Save Balochistan before it’s too late!

Published: September 4, 2012
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If the growing rebellion among the Baloch youth and total collapse of confidence in the state becomes entrenched then the writing on the wall is none too different from Syria’s - that of revolt, bloodshed, tears and separation. DESIGN: ERUM SHAIKH

“We believe every country and nation is entitled to nurture and promote these (human rights and democratic)values in accordance with their own historical experience, cultural and religious values” said Ms Khar during a meeting of foreign ministers in Iran ahead of Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit.

The underlying fear wrapped in layers of suspicion of a ‘foreign hand’ involved in our land of the pure is yet again evident in Ms Khar’s ostensible message.

Defining human rights in the context of cultural and religious values is injustice to a phenomenon that transcends such reductionist boundaries. These values of human rights and democracy (Article 21 and Section V) are universal as per the UN Declaration of Human Rights- unanimously adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 and if the same are violated, the onus is on international community to force repressive state authorities, trying to extenuate or usurp these rights, to correct course.

The varied state imposed limitations, on human rights and democratic values only prove a country’s moral and psychological development as a nation vis-a-vis domestic and foreign policies. By this token Pakistan’s foreign policy of outright opposition to any overt or covert foreign intervention in Syria bringing an end to the egregious human slaughter and civil rights abuse, is a matter of concern.

It is reflective of a parochial ideology that legitimatises use of armed force and tyranny by state to unleash terror on its own people who have lawful grievances against its oppressive and discriminatory treatment.

Unlike Ms Khar’s rhetoric of ‘“peace through joint global governance” based on principles of coexistence, respect for human rights and territorial integrity’, the reality in Syria belies these very, sacrosanct and highly held principles, she so enjoins in her speech. Pakistan’s continued support of Russia and China to veto UN sanctioned intervention in Syria is not an arbitrary decision taken in a moment of oblivion but is born out of a strong sense of insecurity and fear, given the situation in Balochistan.

However, this expedient and myopic policy of ‘non-intervention’ is neither perspicacious nor sustainable.

Democratic principles, based on respect for will of the people, universal and equal suffrage, and proportional representation, cannot be expropriated by states at whim. Neither can freedom of expression and dissension against misgovernance and draconian policies be smothered.

Thus, instead of supporting despotic regimes elsewhere to avoid similar threats to its territorial integrity, Pakistan should realistically evaluate the current situation in Balochistan in view of the 1971 separation of its Eastern half that has, to date, marred the memories and wrenched the hearts of many with pain, suffering and humiliation.

Internal discord and the growing rift between federation and aggrieved Baloch need to be addressed on a war footing. The saga of missing people and extra judicial killings is not only gross violation of human rights but is also denigrating Pakistan’s credibility globally. In this scenario, our support for Bashar Al Assad is not doing us any favours. If anything, Arab spring in Egypt and Tunisia should serve as a moral lesson for states and leaders engaged in oppression, as it negates the efficacy of brute force against determined yet pacific efforts of the masses.

And then there is the uncanny similarity between situations in Syria and Pakistan (Balochistan). Both the states are blithely perpetrating violence on their own people who feel wronged and dispossessed of a proportional and equitable stake in government. Both are employing the services of their intelligence agencies to confront internal threats. Both are denying an urgent need to carry out institutional reforms at all levels. And both are blaming foreign hands (Al Qaeda and India respectively) for the belligerence and resistance being shown by people against the state’s persecutions.

However, the situation in the two countries is still separated albeit by a very thin line.

There can be no denying Bashar al Assad’s inevitable fall from power. But Pakistan still has a window of opportunity if it abandons the complacent attitude of paying mere lip service and engaging in polemics rather gets down to brass tacks, addressing the flagrant issues blighting Balochistan.

In this regard, NFC award and the devolution of power to provinces envisaged in the 18th Amendment hold promise and provide redress opportunity to past misgivings and distrusts. To further cement these initiatives, a true representative government in Balochistan is of utmost importance; made possible by holding free and fair general elections based on universal suffrage. To date, Balochistan only has an abysmal 4% share in the total registered electoral rolls.

The ECP and NADRA through joint efforts should expedite and ease the process of CNIC issuance to allow maximum voter participation. The government thus formed would have the mandate and confidence of people in resolving contentious issues especially of provincial development both in physical and human capital.

However given the current security situation, Pakistan’s Syrian bête noire can only be avoided so long. If the growing rebellion among the Baloch youth and total collapse of confidence in the state becomes entrenched then to the dismay of all, the writing on the wall is none too different from Syria’s- that of revolt, bloodshed, tears and separation.

And there will be no force (read: Pakistan Army) strong enough to hold back the forces of a South Asian Arab Spring- demanding independence, with Ms Khar’s words lost in the books of history.

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Aisha Ghumman

Aisha Ghumman

A civil servant with the 40th common batch and a graduate of LUMS.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.