No easy way out
“What Balochistan needs primarily today is a healing touch and a serious effort to bid goodbye to the old mindset that has resulted in such tragic sufferings to the people of the province over the past decades,” says Pakistan Muslim League-Q, secretary general, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, who was also a member of the parliamentary committee headed by his party chief Chaudhry Shujat Hussain back in the military regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2004.
This was the time, according to Hussain, when the latest phase of the Balochistan problem was in its early stage and there were “enough warning signals to warrant a special remedial approach which could result in reconciliation.”
He believes that the other problem is the lack of seriousness from both Quetta and Islamabad towards resolving this issue. “And the preferred, easy, short-sighted option, is to collaborate with the corrupt political elite by giving them bribes in the form of development funds as if that will work as a magic wand to solve the problems,” he explains.
Broadly speaking, he states, his committee focused on the whole gamut of Balochistan-related issues that required resolution, ranging from the need for a night landing facility at Quetta airport to making the Gwadar Port operational as well as providing a formula for arrears to Balochistan. Apart from the sense of deprivation, there was the issue of absence of control of the natural resources which the rest of the country enjoyed, while the people of Balochistan, specifically the less-developed areas like Dera Bugti and Sui, were unable to enjoy the fruits of those resources.
Then there were administrative issues, pertaining to the role of the security forces particularly the Frontier Corp with all their check-posts which were a source of ‘humiliation and harassment’ to the local population as well as controversy generated by the plan to establish military cantonments in various parts of Balochistan.
As happen in such situations, there were two approaches working within the government and the military establishment. One, a hawkish, ‘we will sort them out’ view, that negotiating with a ‘warlord’ was tantamount to appeasement and undermining the writ of the state. The other, a more balanced and realistic view was that Nawab Bugti had always worked within the country’s federal framework and there were issues thought not very serious that pertained to what he felt was his fiefdom, Dera Bugti, and all these were issues that could be resolved amicably.
“Nawab Bugti was ready for any arrangement with the government provided it protected his interests and preserved his dignity and honour,” Hussain recalls.
Initially, the soft liners prevailed on the hardliners who were waiting for an opportunity to hit back and they managed to do so later in 2006, with the result that the committee’s recommendations were not fully implemented, he elucidates dejectedly.