Jul 28, 2009

Owning Balochistan

Ahmed Quraishi

A college chemistry professor is murdered in cold blood at his house’s doorstep in Quetta, the latest in a long list of educationists cowardly assassinated by terrorists claiming to stand for the great Pakistani Baloch. And yet no one in the PPP-led federal and provincial governments is willing to condemn the terrorists. Last month they planted a bomb on a train leaving Karachi and detonated it just half an hour away from Quetta, killing an innocent Pakistani Baloch. No condemnation then too.The sheepish and apologetic attitude of the government is inexplicable. Just a few days ago this government gave the Indians and the Americans damning proof on how Indian spy outfits were using the Afghan provinces of Helmand and Kandahar to target Balochistan. The central role of a grandson of the late Akbar Bugti has been mentioned by the Pakistan government as playing a leading role in this terrorist enterprise. As much as eight foreign spy agencies are cramming this Pakistani territory. And yet the Pakistani state is reluctant to call a spade a spade.Instead of putting a politician-turned-terrorist on a pedestal, it is time to ask the question: Was Akbar Bugti acting on foreign guarantees when he launched without notice a blitzkrieg of rocket fire on vital installations one fine morning in January 2005? His grandson Brahamdagh has been photographed meeting Indian intelligence officers not just in Kabul but also in New Delhi. So, why does the provincial government of Nawab Aslam Raisani avoid condemning these terrorists? More stunning is the reply of Interior Minister Rehman Malik in the Senate when questioned about how a Pakistani television station was allowed to air an interview with a London-based member of the Brahamdagh terror group. Mr Malik said the interview was taped in London and “you know there is freedom of speech there.” What a joke. Britain is providing a sanctuary to people who finance and support terrorism inside Pakistan and all our powerful security czar can say about this is to cite Britain’s speech laws. Is there a conflict of interest here between Mr Malik’s personal life and interests in the UK and his official duty to level with the Brits on their duplicitous policy? Major grievances aside, there is no direct discrimination against Pakistani Baloch on ethno-language grounds from anyone in the rest of the country. The level of education of Pakistani Baloch denies them opportunities to climb the social ladder. And the blame for this rests squarely with both the federal government and Balochistan’s tribal chieftains. And there is no hope in sight that those running the federal government – the PPP now or the PML in the future – can change anything on the ground.Washington is desperate now in Afghanistan and this has given Pakistan some breathing space. But there are lobbies in Washington that would like to see their failed war expand now into southern Punjab and Karachi after NWFP, Balochistan and the northern areas. Unfortunately we have people here who parrot the lines created by propaganda artists elsewhere. We need a practical, nationalistic and visionary federal administration that can take monumental steps to reorganise the state and provinces. We need creative minds at the top to unlock the initiative of the Pakistani people. We need change. But let’s begin with condemning the terrorists who have taken ownership of Balochistan without any contest from the government.

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