Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Who leads the Balochs?

Who leads the Balochs?

MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR

Balochistan National Party's totally unanticipated decision to
withdraw from the Senate's Subcommittee has come as a bombshell in
the political quarters. It is, political pundits believe, a major
setback for the ongoing peace process in Balochistan. This decision
was taken a day after the inauguration of Coastal Highway in Makran
by President Musharraf.

Makran Coastal Highway, a 529 kms long highway that was completed
with a cost of 10 billion rupees, will link Lyari to Gwadar. The
highway is divided in three sections: Lyari-Ormara (242 Km), Ormara-
Pasni (152 Km) and Pasni-Gwadar (135 Km).
During the inaugural ceremony, President Musharraf severely
castigated the elements that are perpetrating acts of violence in
the province. The President too maintained that those who were
destabilising the situation in Balochistan were not the true friends
of Balochistan.

These remarks of General Musharraf infuriated the Baloch
nationalists. The BNP (Mengal) leaders accused that following the
recent bomb blast in Quetta, several Baloch youths, majority of whom
are reported to be students of university, had been immured by the
law enforcing agencies.

They too, while disclosing the causes of their withdrawal,
complained that the government, on one hand, was making high claims
of improving the life standard of local people, on the other had, it
has not managed to comply with the demands of the nationalist
leaders yet.

The political situation in Balochistan has taken a dramatic turn
following the decision taken by the Balochistan National Party. This
decision has plunged the whole province's politics and the prospects
of the Subcommittee's success in a state of uncertainty. The
withdrawal of BNP seems to have long-lasting impact on the Senate's
Subcommittee's recommendations as it will arguably not be accepted
by the Baloch nationalists.

This step taken by BNP will greatly worsen the political situation
in that province and the government's efforts to dig out a peaceful
solution to the ongoing turmoil in Balochistan. The question arises
what the government contemplates to do now to gratify the
nationalists and continue the pace of development in Balochistan
simultaneously. Anyway, when one talks of finding out a peaceful
solution, the important question is to whom the government must
negotiate with.

Before the formation of the Senate's Subcommittee, the nationalists
of Balochistan continuously insisted that the government must come
forward and embark upon a negotiation process. The government
without any hesitation accepted the nationalists' demands. A process
of interaction with Baloch leaders was started and Senator Mushahid
with his teammates visited Balochistan and listened to the points of
view of all segments of life. That, no doubt, was a very positive
initiative taken by the government. But after the occurrence of
violent acts of terrorism in Balochistan, particularly in Quetta,
and the withdrawal of BNP from the Senate's committee, the question
arises what the nationalists exactly want and what approach they
want for the resolution of their problems and removal of their
reservations. Do they covet the settlement of their problems
peacefully or violently? It seems the Baloch leaders are not very
clear about it themselves.

As a matter of fact, there does not exist unanimity of views amongst
the Baloch nationalists. All of them do not see eye to eye with each
other. They are divided in various groups and there exists a lack
of 'Central Leadership' in the ranks of Balochs. Let's categorise
the Baloch nationalists for the sake of understanding the present
situation in Balochistan more clearly.

Balochistan National Party (Awami) is a prominent nationalist party
in Balochistan. It does not hesitate in terming itself a Baloch
nationalist party. But interestingly, at present this nationalist
outfit has adopted a very clear pro-government and pro-mega policy.
BNP (Awami), formerly a part of Sardar Mengal's BNP, is an ardent
backer of the ongoing development of Balochistan. Several leaders of
this nationalist party, including Syed Ihsan Shah and Asghar Rind,
are presently holding important portfolios in the cabinet of Jam-led
provincial government of Balochistan. BNP (Awami) terms rest of the
parties that oppose the construction of mega projects as anti-
development.

National Party, a newly formed party that culminated following the
merger of defunct Balochistan National Movement (BNM) and
Balochistan National Democratic Party (BNDP), is one of the key
parties that is opposing the ongoing mega projects in Balochistan.
Fascinatingly, this outfit often speaks against the 'Sardi System'
in Balochistan. It hardly shares ideological similarity with both
wings of BNP but ever since the emergence of the recent Balochistan
crisis, the two parties have gotten closer and share similar views
on Gwadar.

The third party in this political game is Balochistan Liberation
Army, and not much is known about its structural and organisational
features, as it is a hidden organisation. The government has been
insisting that this organisation does not exist in actual terms. But
soon after the recent bomb blast in Quetta, Balochistan Chief
Minister Jam Mohammad Yousaf, for the first time, said this
organisation does exist. BLA is unwilling to negotiate with the
government and is bent upon harming the government's interests via
violence.

Lack of clear vision and central leadership in the ranks of Baloch
leaders has made it more difficult for them to fight the battle for
their rights in an organised and effective manner. It is surely not
possible for the government to talk and satisfy each group as the
nationalists consist of elements with totally distinct viewpoints.
Unless they are united and have a central leadership, it will
neither be possible for them to voice their stance properly nor will
it be possible for the government to hold dialogue with any party.
Violence and negotiations cannot run at the same time.

E-mail: maliksiraj_1@hotmail.com

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