Not possible without the role of civil society
Since the birth of Pakistan, Balochistan has remained a burning issue for both democratic and non democratic regimes. Whenever the Baloch people have demanded autonomy and their due share in the natural resources, the Pakistan government has resorted to military action. Worse than dilapidated conditions of utilities, amenities and facilities in Balochistan are indicative of the fact that the federal governments over the years have largely kept themselves blinded by the happenings in the largest province of the country while the provincial governments ignored the needs of the local populace, mainly due to their inherent corruption and unwillingness to yield to the fundamental rights of the people. Furthermore, interruptions by the military regimes have not helped the cause of protecting and perpetuating basic human rights.
The question whether it is too late to address the needs of people of Balochistan does strike one’s mind. Or more precisely, do we actually know what the people of Balochistan really want? The media coverage given to the feudals of Balochistan is glaringly obvious but who is representing the other communities in the province? Who is speaking for a layman, for a simple common Baloch?
The provincial government, with its large cabinet, has not been able to fulfill its duties due to corruption while the civilian setup has failed to maintain law and order. At present, the province is facing socio-political instability, lawlessness, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy among other problems. The executive has shown lack in its capacity to address these problems, the bureaucracy looks clueless and the police is demoralized due to its minimal role in the maintenance of law and order in the province. Given the situation, the six-point formula, presented by Sardar Akhtar Mengal, is claimed to be a ray of hope by many a politician and civil society in Pakistan. Whether the federal and provincial governments are willing to accept his demands remains to be seen.
In the recent past, the federal government presented the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan package at the joint sitting of the parliament. The package was aimed at reaching out to the people of Balochistan and provide them what has always been denied them: their fundamental rights. But unfortunately, it was not the first time such a promise was made.
Ideally speaking, the fulfillment of the demands by Mengal would surely help in solving major problem of law and order in the province. It will also help in addressing other problems related to health, education, civil and political rights and restoring confidence in the federation. Mengal’s demands are the voice of every peace loving Pakistani. On the other hand, the government, on its part, has rightly declined the existence of death squads and use of force to curb the rights of locals in Balochistan, as accepting this demand would have implied in the acceptance of the existence of such squads.
Balochistan is facing target killing on political, sectarian and ethnic basis. A long term planning is the only way to quell the feeling of estrangement of the Baloch people.
The federal government is already faced with many tough issues on both national and international levels. Near the end of its tenure, this democratic regime, most likely, is not going to take the risk of addressing the grievances of the Baloch. Still it is the federation that has to play a pivotal role in finding a solution. For starters, socio-political stability in the province must be ensured. Reports show that kidnapping, abduction and killings have become a routine, causing the locals to live under a perpetual fear of life. The state cannot ignore the issue of missing persons much longer. Due process of law must be followed to redress the grievances of the people. A transparent inquiry into the causes of this crisis will also settle matters. Whatever is being said about the issue may prove to be right, but it is the duty of the state not to let such assumptions hold sway, at least not without a proper inquiry.
The solution is somewhat part of the problem as well. Balochistan comprises of people from Baloch, Pashtun, Brahvi, Hazaras, Punjabi, Urdu-speaking and many other smaller communities. Focusing on one community alone is not the answer to the problems. This will also lead to dissension between the various communities and distrust in the federal government. Moreover, maybe it is the right time to let the civil society and other political forces in Pakistan play a bigger role in reaching out to the people of Balochistan.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]