issue
The North South divide
The demand of making South Punjab a province is not new but is vociferous this time round
By Waqar Gillani
South Punjab, long neglected and now considered a nursery of the Taliban by the national and international media, is making politicians think.
Voices that want Punjab -- largest in terms of population, with at least 90 million people -- to be divided have started to emerge with full force. Politicians from South Punjab are highlighting lack of governance, no development and poverty as main reasons of militancy in South Punjab and are talking about the creation of a new province, with Multan as its capital.

This wonderful Doc
A general physician who deliberately charged low fees, a political activist who never joined a political party, a father, a husband, Dr Mohammad Sarwar lived life to the fullest
By Beena Sarwar
She is not the grave-visiting sort. A white-haired dynamo with luminous eyes, she pioneered teacher training and teaching English in Pakistan (as a second language in large classrooms with limited resources). The activism inculcated in her native Pratapgarh in UP, India, remained with her after the migration to Pakistan in the late 1950s, later nurtured and encouraged by the life partner she found.

Taal Matol
Victory hangover!
By Shoaib Hashmi
It is two to three weeks now and the euphoria over our triumph in the T20 world cup refuses to die down, in fact it increases with each day. It started with the team being invited to the President House and the Prime Minister house to be feted, and then to be invited to the Parliament where the house stopped their proceedings to give them a standing ovation. Also everyone gave them huge chunks of money, from bank presidents to phone makers.

water
Shortage of trust
The water distribution issues between Sindh and Punjab spring up again
By Aoun Sahi
President Asif Ali Zardari, during a special meeting on June 24 in Karachi, asked the water distribution authorities to provide urgent relief to the water-plagued Sindh by reducing the flow of the Taunsa-Punjnad Link Canal and postponing water storage in Tarbela Dam.

Politics of grievance
For any lasting solution to Balochistan's problems, politics has to take primacy
By Dr Arif Azad
Balochistan has been here many times before and each time the Pakistan state managers have bungled the situation for the worse by seeking a military solution to a purely political problem. The upshot has been accumulation of frustrated political demands over the year which has brought things to this pass.

RIPPLE EFFECT
Intolerance and bigotry Inc.
By Omar R Quraishi
A friend who recently travelled to Gilgit via the NATCO bus had a somewhat chilling tale to tell. While he himself did not seem that worried -- and he's a non-Pakistani -- what he said made for a very worrying story. As the bus was on its way from Islamabad to Gilgit, along the Dassu-Chilas stretch of the Karakoram Highway -- and this is in Kohistan, a very conservative and traditional area -- it was pulled over by local militants. This was in early April -- before the start of the operation in Malakand. I asked him what they wanted and he said: "Oh they seemed to be looking for Shias. That's what they were trying to find out from the bus's passengers when they pulled us over".

 

 

The North South divide

The demand of making South Punjab a province is not new but is vociferous this time round

By Waqar Gillani

South Punjab, long neglected and now considered a nursery of the Taliban by the national and international media, is making politicians think.

Voices that want Punjab -- largest in terms of population, with at least 90 million people -- to be divided have started to emerge with full force. Politicians from South Punjab are highlighting lack of governance, no development and poverty as main reasons of militancy in South Punjab and are talking about the creation of a new province, with Multan as its capital.

The issue was raised both in the National Assembly and Punjab Assembly after the recently passed budget. Jahangir Tareen of PML-F from Rahim Yar Khan and Jamshed Dasti of PPP from Muzaffargarah were among the first ones who took up the matter on the National Assembly floor, later supported by Multan-based Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, senior leader of PML- N.

Apart from the National Assembly, PPP members of the Punjab Assembly from South Punjab have also formed a bloc and are inviting members of other parties from their region to join and debate the issue. The house saw a heated debate on the issue.

The demand of making South Punjab a province is not new.

The idea of "Seraikistan"-- comprising the administrative divisions of Sargodha, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur -- has been in the air since the 1960s. Taj Muhammad Langah is one of the key figures who started this movement, later forming the Seraiki Party.

In 2002, the Seraiki nationalists claimed that there are over 30 million Seraiki speakers in Pakistan, mostly in southern Punjab, and also in the adjacent parts of Sindh and Balochistan, mainly based in the formerly princely state of Bahawalpur.

Jamshed Dasti, however, claims this demand is not based on ethnicity. "I took up the issue in the NA because we believe that the south has been deprived of its rights for a long time and the way militants are gathering strength in the area we fear it can be the next Wana," he tells TNS. "We want South Punjab as a province without any linguistic or other bias. This demand is purely on administrative grounds. We enjoy the support of the people of this region and we have started a campaign."

Dasti says they have planned to hold a big gathering in DG Khan in September to address this demand on a large scale.

"I am in touch with at least 53 MNAs and MPAs of the region and people even in Dera Ismael Khan want to join this new province." Dasti believes that feudal lords will also be eliminated with the continuity of electoral process and the area would gradually develop.

Out of nine administrative divisions of Punjab, three divisions -- Bahawalpur, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan -- and parts of Sargodha and the newly created Sahiwal division fall in South Punjab. Out of 36 districts of the Punjab at least 16 are fully part of the south.

Bahawalpur -- founded in 1727 -- was the first among the princely states that announced to join Pakistan, on Oct 5, 1947. Interestingly, after the formation of Pakistan, the state of Bahawalpur was given the status of province, abolishing its princely status in May 1951, and followed by its recognition as the fifth province of Pakistan in the draft constitution of 1954. Its status as province was abolished in 1955 with the formation of One Unit in 1955, but a promise was made to restore its provincial status if One Unit was abolished. General Yahya Khan, however, did not fulfil the promise when he abolished the One Unit in 1970, merging Bahawalpur as an administrative division in Punjab.

The decision led to a movement in the 1970s, demanding that Bahawalpur be restored its provincial status, a demand now unheard but recently taken up by Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani of PML-Q, originally from Bahawalpur. "Bahawalpur division is one fourth area of the Punjab, and we believe that now poverty in the region is rapidly leading to militancy." Durrani, who has moved a bill in the Senate to amend the constitution for making new provinces, admits that rulers in the past have neglected these areas.

He rules out the impression that the demand of a new province is the wish of the feudal elite only. "Time has come to transfer power, empower people, and take important decisions. No party will win in the South in the future if it opposes this agenda.

"Indian Punjab has been divided into one capital territory -- Delhi -- and three provinces -- Punjab, Haryana and Hamachal Pardesh; Iran having less than Punjab's population has 30 provinces and Afghanistan has 34," he argues, adding, "Even the countries having less than Punjab's population in Europe have dozens of provinces."

Durrani believes this agenda is not against Pakistan. He tells that five new administrative divisions; seven districts; and 47 tehsils have been constituted after 1970 in Punjab including "only one" addition of Tehsil Yazman in Bahawalpur division. The poverty ratio of Bahawalpur is more than 50 percent, he says, adding that it was the state that donated Rs100 million to support Pakistan when it came into being.

Although the issue has gained momentum, some sections believe this is a designed move to destabilise Punjab and PML-N's rule. "The untimely demand to make South Punjab a new province by Javed Hashmi is an act of one individual," says Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

Dasti rules out the impression that President Asif Zardari is behind the move in order to affect the Punjab card of PML-N.

President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani, in a recently held meeting, have also disliked and disowned the idea, renforcing their belief in the politics of "reconciliation."

Historically, as many as 13 feudal lords of South Punjab have served as president, prime minister, chief minister and governor for 21 years, from time to time, including the sitting prime minister who belongs to Multan. But nothing has changed in the South yet.

"To raise the issue of a new province is only the tip of the iceberg," says Dr Mubashir Hasan, former finance minister. He says the wishes of the people must be respected but a new province cannot bring change unless the system is changed. "The feudal and political elite wants its own assembly in the South Punjab." He terms it like opening a "pandora's box" and questions as to why did the current local government system of decentralising power fail.

Email: [email protected]

 

This wonderful Doc

A general physician who deliberately charged low fees, a political activist who never joined a political party, a father, a husband, Dr Mohammad Sarwar lived life to the fullest

By Beena Sarwar

She is not the grave-visiting sort. A white-haired dynamo with luminous eyes, she pioneered teacher training and teaching English in Pakistan (as a second language in large classrooms with limited resources). The activism inculcated in her native Pratapgarh in UP, India, remained with her after the migration to Pakistan in the late 1950s, later nurtured and encouraged by the life partner she found.

Zakia met Sarwar after moving from Lahore to Karachi in 1961. The unconventional, long-limbed Allahabad-born doctor was known as the "hero of the January movement." Visiting Karachi for a holiday after Partition he had stayed on after being admitted to Dow Medical College. There, he started Pakistan's first student union in 1951, catalysing the first nationwide inter-collegiate students' body. When the government ignored the students' demands (including lower fees, better lab and hostel facilities and a full-fledged university campus), the students held a "Demands Day" procession on Jan 7, 1953. Police brutally baton-charged and tear-gassed them, and arrested their leaders. They were set free hours later under pressure from students staging a sit-down in front of the education minister's house, refusing to budge until their release.

The momentum continued with another procession on Jan 8. This time, they were confronted by armed police. Trying to negotiate with the police to let them pass, Sarwar realised that their threat of opening fire was deadly earnest, he tried to stop the students from going forward. Charged up, many surged ahead anyway. The police opened fire. Seven students and a child were killed on that "Black Day." Over 150, including Sarwar, were injured.

The college principal Col. Malik visited the family to get them to persuade Sarwar to give up his activism. The support of Akhtar, his even taller older brother, a well-known journalist, gave him the courage to resist. Both were jailed during the crackdown on progressive forces coinciding with America's McCarthy years, after Pakistan and America signed a military pact (Sarwar received his final MBBS results in 1954 while in prison for a year).

The January Movement's impact can be gauged by the Khawaja Nazimuddin government's eventual acceptance of most of the students' demands. The students were even asked to approve the blueprints of Karachi University (based on Mexico University). In the 1954 provincial elections it was a student leader who defeated the seasoned politician Noor-ul-Amin in former East Pakistan.

After graduating from medical college, Sarwar declined invitations from various politicians to join their parties. "I didn't have the means," he said simply. He was the sole breadwinner of the family after Akhtar's sudden death due to pneumonia in 1958 at the peak of his career -- he was chief reporter of the newly launched eveninger The Leader. Their circle of progressive writers, poets, activists and journalists was devastated. The well known poet Ibne Insha compiled a book of essays on Akhtar (including essays by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hameed Akhtar and others) and his letters from prison. Sarwar, who had been particularly close to Akhtar, insisted that everyone get on with their work and not sit around mourning.

Zakia's older brother Zawwar Hasan had been one of Akhtar's closest friends. They had played field hockey for rival college teams in Allahabad, re-connecting as sports journalists in Karachi. After moving to Karachi, Zakia, who began teaching at Sir Syed Girls College there, would take Zawwar's young children to Sarwar's clinic nearby for checkups. The romance included outings like seeing off Faiz Ahmed Faiz when he left for Moscow to receive the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962.

"As a comrade, his relationship with Abba was an unspoken clear bond based on a shared understanding of the universal struggle for a just human order," says Salima Hashmi, Faiz's daughter and an old friend of Zakia's from her Lahore days.

Sarwar and Zakia got married in September 1962, overcoming parental apprehensions about religious differences (Shi'a, Sunni). Neither was religious. Akhtar would have approved, as Zawwar did.

As their eldest child, one of my earliest memories is Zakia and other college teachers on hunger strike, demanding an end to the exploitation of teachers. Sarwar supported her against the muttered disapproval ("women from good families out on the streets"), as always, giving her the space to develop her potential. No wonder that he has a special place in the hearts of her colleagues at Spelt, the Society of English Language Teachers that she founded, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Sarwar practiced as a general physician for nearly fifty years from his modest clinic in a low-income area, deliberately charging low fees and treating struggling workers, journalists, artists and writers for free. He was contemptuous of doctors who charged high fees, prescribing costly tests and medicines where less expensive ones would do. He helped launch the Pakistan Medical Association and its affiliated Medical Gazette -- both of which have been vital platforms for progressive politics in Pakistan, particularly during the Zia years.

Diagnosed with cancer in August 2007 ("stage four," pancreas, metastasis to the lungs), he took it in stride. "Look," he reasoned in his remained characteristically calm and good humoured way, "everyone has to die. If this is how I have to go, so be it."

He refused to give up drinking or smoking, reminding us of friends who died early despite giving up such habits. When a cousin's mother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer, he asked wryly, "And does she also smoke?"

"To look into the eyes of a killer disease, and yet not roll over is something that the bravest could envy," wrote Zawwar last October from the Bay Area.

Sarwar defied doctors' predictions of "maybe six months…," humouring us by trying the nasty herbal concoctions we inflicted on him, and later stoically withstanding six months of chemotherapy at SIUT, the pioneering philanthropic institution set up by his old friend Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi. Perhaps this bought him some more time. Perhaps it was simply the sheer willpower of a fighting spirit refusing to give up hope even while realistically facing the worst.

Friends flocked to "Doc," as many affectionately called him, hosting parties at his home when he was too weak to go out.

Emerging from anaesthesia after a blocked bile duct was cleared this April, one of his first questions was about the Indian elections. He'd ask for the daily newspapers -- even when weakness made difficult to concentrate -- and that cigarette which one of us would light. He'd chat hospitably with visitors, cigarette dangling habitually between the fingers of one hand even as a drip punctured the veins of the other arm.

At home later, it was only during the last two days of his life, his breathing dangerously obstructed, that he did not smoke. Doctors suggested suctioning out excess fluid in intensive care -- entailing drips (no space for more needle pricks in either arm by now) and the risk of life support if the procedure failed. When I explained this to him, he waved his hand and pronounced, "No point, no point." They sent over technicians with an inhaler and suction pipe, which gave him some relief. But then the rattling in his throat recurred.

Late that night, when he seemed to be more comfortable and settled, I finally said goodnight, kissing him on the forehead. "Sleep well Babba."

"Goodnight," he replied, clasping my hand back. "Go to sleep."

He died quietly in his sleep about half an hour later.

Zakia now takes time out from her work to sit by his last resting place. It gives her peace.


Taal Matol

Victory hangover!

By Shoaib Hashmi

It is two to three weeks now and the euphoria over our triumph in the T20 world cup refuses to die down, in fact it increases with each day. It started with the team being invited to the President House and the Prime Minister house to be feted, and then to be invited to the Parliament where the house stopped their proceedings to give them a standing ovation. Also everyone gave them huge chunks of money, from bank presidents to phone makers.

Of course it had started much earlier when the "glorious uncertainty" of cricket paid to the hopes of what were the top teams -- Australia, India and England in the early rounds. All of them, all well favoured, actually bit the dust in the beginning, leaving South Africa to fight over what was left. We came up against them in one semi-final and it seemed all over for us when we managed to score just 149 runs.

Then it all turned around, when our bowlers found inspiration to keep them chasing the score without success. The turning point came when we managed to win by seven runs. Suddenly everyone's mood changed and we seemed to look like winners. We became the favourites when the Sri Lankans ended up in the final with us.

They decided to bat first while I was recording a TV programme for you -- the first half hour was a mess because they had a TV on in the control room and they stopped the recording as the first four wickets fell for 32. If you see the programme you'll be able to tell there's something going on. I managed to wrap it up by the time their innings ended at 138 for six, to rush home for our innings.

I must admit we felt pretty cocky all the time, especially after the first two wickets fell and Afridi came in to bat and proceeded to hit them all over the field. A few anxious moments when they ran the statistics and we seemed to have fewer balls to score the runs, and then Afridi hit two quick boundaries and everything was under control again.

We won by eight wickets, and in the middle of the night they brought Lahore to a standstill with everyone out on the streets celebrating. All the sweet shops quickly ran out of stuff and out of business, and we sat back to wait out the three days until it was time for the team to come home. Half of Lahore was at the airport, but they put a spanner in the works by whisking the team out through the back door in the interest of security

And do you know how it will end? It's been arranged already. Michael Jackson died of heart failure at fifty and if that doesn't put a damper on things I don't know what will!

 

water

Shortage of trust

The water distribution issues between Sindh and Punjab spring up again

By Aoun Sahi

President Asif Ali Zardari, during a special meeting on June 24 in Karachi, asked the water distribution authorities to provide urgent relief to the water-plagued Sindh by reducing the flow of the Taunsa-Punjnad Link Canal and postponing water storage in Tarbela Dam.

The decision was made after Sindh Irrigation Minister, Murad Ali Shah, raised the issue of likely water shortage in the province following decline in the water level in the Indus. The president also urged the Punjab and Sindh governments to share the water shortage equally. To overcome this water shortage, Punjab was asked to receive additional water from Mangla Dam.

The president's decision has once again evoked the controversy over the distribution of water between Sindh and Punjab. In Punjab, people have condemned the decision, even from the floor of the Punjab Assembly. It is thought that Sindh will get extra water at the expense of Punjab. Presidential spokesperson, Farhatullah Babar, tried to pacify the situation.

Mangla Dam gets its maximum water inflow from mid-April to mid-July while River Indus gets its maximum inflow from May to August. Therefore, releasing stored water from Mangla at this stage could play havoc with the next crop of Punjab. Besides, while water scarcity in the Tarbela irrigation system can be met with from Mangla Dam's water, water scarcity in the Mangla irrigation system cannot be met with by using water from Tarbela.

Pakistan's irrigation system is among the world's largest integrated systems. It irrigates around 16 million hectare out of a total of 22.2 million hectare of cropped area in Pakistan, mostly in Punjab and Sindh. It consists of three large water reservoirs, 19 barrages, 12 inter-river link canals, 43 irrigation canals including perennial, annual, flood and over 107,000 watercourses. It drains an average of 103 million acre feet (MAF) water each year for irrigation purpose.

The dispute between Sindh and Punjab on the distribution of Indus water is more than a century old. It has gone through different phases during the years and up until the 1991 accord, both provinces had not agreed on a single accord to distribute the water. The dispute becomes more serious in years when there is shortage of water in the country.

There are many in Punjab who consider this accord as anti-Punjab. They argue that Punjab produces 80 percent of the country's wheat and more than 70 percent of other cash crops like cotton and rice, while Sindh's share is not more than 20 percent. They are of the view that water should be distributed accordingly. "The 1991 accord gives only around 50 percent of water to Punjab while Sindh's share is around 46 percent while the rest is distributed among Balochistan and NWFP. At present, Sindh has been getting 3.8 feet canal water per acre while on the other hand the availability of canal water in Punjab is 2.2 feet per acre," says Hamid Malhi, coordinator Punjab Water Council. "Both the chief ministers of Sindh and Punjab and the prime minister say that the solution of the water distribution problem can be fixed through the implementation of the 1991 accord. Then why have they failed to do so? Because all of them interpret this accord to safeguard their own interests. Pakistan needs to re-write the water distribution accord according to the produce."

Malhi says that the accord was among the provinces but the centre has also nominated one of its nominees in the Indus River System Authority. (IRSA) "In 2001 the then President Musharraf, through an order, made it mandatory that the centre's nominee will be from Sindh. Since then there are two representatives of Sindh out of the total of five. So how can IRSA remain neutral or a balanced authority?"

He thinks that both Tarbela and Mangla Dams were established in the wake of the 1963 Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan. "It was only Punjab that lost water as a result of this treaty, so these dams were made to overcome the shortage in Punjab."

H.M. Siddique, Punjab Irrigation Consultant, clarifies that no water is being given to Sindh at the expense of Punjab. "The president has not ordered to close Taunsa-Punjnad Canal. The problem is that the water level in Indus River has dropped drastically while there was no stored water in Tarbela to overcome this fall. Keeping in view the situation, IRSA has cut 32 percent of water to all those canals that received water from Indus both in Punjab and Sindh. In Punjab, we have five canals that carry Indus water and all those are in Southern Punjab, so the people from that area got the impression that it may be that their water is being given to Sindh."

Siddique thinks that the 1991 accord is the best document if implemented in letter and spirit. "There are 14 sections in the accord. The water distribution has been done through Para II. This distribution is based on availability of 114 MAF of water while we only average about 103 MAF water annually. The accord says that in such situation, water should be distributed through Para 14-b. But Sindh always demands water under Para II. Distribution of water through this Para in the recent scenario can result in 10 percent cut of water share of Punjab".

He admits that the release of water from Mangla during this time of year is not usual. "We have asked IRSA to further reduce the outflow from Mangla Dam because if we cannot store enough water in it, we can face critical water scarcity during Rabi crop."

ANG Abbasi, a Karachi-based senior expert on water and irrigation issues, calls for honouring and respecting the sanctity of the 1991 accord. "It is the only consensus accord on which all four provinces agree. This agreement clearly says that shortage or surplus water would be equally shared by the provinces. I think this is a sacred document and we should not condemn it." Abbasi says that the original sources of irrigation water in South Punjab are the Jhelum and Chenab rivers. "Link canals in Punjab should only be opened when there is surplus water in Indus otherwise water should be given to them from Jhelum or Chenab.

"It is correct that Sindh's share in crops is merely more than 20 percent of total crops of Pakistan, but you should keep in mind that the irrigation system in Punjab is supplemented by 0.6 million tube wells and more than 55 MAF ground water is pumped by means of tube wells per year. On the other hand, underground water in around 85 percent areas of Sindh is saline and cannot be used for irrigation purposes."

Abbasi adds that the original problem in Pakistan is that irrigation efficiency of the system is poor due to substantial loss of water in the form of seepage, percolation, and evaporation. According to estimates in Pakistan, about 30 percent water is lost through canals, more than 20 percent though larger and smaller distributaries and 25 percent during field application.

Rana Khalid, spokesman IRSA, says that the authorities had unanimously decided on June 24 to manage the issue of water shortage in the Indus. "Punjab was taken on board and the share of Punjab was reduced to 28000 cusecs from 42000 from the Indus river. To compensate this loss, we started releasing extra water to Punjab from Mangla. All of this is being done according to the 1991 accord."

He admits that water from Tarbela system cannot be drained to Mangla system, "but it would be criminal injustice that we destroy the standing crop just to store water in the dam. The impression that we have not been storing water in Mangla is also incorrect. Daily inflow is 60,000 cusec while we have been discharging only 35,000 cusec daily. We have already stored 2.6 MAF of water in this dam while its capacity is around 5 MAF. On the other hand we have only 0.3 MAF water stored in Tarbela. We have to store at least 6.9 MAF in this dam."

 

Long standing discord

Historical roots of the problem

In 1939, Sindh lodged a complaint against Punjab about the expected effects of the Punjab projects on inundation canals of Sindh and on the Sukkur barrage. The then government of India constituted the Rau Commission. It gave its recommendations in 1942.

The situation hasn't changed even after partition. Different committees were made by different governments to solve the issue. In 1968, the Governor of West Pakistan constituted a committee on the issue. In 1970, Justice Fazle Akbar Committee was constituted to recommend apportionment of waters of the River Indus and its tributaries. In 1977, a commission headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, while Chief Justices of the High Courts of all provinces were the members. All these committees submitted their reports but the provinces were unable to reach a consensus on the water distribution accord. It was finally in 1991, in Karachi that the chief ministers of the provinces reached a consensus and signed the Water Apportionment Accord. This accord is based on both the existing and future water needs of the four provinces.

-- A Sahi

Politics of grievance

For any lasting solution to Balochistan's problems, politics has to take primacy

By Dr Arif Azad

Balochistan has been here many times before and each time the Pakistan state managers have bungled the situation for the worse by seeking a military solution to a purely political problem. The upshot has been accumulation of frustrated political demands over the year which has brought things to this pass.

Balochistan's journey of disillusionment with the centre goes back to 1948. Prince Karim, younger brother of Khan of Kalat, launched a movement against the annexation of the princely state of Kalat to Pakistan. This revolt was crushed by military means. Since then, there have been a series of attempts, at seeking an independent status for Balochistan through various revolts at different points in time. In 1958, Khan of Kalat launched a second campaign for the independence of Balochistan which was crushed by the infamous Tikka Khan. There was another mini revolt in 1962 by the Marri tribe against the migration of Punjabis into the province. The fourth movement -- and the best known so far -- was launched in 1973 which lasted till 1977. This movement was in response to the Balochistan government being dismissed by the federal government of ZA Bhutto, probably under pressure from Iran.

What distinguishes all these movements is that all were crushed by using the military might of the state, without putting in place followup political measures, to remove the deepening sense of discontent among the Balochs. The result was a groundswell of anti-centre feelings which has acted as a power keg for future insurrections against the centre.

The brutal murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti has deepened Balochistan's disillusionment to a point of almost no return. As if this was not enough, the murder of three prominent Baloch leaders, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch and Sher Mohammad Baloch in April has further plunged the province into a spiral of violence which continues in low key register even today. The Balochi reaction this time round has extended to boycotting Pakistani flags and expelling Punjabi settlers from the province.

This is a dramatic escalation of anti-centre hostilities which taps into a rich narrative of resistance in Baloch folklore. Yet the centre has failed to act. Instead, we have chosen again to seek a military solution to the grievances of Balochs which are political. This approach has not worked in the past and less likely to succeed this time round too.

With the elimination of bridge-building figures like Akbar Bugti and three recently assassinated Baloch leaders, the centre has made its task of clinging Balochistan to its bosom much more difficult. Historically such actions have always tended to swell the ranks of extreme nationalist political groups. Already there are reports of Baloch youth flocking to nationalist parties in Karachi and elsewhere in Balochistan. This development risks marginalising moderate Baloch politicians such as Hasil Bizenjo.

Balochistan lags behind the rest of the country on all developmental indicators. You name it -- from education to labour force participation -- and Balochistan would be trailing far, far behind. These awful development indicators are rooted in the studied neglect of development needs of Balochistan. Perhaps the most visible spear tip of injustice done to Balochistan lies in the way Sui gas has been extracted and distributed. Over the years, long-standing grouses of Balochs being cheated on royalties from Sui gas have been circulating. Whether justified or not, the perception of Balochistan being exploited is more potent than statistical reality (though the fact that Balochistan was connected to Sui gas supply in the 80s as compared to the rest of the country in the 1960s lends credence to Baloch grouse on this count).

This perception -- justified to a large extent -- moulds the politics of grievance in its trajectory. Thus in Balochistan the perception of the centre exploiting Balochistan has taken a firm root. This is where the centre needs to do a lot of work by engaging with the core of Baloch grievances. If there is any practical application of Marx's notion of alienation of labour from its produce it is in evidence in relation to Sui gas in Balochistan.

Against this backdrop, the centre has taken a flurry of development activity in recent years in Gwadar and other areas. Despite this, the Baloch sense of alienation remains. Most Baloch politicians view these activities as being framed for needs of the new settlers that Gwadar is going to bring in its wake. It is plain for all to see that there is a hell of a task laid out for the present government to begin a long term process of bringing Balochistan back into the fold of Pakistan from a position of near secession. President Zardari's apology to Balochs was a step in right direction, which has not been followed through with other political initiatives. Much-touted APC on Balochistan has not materialised so far while the province burns. Hence there is an urgent need to follow up on the promise of convening APC to set in place the basis of a political solution to the Baloch problem.

In this regard resurrection of the parliamentary committee report -- headed by Mushahid Hussain -- should be dusted and used as debating point to find a constructive way forward. These are bare minimum measures that can begin to re-anchor the province into the federation framework on the basis of equality and greater provincial autonomy. It is too strategically important an area to be processed through the military lens. For any lasting solution, politics has to take primacy and our political leadership shares special responsibility in this regard. In every Baloch eye, one can sense long suppressed anger and outrage. It is high time we addressed the political causes of this outrage that is building up to a point of almost no return. Time is of the essence.

Dr Arif Azad is a policy analyst.

Email: [email protected]

RIPPLE EFFECT

Intolerance and bigotry Inc.

 

By Omar R Quraishi

A friend who recently travelled to Gilgit via the NATCO bus had a somewhat chilling tale to tell. While he himself did not seem that worried -- and he's a non-Pakistani -- what he said made for a very worrying story. As the bus was on its way from Islamabad to Gilgit, along the Dassu-Chilas stretch of the Karakoram Highway -- and this is in Kohistan, a very conservative and traditional area -- it was pulled over by local militants. This was in early April -- before the start of the operation in Malakand. I asked him what they wanted and he said: "Oh they seemed to be looking for Shias. That's what they were trying to find out from the bus's passengers when they pulled us over".

And to Kurram -- where for over a year, local militants allied with the Taliban, have more or less blockaded the town of Parachinar.

Locals sometimes email and what they say is chilling. Any and all vehicles that travel on the Parachinar-Thall road (which is also the way to Peshawar and the rest of the country) are searched. People's CNICs and identities are checked and anyone who has a Shia-sounding name is taken out. In the past in several instances those who were taken out were summarily executed. Also, as a correspondent wrote the other day in the letters section of this newspaper, the Taliban and their allies among the local tribes have often resorted to kidnapping travellers on the Parachinar-Thall road and let them off after taking heavy ransom. And if the abductee has been unable to pay the kidnappers, he has been butchered.

This went on for many months and in February of this year travel on this crucial road completely halted -- with the result that residents of the town of Parachinar are virtually under siege. A chronic shortage of medicines and inability of locals to travel to Peshawar has meant that dozens of children have died as a result.

Quite understandably, those who live in Parachinar -- and in fact many from the town but who live in other cities -- have been trying to get the attention for months that something has to be done to lift the blockade of the Thall-Parachinar highway by the local Taliban. They also have a point in asserting that what has been happening in Parachinar and much of the rest of Kurram is basically a complete sectarian war with the minority community (which happens to be in a slight majority in the town itself) is being targeted by the virulently-sectarian Taliban and their allies in the form of jehadi/sectarian outfits.

On the issue of intolerance and bigotry, and I am reminded, prior to taking off from Karachi airport in early April, on a flight to Dhaka, of the attitude of the cleaning staff of the airport. Dozens of the passengers on the PIA flight from Karachi to Dhaka early that morning appeared to be Bangladeshi workers returning from the Gulf or the UAE. I managed to ask one of them and he said that the PIA connection via a change of planes in Karachi was far cheaper than flying directly from Dubai to Dhaka. As I entered the main lavatory area in the international departures lounge, I walked into an open area with many travellers waiting to get into the stalls. Still others were waiting to use the sinks and given the sudden and high volume use, it seems that the floor of the whole lavatory area was wetter than usual and that the trash area had more tissue paper flying about that one normally would expect.

Presumably based on this, the staff of three janitors in the lavatory could be heard openly -- and quite loudly, as if they wanted the travellers to hear them -- saying that the bathroom was being basically trashed because those using it (the Bangladeshi workers) didn't have any toilet manners and were in "any case smelly!"

I know that Pakistanis can be a racist bunch -- after all how many of us have not called an African a sheedi or a makrani or a foreigner who is from Africa or of African descent a kala (in a most derogatory manner of course) -- but I wasn't quite prepared for the verbal onslaught against the Bangladeshi migrant workers whose only crime seemed to be to have chosen to switch planes -- and use bathrooms -- at an airport in Pakistan. Their remarks made me think that perhaps this is one reason why we lost East Pakistan. Though, neither I nor those who made the remarks were even alive when it was lost.

However it seemed quite clear that as a nation and a society we are quite unwilling to look kindly on people who are darker than us. That is probably why ridiculous products like Fair and Lovely do so well in Pakistan -- and of course in India as well, which shares this kind of complex with us.

The writer is editorial pages editor of The News.

Email: [email protected]

 

 


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