Monday, April 27, 2015

Baloch militants no threat to govt: Bizenjo


WASHINGTON: Baloch militants cannot defeat the government, says Mir Hasil Bizenjo but also urges the government to use peaceful means to resolve the issue.

“Like everywhere else, the military option is no option,” said the National Party leader and the son of the late Baloch politician, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo.

“Successive governments made huge blunders in Balochistan, which led to the present crisis,” he added.

In an interview to Dawn during his visit to Washington, the senator from Balochistan, who is respected across the political spectrum for his candid views, explained that there have been two streams in Baloch politics since the 1970s: Those who want a peaceful solution within the Pakistani federation and those who opted for an armed struggle for a free Balochistan.

Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo headed the groups that wanted a peaceful resolution of the Balochistan issue while Nawab Khair Bakhsh Murree headed the other faction.

“The divide continues. There are those who believe we can have our rights within the Pakistani federation and those who think that the Baloch cannot survive within the federation,” he said.

Mr Bizenjo said that by 1990s, those who opted for an armed struggle had lost a lot of ground. But Gen Pervez Musharraf’s military action against Nawab Akbar Bugti revived that movement.

“Another mistake like this could have dangerous consequences,” he warned while arguing that “the militants cannot defeat the military. They can only create disturbance and instability.”

Mr Bizenjo said that those who believed that they could create a 1971-like situation in Balochistan “must realise that Balochistan is not Bangladesh”.

The militants could create problems for the state but “the establishment treats it as a low intensity insurgency and will continue to do so,” he added.

Mr Bizenjo said that if a referendum were held in Balochistan today, the militants would win. “But there will be no referendum. There will be elections and they cannot win elections.”

The militancy, he said, was popular among the educated youths of Balochistan but “we do not have a large, educated middle class, so it will always remain an insurgency.”

Mr Bizenjo said that the militancy had done more damage to the Baloch than to the Pakistani establishment. “Militancy hurts the militants if they do not have a large, middle class following to back them,” he argued. “The militants have no planning, no central command. They only indulge in sabotage attacks on government institutions and on public places. This is not enough to defeat a large army.”

The militancy, he said, had only added to the frustration of the Baloch nation. “There is only a small force that is fighting, not hundreds of thousands. How can you defeat a military with such a small force?” he asked.

Mr Bizenjo argued that the last two elections had started a process of integration in Pakistan and the Baloch should take advantage of this process.

The Baloch leader noted that while militants had been killed in this insurgency, killing innocent labourers, school teachers and people from other low income, non-Baloch ethnic groups had also hurt the militancy.

Mr Bizenjo noted that there were about 2000 missing persons in Balochistan and 800 bodies had been discovered. “But about 2,000 non-Baloch have also been killed, 12,000 had been forced to leave the province after Sardar Bugti’s death.”

As the situation improved, almost 90 per cent of those non-Baloch people have returned to Balochistan.

He said that the labourers killed in a recent militant attack where Saraikis from Bahawalpur. “They were among the poorest of the poor. There was no justification for killing them.”

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2015

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