When she last visited Islamabad, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a Pakistani woman tell her, during a town hall-style meeting in Islamabad, that the relationship between America and Pakistan was that of an unappreciative mother-in-law (the mother-in-law of course being America). A similar analogy also applies to Islamabad’s relationship with Balochistan. To me, the Centre acts like a suspicious husband with Balochistan, always in doubt of the latter’s loyalty and fidelity.
In fact, carrying the jealous husband analogy further, I would say that what we see happening in Balochistan these days is like an angry husband beating up his wife, the wife screaming for help, while the husband gets angry upon seeing the neighbours running to help and protect the wife. Instead of correcting his ways, he starts berating the neighbours, screaming at them to mind their own business. And in that context, if the beating of up a woman symbolises a man’s cowardice, then brutalising an ethnic minority, made up of its own people, also reflects a state’s cowardice and shame.
Unfortunately, ours is a history marked with lies, distortions, exaggerations and false glorification. Can’t we at least pay attention to some bitter truths and grim reminders? For all the flak that US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (Republican from California) is getting from Pakistan’s media and official circles, the fact is that he is gaining popularity by the day, especially among the young people of Balochistan, some of whom have already set up a Facebook fan page for him. At last count, he had over 3,000 fans and this number will only rise.
So, the news channels are fooling and misleading the country when they show a ‘patriotic Pakistani’ from Islamabad or Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, instead of a talking to a Baloch from Gwadar, condemning the developments taking place in Washington DC. Why is there such reluctance to trust the Baloch and speak to them to learn what has alienated them and what they demand? When was the first (and probably the last) time when the whole country demonstrated unity to address what is happening in Balochistan? How many long marches, breaking news stories and parliamentary resolutions are going to happen before the government addresses the matter at hand?
Let’s stop the ‘internal affair’ drama and focus on some historical facts? Since Pakistan’s inception, Islamabad has spied on the Baloch. Perhaps the Baloch did not respond to the fact that they were treated unequally and disrespectfully but over time they became pained by being billed as Russian, Indian, Afghan and even Iraqi agents. Of course, now they are going to be treated as ‘CIA agents’! Did Islamabad ever embrace the Baloch as respectful and dependable citizens of the land who could be trusted and given ownership and responsibility?
Surely, we all remember what happened in 1973 when the first-ever elected Baloch government was dismissed. As if disregard for the Baloch mandate of provincial government was not enough, the people of the province were then subjected to a horrendous military operation on the charge of having ‘extra-marital affairs’ with foreign countries. In six decades, Islamabad has not been able to present undisputed proof of Balochistan’s unfaithfulness while there are countless accounts of the formers patriarchal arrogance towards the province.
An ardent pro-Pakistan leader like Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed on suspicion of getting ‘foreign assistance’. Former chief minister Akhtar Mengal was literally put into an iron cage because General Musharraf thought he was not sufficiently patriotic. Bramdagh Bugti was called an ‘Indian agent’, and his sister and niece were killed. Hundreds of young Baloch have been found dead in recent months, dumped along roads in the province.
While a troubled relationship between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law can endure despite all flaws, marriage between a quarrelling couple has a painful, yet, internationally and legally acceptable choice: divorce. The Pakistani ‘patriots’ should ask themselves that are their actions pushing Balochistan to the brink of divorce.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.