It should be national unity and integrity. It is not excusable on any ground that our largest province should be in constant state of volatility. That large majority of the people there should be unwilling to participate in the political process. That a large segment of the youth should become armed insurgents and that fervid youngster shout slogans of independence. To state but the obvious, such a situation warrants immediate attention and urgent rectification measures.
I had the opportunity of listening to the views of the Baloch youth on a few TV talk shows. In particular of Harbiyar Marri, who is not even ready to listen to the suggestion of living in Pakistan. I’ve even found him inclined towards dialogue. But he and people like him have to be convinced that the invitation to ‘dialogue’ is not another ploy to hoodwink the Baloch as was done repeatedly in the past. The reservations of the Baloch are not unfounded. They have time and again been subjected to such betrayal and forswearing. So much so, that even oaths taken on the Quran were broken. The farce called democracy that we have staged with such pomp to delude ourselves, the Baloch youth accords no legitimacy to it. They know through experience that Pakistan’s political leadership is effectively ineffectual where Balochistan is concerned and any negotiations with them are a complete and utter waste of time. First and foremost, they need to be convinced that those that negotiate with them will bring a mandate from the GHQ and that the GHQ will be bound to follow any and every promise that they make. If this guarantee can be backed by a brotherly country (maybe Saudi Arabia or Turkey), a conducive environment may be created.
We can cry all we want that Balochistan is an internal matter but we know well and good that no matter remains internal when human rights violations are involved. The international community will find any pretext to be involved and if the bigger power’s interests are involved, then pretexts for involvement can be created.
I said another thing to Baloch youth I talked to and that was that the Congress resolution doesn’t only talk about Pakistani Balochistan but also about the Baloch settlements in Afghanistan and Iran. Have the separatists in Pakistan taken these people into confidence? The answer is obviously no. The trick in this resolution is not in favour of the Pakistani Baloch. If the US ever does take interest in the matter of carving a new state, it will combine the Baloch of all three countries and that will not benefit the Pakistani Baloch at all. Any such attempt will lead to prolonged infighting and civil wars. The Baloch will then have to fight a never-ending war of independence against three states. The cautious words of Ataullah Mengal should not be forgotten who has asked the Baloch youth if they will be able to sustain their independence once they’ve achieved it.
Without a doubt, there is a lot of bad blood between the Baloch and us, some of it due to misunderstanding and some of it due to genuine grievances. But the way the Pakistani public has shown support with its Baloch brethren, it will not be possible to continue with an aggressive policy of suppression against them. The Baloch youth may not believe the establishment but they should at least give the concerned public a chance. They know well that a few months ago, even the biggest tragedy in Balochistan could not garner any printspace and airtime whereas now the issue is ubiquitous. The judiciary now lends a receptive ear to the appeal of the Baloch. If the aggrieved Baloch youth respond positively, this support for the Baloch will only intensify and the entire public will prop up their fight for their rights. The way national and regional political parties are now coming forward in support of the Baloch, it was never so…
The writer is one of Pakistan’s most widely read columnists.