Some days ago I was listening to a discussion between some elderly Pakistanis, many of whom have held senior position in the country’s affairs – they included a Pathan, a Sindhi, a Baloch, and several Punjabis, thus covering a reasonably broad spectrum of views.
The Pathan expressed disquiet at the absence of concern shown by the country at large at the deaths of hundred of civilians in Waziristan and Balochistan. The Sindhi ventured that the same had been the case when Karachi had been burning in the mid-90s and Sindh in the mid-80s. Then a Punjabi, looking thoughtful for a moment, said that this was so because ‘Pakistan is a country but still not a nation’; in other words we are only concerned about our own neighbourhood patches and are not really bothered about difficulties that beset Pakistanis elsewhere.
One might add that this is an awful state of affairs for all Pakistanis, if we all really thought hard about it the reality is there for all to see.
Therefore your Blogger feels it incumbent to buck the trend and hopes to encourage others to do the same. Please remember, that whatever occurring in any part of Pakistan today carries the distinct possibility of a nasty ‘blowback’ at some future date.
To me the insurgency Balochistan and the religious tumult in Waziristan are major issues that will have a considerable bearing on our future as a nation state - no matter what line Musharraf and his minions wish to feed us.
Let us look at Balochistan once again.
In recent days the print, radio and television media have been engulfed with scenes of hundreds of Bugti tribesmen laying down their weapons.
After months of news suppression, as the latest edition of the Friday Times noted:
‘Finally, the government is opening up in Balochistan. Only, the objective seems to be to push government-friendly stories.’The journalist filing the Friday Times story (no link) on Balochistan also reported the following:
Having filed a story about the surrender of 600 Bugti tribesmen on July 15, a journalist from a private news channel who was taken to Dera Buti said the total number of people gathered there to surrender arms was less than 50. But he reported the surrender of 600 tribesmen which is the number the media managers wanted pushed out’.
And now after over a year of barefaced denials one reads on the BBC website:
The Pakistani Air Force chief has acknowledged that fighter jets have been used in Balochistan province against tribal rebels and militants.
Air Chief Tanwir Mahmood Ahmed told a news conference that the air force would continue to be used whenever and wherever the government desired.
Tribal leaders have claimed that in the past few months civilians have been targeted by the air force.
But the government had always rejected such claims in the past.
This begs the question: What and who should we believe?
Last Thursday Musharraf himself came on television and this is how Dawn reported his take on Balochistan:
The president paid glowing tribute to security and intelligence agencies for establishing peace to carry out development works in the province.First Bugti was ‘a pygmy’ and now he is a ‘non-Nawab’ – these sneering asides indicate that Musharraf seems to be engaged in some sort of playground grudge match.
He criticised the media for ‘misrepresenting the facts’. “But the bottom line is that the writ of the state will have to be established in Balochistan, Wana, etc. And I assure you that soon there will be peace in that province,” he promised.
The president said that for 40 years three Baloch sardars, who were opposed to development and perpetrating atrocities on their tribes, had been pampered unjustifiably in the name of political settlement, “but no more”.
He insisted that the operation against the ‘rebellious’ sardars was being conducted by the Levies and Frontier Constabulary and not by the army, though some 1,000 armymen were assisting the security forces.
He said all the Bugti commanders had surrendered and the so-called Nawab Akbar Bugti was on the run, adding that of the total 77 sardars in Balochistan only three — Bugti, Marri and Mengal — were opposing the government.
Gen Musharraf said over 16,000 sub-tribes of Bugti — Rahejas, Kalpars, Masouri — had returned to Dera Bugti after years of repression by sardars led by Nawab Bugti. “But I would not call him a Nawab as he is on the run”.
Anyway here is the counter version as reported in today’s Daily Times :
Talking to Daily Times from an undisclosed location on a satellite phone, Wadera Alam Khan said that Loop and Far Loop localities of Dera Bugti had come under severe bombardment from two jet aircraft and four cobra helicopters for two consecutive days. The government, he said, was targeting “innocent civilians and obliterating their houses”.“
If the government is correct in its claims that all loyalists of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti have given up arms and sided with the government, then why are the residences of poor tribesmen still being targeted with sophisticated and modern US weapons?” he asked.
Khan refuted official claims that Nawab Akbar Bugti had been deserted by his commanders and loyalists. “This is a false claim made in the midst of utter frustration. The Nawab still enjoys the full support of his tribesmen. Those whom the government contends have left him and joined the official team comprise completely unknown waderas.
They are so unpopular that even the local people do not know them,” he said. Khan said there was no truth to official statements that Nawab Bugti had taken refuge in Kahan, the hometown of Nawab Khair Baksh Marri. He said the government had made similar false claims in past by saying that the Nawab had fled his hideout and taken refuge in Iran and Afghanistan.
What the reality is, is anybody’s guess.