LAHORE - The FC IG’s shocking disclosure that foreign agencies are involved in Balochistan unrest was not shocking at all. All know it’s a dirty game being played in the largest province. The IG should have either saved his words or gone beyond and named the countries, at least to the Foreign Office if not to the media, whose agencies are operating in or around Balochistan.
At best, the statement by the IG Major General Obaidullah Khan Khattak reflected on the internal rift that is at the heart of the law and order problem spiraling out of hand. He touched on the loopholes in the law that allowed nabbed criminals to walk free on court decrees, the role of the media which he said painted as heroes those who were acting against the state, and the general psychological and physical demoralization of the federal force (FC) that has now been placed under the direct control of the provincial chief minister for the matters involving law and order in the light of the decisions made at a recent high-level meeting attended among others by PM Gilani and COAS Gen Kayani.
The problem on the ground is far more complex than generally perceived. It is the issue of foreign involvement with the help of local sympathisers; it is certain elements picking up suspects or even ordinary people who become missing persons; it is the West floating resolutions about rights issue in Balochistan in the context of ongoing standoff on Nato supplies and future Afghan roadmap; and it is the immediate neighbours keeping it hard to resist from embroiling Balochistan in the geo-strategic politics in the region. But above all, it is the apathy of our own rulers who have been handling the issue of Balochistan with such crudeness that they disregarded the perilous fallouts of their actions or inaction. By actions it means killing Baloch leaders such as Nawab Bugti without even risking the outcome of a judicial trial if the state believed it had such strong evidence to implicate the men like him. And by inaction it means perpetual neglect of the resource-rich province to an extent that the areas which provide gas and minerals to the length and breadth of the country remain devoid of the basic necessities.
To measure our rulers interest in public affairs, daily killings of the sons and daughters of the soil should be enough yardstick. Not a day passes without innocent people falling prey to the gun crime – at least in Quetta and Karachi. For a multitude of reasons, law enforcement agencies remain suffering from paralysis to address the law and order issue. Instead of going into the possible reasons, including political expediency for the number game in assemblies, one finds it hard to believe that our law enforcers have reduced themselves to being reactive (reacting to a law and order situation). At least in the two provinces, the law enforcers should gather intelligence and act against potential perpetrators of the terror attacks that happen every day. None the less, one could understand that politicization of security forces kills such objective being at odds with vested interests. A fair analysis of the situation suggests that law enforcement agencies should be made free of political influence in order to make them effective. At the same time, they should be responsible to the elected legislature through a well laid-out procedure. But lack of unity appears to be a stumbling block on this front too.
The most pressing need of the time is to bridge the gap between our state institutions since, at the moment, the state pillars appear to be poles apart on various issues. They are rather deep into internal strife that is fast eroding the writ of the state in certain terrains traditionally prone to unrest. The infighting is only helping the hostile elements, locals as well as foreigners, to carry out anti-Pakistan activities with brazen audacity and impunity.
The government may proclaim otherwise, but even the recent visit by Prime Minister Gilani to Balochistan stems partly from a blunt warning by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that the Balochistan issue warrants immediate attention of the federal government to arrest the situation before things get to the point of declaring emergency. Though the government initially clamoured over the question of who holds the authority to declare emergency, the better sense seemed to have prevailed.
Similarly, to allow Balochistan a fair chance, judicial activism on certain other political fronts could be put off for now. Why not when such an exercise has only added more confusion to the already fragile political, economic and social milieu. Bringing into question the legitimacy of the very Prime Minister who is to be later asked to take steps to restore law and order in Balochistan could be interpreted as self-contradictory, if not illogical.
It is not just sad, but also symbolic of the deep-rooted trouble that the day the PM set foot on the land of Balochistan, five people from an ethnic community and a cop were butchered in a brazen gun attack. Awakening to the problem that the rulers had long been either brushing under the carpet or badly bungling, is but a welcome change. Without questioning anyone’s integrity, the overbearing want remains unity and trust among state institutions, with the underlying principle of ‘rule of law’ as a panacea to the ills afflicting us. If the rulers kept settling their own scores in the echelons of power, the common man on the street may well continue to die in all probability.
Slaughter amid institutional strife