By Khalid Hashmani, McLean, Virginia
The following are my notes and impressions from the discussion on “Sindhi and Baluch Rights” held in Washington DC yesterday.
Key Take-aways from Washington DC Discussion on “Baluch and Sindhi rights” held on September 27.
Washington DC, September 27, 2008: The American Friends of Baluchistan, a local organization of Baluch rights and their supporters, organized a discussion on “Baloch and Sindhi struggle for rights with Asif Ali Zardari’s rise to the presidency”. The event was held at a local restaurant on Saturday, September 27, 2008.
The organizer Mr. Ahmar Mustikhan welcomed participants, who introduced themselves and briefly stated their expectations from the discussion session. On a point raised by Dr. Jawaid Bhutto that the focus of the discussion should not be on one or more individuals but rather on the root causes and solutions, every one agreed to broaden the subject and not limit the discussion to only the context of Zardari’s ascend to the Presidency of Pakistan.
Dr. Safdar Sarki (http://www.pakusonl ine.com/page. aspx?page_ id=57), General Secretary of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) (http://www.geocitie s.com/jeaysindh_ org/press. html) stated that he and his party are not against any individuals. They are only against the actions taken by individuals that suppress rights of Sindhis and Baluch. Pressing his point about the unfair treatment being melted out to Sindhis, he said that Sindh produces 60% of gas, 40% of oil, and 67% of revenue in Pakistan and yet receives back only 23% of benefits for this contribution. He said that in the last few decades, the successive Pakistani governments have treated Sindh and Sindhis with discrimination and attempted to make them happy with peanuts and lollipops. He asserted that 1973 constitution has lost its credibility and validity as none of the provisions for provincial equitability has been acted upon. He said, “An example of this is that concurrent lists were supposed to have been abolished within 10 years but after 35 years, many more provincial rights have been encroached and put in the constitution. The new “social contract” that Mohtarama Bhutto talked about had much to do with enshrining the principles of the 1940 resolution. Nothing short of a new constitutional setup where the main legislative body has equal number of seats from each province would be acceptable.
Dr. Wahid Baluch, http://intellibrief s.blogspot. com/2006/05/balochistan-drwahid-baloch- for.html, former Deputy Speaker of Baluchistan Assembly and President of Baloch Society Of North America (BSO-NA) USA (http://www.bso-na.org/index. html) said, “We know Mr. Zardari has no real power as in spite of his assurances, the war still continues to be wedged against Baluch.” He added “We look at the positive side and are hopeful that some positive results would result from Mr. Zardari’s presidency. It is more probable that only some cosmetic changes would come about during his rule and the root causes will remain unresolved.” Giving an account of his recent meetings with the US officials, he said that he sees hopeful signs of some understanding about the Baluch point of view. He said that it US officials are quite uneasy that after 10 billion financial assistance to Pakistan, there is very little evidence that Taliban and Al-Qaida have been weakened. If anything they appear to have become much stronger and are now pose a very serious risk to Pakistan’s stability.
Mr. Amir Baloch, a local Baluch leader expressed that he was not very optimistic of any positive results and said that so far, the only tangible results of some improvement are that the wholesale allotment of lands to MQMwallas in Gawadar Sea port has been stopped. He was afraid that that Baluch and Sindhis expereincing a false sense of security and will lower their guards thinking that as a Sindhi of Baluch origin is now in the top position, they can go back to their hibernation.
Mr. Faisal Qazi. a well-known journalist and Chief editor of local Pakistani newspapers Asian Tribune (published in Urdu and English) and Pakistan Journal posed a very interesting question. He said, where as, the National Awami Party, the main nationalist party of Pakhonwa (offical nane NWFP Province) has secured electoral successes in that province, Sindhi and Baloch nationalist parties have not achieved similar successes. Dr. Jawaid Bhutto answered that it is simply the fact PPP is the most popular political party in Sindh and Sindhis have consistently voted for that party in the belief that this party would deliver them their rights.
Mr. Ahmar Mustikhan said that he believes that the main culpirts behind the assassination of Mohtarama Benzar Bhutto are not “fundamentalist” forces but this is a dirty deed of agencies and some Generals. He added that the Benazir Bhutto’s elimination from the poltical scene is a great loss for Sindhi, Baloch, and people of Pakistan. Ms. Nafeesa Hoodbhoy said that it is too simplistic blame security establishment for this crime. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had become too close to USA and USA has many enemies in Pakistan. The fact is that we do not know who killed her. For the same reason, Mr. Zardari too has become the most threatened person in Pakistan.
Mr. Aijaz Sindhi, a local journalist, said that Sindhis are still waiting for the restoration of their rights under the new PPP government. He said that onlaught on Sindhi rights continues. He gave examples of the recent federal actions to privatize Qadirpur gas fields in Sindh http://www.apakista nnews.com/ qadirpur- gas-field- four-options- for-sell- off-referred- to-ccop-81196. and federalizing of the Sindh goal authority in support of his argument. He said that no decisions with respect to Sindh’s natural resources would be acceptable unless representatives of Sindh are participants and primary decision makers. Mr. Khalid Hashmani, a local Sindhi activist, said that Sindhis and Baloch rights groups are still using 20th century tools and techniques to secure their rights in 21st century. They have to take global factors into account and balance nationalistic instincts with the need for developing natural resources and to ensure that the needed help reaches rural populations of Sindh and Baluchistan (where poverty has has become main impediment to education and health services) as soon as possible.