|Balochistan and the spymasters' defiance
Daily: Daily Times
The challenge in front of the federation is not only how to cool down the cauldron of
Balochistan but also how to convince the Baloch that the military is subservient to
parliament. The latter is what the Baloch demand – as one of the key preconditions for
dialogue – and that is where the Centre is faltering in its resolve to address the matter.
On February 29, the heads of the ISI, MI and IB were supposed to appear at the National
Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defence to give it a briefing on the security situation in
Balochistan, but the heads of the ISI and MI chose to absent themselves from the occasion.
However, only the DG IB appeared and suggested opening up of a dialogue with the Baloch
dissidents. His proposal is a good omen but the question is: why the spymasters of the ISI
and MI are disinclined to appear before the committee?
Of their absence, several interpretations suggest themselves. First, they are too arrogant
to value the committee. Second, they consider themselves above the law. Third, they are
disrespectful of civilian leadership. Fourth, they are independent of parliamentary
oversight. Fifth, they believe that the civil-military relationship tilts in their favour. Sixth, they
deem that they hold the discretion to defy the civil leadership. Seventh, they are shameful
of their deeds and cannot face public representatives. Eight, they are a part of the problem
and not of the solution. Ninth, they are not yet disciplined as per the norms of a democratic
progressive society. Tenth, they are not yet habitual of the culture of accountability.
The committee also said that more efforts should be made for the recovery of the missing
persons. The point is not the ‘recovery’ of the missing persons but the point is how and
when to ‘release’ the missing persons. Does the committee have powers to issue such an
The committee further said that there should be zero tolerance for human rights violation in
Balochistan and that the law enforcement agencies (including the FC) should not overstep
their domain and mandate to maintain law and order in Balochistan. The question is despite
its directions if human rights violations happen and the mandate to maintain law and order
is transgressed, what can the committee do? Will those who did not bother to attend the
meeting comply with the committee’s instructions?
The way the salaried class, whether wearing a uniform or not, has started donning the attire
of defiance, it would be little wonder if anarchy prevails in the country. The episode of
February 29 is an eye-opener. Defiance begets defiance: the trend of defiance may trickle
down and embolden the deviant and delinquent in society.
Unfortunately, on the absence of the heads of the ISI and MI, the parliamentary committee
just expressed its displeasure and did not call for their explanation. In fact, it is not only
defiance of the spymasters but also malleability of the committee that is aggravating the
Balochistan crisis. Time is being squandered and the Balochistan issue is getting
The blatant disobedience showed by the spymasters indicates that the apprehensions of
the Baloch are justifiable that the military is not under the civilian command and that
civilians are incapable of reining the military in. This point rules out any possibility for a
solution to the Balochistan crisis.
In fact, the case of Balochistan falls directly in the context of civil-military relations. Who is in
charge is the question. If the civil government is capable of asserting its supremacy over
the military and its allied intelligence agencies, there is a possibility for an amicable solution
of the issue; otherwise not.
The military operation in Balochistan has inflicted much harm on Pakistan. First, it has
severed the people-to-people contact. The Baloch have gone apprehensive of the intent of
every non-Baloch residing whether in Balochistan or in other provinces. Second, it has
heightened the ethnic tension in Balochistan. The Baloch tend to classify others on the
ethnic touchstone. Third, it has weakened the federation while it has strengthened the
forces of polarization. Fourth, it has tarnished the image of Pakistan internationally, such as
at the US Congress. Now, Pakistan is deemed as a Nazistan.
Can anyone calculate, by killing Nawab Akbar Bugti, an 80-year old Baloch Sardar, what
the federation has achieved so far: profit or loss, respect or hate, unity or disunity? Merely
a little patience and a modest compromise with Baloch sardars by the military regime of
General Pervaiz Musharraf could have saved the federation a number of precious lives and
Balochistan is Pakistan’s internal matter but the issue of human rights is universal. That is
the conflict Pakistan has been caught in. Can the spymasters disentangle the issue of
human rights violations from that of Balochistan? The role of the military in the domestic
affairs of the country is bound to affect the foreign policy of Pakistan. To the situation in
Balochistan, the policy of knee-jerk reaction of the military has brought Pakistan to such a
pass that Pakistan’s case of human rights on Kashmir, Palestine and Chechnya has been
weakened globally. Is it a matter of pride or shame?
Hence, the resolution of the issue of Balochistan predicates on the nature of the civil-
military relations in Pakistan. Lasting peace in Balochistan is possible only when the say of
civilians reigns supreme in the Centre. If this aspect is not addressed, all APCs and
concessions offered to the Baloch will go down the drain. It is the duty of parliamentarians
and civil society to make the spymasters respect parliament and uphold the constitution. If
not, a peaceful solution of the issue of Balochistan may not be possible.
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