Friday, January 14, 2005

Mengal fears violence in Balochistan

By Latif Baloch

KARACHI, Jan 13: Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal, founder of the Balochistan National Party (BNP), has described the situation in his province worse than that of the 70s as violence seemed inevitable there.

He told Dawn on Thursday that Islamabad had already aired its plan for launching a crackdown on the Baloch people. He warned the rulers of dire consequences in case such an operation was launched, adding that what happened in one country was no longer considered to be its 'internal affair'.

"It is naive to think that international forces whose economic and defence interests are involved in this country will overlook the situation," he said. According to him, as a nation the Balochs are politically more conscious today as compared to the 70s and they are determined to protect their rights.

Now that President Musharraf had made clear his intentions, nobody could blame the Baloch for withdrawing from the negotiating committee of the Senate, said Sardar Mengal. The BNP stand on the issue had turned out to be the correct one and so were its apprehensions, he added.

Elaborating further, the former chief minister of Balochistan said: "We must go to the depth of the problem. We are asking something of a party which is responsible for depriving us of our national identity and rights and working for a greater Punjab."

On being asked about the possibility of a negotiated settlement, Sardar Mengal remarked that someone having the status of army chief who could deviate from his committement, as in the case of the uniform, could take a U-turn on any issue at any time.

"This is where our pessimism is bolstered," he said, adding that by his recent utterances President Gen Musharraf had left no doubt that he wanted to protect a few culprits involved in the gang-rape of a lady doctor in Sui.

The general had not minced his words, accusing the whole Baloch nation of an offence punishable by elimination when they raised a voice against the atrocity.

On being asked where the situation would lead the Baloch people to, Sardar Mengal replied that it was now up to the people to decide. He said the present scenario had raised only one question. "Wishful thinking apart, is there any room left for us to consider ourselves full citizens of this country?"

Answering to a question about the role of the constituent parties of Ponam, the BNP leader said he was contacting the movement leaders, particularly the Sindh-based ones owing to the "nature of the gang-rape case" as the victim happened to be a Sindhi.

Sardar Mengal expressed surprise that Sindhi politicians had taken the case rather lightly, adding that he would raise the matter before Sindhi colleagues who have kept silent and would have to satisfy us. About the future of Balochistan, the BNP leader observed that so far the situation had been volatile as the country was entering a 'hot phase'.

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