By Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
During the recent ‘missing persons’ hearing in Quetta the Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that there is no proper checking in the city. The check posts manned by the Frontier Corps (FC), customs and police are just an ‘eyewash’; ‘hogwash’ would be more appropriate, and smuggling continues as the FC border check posts are simply symbolic and used for making money. He said that the available evidence showed the FC personnel’s involvement in some incidents of missing persons, and the missing persons’ relatives blame the FC for disappearances. Apparently, it has only now dawned on them that all that happens in Balochistan is an eyewash; the people of Balochistan have always known these injustices and have been trying to rouse sleeping consciences but failed. All institutional measures and actions there are hogwash.
The missing persons hearings are a few years old; innumerable directives, threats and reprimands, for public consumption, by the courts have been fruitless. The death squads have now become brazenly brutal, as not a single perpetrator has been charged for human rights crimes against the Baloch. In June, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances’ (CIED’s) recommendation for filing criminal cases against 117 serving officials of the law enforcement agencies allegedly involved in forced disappearances proved to be an eyewash. In March, Balochistan’s DIG CID, Feroze Shah, in a report to the SC had accused army men, including two Lt Colonels, six majors and two subedars, of involvement in abductions but nothing materialised. Ironically, the SC has once again asked the CID police to investigate three FC officers and this too will fizzle out.
The pathetic performance of Dr Malik Baloch’s nationalist government is absolute hogwash. They have overseen the worst rise in the abducted persons’ killings. After his swearing-in, Dr Malik’s had gone to the now nearly 1,300 days old protest camp of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) but was deservedly snubbed by the aggrieved families of the missing persons. His tall and hollow promises about recovering the missing persons and curbing killings of the Baloch by intelligence agencies and their death squads stand exposed. However, the new government has enthusiastically and admirably done its job of inviting China and some big business houses for the exploitation of Balochistan’s resources. The present operations being conducted in Makran are to ensure the safety of the Chinese who will work there. Riven by differences, the government has failed to forge a cabinet in a hundred days.
General Pervez Kayani in his speech at the passing-out parade of cadets at the Military College, Sui (MCS) on September 6 praised the army’s role in promoting education in Balochistan and the increasing ratio of Baloch recruitment in the army. He claimed that the military was not carrying out any operation in Balochistan but the Frontier Corps (FC), police and Levies were dealing with the law and order situation; apparently, he overlooked the fact that the FC is army-managed and is answerable to it. All this is eyewash; the only reality at Sui that day was — according to news reports — General Kayani and Dr Malik’s hasty departure following a rocket attack by the Baloch Sarmachars (insurgents).
All the claims of education promotion in Balochistan are forcefully debunked by Farooq Sulehria in his well-researched op-ed in a national daily, “Education apartheid”, which proves that an undeclared apartheid is practised against Balochistan. He says, “In Punjab and the Punjab-dominated mainstream media, Baloch grievances are often dismissed on familiar pretexts. One clichéd excuse is that the Baloch Sardars impede development in the province. However, every time one looks into the structured discrimination Balochistan has been subjected to, one finds that it is not the anti-development Baloch Sardars but the ‘federation’ that has impeded progress in Pakistan’s biggest province.” He says that the education apartheid imposed by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Balochistan is apparent, as since the inception, in the fiscal year 2002-03 to 2012-13, it has allocated a total of 737 projects worth Rs 157,102 million. Of these, merely 48 projects worth Rs 9,433 million were assigned to Balochistan’s seven universities. He states that the Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Khuzdar, has received Rs 284 million (eight projects) in 10 years but Lahore’s University of Engineering and Technology was granted Rs 8,361 million (23 projects). Similarly, while Lasbela University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Sciences (LUAWMS) was given Rs 1,943 million (five projects) the University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi and the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad were granted Rs 1,815 million (21 projects) and Rs 2,647 million (25 projects) respectively. Likewise, Balochistan’s only women’s university received Rs 965 million while FJ Women’s University, Rawalpindi, the Lahore College for Women University, Lahore, and the Women’s University, Multan were generously allotted Rs 879 million (10 projects), Rs 847 million (13 projects), and Rs 1,144 million (one project) respectively.
Sulehria adds that the education apartheid that Balochistan suffers from becomes even more evident when the allocations for Islamabad are compared because this comparison nullifies the population-difference argument. The two top beneficiaries of the HEC largesse there, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) were granted Rs 1,520 million (22 projects) and Rs 7,373 million (28 projects) respectively, which incidentally are Rs 13,145 million more than the total allotted to Balochistan. The total money allotted to Balochistan is less than half the amount allotted to NUST and CIIT.
Regarding another aspect of this apartheid, Sulehria says that the HEC bureaucracy knowingly and maliciously twists procedures to favour Punjab, and over 60 percent Punjabis went abroad against its allocated 50 percent quota while the Baloch representation remained below its six percent quota.
All the solemnly declared intentions are nothing more than hogwash for the actual happenings in Balochistan on the ground are what really matter. Because of the massively warped allocations, no educational institution in Balochistan would be able to compete with those in Punjab; this ensures that the talent in Balochistan is snuffed out. This is how degree level educated students in Balochistan are discriminated against so what can one expect for those that the army claims to educate. Moreover, the elephant in the room here is the question what the army has got to do with the education of the Baloch or for that matter of others because this is a civilian responsibility. The military operation in Balochistan is supplemented by a pernicious social engineering operation, which is primarily aimed at changing the ethos of Baloch society so that it becomes more tolerant and amenable to all sorts of humiliation, repression and exploitation meted out to them for the sake of the ‘national interest’. The conflict in Balochistan is about the Baloch interests, whereas the interests of strategic institutions and big business, consequently through social engineering and brute force establishment, want clones of Dr Malik in droves to make the exploitation of the resources of Balochistan easier. (Courtesy: Daily Times)
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org