Editorial: The Problem With Mengal’s Six Points
Soon after his much-hyped return to Pakistan, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Balochistan’s former chief minister and the president of the Balochistan National Party (B.N.P.), has submitted six points before the Supreme Court as a minimum Baloch demand for deescalating tensions in his native province. Mengal has dramatized the situation by emulating Shiek Mujib-ur-Rehman, the founder of Bangladesh, whose Six Points eventually culminated in Pakistan’s dismemberment in 1971.
Before we analyze Mengal’s six-point demands, the sad news is that the Pakistani security establishment categorically rejected Mengal’s proposal within 24 hours of his submission and the country’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, has warned Mengal not to speak against Pakistan or “defame our country’s armed forces”. The intelligence agencies told the Supreme Court that they did not run or sponsor any death squads, as pointed out by the former chief minister, nor was any missing person in their custody.
A joint response submitted by Chief Secretary Balochistan at the Supreme Court on behalf of the civil and military authorities also argued, contrary to Mengal’s statement, that all political parties in Balochistan enjoyed ‘full freedom’ and did not face any kind of official restrictions.
Here is what Mengal has proposed in his six points.
1. All covert and overt military operations against the Baloch should immediately be suspended.
2. All missing persons should be procured before a court of law.
3. All proxy death squads operating under the supervision of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) should be disbanded.
4. Baloch political parties should be allowed to function and resume their political activities without any interference from intelligence agencies.
5. Persons responsible for inhuman torture, killing and dumping of dead bodies of the Baloch political leaders and activists should be brought to justice.
6. Measures should be taken for the rehabilitation of thousands of displaced Baloch living in appalling condition.
Almost all of the above-mentioned demands have been repeatedly made by Baloch nationalists, human rights groups such as the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and local and international media in order to build peace in Balochistan. In fact, B.N.P. had made some of these demands as early as 2005 in front of the Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan. Even the Pakistan People’s Party-led government, without consulting the B.N.P. and other Baloch nationalists, promised in the text of the Aghaz-e-Haqoo-e-Balochistan Package in November 2009 to resurface and release the missing persons. The promise was never kept.
There has never been a dearth of recommendations on Balochistan nor will there ever be. What has hindered conflict resolution is the lack of political will on the part of the Pakistani security establishment, the federal and provincial governments. That situation has not changed and we do not see an atmosphere where such idealistic demands could willingly be implemented.
Two of Pakistan’s top opposition leaders, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League and Imran Khan of the Pakistan Justice Movement, have publicly endorsed Mengal’s six points. Mr. Sharif and Mr. Khan have both spoken in support of Mengal’s demand not because they passionately feel for the rights of the Baloch people but because they are both staunch rivals and getting ready for upcoming general elections.
We have been urging Mr. Sharif and Mr. Khan not to confine their love and concern for the Baloch people to mere media statements. They should practically launch long-marches in Punjab, as was done for the restoration of Chief Justice in 2008, to coax the army to halt its kill and dump operations in Balochistan. Only Mr. Sharif can pressurize the Pakistan army because the bulk of the army comes from the Punjab province. Likewise, Mr. Khan has passionately campaigned against drone strikes but hardly bothered to take out a march to Dera Bugti or Gwadar in support of thousands of Balochs who have been killed or disappeared during the current conflict.
Mengal treats the Supreme Court as the ‘last hope’ for the Baloch people. This is a false expectation. The Supreme Court cannot resolve a dispute that requires basic constitutional changes and parliamentary protection. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has become very controversial and is believed to be a tool in the hands of the country’s army to destabilize the democratic government. Thus, a very strong Supreme Court is as dangerous for the Baloch as a strong Pakistani army. For instance, can one imagine a scenario if controversial judges like Justice (Javid Iqbal or Justice Sharif (who have respectively presented wrong statistics about the number of missing persons or settlers killed in Balochistan) are in position to hear Balochistan’s case?
Given the past experiences, we do not think that Islamabad’s policies will change in near future. After all, what will convince the Chief Justice to punish security personnel responsible for whisking away young Baloch boys and killing them if video footage and testimony by members of the Balochistan Assembly and senior police officers fail to convince him? At the end, he can’t do much for himself or for Mengal because both of them do not wear a military uniform.
MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR
The Baloch Hal