A Letter From Punjab
Writing on Balochistan quake is a boring topic, why should I write on this? I have never been to Quetta even, have very few friends from the area, may be two or three people I know and that too on twitter. Perhaps that was the reason I had been postponing this task – an uphill task it seemed.
I never wanted to write on Balochistan until yesterday when I was sitting in my office and was discussing politics and the usual news with my colleagues. Being in the news channel, one has to discuss politics in leisure time. It gives a good impression. One should discuss army, religion, secularism and other such things; things we don’t know a word about but we must give our detailed analysis to look cool.
So we were talking about the earthquake and everyone was pretending that they feel sorry for the victims and the government must do its utmost to relocate and rehabilitate the people and etc etc.
My boss joined in the conversation after a while. He didn’t bother giving his valued input but asked us to think about the topics for next week for our morning show. I suggested we do a detailed report on Balochistan earthquake and we should go to the area and see for ourselves what exactly had happened. He gave me a look (which I didn’t understand why) and mockingly said, “Why?” I was taken aback, what was this ‘why’ supposed to mean?
My inner journalist, which was sleeping for quite a long time now, woke up and pushed me to start talking like an expert, which I obviously did, so I explained that there are over 500 casualties, thousands of houses had been partially or fully damaged and this is the need of the hour.
He wasn’t really interested in knowing all this so he started playing cards on his laptop while I was trying to convince him. When I stopped talking, he smiled, looked at me and said in a mysterious voice, “Do you know that separatists over there kill their own people? They target international agencies like UN, WHO and they kill our army men.”
I said maybe that’s true but they must have had a good reason to do all this, he said, “How many people have been killed over there, 300 or 500, so what?” I was shocked. I still tried my best and said that this will be something different, while all the other channels will be showing the same old stuff. It’s our chance to prove that we have something different as misery sells (this was the lowest I could think of to convince him). He seemed bored but said, “We need ratings and Balochistan with its hundreds of dead people is not worth selling. Instead of doing that we should make a report on October 8 earthquake and its survivors.” I was outraged and said that it’s been years now those people must have been rehabilitated to some extent, we should rather cover these Baloch victims.
He had had enough, “How many times do I have to tell you that all of you will be fired if our show fails to get ratings. We are not interested in whatever is happening to Balochistan as people in Karachi don’t want to see that.”
Most of the rating meters are located in Karachi and if Karachi residents don’t want to see a specific thing then media won’t cover it as it fails to give you ratings and that means you will end up with no ads and you will be kicked out.
I wanted to give it one last try so I requested him to send me to Quetta along with the camera crew and I will spend money from my own pocket. He was infuriated, “What on earth am I telling you for the last half an hour? Why don’t you understand? Where is your brain if you have any? They will kill you and I don’t want you or any other member of my team to get killed, now off you go and make a list of the topics we are going to cover next week, make sure I have something juicy as it will boost our ratings.” And that was the end of our conversation and I was sure I won’t get increment now for I have asked for it.
People of Balochistan think that Punjabis are biased and we have been depriving them of their basic rights. Punjabis are dictators; they produce less but consume almost all the resources of other provinces. Punjabis are ruling over the whole country. And in this hour, I admit, Punjabis are not helping the people of Balochistan. While over here in Punjab, people say that Baloch Sardars are wreaking havoc with the lives of their own people. I was told by a high level government official that a couple of years ago, millions of rupees were given to a Baloch Sardar for the development of his area and he brought a luxury car and expensive birds for his personal zoo.
Many incidents of ethnic violence have been reported when Baloch killed Punjabis after seeing their ID cards while no such incident has ever happened/reported in Punjab. Baloch says its Punjabis who deprive them of education while its not true at all.
When investigated, I came to know that over 50 students (who had no family member) have been brought to Lahore and they are getting free education in English medium schools, basic health & other facilities. On the other hand Baloch from their areas say that it’s a conspiracy against them as Punjabis are brain washing those children.
When asked, those children say they don’t want to go back to their area.
Blaming one party is useless. There are misunderstandings on both sides. We have seen that most of the MPs from Balochistan have literally done nothing for their people. They had been getting funds for their areas but where that money had gone? Do the people in their respective constituencies ask them? Or are they not allowed to ask anything like that?
In the last Balochistan Assembly sessions, there was only one person in the opposition and he was the opposition leader (Yar Muhammad Rind), still the provincial government was unable to do any good for the people.
I am not an expert on Balochistan and frankly speaking I don’t have any solution to this problem. All I wrote are the basic points, which people from both the sides highlight during any discussion. There are evil minds working at both sides who don’t want peace, there are mistakes committed by both sides; federal government and army have failed big time in addressing the grievances of the Baloch.
I feel the solution could probably come about if people on both the sides would get to know each other and understand the problems they mutually face and this may help remove the misunderstandings. It is a wish which some may think is naïve others may think it is biased whatever it is thought of it comes from goodwill and concern for humanity in general. Hundreds of articles have been written on all this and as I have said I don’t have anything new to offer but do we really need something novel when even the oldest conflict resolution technique – simply talking to each other – hasn’t been tried.
Why does dialogue have to follow a war not precede it? Can we, for once, try speaking to each other? Talks after all being peddled as a panacea for peace elsewhere in the country; can’t peace talks be given a chance in Balochistan?
The writer works with a leading Pakistani television channel and the writer’s name has been withheld on request
Published in The Baloch Hal on October 5, 2013