A leaf from history: The chaos deepens
Despite claims by the federal government, the Balochistan situation continued to deteriorate. The year 1973 passed without a breakthrough in either Balochistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Peace had become a myth. Official media was loudly claiming that the issue was not a new one. On February 14, 1974, Z.A. Bhutto claimed before the National Assembly that the issue had been created by a few Sardars who opposed development in the backward province and the army was there to provide security to the personnel engaged in development works.
The situation was becoming more critical day by day as a four to five division-strong force covered the whole province. Baloch leadership claimed that they were being victimised for raising voice for their rights. When reports of atrocities increased, the federal government formed a 17-member committee comprising members of the National Assembly to inquire into the veracity of the acts of violence. But the MNAs’ report was never made public; however, acts of violence were dubiously reported in the national media. Some also claimed that Iranian helicopters and arms were being used to silence the ‘rebels’. The youth and political workers, who had taken refuge on mountain tops, rejected government assertions saying that the government was spreading abysmal propaganda. These leaders and workers also claimed that they were being joined by non-Balochs.
In August 1974, a non-controversial governor, the 70-year-old former ruler of Kalat state, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan wrote to Bhutto that the Baloch leaders arrested in 1973 be released much before the deadline, claiming that this step might soften the situation. The governor was never obliged.
Bhutto was continuously sending emissaries to Baloch ‘rebels’ to surrender with the promise that if they did so they would be treated as true Pakistanis. In this situation the governor became so upset that he asked the federal government to relieve him of his task. Bhutto had long ago pledged that he would make a statement which finally came on October 15, 1974. He claimed that the resistance against the legal authority of Balochistan had come to an end; however, he offered another deadline of December 15, 1974, to the remaining ‘rebels’ to lay down arms. That gimmick, too, did not work. On October 19, 1974, two months before the deadline Bhutto released a White Paper on Balochistan situation, in response to which Wali Khan said that the National Awami Party (NAP) would publish a Red Paper.
Like Balochistan, the situation in NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) had also reached near insurgency. The NAP-JUI coalition had already resigned as a protest against Balochistan government’s dismissal. The March 6, 1972, Tripartite Accord and the constitutional accord of October 20, 1972, with the two parties were good moves to stabilise the political governments in both the provinces.
The coalition supported Bhutto in adopting both the constitutions but once he achieved his aim, Bhutto’s attitude changed. He began underground and overground moves to replace the two provincial governments. Even Khan Ghaffar Khan who extended a hand of friendship after ending his eight-year exile and returning to Pakistan did not receive a positive response. On the contrary he was addressed with much aggressive tone. He was termed a hardcore militant and forced to confine his activities to Charsaddah.
In February 1973, Arbab Sikandar was appointed governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the centre extending its rule in the province. Bhutto’s ambition to see his party rule both the provinces began to materialise. Bhutto knew how to have his way; his strategy of both carrot and stick seemed to work, when he mustered the support of 22 MPAs in the Assembly of 42 members and formed a government led by Inayatullah Gandapur as its head. The coalition contained four People’s Party members and Khan Qayyum’s Muslim League. On April 15, 1973, the new government took oath.
Wali Khan had no choice but to sit as a spectator. His party, the NAP, tried to undo the new coalition but it was difficult as it had the support of the federal government. He confined his activities to Charsaddah, meeting his party men and asking them to remain peaceful. His party members fumed at his silence but Wali Khan continued to pacify them. Some nine months later he asked his workers to break the silence and sent a message of warning to Bhutto that time had come to resist the centre’s acts by force. But it was not yet clear what he would do to undo Bhutto’s acts.