Sunday, December 26, 2004

Dialogue process halts in Balochistan

Dialogue process halts in Balochistan

25.12.2004

By Aziz Sanghur


Dialogue process for addressing the situation in Balochistan arising out of

Baloch leaders' objections to controversial projects of development and
cantonments has been stalled allegedly due to inflexibility of the powers that
may be. Joint Parliamentary Committee had apparently not made any significant
progress.


The decision of Balochistan National Party to withdraw from the Parliamentary
committee set up by Former Prime Minister, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had further
compounded the situation, observers believed. Further more indiscriminate arrests
of the activists did not bode well for addressing the root causes of Baloch
resentment.

"It is a dummy committee. It has no power to resolve the Balochistan's issues",
said Akhtar Mengal, former Chief Minister Balochistan.

He alleged that on one hand, the police had started arresting the Balochs and on
the other hand, the federal government threatening them to start construction of
cantonments in Balochistan.

Once again the deadlock has started between the Baloch leaders and federal
government.



Addressing the media at Turbat, the President General Pervez Musharraf warned
those elements, which are opposing the mega projects and construction of
cantonments in Balochistan.



The President declared that his Government would crush all anti-Pakistan
movements: "We are gathering information through intelligence and other sources
that who is doing what in the area and I warn them because when the Government
starts acion against them, they will be crushed."

About President Musharraf's recent statements on nationalists, the BNP leader,
Attaullah Khan Mengal said that what the President had stated was nothing
new as the track record showed that the Pakistan Army and agencies had always
had the same views.



He deplored that the army had always crushed not only the people of East
Pakistan, a larger province of the undivided country, but also continued to
suppress the people of smaller provinces.

Baloch nationalists are opposing the construction of the three cantonments in
Gwadar, Kohlu and Dera Bugti. They also have strong reservations on the Gwadar
Port.

BNP-M Secretary General Habib Jalib Baloch cautioned the government that
extra-constitutional steps of implicating innocent students and political
workers in false cases of subversion would endanger the relationship between the
Baloch and the federation.

He said that the BNP-M would never compromise with 'the usurpers' and would
continue its struggle for the legitimate rights of the Baloch.

He declared that the patriotic Baloch political parties would frustrate the
designs of the rulers to impose large projects on the people.



About the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) no one really knows what the BLA is. "It
is merely propaganda aimed at defaming the legitimate struggle of the people for
their rights," the Baloch leaders claimed. The nationalists, while conceding
that some extremist elements might be responsible for attacks on the army and
the paramilitary but they deny that they have any linkages with the BLA.

Baloch nationalists alleged the BLA was the creation of the establishment. Chief
Minister, Balochistan, Mir Jam Yousaf said that BLA exists and is supported by
some elements within the nationalists.

According to Baloch leaders the day explosions occurred in Quetta the
investigating agencies took no time to confirm the 'list of culprits' and
started a manhunt within the next 24 hours. It appeared as if the agencies knew
that such an incident would take place and they also knew who would be the
culprits, they pointed out.



They made it clear that there would be no compromise on basic issues, which the
Baloch leaders had already identified at the onset of the talks. The issues,
they said, included full autonomy to Balochistan, particularly in
administrative, legislative and financial matters, and an end to the center’s
interference in provincial affairs.

It is important for the government to make public the list of demands by the
nationalists and then have a 'structured debate' on what can and cannot be done.
The issues have become politicised but efforts can, and must, be made to try and
find a common ground. There can be no gainsaying that Balochistan needs to be
developed, not only because it is good for the province itself but also because
such a project is important for Pakistan.



The Baloch nationalists appears to think that these two aspects are mutually
exclusive. They need to be convinced that this is not the case, political
observes suggest. To this end the federal government must work diligently and
transparently.

Finally, if there are any elements within Balochistan in or out of government
tht are trying to sabotage Islamabad's political agenda for their vested
interests, they must be dealt with appropriately.

Balochistan regionalists' feeling of deprivation and alienation and their fear
of the Makran Coast being 'colonised' must be addressed if the government wants
true development.

Such acts as the unwarranted police crackdown on students in Quetta only make
things worse. Steps are now needed to restore shattered confidence and make way
for meaningful executive action.


Email: azizsanghur@yahoo.com



The writer is a Baloch journalist, working with daily "The Nation" Karachi as

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