"Courtesy to Daily Times"
Enforcing a politically sustainable settlement in Balochistan necessitates the reining in and permanent exclusion of the GHQ from the political sphere 

The shrill indignation in the media and government circles that emerged around the US Congress resolution on Balochistan has finally exposed the class-based atrocious nature of callous insensitivities of the Pakistani state and civil-military bureaucracy to the value it puts on human life, especially in respect to the people of Balochistan, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistani columnists, journalists, political analysts have written and debated on television, some on and off, others extensively over the years, about the Balochistan conflict. Civilian and military governments along with elected legislators chose to insidiously ignore the writing on the wall being pointed out. The East Pakistan debacle was constantly quoted in these analyses to no avail.
Denial, disinformation, harassment, in some cases abduction, illegal detention and even extrajudicial murders of columnists, debaters, journalists, activists who dared to raise their voices was the response by the military establishment, with civilian governments acquiescing in the establishment’s diktat. It finally took the US Congress resolution to bring the issue into the public domain because of international exposure just as in 1976, the 1973-77 civil war was internationally exposed by Lawrence Lifschultz in the Far Eastern Economic Review. Till then the rest of Pakistan was in the dark about the conflict in Balochistan as there was no independent national coverage or debate and only the state’s misinforming propaganda machinations were available to the general public, reminiscent of the 1971 war in East Pakistan.
Public debate and exposure of actions undertaken in ‘aid of civil power’ by the armed forces are perceived as a challenge to the unbridled control the military establishment enjoys in Balochistan, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan to perpetuate its own (confused and anti-people) agenda, the so-called and convoluted ‘national security’ paradigm. Public debate and information seems to be anathema to the military establishment and any individual’s or organisation’s patriotism and credibility is immediately questioned if he dares to bring such issues into the public domain. I, personally, had to undergo hours of interrogation over three days by ISI officials in 2010 when my organisation, Sungi Development Foundation, organised a conference on Balochistan’s issues. The basic questions asked were: who are you? What are you doing? Why are you doing what you are doing? My cell phone was under surveillance till recently.
Governor Balochistan inaugurated the conference, parliamentarians and civil society participated and got extensive media coverage. Two speakers from Balochistan were mysteriously killed (Habib Jalib, BNM Secretary General, and Mohammad Razzak, a young lawyer from Kalat) within a month of the conference. It should be noted that we had invited the COAS, DGs ISI, MI, ISPR and FC to participate in order to understand the concerns being debated and respond to questions. None participated but they did send an ISI colonel and a major to monitor and report back to the high command. The ISPR has questioned the credibility, funding sources and agendas of organisations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Can they do the same for Amnesty International, the International Crisis Group, and other human rights groups’ reports, which are internationally well respected organisations? Secrecy and denial are tactics that always get exposed in the long run. Even with all this hullabaloo and questions being asked in the Baloch missing persons’ case in the Supreme Court the ISI wants in-camera hearings. If they have concrete evidence, as they claim, of foreign interference and Baloch resistance groups’ connivance, why are they not willing to produce it in the public domain and open court hearings? What do they want to hide and not disclose?
My critique of the electronic media discussion panels on this issue is that they invite people who have no background or informed knowledge of the history of the political differences, approach and subsequent deterioration in Balochistan. The Baloch leadership being interviewed is understandably wary (being under threat) and at the same time unable to calmly present their case because of the long history of atrocities against them and their people for which they are justifiably extremely angry and pushed to the point of no return by our establishment. To be perfectly honest, invited panellists are also monitored by the ISPR and channels are instructed not to invite knowledgeable panellists who can discuss the realities of the conflict. Channels that did invite such panellists after the extrajudicial murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti were immediately informed to desist from calling them again. So much for the independence of the media!
Can the situation be retrieved from the point of no return? Some of the younger Baloch leadership (Hyrbyair Marri and Bramdagh Bugti) are sceptical because of personal agonies they have suffered as many of their Baloch elders have been extra-judicially murdered at the hands of the military establishment over the last 64 years. Can the current political or future dispensation wrest control of Balochistan, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan from the GHQ before reaching a critical breakup point? That can only happen if the federal, provincial governments and all political parties set aside their own vested power interests and stand united with the leadership and people of Balochistan. Enforcing a politically sustainable settlement in Balochistan necessitates the reining in and permanent exclusion of the GHQ from the political sphere.
Confidence-building measures need to be taken immediately, which address the missing persons and mutilated, tortured, dumped bodies of Baloch political activists, students and leaders, unhindered public movement by removal of FC, Navy and Customs manned checkposts, release of all alive missing persons in the custody of the ISI, MI and FC. A comprehensive compensation and rehabilitation mechanism for families of the martyred and missing persons needs to be put in place as soon as possible. General amnesty to the members of resistance groups and leadership is fundamental. Withdrawing the FC from interior Balochistan and placed along the border to tackle drug, gun and Taliban smuggling and infiltration (mandated duty of the FC) would reduce conflict risk. Curtailing the IB, ISI and MI operations is a prerequisite to bring normalcy to life in Balochistan and must be done forthwith. Agencies funded and backed assassination, kidnapping gangs need to be identified, arrested and prosecuted in relevant courts. Last but not least, all the army officers, serving or retired, who ordered the ISI and FC troops to abduct, illegally incarcerate, torture, kill and dump Baloch activists’ bodies be tried for these gross human rights violations in High and Supreme Courts. This will truly enforce the writ of the governments under the constitution. Then and only then will the estranged Baloch leadership hopefully come to the negotiating table to chalk out the future framework of Balochistan-Pakistan integration or autonomous status. Nothing less will assuage the sufferings of the Baloch.
The writer is Director Programmes Sungi Development Foundation. He can be reached at asad.rahman@sungi.org