The government’s efforts to arrange a national huddle on Balochistan are fast-failing.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has rolled out two “non-negotiable” conditions for ensuring his party’s participation in an All Parties Conference (APC) on Balochistan – and near-impossible ones at that.
One: Arrest Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killers. Two: Recover all missing persons.
Called by the government following a blowout of violence in Balochistan and the raising of the issue in Washington, the APC already faces an uncertain future given widespread apprehensions and limited chances of participation by disgruntled Baloch leaders. In fact, the prime minister on Tuesday constituted a 13-member committee to contact the country’s political leadership in efforts to ensure participation.
Given that the idea was effectively theirs to begin with, the PML-N is ready to participate – but has increased the stakes.
Nawaz Sharif made the demand before leaving for Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.
According to a party statement: “The APC would be useless, unless Bugti’s killers are arrested and the Baloch missing persons are recovered”.
“Our party will participate in the conference if the government solves these two issues,” Sharif asserted.
According to well-placed sources within the party, Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, along with other senior leaders of the party, held a meeting with Sharif in which they decided to not participate in the moot, and decided rather to highlight Baloch grievances vociferously inside and outside Parliament themselves.
Setting precedence for an evolving party manifesto before the new general elections, the PML-N, on one hand, moved a resolution in National Assembly condemning the US congressional resolution; and on the other, Sharif himself joined the camp of missing persons located in Islamabad and demanded their safe recovery.
According to a party think-tank, a PML-N senior leader hailing from Balochistan understands that the APC on Balochistan will be “waste of time and useless since both the plaintiffs (the separatists) and the defendants (the Pakistan Army) would be absent from such a gathering”.
A few members of the party think-tank said that PML-N’s leadership is convinced that the only feasible solution of the Balochistan issue will be to engage with the “people who are on the mountains” and outside the country.
Meanwhile, prominent Baloch leaders including Shahzain Bugti, Hasil Bizenjo, Akhtar Mengal and others have already refused to participate in the APC saying that time for such conferences had lapsed.
A well-placed PML-N office bearer in the centre told The Express Tribune that his party had not paid much heed to such issues in the past but now, for the first time, PML-N’s leadership has decided to support the stance of the Baloch leaders.
He added that the decision of boycotting the APC is hinting towards changing party paradigms.
PML-N’s senior leader from Balochsitna MNA Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir while talking to The Express Tribune said that the two demands put forward by Sharif were in fact genuine demands of the Baloch nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2012.