May 1, 2009

The sound of silence

In Balochistan's schools, the familiar strains of the national anthem no longer ring out each morning. This shocking revelation has been made by a legislator from the province who told the Senate that since the murder of some nationalist leaders several weeks ago, silence had replaced the anthem at schools. How long can it be before the silence is broken by other songs, other tunes, that echo the sentiments of the people of Balochistan. We have become so isolated from each other that even in this age of communication, news from one region does not always reach the rest of the country. The media in many ways encourages this sense of difference, highlighting news only from a particular urban centre for circulation in that city and so on. This makes sense in some ways, but in others it acts to divide and hold apart.We hear too little about what is happening in Balochistan and indeed elsewhere in parts of our country. Had it not been for Hasil Bizenjo's almost casual comment, we may never have known about the change in the morning routine at schools. This change is hugely important; it reflects an altered mindset, a still greater unwillingness to stay within the federation – and this should be a warning for us all. One suspects the knee-jerk reaction might be for orders to be given to all schools to ensure rules are followed and the anthem played. This after all is how things work too often – without sufficient thought and without any effort to address their root causes. This must not happen in Balochistan. The situation there is too serious. It needs to be dealt with competently and sensibly, rather than by attempting to stage cover-ups or level accusations that only add to the anger that has inspired nationalist feelings in Balochistan.

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