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Why bleed Balochistan?

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Why bleed Balochistan?

Post  Bolan on Thu Jul 07, 2011 5:40 pm

By Murtaza Razvi
Monday, 24 Aug, 2009

Inaction continues to define the government’s conduct in regard to the many issues confronting Balochistan. It is becoming clear to an increasing number of Baloch people that while the state wants their resources, it has little empathy for them.

A year after President Pervez Musharraf — he can be blamed for many of our miseries today — stepped down, little has changed in the equation dogging Balochistan-centre relations. So far the elected government has only paid lip service to solving the restive province’s problems. The apology President Zardari offered to the people of Balochistan at the inception of the PPP-led government more than a year ago has not been followed up with any action to redress Baloch grievances.

Ms Asma Jahangir, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, seems to be among the few spokespersons for the Baloch. She says the army is still very much in charge of that province; the political governments — at Islamabad and Quetta — have no say in managing Balochistan.

An unspecified but large number of Baloch nationalist leaders and political workers have gone missing even after the inception of the democratic government following the 2008 election. ‘Missing’ of course is a polite euphemism for abduction by security forces and intelligence sleuths.

Those who have been spared are either in hiding or lying low for fear of incarceration. The rest are raising a rebellion from abroad; those here are threatened with arrest unless they watch what they say. Why this humiliation of the Baloch in their own homeland?

Has democracy really returned to Balochistan? The elected provincial government keeps mum over these staggering issues or simply looks the other way. In Islamabad, the finger is being pointed at Indian interference in the province. The prime minister raised the issue with his Indian counterpart at a recent meeting in Egypt; the president says threats to Pakistan’s security are internal and not from India. Could someone please step forward and clear the haze?

The HRCP accuses the centre of giving Balochistan a raw deal right from the beginning. The province gets its gas royalties at a rate far below that paid to Sindh and Punjab for the same commodity. This financial year, as previously also, the Balochistan budget continues to be one of deficit, necessitating that Quetta beg Islamabad for financial assistance just to meet its running expenses; the 2009-10 budget has no funds earmarked for development because there is none to be undertaken under the dire straits.

Juxtapose this with the recently unveiled grand plan of building an entire new city in Thatta district, which President Zardari says will be Sindh’s second largest. It is on such lucrative mega-projects that have immense potential for doling out building contracts and blessing the minders and handlers with huge kickbacks in the process that our energies are focused.

If Gwadar and New Murree were the previous regime’s pet projects, Zulfikarabad now suddenly seems to have become this presidency’s priority. Gwadar never took off, and for obvious reasons. New Murree was scrapped altogether — as it should have been.

There is nothing wrong with building new cities; but first we must be able to run and manage the ones we have with some efficiency and public accountability. The new democratic order suddenly seems to be mandated to scrap everything that harks back to the Musharraf era. That is why local governments too will now have to be disbanded, which was perhaps the only saving grace of Musharraf’s — albeit faulty — process of transition to democracy. It allowed some empowering of the people’s representatives at the grassroots level.

Funds allocated and given to districts, town administrations and union councils did reach down to the more earthly and accessible beings from the high and mighty of the land, who are in the habit of blowing them on showcase projects or worse still, on serving multi-course gourmet meals at government houses when not globetrotting. With local governments about to be disbanded and no clear plan in sight to revamp the system, it is the economically depressed districts and even entire provinces, which will suffer most.

In Balochistan public disempowerment at the local level will further fuel the sense of alienation among the people. An average Baloch anywhere in Balochistan has perhaps never set foot in Quetta; he can be content by getting his two square meals in his small hamlet, a roof over his head and just the very basic amenities like water, sanitation and perhaps some schooling for children. Electricity for many in the hinterland is an additional blessing.

Now with the decision to scrap the local government system the little power the grassroots Baloch have had over their own finances will be concentrated in Quetta, without it trickling down to the far-off union councils.

Yet more hurting is the free run of the countryside allowed to the military and paramilitary forces in Balochistan over the preceding decade. The policy has bred much resentment amongst the average Baloch, and is part of the reason why the sardars known for their brutal customs and practices which target their own people are now emerging as people’s leaders — more so than those sent to elected legislatures only last year.

The army is not known to have solved any of Pakistan’s problems — at wartime or in peace — when left to its own devices. Its interference in public affairs has compounded our challenges and distorted the normal course of events. Its commercial interests pursued at the expense of the people are well documented. Ms Jahangir is right in asserting that Balochistan cannot be left to military decision-making mechanisms. The situation calls for political engagement among all concerned.

This can only be possible if the government shows the will to act first by calling to account the gross human rights violations in the province, and thus removing the stigma of being disloyal to the state from the names of Baloch nationalists. It remains to be seen if the government is up to the task.
This Article From BALOCHWARNA
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Bolan
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