Islamabad (August 6, 2012): The situation in Balochistan is hopelessly bleak primarily because of the absence of political will. The federal government has failed in addressing some of the most pressing issues of Balochistan. A free and fair election in the volatile province is the only hope. This was the general understanding among the participants at a Discussion Forum organized by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) on Balochistan: Beyond Government Claims in Islamabad Club on August 6, 2012. A number of prominent persons – ex-military men, former ambassadors, academicians and journalists were part of the Forum, chaired by the distinguished analyst Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Talat Masood.
Mr. Masood, in his opening remarks, said from the coercive diplomacy and threat of use of force against the state of Khan of Kalat in 1948 to enforced accession of the Kalat state into Pakistan, to the current insurgency in Balochistan; the government of Pakistan has not taken any serious step to tackle the Baloch problem. He added that the government blames the foreign actors for fuelling the insurgency, but it is obvious that foreign powers will play hand if they are provided with an opportunity because these are the rules of the game in world politics. Moreover, he also added that in order to minimize foreign involvement, one should put his own house in order in order to fill the gap, which the foreign elements are exploiting.
Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo of National Party, Balochistan said that everyone is aware of the gravity of the current situation in Balochistan but lack of will and sincerity – both in the civilian and military leadership – remains the biggest obstruction. Taking swipe at Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s recent (August 3 and 4) claims in the Senate – the upper house of the parliament – about the root-causes of the Baloch insurgency, Bizenjo said the official thinking was frozen in the 1970s ( when Moscow-inspired socialists were leading a nationalist movement in Balochistan.
The fact of the matter is that the first batch of Baloch students was sent to Moscow by former premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and if these students were terrorists then ruling Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) should blame itself for it. He observed that the federal governments in the past did nothing to politically settle the issue. It formed committees and announced economic packages which did not change anything on ground. The current government announced the Balochistan Rights Package (Aaghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan, announced in Nov 2009), promising to address several issues including the issue of forced disappearances, target killings, reduction of the military’s role in governance and increased financial resources for the province. What we, however, saw is the emergence of phenomena of dead bodies of Baloch political workers. He said that incompetency of political government is being exploited by the security establishment in order to fix the issue through barrel.
Negotiations, according to Bizenjo, can only take place if realities are counted for. But the government is in complete denial about the hands behind the killing of Balochs. In fact, every murder is taking place under the nose of the param-military Frontier Corps, which is receiving an additional PKR 15 billion (US $ 65 million annually) in the name of security. It makes negotiations impossible, claimed Bizenjo, adding that even the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari has no control to stop the killings.
Different parliamentary and cabinet committees were formed in the past to sort out Balochistan issue and find solution, said Bizenjo, but no progress has been made either because the committees had no power or because they were not willing to act. The issue of missing persons has been discussed in the parliament in recent months but put aside without exposing the faces behind it, added the senator. Acknowledging the foreign involvement in the ongoing insurgency in Balochistan on theoretical basis, Bizenjo conceded that as the insurgents always get financial and material support from foreign elements, if available, because it is very difficult for an insurgency to sustain on its own; the same can be true in case of Baloch insurgency.
He lamented that the security forces in Balochistan has created a parallel force to tackle the insurgents, mostly composed of thugs and criminals. “They have weapons and identity cards of intelligence agencies and they operate with impunity to fix insurgents. More than that they are involved in robberies, kidnappings for ransom, drug trade, etc., and are responsible for 70 percent of law and order issues in the province.” said Bizenjo. Due to this precarious security situation, more than 200 Hindu families have migrated to Karachi from areas like Khuzdar, Zhob and Turbat, said the senator. Suggesting an immediate solution to deteriorating security situation, he said that if the funds, which the government is spending on FC, are transferred to traditional police force, levies, improvement in law and order situation is possible.
Lamenting the breakdown of law and order situation and failure of FC in addressing the situation, he said 60 percent of the violent incidents take place on Saryab road, which covers an area of almost two kilometers. If the FC is unable to control that area, how is it expected to control the whole province? Another senior leader of National Party, Balochistan, Dr Ishaq Baloch said the federal government can render a great service to the people of Balochistan by increasing their quota in federal educational institutions. He noted that due to the closure of academic institutions in Balochistan, scores of students cannot avail education facilities and joining the ranks of nationalist militants out of exasperation. Overall the participants were of the view that economic and security intervention on the part of federal government cannot be alternative to the political involvement, which is the only way to alter the status quo in the hapless province.