Tuesday, May 11, 2010

“Mango diplomacy” will further divide the Balochs

“Mango diplomacy” will further divide the Balochs

By Malik Siraj Akbar


This scribe was a part of a so-called peace delegation from Balochistan in August 2008 that visited Islamabad to meet people from different walks of life in order to inform them about the actual situation in Balochistan. Organized by a western non-governmental organization, the delegation comprised of representatives of political parties, civil society and the media from Balochistan to hold multiple sessions of debate with different organizations and their representatives to let them know what the Balochs actually wanted and how the government was responding to their demands.

Among others, our delegation comprised of former leader of the opposition in Balochistan Assembly, Kachkol Ali Baloch, secretary general of the Balochistan National Party, Habib Jalib Baloch, secretary general of Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) Abdul Khaliq Hazara, Baloch Students’ Organization (BSO-Pajar) central president Abdul Wahid Raheem Baloch and several other leaders. Subsequently, we were joined by other leaders, including Rafiq Khoso of Baloch Republican Party (BRP) and Bismillah Khan Kakar of the Pakistan People’s Party.

One of the best interactions with the Islamabad’s bright minds took place at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) where we did not only get a chance to put our point of view but it also exposed us to sharp questions from political, social and economic spectrum of society. Over all, everyone in the interaction at SDPI concord that Balochistan had not been properly treated and if timely measures were not take for damage control, the situation in the aggrieved province would get out of control.

Deadlock among the participants of the peace delegation and the organizers reached when we were informed by our hosts that as a part of the trip to Islamabad, we would also be required to meet with one representative of the government of Pakistan to put Balochistan’s case before him. All delegates protested. The most vocal members of the delegation who clearly refused to meet any government official in Islamabad were Habib Jalib Baloch of BNP and Kachkol Ali Baloch.

“What if tomorrow the government issues a press statement claiming to have initiated contacts with the Baloch leaders,” feared Jalib, “We cannot take such risks to talk to the government of Pakistan formally or informally. If you (the organizers) further insist upon us to meet the government representative, we will walk out of this delegation and go back to Balochistan in protest.” The Baloch leaders clearly stated that they did not have the confidence of their nation to enter into any kind of conversation with the government authorities.

When all political members of the delegation refused to attend the informal chat with a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Law and Justice, the organizers feared they would be embarrassed for not making up for an appointment they had earlier sought with the government official. On the mutual consultation of the group members as to not offend the hosts and undermine the Baloch cause at the same time, all members of the delegation nominated this writer to be accompanied with one representative of the organizing NGO to meet the high government official because I was not a part of any political party. Therefore, there was no harm for a journalist to hear the government point of view. Thus, I went along with the organizers to see the senior official at the Law and Justice Department to hold a two-hour long discussion on the issue of the missing persons of Balochistan.

The reason for narrating this succinct anecdote is to indicate how much offensive Baloch leaders felt while communicating with a secretary-level officer two years ago. They had the courage to say openly inside Islamabad that they would not talk to the government on gun-point until Islamabad reviewed its approach towards the province.

Balochistan National Party, the largest Baloch nationalist group, has once again flabbergasted everyone in Balochistan by suddenly establishing contacts with the government of Pakistan. A meeting between Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and BNP patron-in-chief Sardar Attaullah Mengal on Saturday has left no room for BNP spokesmen to deny any kind of contacts with the government.

One may not solely be criticizing BNP for its contacts with the government. The unanticipated and unilateral move has pained those who wish to form a single united Baloch party. Smaller parties, such as the National Party, which comprises of the middle class educated youth, whines that BNP’s decisions are highly influenced by its chiefs who prefer to assert their tribal status than their position in a democratic political party. Historically, a similar attitude of the tribal sardars has been the main cause of rifts in Baloch political alliances.

Many nationalist political parities in Balochistan complained that they were not taken into confidence by BNP while deciding to resign from the parliament on the wake of Nawab Bugti’s killing. They allege that the BNP went on a solo flight to cash Bugti’s killing. BNP has once again made a disastrous effort to present itself as the sole representative of Balochistan. If the Baloch leaders really wanted to hold talks, they should have communicated with the government on the platform of their erstwhile Four Party Baloch Alliance.

Sardar Mengal’s meeting with Gilani will further widen the divisions among Baloch parties. It will distance NP and Jamori Watan Party from the BNP. Baloch National Front (BNF) and Baloch Republican Party (BRP) would surely take this as a pretext to criticize BNP for an alleged ‘sell-out’ of the Baloch case in return of the ‘mango diplomacy’ initiated by Primer Gilani. With Islamabad always trying to pursue a policy of divide and rule, this is another occasion where Baloch leadership has unwisely fallen in the trap of Islamabad’s treacherous policy of mitigating the Baloch movement with void promises. This will tremendously shatter Nawab Bugit’s dream of a single Baloch party.

(The writer is the editor of The Baloch Hal)

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