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Balochistan on the boil

The unrest in the strip straddling the Durand Line is relatively new compared to that in Balochistan.

Written by Ruchika Talwar | April 25, 2009 12:20:19 am

The unrest in the strip straddling the Durand Line is relatively new compared to that in Balochistan. Though the former has been the focus of attention lately,Baloch issues remain the festering wound that continues to bleed Pakistan. The province shot back into the spotlight this month when three popular Baloch nationalist leaders were found dead after they went missing. The issue heated up further this week when a parliamentarian compared the state’s attitude towards the Baloch with that of the pre-1971 Bengali. The reason why this topic should interest India is because this week,Pakistan has for the first time leveled serious allegations at India for being the germ of the strife in Balochistan. Over the week,all news items relating to the matter were front page displays. The News on April 22 reported senior PPP member Senator Raza Rabbani telling the Senate in a debate on the Balochistan issue that “a new phenomenon of Anglo-Bharat imperialism was emerging in the region and Pakistan was being made to play a subservient role. The role the US had given to Shah of Iran is now being assigned to India.” Interior Advisor Rehman Malik,also participating in the debate,contributed with observations that helped his office. Daily Times on April 23 reported his views: “Winding up debate in the Senate on the unrest in Balochistan,Rehman said ‘some hostile agencies’ were hatching conspiracies to destabilise Pakistan. He also claimed the ‘militant organisation raised by Russia during the Afghan war is now being backed by India’. The charges,however,were solidly refuted by India.” Dawn on April 24 quoted an MEA spokesperson as saying: “These are entirely baseless allegations and we see no reason to dignify them with a response.” Malik,as reported by Dawn on April 24,also tabled proof in the Senate to back his view on India’s alleged involvement. “Some senators told Dawn that Mr Malik had shown some video clips and documentary evidences about involvement of India and Afghanistan in incidents of terrorism in Pakistan. Conspiracies are being hatched to destabilise and isolate Pakistan. A militant organisation,the Balochistan Liberation Army,was formed which is being funded by Russia and backed by India. The organisation is headed by Brahamdagh Bugti who is stationed in the Afghan capital. About 1,000 students were trained in Russia and now they are back in Balochistan,” a senator quoted Mr Malik as telling Dawn.  

 

Man of the moment

The Nizam-e-Adl Regulation is not a new concept in Pakistan,and it is not the first time it has been proposed for the Pakhtoon belt. The first leader to propose it was none other than the liberal secular Benazir Bhutto. The then right-wing Nawaz Sharif followed suit in suggesting the same solution for the beleaguered people of NWFP. Time has come full circle for the PPP as they have proposed it once again in Swat this time,but Sharif’s vociferous condemnation of the idea he once nurtured comes as a surprise. He not only lambasted the government for going ahead with a seemingly retrograde formula for peace but also suggested an alternative route to reach their destination. Daily Times on April 22 carried an interview the former PM gave to USA Today in which he feared the Taliban were imposing “their version of Shariah”. The interview stated: “They are now threatening to take other areas. We’ve got to avoid that situation.” He supported dialogue with “relatively moderate Islamist groups.” The remedy to the lawlessness in the area,he said,was “sufficient economic development.” The News on April 23 hailed Sharif in a congratulatory editorial: “The disquiet expressed by Nawaz Sharif over aspects of the Swat peace deal marks a significant break with his past public posture on the Taliban and offers a glimmer of hope for those seeking a united front to tackle the growing threat of militancy. The former PM was more critical than normal of the Taliban. He stated unequivocally any deal with the militants must not allow democracy to be derailed or the writ of the government to be challenged. This marks an important shift for a leader who has long been accused of being soft on the Taliban and displaying an unacceptable degree of ambivalence in his public stance on the threat the militants pose.” 

Singing the dark times

If Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz was the voice of rebellion against the Zia regime in 1980s Pakistan,singer Iqbal Bano was the sound. Together,they sowed the seeds of rebellion in the common Pakistani. Bano became synonymous with Faiz’s masterful ‘Hum Dekhenge’. Bano’s demise has not only reminded her fans of her own soulful renditions,but also of Faiz. Faiz’s daughter Salima Hashmi was quoted by Dawn on April 21: “Iqbal Bano will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of our family. She was one of the greatest means of support and inspiration during General Zia’s dictatorship.”

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