Two years have passed since the prime minister announced the Balochistan rights’ package, but its impact on alleviating people’s discontent in the province is yet to be seen.
At a seminar organised by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and ActionAid in Islamabad, prominent politicians, analysts and academics spoke at length on the significance of the Aghaz-e-Haqooq Balochistan Package, underlining the failure of the package to change the status quo, according to a CRSS press release.
PML-N lawmaker and former governor of Balochistan, Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, Senator Dr Abdul Malik Baloch of Balochistan’s National Party, former Pakistan Peoples Party senator Taj Haider and Dr Aasim Sajjad Akhtar spoke at the seminar, which coincided with the second anniversary of the announcement of the Balochistan Rights’ Package.
A problem with historical roots
Qadir Baloch observed that the roots of Baloch nationalism went back to the partition of British India.
He highlighted that it was the imposition of state authority over the Khan of Kalat in 1948 that sowed the seeds of disillusionment amongst Baloch people towards the federation.
To blame the ‘sardars’ of Balochistan for the lack of development in the province would be a travesty of justice, he added. He explained further by saying that 71 out of 74 sardars in Balochistan had sided with former president Pervez Musharraf during his tenure and yet the government had failed to deliver in the province.
Reconciliation, not confrontation
Highlighting the key cause of Baloch discontentment towards the federation as being a matter of distrust, Taj Haider said that the only option the PPP government had was to go for reconciliation, rather than confrontation. He added that Balochistan always had an accommodating approach towards the federation through action, such as the approval of the 1973 constitution.
The creation of a discourse on the “law and order situation” in the province and the subsequent deployment of heavy security contingents “is being done out of ulterior motives and vested interests,” the former PPP senator said.
Haider also proposed that the government adopt legal measures to address the fears of the Baloch people, such as those over the mass migration of non-Baloch people towards the province.
Shunning what he referred to as the “politics of packages”, Malik Baloch said, “Baloch people worry about their identity, and they don’t want economic packages”. He blamed the state for “looting and plundering Baloch resources”, adding that Musharraf launched 125 property schemes in 25 days in Gwadar and the land was then sold-out within days. Calling this a “colonial model of governance”, Malik said such methods were not going to work in the 21st century.
‘Political, cultural rights must be granted’
Dr Akhtar of Quaid-e-Azam University’s National Institute of Pakistan Studies said that economic packages did not make sense in the absence of political rights. The Aghaz-e-Haqooq package would not make any difference as long as issues of provincial autonomy, control over resources, and administrative freedom were not sorted out, he added. Sultan Ahmed, programme coordinator for the Human and Rural Development Organisation further criticised the effectiveness of the package, saying that it failed to address the cultural rights of the Baloch people.
Civilian (lack of) supremacy
Participants at the seminar were also highly critical of the government’s failure to check what they called an ongoing “kill and dump” operation across Balochistan, referring to the several cases of missing persons and dumped bodies found in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2011.