consolidating grip on Quetta:
Sanaullah Baloch (and letter
to editor below)
BNP leader says ‘establishment'
wants to pitch Taliban
against Baloch nationalists
* Says Taliban supporters have captured land worth Rs 2 billion in Quetta *
PPP has taken no steps to increase prospects of reconciliation
* Demands more Baloch control and larger share in mining projects
By Malik Siraj Akbar
QUETTA: Balochistan National Party (BNP) Information Secretary and former senator
Sanaullah Baloch has disclosed that the supporters of Taliban have captured
land worth Rs 2 billion in the eastern and western parts of Quetta with the
covert support of the ‘establishment' in order to undermine the Baloch nationalist
movement and promote Talibanisation in Balochistan.
In an interview with Daily Times on Sunday, the former senator said the government
had failed to establish its writ in Quetta, where the Taliban and their supporters
were consolidating their grip. Several parts of the provincial capital have
become ‘no-go areas' where the Taliban and their supporters have consolidated
their position, he said.
Baloch said the government was fully aware of these encroachments but it was
deliberately silent because the Taliban enjoy the support of the government
and its intelligence agencies who wish to pit the religious elements against
the Baloch nationalists.
“We are surprised why the government does not undertake a military operation
against these elements who have openly challenged the writ of the government.
Military operations were carried out in Dera Bugti and Sui areas by the government
on the pretext of establishing the writ of the government, but the state machinery
does not move against the Taliban and their supporters who have illegally and
forcefully captured large areas of land in Balochistan,” he said.
Sanaullah said the government was trying to patronise the Taliban elements
in Quetta and its outskirts in order to undermine the power of the actual democratic
forces. The Afghan refugees, besides being a burden on the economy of Balochistan,
have become the biggest cause of lawlessness and terrorism in the country's
largest province, Baloch said.
Billions of rupees were being spent on eliminating the Taliban and their supporters
in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the NWFP, he said, asking
why the government was ignoring the ‘alarmingly dangerous moves' of the Taliban
and giving them protection in Quetta.
The BNP leader criticised the government for initiating fresh operations in
Dera Bugti and Naseerabad areas, adding that such unprovoked operations were
likely to escalate tensions in Balochistan. “The government is making Balochistan
a battlefield again,” he said.
The operations have made the militant groups end their ceasefire which would
further deteriorate the security situation, he said. The Baloch leadership
had welcomed the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government despite the imprisonment
of its leadership with the hope that the PPP would learn lessons from the past
and pay serious attention to the Baloch issue, he said, adding: “We have deep
respect for the PPP and its leaders but we are not going to compromise on the
Baloch interests at the cost of our friendship with the PPP leaders. The democratic
as well as armed groups in the province are losing faith in the present government.”
Reconciliation: Asked if the BNP and other Baloch leaders welcomed the recent
statement of PPP leader Babar Awan that “the Baloch would hear good news in
March”, Sanullah accused the PPP leadership of using ‘delaying tactics'. In
1977, the PPP had delayed the resolution of the Baloch issue by hoping that
the crisis in Balochistan would gradually fade away, Baloch said, adding that
the PPP was showing a lack of interest in Balochistan again by not understanding
the urgency needed to permanently resolve the issue.
“In politics you need to reconcile at the right time. Timeliness is a crucial
factor in politics which the PPP seems to be missing in Balochistan's context,” he
commented. Recalling a promise made by late Benazir Bhutto, the former PPP chairperson,
who had agreed in the Charter of Democracy to establish federal tribunals to
settle the cases of the provinces against the federal government, besides ensuring
complete provincial autonomy to the provinces, Baloch said the PPP did not take
any initiatives that would brighten the prospects of reconciliation.
Citing the failure of the reconciliatory committees formed by the previous
government, Sanaullah Baloch said the Baloch had always agreed to sit on the
negotiation table and sort out the problems, but the government had been calling
them terrorists and traitors. “We have asked the PPP government to punish the
elements who carried out massive human rights violation and remove the unnecessary
FC checkposts in Balochistan so that we see some progress made by the government
as a confidence-building measure. But our demands have not been met yet.”
Mines and minerals: The BNP leader demanded the local Baloch youth be given
technical know-how in mining and geological sectors so that they could handle
the Saindak and Reko Dik projects.
“We want agreements on the Saindak Gold and Copper project and Reko Dik to be
reviewed. The chief minister issued such statements recently but no headway has
been made yet in this regard. The Baloch share in the revenue generated at Saindak
project is merely 2 percent while the federal government takes 48 percent, and
50 percent goes to China. This is an unjust formula that needs to be revised.
We consider this utter exploitation,” he said, recommending that bidding should
be conducted in the international stock exchanges for the interested mining companies
that want to run these projects. “The government of Balochistan should be given
the right to choose the company that can best run these projects while keeping
in view the fact that the benefits of the projects should go to the people of
Balochistan,” said the former senator.
Quetta under threat
Sir: I appreciate Senator
Sanaullah Baloch's courage
to speak up against the
brewing Talibanisation in Quetta and its surroundings. However, this is not
the first time that fingers
have been raised against
the suspicious activities
of the Taliban and other
entities tied to them.
Afghan officials and
notable Afghanistan experts
like Ahmed Rashid have
been saying for years
that Quetta is being
used as a safe haven
by Taliban leaders and
In the face of Mr Baloch's statements, the government's lack of response is
worrying. The citizens of Pakistan expect the government to clarify its position
on this most troublesome development. This is a very serious issue that should
worry not only the Baloch, but all moderate and secular people of Pakistan
who are affected by the Taliban and their activities.
Supporters of the Taliban have been attacking internet cafes and CD shops in
Quetta, claiming that these are places that promote obscenity. This is just
the starting point of their violence, as was seen in Swat and the tribal areas.
The government would do well to learn the lessons from its past mistakes. The
Taliban, Al Qaeda and their affiliates are the enemies of Pakistan; they should
be stopped before it is too late. Balochistan is already in the grip of an
insurgency, and it can hardly afford to see the Taliban rise as well.