Baloch people yet to be treated as equal citizens
July 22, 2011
The federal cabinet met in Quetta for the first time in the history of the provincial metropolis on July 13 to review the ground realities of Balochistan. The main focus of this meeting was to discuss the implementation of Aghaz-e-Haqooq Balochistan package. Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani chaired the meeting.
Gilani reiterated his government’s firm resolve to end years of deprivation of Balochistan and to bring development and prosperity to the province. Gilani said he had promised holding of a meeting of the federal cabinet here and said it focused on the one-point agenda of Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan (AHB) and reviewed the progress made in this regard.
Flanked by the Governor Balochistan Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi, Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, Federal Minister for Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Gilani said his government was fully committed to resolving the problems of Balochistan. He assured that all matters decided in the package would be fulfilled. He said thousands of contractual and daily wages employees had been regularized as per the government policy. The prime minister said important decisions had been taken about the rights and service matters of the people serving in Balochistan. He also recalled his several meetings in Quetta with the representatives of people and various departments and assured them that the pending matters would be resolved at the earliest.
He said power shortage was a serious matter and would be resolved soon. He said qualification, selection criterion and age limits had been relaxed to accommodate a large number of youth from Balochistan. To a question about the issue of missing persons, Gilani said discussion was held and progress made was shared with the cabinet colleagues. Gilani said he was willing to talk to the angry Baloch leaders and said a committee had already been constituted to hold talks with them. Appreciating 65 per cent implementation of Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i- Balochistan, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said the issues of the province were of national importance. Gilani hoped that the remaining part of the package would be implemented at the earliest. “The whole parliament had supported the Balochistan Package which shows that the entire nation desires the progress and development of the people of province,” he said.
He asked the people working against the integrity of Pakistan and interests of Balochistan to refrain from creating law and order situation in the province and hold dialogue with the provincial government to find out an amicable solution to the issues. He announced lifting of ban on recruitments against vacancies in federal government departments on Balochistan quota. Gilani said presence of federal cabinet in Quetta showed the commitment of the incumbent government for improving the socio-economic conditions of Baloch people.
He commended the efforts of Balochistan Chief Minister for bridging the gap between the Centre and the province. “The federal government stands behind the chief minister and the Balochistan government for their endeavors to bring peace and stability in the province,” he added. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the federal cabinet meeting held in the provincial capital had decided to set up a judicial commission headed by a judge of the Supreme Court to conduct probe into the killing of veteran Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.
Addressing a press conference after the federal cabinet meeting at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat here, she said: “Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and the federal cabinet had decided that a judicial commission headed by a judge of the Supreme Court will investigate the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti”. Elaborating another decision of the federal cabinet meeting, she said the Prime Minister has directed recruitment with immediate effect against over 6,700 posts of the federal government on Balochistan quota. “The Prime Minister has ordered that a selection board will conduct test and walk-in interviews of the recruitment process within one day in Quetta after an advertisement,” she said. The minister said this step would give a message to the Baloch youth that the government was serious about addressing their problems.
To a question about the observance of merit in new recruitments on Balochistan quota jobs at the federal level, she said that all recruitments will be done on merit otherwise the purpose of the Prime Minister’s initiative will stand unresolved. The minister said that under the devolution plan, the federal government had devolved several departments including health, education, environment, sports, women development, food and agriculture and this would help create more job opportunities in Balochistan. She said after the devolution plan, it was also a responsibility of the provinces to take serious steps to resolve their issues of poverty, unemployment and law and order.
Dr Firdous said that about 65 per cent points of Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan had been implemented while work on implementing the remaining points was in progress. The minister said the government was taking measures to ensure security and protection to the life and property of the people of Balochistan by improving law and order.
On the other hand, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has said that agents of the state, insurgents and extremists operating in Balochistan share common disregard for citizens’ rights. The insurgents are involved in killing ‘settlers’ and religious extremists in sectarian killings. In a report — “Balochistan: blinkered slide into chaos” — released recently, the HRCP said: “There is strong evidence of involvement of security forces in enforced disappearances and killings and FIRs registered against security personnel remain un-investigated without exception.” The report based on the commission’s fact finding mission to Balochistan said that security forces enjoyed complete impunity. HRCP Chairperson Zohra Yusuf criticised the apathetic attitude of both the federal and provincial governments towards the plight of Baloch people. The HRCP findings conclude that the Balochistan government is powerless and has failed to raise people’s issues and is subservient to the military.
The report said the situation in Balochistan was so precarious that even courts had failed to ensure compliance of their orders. The HRCP report contains details of 140 people who had been reported missing. It said the mutilated bodies of these people were found between July last year and May this year but the state functionaries were not ready to accept the report and rejected it.
Rehman Malik said that foreign intelligence agencies were involved in the Balochistan law and order situation adding that security situation had improved in the province after the government took measures. “I have held meetings with ISI and MI to discuss target killings and recovery of bullet-riddled bodies in Balochistan and I have proof that foreign intelligence agencies are involved in Balochistan’s law and order situation to meet their nefarious designs,” Malik said, adding that the situation was now in control and peace was being secured in the province. Malik said he had information about the people who received money for throwing hand grenades and killing innocent people in Balochistan. He said the government was ready to hold dialogue with Baloch nationalists adding that no one would be allowed to set Pakistan flag on fire. “Pakistan will not disintegrate as it was created to live for ever,” he added. He said some foreign forces were creating hatred in Balochistan as they did not want to see Pakistan as a stable and developed country.
He said people belonging to any nationality living in Balochistan for long time had rights of citizen of the province. He said 35 check-posts of the Frontier Corps Balochistan had been abolished and Coast Guards jurisdiction had been limited to the coastline. Responding to a question, he said: “Law and order is a provincial subject and the federal government is extending its assistance to the Balochistan government for peace”.
Hyrbyair Marri, the London-based leader of the powerful Marri tribe has rejected a proposal for a judicial commission to probe the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti. Marri said dumped bodies of political and human rights activists are being discovered everyday in the province and the provincial government is helpless in doing anything to stop these killings. He said the international community had adopted complete silence over the brutal human rights violations. Akbar Bugti’s eldest son, Jamil Bugti while rejecting the probe commission said the prime minister’s decision to investigate his father’s killing by a judicial commission was aimed at sabotaging the Balochistan High Court’s proceedings on the same matter. He said the commission was set up when the high court had asked for issuance of red warrants against the accused, but the federal government contended that it could be done only after a formal request from the Balochistan government.
It is time that the government stopped double-dealing and acknowledged the Baloch people’s due share in national resources and their right to self-administer these. Concrete political steps need to be taken to resolve this essentially political issue, otherwise the situation will go completely out of control. Prominent Baloch leaders, who have gone into exile, should be approached to hold a dialogue with the government.