Discourse on Balochistan

Posted by Faheem Belharvi

Three weeks ago, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Chief of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party, was in Pakistan after three years of self-imposed exile.

Anchorpersons of many TV channels interviewed him; during the interviews, he tried to malign the state, military and agencies. The peace loving people of Pakistan had expected that his return would help bring a sense of calmness, and help promote peace and serenity in the province.
Unfortunately, his statements before the court and the media caused confusion among the masses enhancing their sense of insecurity. Since then debate is raging in the media and some analysts and panelists are heaping opprobrium on the armed forces, and they have joined the chorus with the centrifugal forces that Baloch people are being subjected to organized and systematic genocide carried out by the security agencies.

The commentarial and chattering classes try to misguide the public by saying that the state functionaries promoted non-entities as alternates to recognized leadership of Nawab Marri, Sardar Mengal and Nawab Bugti.

The allegations against the intelligence agencies and state functionaries are also baseless, as Sardar Akhter Jan Mengal himself had been Chief Minister of Balochistan in a coalition government with the PML-N in 1997. After Pakistan detonated atomic devices in Chaghi-Balochistan, Sardar Akhtar Mengal was angry that he was not taken into confidence.

Mian Nawaz Sharif with heavy mandate and usual arrogance did not like Akhtar Mengal’s attitude and maneuvered to get the vote of no-confidence passed against his government. Having experienced the power in the highest office of the province, he feels alienated for being left out. Actually, he himself is to be blamed for boycotting February 2008 elections.

In democracy, every individual has an equal right to get a chance to compete for the highest offices through elections. Akhtar Mengal had participated in 2002 elections and became member of the Assembly, only to quit after two years. He boycotted the 2008 election, which was termed fair by all observers; hence elected members cannot be termed as proxies.

One should refer to the roster of governors and chief ministers of Balochistan since 1970s to check the veracity of this assertion. Nawab Akbar Bugti and Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s names come readily to mind. And one should not forget late Mir Ahmed Yar Khan of Kalat, who acted as Governor of

Balochistan. Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo was one of the founding members of the National Awami Party, and served as the Governor of Balochistan from 1972 to 1973. He was a key signatory to 1973-Constitution of Pakistan. Nawab Akbar Bugti was elected in a by-election to the National Assembly of Pakistan in May 1958 to fill the vacancy created as a result of the assassination of the incumbent, Dr Khan Sahib, he sat on the government benches as a member of the ruling coalition.

He served as Minister of State (Interior) in the government of Prime Minister Malik Sir Feroz Khan Noon from September 20, 1958, to October 7, 1958, when the cabinet was dismissed on the declaration of Martial Law by President Iskander Mirza.

He was arrested and convicted by a Military Tribunal in 1960 and subsequently disqualified from holding public office.
Being engaged in legal battles, he did not contest the 1970 general elections. Instead, he campaigned on behalf of his younger brother, Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Bugti, a candidate of the National Awami Party. However, Bugti developed differences with the NAP leadership, especially then Balochistan Governor, Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo. Reportedly, he had informed the Federal Government and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of the alleged London Plan, which resulted in the dismissal of the provincial governor as well as the Chief Minister Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal and his cabinet on February 14, 1973.

The next day, the Federal Government appointed Bugti as the Governor of Balochistan, and the Pakistan Army was deployed in the province as part of a crackdown on the National Awami Party. Sardar Ataullah Mengal went into exile in London from where he supported the Soviet Union in its war against the Afghan Mujahideen.

It has to be reiterated that after passage of 18th Amendment, provinces have control over their resources. However, the political leaders are expected to use these resources for the betterment of their people rather than keeping these buried. Targeting foreigners working on various schemes that would benefit Balochistan is despicable, as people would remain deprived of the benefits of the development and growth. It goes without saying that people of Balochistan have the first right over minerals and other natural resources of Balochistan, and major part of the income from these assets should be spent on the welfare of the people of Balochistan.

Baloch sardars could get their share from the income accrued from their area, but they are not entitled to the entire income. It is unfortunate that some sardars are not willing to accept less than independence, and they openly talk about secession. Akhtar Mengal, Brahamdagh Bugti and Hyrbyar Marri do not hide their ambitions of having an independent Balochistan.
Akhtar Mengal cries hoarse that his people have been mistreated and wronged by the state.

It is true that Balochistan was neglected during British Raj, as it had developed regions of strategic importance at that time. Of course, few governments in the past also neglected development, but at the same time a few Baloch Sardars also took to the mountains whenever effort was made to build infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals.

The fact of the matter is that a common Baloch was the victim of a double whammy right from the days of British Raj. Of course, governments in the past had ignored the development in the province, but after the dissolution of One Unit in 1969, Aghaz-e-Haqooq-i-Balochistan and more recently with 18th amendment Balochistan like other provinces enjoys provincial autonomy, and provincial government has the necessary resources to improve the lives of Baloch people. Military has withdrawn from Dera Bugti and other areas, but cantonments are going to stay as Balochistan is part of Pakistan.

(Mohammad Jamil)

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