ISLAMABAD: Balochistan has been bleeding since 2004. Successive governments tried to stem the bleeding – but to no avail so far. Government and intelligence officials believe some foreign forces are also stoking violence in the province, where ethnic, political, sectarian and militant lines have criss-crossed to further destabilise the province.
Baloch nationalists were earlier reluctant to buy this claim. However, veteran Baloch politician Sardar Akhtar Mengal on Sunday admitted to the presence of “death squads sponsored by Pakistan’s neighbours and foreign powers”.
In an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune, Mengal also condemned the deadly violence perpetrated by Baloch separatists in the province. A medley of separatist groups – especially Balochistan Liberation Army, Baloch Republican Army and Baloch Liberation Army – have upped their insurgency ante since the killing of Jamhoori Watan Party chief Nawab Akbar Bugti in a military operation in 2006.
He acknowledged that Baloch insurgents have been targeting non-Baloch settlers, mainly those from Punjab, in Balochistan. “However, some government officials also want the settlers to flee the province and sell their properties at throw-away prices,” he added.
It is perhaps the first time that Mengal has openly condemned the activities of Baloch insurgents --- not easy to do since his younger brother Javed Mengal and two of his nephews – Nooruddin Mengal and Bhawal Mengal – are also allegedly involved in insurgency.
For his part, Sardar Akhtar Mengal – the head of his own faction of Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) – said his party has from the beginning renounced violence as a means to achieve political and economic rights of the Baloch people.
Mengal ended his four-year self-imposed exile and returned to Pakistan on March 25, 2013 to lead his party in the May 11 general elections. All separatist groups are opposed to parliamentary politics.
Mengal spoke about his predicament. “The Baloch militants consider me a traitor while the security establishment also treats me as an enemy,” he said. “I’m being targeted by both.”
Asked if he was willing to mediate between the insurgents and the government, Mengal said: “Both [Baloch insurgents and security establishment] speak through the barrel of the gun. They cannot understand my language.”
Instead Mengal reiterated that the six-point formula he had spelt out before the May 11 elections to stabilise the situation in Balochistan was still workable. “My six-point formula is within the parameters of the Constitution,” he said. “We are willing for a debate with anyone who thinks my six points are against the interest of Pakistan.”
Mengal also strongly criticised the security establishment for targeting ‘Baloch political workers’. He alleged that ‘death squads’ backed by intelligence agencies were eliminating critics of the establishment’s policies. “They [death squads] are killing and kidnapping people because they have been given a licence by the establishment to operate against anyone,” he added.
Asked by bloodshed perpetrated by Baloch insurgents, he said: “State agencies should not behave like militants. There should be a difference between the conduct of the state and of militants.”
Mengal’s party fared badly in the May 11 elections which he claimed were massively rigged. “The elections were rigged by the establishment to stop my party from coming to power,” he alleged.
Mengal, who is in the federal capital, is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif besides attending a book launch. He is confident that Nawaz can resolve the Balochistan issue.
“I had detailed discussions with Mian Sahib on all important issues after the general elections. “Mian Sahib assured me that he would do all he could to steer Balochistan out of crisis,” said Mengal. “I will try to meet him on his return from China.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2013.