Balochistan’s taking centre stage on the political landscape these days, but more because of what’s happening offshore than in the province itself.
On Monday, the National Assembly unanimously passed an opposition-sponsored resolution to condemn the recent US congressional hearing on Balochistan, stating that the initiative would jeopardise the healing process of already strained Pak-US ties. The foreign office soon echoed the lawmaker’s stance by lodging a formal protest with the US.
Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) took the government to task for what he stated was its disregard of the issue, while proposing the resolution to condemn US “interference” in Pakistan’s internal affairs.
“It seems we are ignorant of our sovereignty,” Nisar said.
He also questioned the justification provided by the US administration that the Congress committee holds hearings of issues related to human rights violations across the world. “Why did the committee not take any action during the regime of former dictator Pervez Musharraf when Akbar Bugti was killed, (Jamia Hafsa) students were killed and when drones kill innocent people?” Nisar asked.
At the same time, the opposition leader appeared to give the military leeway as far as Balochistan is concerned. He hailed clarifications provided by the army chief that the military has no role in Balochistan policy matters and the Frontier Constabulary (FC) inspector general’s claims that missing persons were not in the FC’s custody. “We always blame the armed forces but we should praise their response as well,” Nisar added.
Though PPP’s Mir Humayun Aziz Kurd welcomed the resolution, he said “a mere resolution cannot solve the Balochistan issue.” He was also more cynical about the army’s statements, saying “I reject the statement that there is no operation going on in Balochistan”.
Nisar, however, seemed more interested in Pakistan’s sovereignty rather than the province’s grievances. “This resolution is only relevant to what is taking place in the US… and is against the violation of our sovereignty,” Nisar explained.
Earlier, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was warmly welcomed to the session with desk thumping by PPP members, and as he settled at his desk, the premier was bombarded by lawmakers approaching him to express solidarity.
Gilani, on the other hand, chose to remain mum on his indictment, and instead chose to respond to a question on the government’s initiatives for flood relief.
Nisar’s accusations against the government avoiding the issue, however, may have been a little premature. On cue, the government launched a formal protest with the US over the hearing on Balochistan, echoing Nisar’s words that the move was ‘interference’ in the internal affairs of the country.
US Charge d’Affairs Richard Hoagland was summoned to the foreign ministry to convey the government’s “serious concerns to the hearing held by the US Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations in relation to Balochistan,” said an official statement.
The American diplomat was informed that the US congressional committee’s action was unacceptable as it amounted to interference in the internal affairs of the country, added the foreign office statement.
(Read: A hearing on Balochistan)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2012.