KARACHI: At a seminar on the ‘Balochistan situation and the role of media’, speakers chose to talk about Balochistan’s history, what they said was the “defiant” nature of the Baloch, and the government’s ignorance towards the country’s largest province. The role of media took a backseat.
The event was organised by the Karachi Press Club and the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences on Tuesday. Balochistan Express editor, Siddiq Balouch, started the seminar by saying that there were a lot of misconceptions about the province. “At one end, there is a lack of information among people and then, there are deliberate misconceptions.”
Speaking of Baloch valour, he said that during the 100-year rule of the British in the province, “the Baloch resisted by fighting 200 battles against them”. He suggested that Baloch should be recruited to the armed forces. For example, there is such an imbalance that up to 80 per cent of men for the Frontier Corps, who are in Balochistan, actually hail from Fata.
It should not come as a surprise that the Baloch are angry as the government has never supported them and no political party has called for an end to the military operations in the province, he said. He pointed a finger at the state for being involved in kidnappings for ransom, bank robberies and other crimes. He alleged that a government guest house in Khuzdar was being used as a torture cell.
His opinion on the role the media has played was negative and short. “The media has not only ignored Balochistan, but it has also discriminated against it.”
Siddiq Balouch went on to say that the political rights movement is homegrown and that there is no evidence of foreign involvement. “The Baloch are currently not capable of taking over a single cantonment,” he said, and then, added by way of proof: “If they were backed by foreign countries, they would have the best arms and ammunition.”
In his speech, he accused the Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif of being involved in corruption of millions of rupees while ignoring the Baloch. As a solution to the province’s problems he suggested, “Freeze all disputes and spend all of the defence money on social development”.
Nai Baat newspaper general manager, Attaur Rehman, was called to give Punjab’s perception about Balochistan. However, Rehman’s speech strayed from the topic as he shared stories of his meeting with the late Nawab Akbar Bugti. During his half-hour talk, he spoke about what he perceived to be the feudalism of the leader, which irked a member of the audience who asked Rehman for a definition of feudal. As another journalist complained that the speaker did not address the issue at hand, Rehman wrapped up his speech and left the podium.
Investigative monthly magazine Herald’s correspondent Moosa Kaleem, who has reported on the burning issues of the province, warned that Balochistan’s frustration at Pakistan’s creation had turned into hatred. He said that the mishandling of the intelligence agencies has worsened the situation. Kaleem cited unconfirmed reports that women are being picked up and are missing while those who have been missing for the last two years have come back as tortured corpses. He criticised the media for not doing enough, as the print and electronic media are being extremely cautious about what they report.
Baloch leader Yusuf Masti Khan chose to speak on the history of the country. “When Pakistan was created, the administration brought Junagadh’s nawabs to the country and settled them in Balochistan. Pakistan has enhanced the feudal system.”
According to Khan, the anti-state sentiments can be traced to pre-partition. “The Baloch did not want to be a part of the new country, including the Baloch from Lyari.” Pakistan was created without a strategy on how it would be run, he said. “And Balochistan has suffered the most.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2012.