The government should curtail the role of military and intelligence agencies and call off the military operation if it wants a political solution to the festering Balochistan imbroglio, said speakers at a national conference.
Local politicians, nationalist leaders, rights campaigners and lawyers attended the conference organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and moderated by its President Yasin Azad in Quetta on Sunday.
They called for an open trial of the killers of Jamhoori Wattan Party (JWP) chief Nawab Akbar Bugti who died in August 2006 more than eight months after a military operation was launched by Gen Pervez Musharraf.
They also demanded that the spiral of violence must stop and all missing persons recovered. Rights campaigners blame security agencies for the enforced disappearances in the volatile province – where Baloch separatists have been fighting a deadly insurgency since 2004.
Former SCBA chief and senior lawyer Asma Jahangir did not mince words in her criticism of the military for the mess in Balochistan. “The army wants to exploit the resources of Balochistan and snatch the right of ownership of its people,” she told the participants.
“I am a mother too and can feel the pain when mutilated bodies turn up. Thousands of people have testified against the perpetrators of enforced disappearances, but no arrests have been made,” she added.
Recalling an incident when Balochistan High Court Bar Association President Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani had met with Nawab Akbar Bugti before the latter’s assassination, Jahangir quoted the JWP chief as saying: “Orders have already been issued to assassinate me, Balach Marri and Brahamdagh Bugti.”
“Nobody is born a separatist in Balochistan; they are born nationalists and we compel them to take that course,” she said referring to the apathy of successive governments towards the plight of Baloch people.
She called for the formation of a high-powered commission to reach out to all stakeholders. “Mr Kayani, this is what the civilians want; and you will do it,” Jahangir said, addressing the chief of army staff.
Another former SCBA president Ali Ahmed Kurd said the conference would not yield results unless those responsible were made accountable for their deeds.
“If the people of Pakistan don’t come on the roads and oppose the oppression, as we did for the restoration of judges, nothing will change,” he said.
Acting President of Balochistan National Party (Mengal) Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini said one good thing about the conference was that guests from all over the country witnessed firsthand the province’s appalling conditions.
Jamaldini denounced the use of “derogatory” adjective “disgruntled” for the Baloch people and said that the disillusionment among the Baloch resulted from 64 years of deprivation.
Balochistan Bar Association President Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani lashed out at the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) for its alleged involvement in enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Gen (retd) Qadir Baloch, a leader of the Balochistan chapter of PML-N, blamed Gen Musharraf for the disillusionment among the Baloch.
He suggested that a commission be formed to investigate the military operation that killed Akbar Bugti. “This will pinpoint all matters and their causes in Balochistan,” he added.
Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, the president of National Party, said that until and unless a national consensus was evolved the Balochistan issue could not be settled.
Nasrullah Baloch, the chairperson for Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, regretted that some stakeholders were missing from the conference.
He maintained “the Baloch people are killed because they speak against the injustices done to them over the years.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2012.