Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Just when you think our situation couldn’t possibly get worse, the United States manages to get it down another notch. First, it was the totally unprovoked attack on the Salala check post resulting in the killing of more than 24 jawans of the Pakistan Army. Now it is the highly inflammatory and provocative call by US Representative Dana Rohrabacher for the secession of Balochistan. It is a harbinger of covert US plans for the dismemberment and balkanisation of Pakistan.
The current crisis in Balochistan, triggered by General Musharraf, has a long history. In a television interview on January 4, General Musharraf issued a stern warning to the Baloch nationalists. “Don’t push us. It is not the 70s, when you can hit and run, and hide in the mountains”, he said, alluding to the military operation to quell the insurgency in Balochistan in the 1970s. “This time, you won’t even know what hit you”. “Oh God”! I said to myself. “Not again”. Unfortunately, generals do not learn from history because they do not read history. They make history.
The crisis in Balochistan is a throwback to the 1970 insurgency that resulted from Bhutto’s dismissal of the National Awami Party government and the detention, on conspiracy charges, of 55 nationalist politicians and student leaders. Nearly three divisions were deployed to crush the insurgency and restore normalcy in that troubled province.
On July 5, 1977, the Bhutto government was toppled in a military coup led by General Zia, I was asked to take over as secretary ministry of interior. Within days, I met General Zia in the GHQ in the presence of Ghulam Ishaq Khan, secretary general-in-chief. The Hyderabad Conspiracy case came up for discussion. Mr Bhutto had earlier banned the National Awami Party.
Top Pakhtun and Baloch leaders were arrested and detained in Hyderabad jail and put on trial under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Special Courts Act of 1976. The government was in a state of armed confrontation with the people of Balochistan. The army had been deployed to crush what was officially described as an insurgency. Both sides had suffered heavy casualties.
Ghulam Ishaq Khan told General Zia that Bhutto had launched the army operation in Balochistan, not because there was an insurgency, but because he could not reconcile himself to a non-PPP government in Balochistan, which he had sacked without any justification whatsoever.
He told General Zia that Bhutto was using the army to punish his political opponents and advised him to call off the operation, drop the conspiracy case, release the Baloch and Pakhtun leaders and defuse the situation. We assured Zia that he would never regret this decision. He said he agreed with us but would have to discuss the matter with his colleagues.
When we met him again, he told us that his colleagues did not agree. We pressed him again to ask his colleagues to reconsider the matter dispassionately. This time Zia had better luck. He had secured their agreement. He went to Hyderabad, met all the Baloch and Pakhtun leaders in jail, and had lunch with them. He called off the army operation, dropped the Hyderabad Conspiracy case and what is more, sent Ataullah Mengal, a heart patient, to the United States for medical treatment. All this had a dramatic effect. In no time, the situation returned to normal. All military operations in Balochistan were ended and troops were withdrawn; a general amnesty was granted to all those who had taken up arms against the government; all sentences were remitted; properties confiscated were returned to their owners. With one masterly stroke, Zia defused the situation. For eight long years, Balochistan gave us no trouble.
The use of force against the people did not succeed in East Pakistan and led to tragic consequences. How can it succeed in Balochistan? Why use force to resolve what is essentially a political problem? That is what happened to us in East Pakistan. Why repeat the same mistakes in Balochistan?We lost our independence and sovereignty on General Musharraf’s watch when he capitulated, said yes to all the seven demands presented to him, as an ultimatum, by Colin Powell
, the then US secretary of state. No self-respecting, sovereign of an independent country, no matter how small or weak, could have accepted such humiliating demands with such alacrity. General Musharraf executed a U-turn, disowned the Taliban and promised “unstinted” cooperation to President Bush in his war against Afghanistan.
Pakistan joined the “coalition of the coerced”. There were no cheering crowds in the streets of Pakistan to applaud Musharraf’s decision to facilitate American bombing of Afghanistan from US bases on Pakistan soil. Musharraf had to choose between saying no to the American diktat and shame. He chose the latter and opted for collaboration. Thus began Pakistan’s slide into disaster.
Is it, therefore, surprising that the American footprint in our country is growing larger and heavier by the day? Nuclear Pakistan is now an American colony and is used as a doormat. American military personnel criss-cross our border without let or hindrance. Their drones violate our air space with the agreement of our government and kill innocent men, women and children. No questions asked. No public outrage. No country-wide protest demonstrations. No self-respecting country, big or small, would tolerate such intrusions.
Our country is in grave danger. Sixty-three years after Mr Jinnah gave us a great country, little men, mired in corruption, have hijacked it and destroyed his legacy. It is hard to exaggerate the baleful impact of Zardari’s rule: the oligarch and the mafia who have stolen every asset of any value, the inflation that has ruined the middle class and the poor, the corruption that has corroded all values and humiliated every decent citizen; and the insecurities that have filled everyone with fear and anxiety.
Pakistan is descending into chaos and is caught between a hard place and many rocks. The political arena seems more like a forum of mass entertainment than a place of serious deliberation. Parliament, the chief instrument of democracy is cowed, timid, a virtual paralytic, over-paid and under-employed, totally insensitive to the sufferings of the people it claims to represent.
The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. It appears as if we are on a phantom train that is fast gathering momentum and we cannot get off.
Why are people who owe everything to this country so silent? The tragedy is that each person feels what is wrong and knows what is required to be done; they all lament over it, ritualistically, in drawing rooms across the country but none has the will or energy needed to seek something better; all have lofty ideals, hopes, aspirations, desires, regrets, sorrows and joys which produce no visible and durable results.
What will become of poor Pakistan? “What the end will be”, Carlyle wrote, “is known to no mortal; that the end is near all mortals may know”.
The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: email@example.com