Call for amnesty, withdrawal of forces
By Asim Yasin and Muhammad Anis
ISLAMABAD: As the joint sitting of parliament started debate on the pros and cons of Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package, voices were raised for giving amnesty to Baloch leaders: both in and out of the country, trial of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf for assassinating Nawab Akbar Bugti and complete withdrawal of the Army as well as the Frontier Constabulary from Balochistan as part of the confidence-building measures.
On the first day of three-day session, though no one rejected the package outright, doubts were expressed about its implementation. The session was marked by lack of interest in the debate and only a few parliamentarians were present in the house when it was adjourned. A majority of parliamentarians left the house as soon as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani left the parliament house.
Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who initiated the debate on the Balochistan package, observed it was not sufficient to address grievances of the Baloch people. He said it was good to note that the government, soon after assuming power, apologised to the people of Balochistan for past injustices and promised to come up with a comprehensive package but their expectations turned into disappointment when the package was announced. “The package has been rejected by the Balochistan governor and the chief minister, who belongs to the PPP, has also uttered no word in favour of the package,” he said. He said the PML-N would extend its full support to the government on the Balochistan package if all the stakeholders in the province accepted it.
Nisar demanded of the government to immediately register an FIR against Gen (retd) Pervez
Musharraf under Section 302 for murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti if it was sincere in healing the wounds of the Baloch people. “The people of Balochistan demand that the killers of Nawab Akbar Bugti, Lala Munir and other Baloch leaders be punished,” he said.
He said the federal government should have taken all stakeholders, including those Balochistan leaders who are outside the country into confidence. “If the government wants to save the country, it will have to tolerate the harsh language and attitude of the Baloch leaders,” he said.
Nisar suggested the government should announce amnesty for all Baloch leaders and workers and it should not restrict itself to the limits set by the Army and agencies. He also proposed setting up of a delegation of parliamentarians who should communicate with the angry Baloch leadership, currently outside the country. “The government should establish contact with them and they should be brought into the national mainstream,” he said.
The PML-N leader criticised Interior Minister Rehman Malik for saying that he would resign if any evidence of presence of Blackwater in the country was produced. “Who is working with different names and titles and have hired so many houses in Islamabad? They are present in every nook and corner of the country,” he said.
The opposition leader regretted neither any inquiry was held so far about the presence of Blackwater in Islamabad nor parliament was taken into confidence. Chairman of the parliamentary committee on Balochistan Mian Raza Rabbani commended the opposition leader for wholeheartedly supporting the government in implementing the Balochistan package.
He said the government would welcome suggestions from parliamentarians to fine-tune the package. He said the government is serious in implementing the package to ensure rapid socioeconomic and political development of the province.
Senator Hasil Bizenjo said this package would not fill the trust gap. “Our trust has been being breached for decades since the creation of Pakistan,” he said. Bizenjo went a step ahead of Shahid Bugti and said it was not Musharraf alone who was responsible for the murder of Nawab Bugti; rather the Army as an institution was responsible for his murder. “If the government is helpless in bringing Musharraf back, it should try other officers who are present in Pakistan,” he demanded.
Expressing doubts over the government’s ability to implement the package, he said a government, which could not change a single Army officer, could not be expected to give Balochistan its due rights. Bizenjo warned the government that the Baloch people were very sensitive about any demographic changes in their province and demanded that non-Baloch should be prohibited from getting Balochistan identity or buying property there.
He said it is strange while former interior minister Aftab Sherpao has put the missing persons figure at 4,000, Rehman Malik says only 1,100 people were missing. He said if the government was really sincere in investigations it should investigate the loot of land in Gwadar. “The prime minister should announce the cancellation of land purchases, take this land into the government control and we will support it,” he said.
He said they support a strong federation but not at the cost of their rights. “The concept of a strong federation has brought us to this point. If we give the provinces their rights it will strengthen Pakistan,” he said.
Senator Shahid Bugti of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) said: “After Akbar Bugti was killed, Pervez Musharraf praised his men by saying: well done boys.” He said since an FIR against Pervez Musharraf had been registered for killing Akbar Bugti, there was no need of constituting any inquiry commission.
The Baloch parliamentarian said since independence the Baloch people were never accepted as Pakistanis and every effort was made to marginalise them. “Had Musharraf succeeded in his nefarious designs, the Baloch people would have been living like Red Indians,” he said.
He said during Musharraf’s tenure, thousands of Baloch people were picked up and they are still missing. He said he was not blaming the Army as the military men had to obey orders of their officers. He said in the package it had been mentioned that cases would be withdrawn against Baloch leaders and workers except those who are involved in heinous crimes. “Who will draw the line between heinous and petty crimes?” he asked. He said some false cases of rocket firing were registered against innocent people during Musharraf’s tenure.
Shahid Bugti said it was wrong to dub struggle for rights as terrorism, saying he totally rejects this notion. He said the government has admitted that the military operations were still continuing in Balochistan. He said not only the Army, but the Frontier Constabulary (FC) should also be withdrawn from the province. “The FC is the root cause of all problems in Sui, Dera Bugti and other parts of Balochistan,” he said.
Moulvi Asmatullah said sincere efforts were not made in the past to resolve the Balochistan problem on a permanent basis. He was of the view the issue can be settled by giving due weightage to area in distribution of resources under the NFC award to ensure development of the province. He believed that release of political workers and recovery of missing persons was necessary to create an atmosphere conducive for political dialogue.
Mir Ahmadan Khan Bugti proposed that the National Assembly should have one seat each from every district of Balochistan so that the province could get proper attention during formation of the government.
He appreciated creation of 5,000 vacancies in the province but wanted more efforts to reduce poverty and unemployment. He said no military operation was being conducted in Dera Bugti. He, however, said the law-enforcement agencies have the right to defend themselves if targeted. He demanded that private jails in the province should be eliminated.
Minister for postal services Mir Israrullah Khan Zehri said the package contains a number of good things and welcomed the announcement of the government that it was not an alternative to provincial autonomy.
He demanded that cases against all political prisoners should be withdrawn and they should be released irrespective of charges against them. He hoped commitments made with regard to abolition of check-posts and conversion of B-Areas into A-Areas would be translated into reality.
He said there was some opposition to development of Gwadar as the local people fear that they might be turned into minority if labour was brought from other provinces. Surrayya Amiruddin congratulated the government for presenting a comprehensive package and said the rights of all those living in Balochistan, including settlers and Pashtuns, should also be safeguarded.
She said there was brain-drain from the province, especially from educational institutions, due to target killing of settlers. Haji Muhammad Adeel demanded that the provinces should be given more autonomy and the centre should keep only four subjects: defence, foreign affairs, currency and communications. He hoped Balochistan would get its due share of gas development surcharge under the new NFC award.
He said the military operation in some areas of the NWFP and Fata was for a just cause but operation was unnecessarily launched in Balochistan in the past. Tahira Aurangzeb urged all political leaders to visit Balochistan and enter into political dialogue with the tribal leaders. She demanded that the lives of the people of Balochistan should be protected and they should be brought into the national mainstream.
Rehana Yahya demanded that the people of Balochistan should be given control over the natural resources of province. She said the problem should be resolved through political means and rights of the province be safeguarded. She said the province needs more resources for development of its primitive infrastructure.
APP adds: The joint sitting also offered Fateha for the victims of Rawalpindi and Peshawar blasts. At the start of the joint session, Minister for Labour and Manpower Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah asked for offering Fateha for the blasts victims.