Neither Modi interested in Balochistan nor Sharif in Kashmir, says BNP-M chief

KARACHI: Neither is Narendra Modi interested in Balochistan nor Nawaz Sharif in Kashmir. Instead, their own political interests make them speak about the two places, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Akhtar Mengal said on Sunday.

Speaking at the ‘Meet the Press’ programme of the Karachi Press Club, he said that the Indian prime minister’s recent references to Balochistan were “just empty statements”.

“He [Modi] has no interest in Balochistan or its people; his statements are just that: statements. Similarly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not interested in Kashmir or Kashmiris, either. Both the premiers are playing politics over dead bodies,” he said.

In an hour-long speech, Mr Mengal touched upon many issues related to Balochistan and said, “Kashmir seems to be nearer to Islamabad than Balochistan as the leaders and the media listen to and quickly react to grievances of the Kashmiris.

“If there’s Indian involvement in Balochistan then by all means fight against it. Why kill our own people to prove a point to India.

“Balochistan is a politically isolated and orphaned province. You kept us politically isolated and yet it is the country which has ended up getting isolated.”

The BNP-M leader said that his father and he could not complete their tenures in government because they were not courtiers.

“I always support parliamentary politics over other options. In an all-party conference, I raised the issue of countering the upcoming demographic changes in Balochistan as well as the killing of settlers. Using strong-arm tactics by either side will backfire.”

He recalled the six points he had raised before the Supreme Court in September 2012. “Had those points been accepted and implemented, we would not have been witnessing hopelessness among the people of the province and their mistrust of the state institutions and politicians,” he said.

Speaking about the points, he said they pertained to “right to self-determination of the people of Balochistan.”

Continuing, he said that the dismissal of the points had led to a “widely believed notion in the province that the state is only interested in the resources of the province and not grievances of its people.

“The grievances are still the same: to stop targeted killings by state-sponsored death squads, dumping of mutilated bodies and to employ local people in upcoming projects.”

In an apparent reference to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Mr Mengal said, “Any project initiated by a European, American or Asian country, which provides employment to our people, is acceptable to us. Similarly, a project that further deprives us of our rights and turns us into a minority in our own land is unacceptable. We do not want that at all.”

He said that Karachi had become “an advertising spot for luring investors to Gwadar”, whereas Gwadar has “nothing more to offer beyond beautiful images”.

Since 1990s, he added, Gwadar had been getting half of its electricity from Iran. “Iran recently offered to provide electricity to other districts for a cheaper price. The proposal was rejected by Pakistan.”

However, he did acknowledge the fact that multi-billion dollar development projects are to be launched in the province, including hospitals, expressways and an international airport in Gwadar.

He then spoke about the terrorist attack on the Civil Hospital in Quetta on Aug 8.

“Twenty-five lawyers died of injuries because of lack of facilities at the hospital situated in the provincial capital. To say it is depressing would be overstating the obvious.”

Concluding his speech, Mr Mengal said that he had been accused of treason and called a traitor for raising these issues. “The media shows only one side of Balochistan. It seems that they have old recordings of the province and are happy to present that particular scenario in their analysis and talk shows because it works for them,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2016

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