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Home » Opinion » Treating the Baloch as second-class citizens can worsen the insurgency even if New Delhi never uses “B” word again

Treating the Baloch as second-class citizens can worsen the insurgency even if New Delhi never uses “B” word again

By Newsd
Updated on :

A fresh wave of anti-Indianism has erupted in Pakistan following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statements on Balochistan. Former dictator General Pervez Musharraf said in a television interview that Modi was “crazy”. He condemned the Baloch leaders who had thanked Modi for expressing concern over the state of human rights in Balochistan. Musharraf said these people were “traitors” and did not represent the Baloch masses. During his term, Musharraf was absolutely rough and unforgiving in his dealing with the Baloch. Several cases have been registered seeking to bring him to justice for sanctioning violence, torture and murder to eliminate the Baloch insurgency, courts have failed to punish the former army chief because he, after his retirement, continues to enjoy the support of the powerful institution he led for years.

Balochistan’s Chief Minister, Sanaullah Zehri, addressed a seminar in Quetta on Thursday where he pledged, “on the blood of the dead, wherever these terrorists [referring to the Baloch separatists] are, we will hunt them down.” He warned that Baloch nationalists wanted to make them “slaves to Hindus” in the name of independence.

While anti-Modi reactions were inevitable, one person who has come under unprecedented criticism is Brahumdagh Bugti, 33, a charismatic Baloch nationalist leader based in Switzerland whose thank you video to Mr. Modi has tremendously infuriated the Pakistani authorities. Bugti emerged as a popular leader of the free Balochistan movement after General Musharraf ordered in August 2006 the killing of his grandfather, Nawab Akbar Bugti, 79, a former governor and chief minister of Balochistan. Although the junior Bugti had surprised his supporters and critics alike in November last year by telling the BBC that he was open to dialogue with Islamabad, doors of a possible reconciliation now seem to have shut down after his overt outreach to the Indian Prime Minister.

Read: Bleeding Balochistan: Call for Azaadi

Several government-sponsored anti-India protest rallies were organized in different parts of Balochistan condemning Modi for interfering in ‘our internal matters’. Protesters burned the Indian flag and Modi’s effigy but the most surprising part of these protests were some of the signs that read Brahumdagh Murdabad (death to Brahumdagh). Turning a population against one of its local heroes generally does not kill the hero but makes him more important. In 2006, the Pakistanis made the same mistake under Musharraf by killing the senior Bugti assuming that he would go down in the history as a villain but he emerged as the ultimate symbol of the Baloch resistance movement. By turning the Baloch population against Brahumdagh Bugti due to his praise for Modi, the Pakistani government is unintentionally giving him a place in history with progressive leaders like the “Frontier Gandhi” Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who was also chided and delegitimized for his admiration for India.

Both India and Pakistan are divided in two schools of thought when it comes to Modi’s statements. In India, right-wing extremists who dislike Pakistan are ecstatic over recent developments. They probably do not care much about the plight of the Baloch as most of them have never been to Balochistan or never met a Baloch. Their support for Modi’s remarks mainly stems from hatred for Pakistan. For them, Modi should waste no more time and go ahead and liberate Balochistan the way Indira Gandhi did in East Pakistan in 1971. The second school of thought in India is that of the liberals who still live under the guilt of the partition. Liberals, who want peaceful and normalized relations with Pakistan, are upset with Modi’s statements. They are right in believing that such unnecessary comments will further endanger India’s national security as an eternally insecure Pakistan will take this as an excuse to renew ties with terrorist organizations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, the position Indian liberals have on Balochistan is unfair to the cause of justice. Torture and human rights abuse anywhere should be called out. We can’t turn our eyes away from injustice and rights violations by calling it one country’s ‘internal problem’. Liberals in India hardly write or speak about Balochistan because of the fear of offending cousins and friends in Islamabad or Lahore.

Balochistan is also divided in two schools of thought on this issue. The first group, which comprises of leaders who have thanked Modi, are celebrating being mentioned for the first time ever by another country’s’ prime minister. They hope the Modi Sarkar will go all the way to morally and diplomatically support their freedom movement. However, the second school of thought is apprehensive about Modi’s sudden kindness to Balochistan. They are deeply concerned that the Balochistan will be militarized to such an extent that they had never seen in their lifetime both under the pretext of fighting the “Indian agents” and to protect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Finally, the Pakistani government has a responsibility to provide accountability for the injustices committed against the Baloch even if that appeal does not come from Modi. After all, the Pakistani Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) have time and again made that appeal too. General Musharraf is wrong in believing that the Indian Prime Minister is “crazy” for highlighting rights violations in Balochistan. There is ample evidence that Pakistan does not protect the rights of its citizens, including the Baloch, which have been guaranteed in the country’s Constitution.  Treating the Baloch as second-class citizens perpetuate or perhaps worsen the insurgency even if New Delhi decides not to use the “B” word any more. Calling Balochistan Pakistan’s internal matter does not exempt Islamabad from its responsibilities. Pakistan must demonstrate through its actions that it is committed to listening to the Baloch voices and resolving their grievances.


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