Rejoinder to ‘The News’

Rejoinder to ‘The News’Asif Haroon Raja

This write up is a rejoinder to the editorial titled ‘A Province’s Plight’ appearing in The News dated September 9, 2013. At the very outset, let me correct the Editor’s assertion that X11 Corps moved to Quetta in 2004 before the insurgency and then stayed on. Pakistan Army doesn’t use Roman alphabets for its Corps like Indian Army but English alphabets. 12 Corps HQ was raised in Quetta in 1980 and is there since then. It was upgraded as Southern Command in 2007. Secondly, his claim that Gen Kayani downplayed friction between military and people of Balochistan is far from truth. I advise the editorial staff to undertake a visit to Balochistan, particularly the backward interior to see for themselves the change that is taking place. They should make a realistic comparison of the situation obtaining in the past and the current situation.

Although Gen Musharraf had started development of Balochistan in a big way from 2000 onwards, the impetus was given by Gen Kayani after he took over as Army Chief in November 2007. In deference to the reservations of the Baloch, besides changing the status of Sui, Kahan and Dera Bugti from military cantonments to educational cities, the Army constructed medical centres and host of high quality schools, technical institutes and vocational centres in interior Balochistan including Cadet College at Sui and also helped in improving the road infrastructure. All the educational institutes are brimming with Baloch/Brahvi and Pashtun students and most yearn to join armed forces. Large numbers have already been inducted in three services. Army is now looked at with respect.

With the induction of nationalist government headed by Dr Malik in Balochistan and appointment of Governor from PKMAP, separatists have been pushed to the backseat and have virtually been isolated. Their demands of provincial autonomy, greater share in NFC Award and in government jobs and control over provincial resources have been adequately met with the passage of 18th Amendment in Constitution. Mega projects and other projects are aimed at attending to their socio-economic grievances. Once Gawadar seaport kicks off and envisaged economic corridor becomes operational, it will benefit the people of Balochistan the most.

Mischievous Baloch Sardars with a pre-determined agenda at the behest of their foreign patrons together with segment of media pervasively hostile to Army keep alleging that Army is involved in operations in Balochistan and so does biased Indo-Western media. This theme is in addition to the theme of ‘missing persons’ persistently played up by Geo and The News. On several occasions Gen Kayani and ISPR reiterated that not a single soldier is involved in operations in Balochistan and repeated the same while addressing cadets of Sui Cadet College, of which the editorial has sardonically, made a mention of. He had to repeat it because of false claims made by rebellious Baloch Sardars and backed by propaganda of western and own media.

The Frontier Corps (FC) is in-charge of internal security since 2008 and this has been repetitively told by IGFC Maj Gen Salim Nawaz and his successor Maj Gen Obaidullah. But this reality doesn’t suit the separatists nor their backers or the hired media persons in Pakistan, NGOs and HRW. The paid fighters and their leaders feel embarrassed to have been pushed against the wall by a paramilitary force which is totally under the control of Interior Ministry. As an exception, the FC was placed under the control of former CM Aslam Raisani to tide over the worsening law and order situation.

But The News for unknown reasons is unprepared to buy this story and is adamant that the FC is nominally under the control of Interior Minister simply because it is officered by Army officers. It sees only the handful of officers and not the combat strength and junior leaders who are all civilians. It must not be forgotten that FC’s primary role is to guard the frontiers and coastline as first line defence and not internal security. Gen Kayani cannot employ FC or Rangers without explicit permission of Ministry of Interior. IGFC is answerable to Minister of Interior and not to Army Chief.

One wonders, what is the point the Editor News intends driving home by overplaying the presence of Army in Quetta Cantonment and that of FC in Balochistan and his grouse that Quetta is a heavily militarized city? Why is he so worried that the Army confined to barracks could be called into action at short notice when the need arose? He seems to be speaking the language of separatists who want Army and FC out of Balochistan so that they could walk in unopposed and raise their flag of independence. Pak Army’s ten Corps HQs are stationed in all major cities of Pakistan. 12 Corps (now known as Southern Command) primary task is to defend Balochistan’s western border and the Makran coastal belt. So what is so abnormal to locate a Corps HQ in the capital city of Balochistan?

Why should the Army express its regrets for operations as suggested by the Editor when it never opted at its own for operations in 1973 insurgency and 2004 insurgency? Both times, it was called in aid of civil power at the express wish of provincial government and approved by the federal government to save the day. As regards death of Akbar Bugti, the case is in the court and matter is sub-judiced. It will be in fitness of things to let the law take its course and let the judges decide rather than passing judgments prematurely. It is for the first time that ex Army Chief has been indicted in a murder case. So why the Editor is instigating the separatists not to accept reconciliation till the Army apologizes and accepts that it was responsible for Bugti’s murder?

He laments that Gen Kayani has placed the blame of most of the province’s woes on tribal leaders. In his view they have been made scapegoats to whitewash sins of military and federal government. Who doesn’t know except our ill-informed Editor of a prestigious newspaper that the Baloch Sardars are anti-people, anti-education and anti-development and are part of the problem and not solution? Infighting between Baloch tribes and even within tribes, particularly between Marris and Bugtis, each maintaining private armed militias and running private jails is part of history and hundreds of books/articles have been written on the lifestyle of Sardars and how they keep their tribes in bondage. They have been holding top appointments and running the government but instead of developing the province and bettering the lives of the people, they have been eating up development funds and filling up their coffers.

Mega projects like Gawadar and development of road infrastructure and education initiated by Musharraf alarmed the influential Sardars and they viewed those people-friendly projects as a threat to their Sardari system. It is common knowledge that BLA, BRA, BLUF, Lashkar-e-Balochistan all are on the payroll of CIA, RAW and CIA. These banned outfits receive heavy funds, sophisticated weapons and equipment and get trained in Farari camps in the mountains of interior Balochistan. These outfits are responsible for ethnic cleansing of Punjabi settlers and forcing tens of thousands to abandon their century old abodes and migrate elsewhere. Their fugitive leaders are guests of foreign powers and are enjoying life in Geneva, London and Washington. They are provided all the perks and privileges only to keep singing the tune of independent Balochistan.

But for the mere presence of Army in Balochistan and chivalry of FC in facing the foreign aided militants, Balochistan could have slipped out of our hands because of the laid back attitude of the last government. On one hand the learned Editor scoffs at the military presence and operations in Balochistan, and on the other he bitterly complains as to why a crackdown has not been ordered against the target killers of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan. These contradictions in stances are confusing.

I strongly recommend that a responsible newspaper like The News should defend the Army and FC rather than encouraging and promoting the agenda of separatists. I may like to assure the Editor that there is a sea change in the thinking of the Baloch youth and they are as patriotic as other Pakistanis living in other provinces. The Army is no more disliked but is respected since it is deeply involved in improving the lot of the neglected class in Balochistan. Both the federal and provincial governments are ceased with the socio-economic disparities in Balochistan and are focused towards removing the inequities. In the recent APC conference, it was decided to woo the fugitive Baloch leaders and rebellious fighters and bring them back into the mainstream.

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