After seeing his suggestion of an all-parties conference on Balochistan being taken up by the government, Nawaz Sharif has upped the ante further.
On Friday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) announced that it plans to raise the controversial missing persons issue in Parliament through a resolution, followed by legislation to “curb the practice”.
The announcement came in the evening when some unusual faces were seen at a sit-in organised by the families of missing persons outside the Parliament House – none other than PML-N chief and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif himself, along with Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Senator Ishaq Dar and party member Khawaja Saad Rafiq.
PML-N, it appears, has truly taken up the issue as its own. “We will move a resolution in the National Assembly to back the missing persons case,” said the party chief, adding that those who would oppose the resolution will be ‘exposed’.
The opposition’s emerging support for the increasingly prominent issue is nothing less than vociferous. Referring to their cause as a “jihad”, Sharif said: “We will continue … until they [missing persons] are recovered.”
Govt to blame
However, the opposition has chosen to focus its criticism on the government as opposed to the alleged involvement of the country’s security agencies. The law and constitution seem “helpless”, the PML-N chief added.
Questioning the government, Sharif said that missing persons cases have been around for years, and that, “All of this is happening under the nose of the democratic government”.
The legislation, he added, would be in reference to this particular issue, while an effort will also be made to find a solution to Balochistan’s other grievances.
What is clear is that a concerted effort is being made by the opposition to bring the troubled province to the spotlight: “I want to assure my brothers in Balochistan that we will raise our voice for them as well. We do not discriminate between provinces,” the party chief said.
Nisar’s softer tone
Meanwhile, Nisar had his own words to impart: The opposition leader recalled his speeches in the National Assembly over the issue and distanced himself from the activities of the lower house, saying “I feel ashamed being member of a Parliament which is helpless to recover the missing persons”.
Strong rhetoric aside, however, the question of who exactly is behind disappearances in Balochistan remained unanswered during the sit-in speeches.
Nisar also proved to have a softer stance on the issue than his party chief. The possibility that missing people were involved in anti state activities was cited, although Nisar said that, in such a case, they should be tried according to the law of the land. In this case, the opposition leader said, the PML-N would not raise any objections. He also urged all political parties to play their role in the recovery of “every single missing person”.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2012.