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By: Shahjahan Khurram
KARACHI: Panelists part of a discussion on the prevalent abysmal situation of Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province likened the current circumstances of the area to that of East Pakistan before it seceded and became Bangladesh.
The session was held to mark the book launch of A Cry for Justice: Empirical Insights from Balochistan by Kaiser Bengali.
Apart from Bengali, other panelists included I.A. Rehman and Ashraf Jehangir Qazi. The session was moderated by Hifza Shah.
Kaiser Bengali briefly outlined how his book was a cry for justice of the Balochis who had been deprived of development and the basic necessities of life.
He said that the book was an honest reflection of the hapless condition that the Balochis were in.
Ashraf Jahangir Qazi also spoke on the occasion with flair and passion, describing the hostile conditions that the people of Balochistan were living in.
The audience listened to him intently and couldn’t help themselves from clapping every now and then.
“East Pakistan was a part of Pakistan and there are reasons why it’s not a part of Pakistan now,” he said.
“The Indian invasion and the war of 1971 was just a small episode. We lost East Pakistan due to our criminal governance,” he said.
Ashraf Qazi said that contrary to popular belief, the alienation of the people of East Pakistan proved to be the catalyst that ended up in their secession from Pakistan.
He said that the Indian invasion had occurred as the ground had already been prepared due to decades of discrimination.
“The same phenomena is in effect today. We think there are small pockets of resistance in Balochistan that we can crush easily. And we are crushing them.
But this is wrong since the people of Balochistan are very much united despite their different languages,” he said.
Qazi also said that the Pashtuns living in Balochistan belonged to a different race but they also symapthised with the Baloch population.
“And they should also,” he said.
Qazi said that it was excruciating to see how successive governments have altogether refused to learn any lesson from the past.
“What have we learned from the war of 1971? What have we learned from The Kargil episode? What have we learned from the Abbottabad operation?” he asked to thunderous applause.
He also spoke about the missing persons conundrum in Pakistan and said that people were picked up, tortured and killed mercilessly.
“I don’t know, the figure could be in the hundreds and thousands,” he said.
Kaiser Bengali then spoke of various Baloch leaders who had been persecuted in jails and driven to separatist politics.
He said that the perception that the Balochistan government enjoyed autonomy was wrong since it had yet to establish its writ.
“I met once Abdul Malik Baloch, who the chief minister of Balochistan at the time and asked him about the missing persons issue. He ignored my question outright. It was then that I thought maybe I should stop embarrassing him since the matter was not in his hands,” he said.
Bengalis laid emphasis on actions pursued with honest, sincere and optimistic intent. He said that Punjab government had issued orders to educate Baloch students but this measure was not enough.
“If you want to be the big brother then be the big brother. Treat Balochistan well.”
Ashraf Qazi intervened and said that Baloch people were often referred to as ‘Hamaray naraaz Baloch bhai’.
“This is a term of contempt for us,” he said and once again the audience applauded. “Look at the way you are running the country and then you use such terms.”