Balochistan becoming next Achilles’’Heel
Islamabad: It does not matter how bad is the situation in Balochistan and how inconsiderately we have neglected Baloch lands and people over the past half a century or so, but the moment US congress bill makes the headlines, the entire Pakistan seems to have erupted in unison to condemn Washington for stretching its police-man’s role over Pakistan’s internal affairs.
On one side, there is feeling inside the Pakistan’s uniformed establishment that this is yet another joint venture of the Obama-administration and Pentagon to further pressurize Pakistan Army while on the other side even the political forces which till now were considering that Obamities are favoring them for the love of democracy have also felt ditched. Since both are having a pitched battle of nerves between themselves since OBL strike, both are condemning the US for their own ends.
With the missing persons case and finding the mutilated bodies on roadsides in Balochistan and other parts of the country resonating (or may be languishing) in the corridors of the superior judiciary of Pakistan and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani also offering the political dispensation of the country to come forward and sort out this mess instead of making the Army a punching bag, the onus has squarely and fairly rests on political actors now.
Defense Council of Pakistan (DCP), a newly formed alliance of forgotten or left-over elements of establishment is already holding anti-America and Anti government rallies all over Pakistan and now they seem to have got another reason to up their ante against the Zardari-Gilani duo. Their sit-in protest in front of the parliament is what is bothering many inside the government as well as Washington. Many in the diplomatic corp of Islamabad were even asking that will this be a make or break point for the government, especially with this new move of Washington? The answer is not known to anyone but it certainly can become a catalyst for many more things to follow in favour of establishment, claims some well placed observers in capital.
First the memo-gate scandal and now this move by the US Congress has put Gilani government in perils and their plans to pass the budget session before announcing a caretaker set up of their blue-eyed persons will get a severe jolt. Though they have managed to pass the major hurdle of getting the Senate elections done by having a under the table deal with Nawaz League but then other challenges will test them to the hilt, claims these observers.
Much to the astonishment of many observers and even the self-styled Babus in our foreign Office the recent statements and definite style of communication adopted by the US Ambassador Cameron Munter is considered not a good omen for the sitting government in Pakistan. Munter of late has not only expressed categorically that trading or developing of any energy corridors with Iran would prove nothing less than financial suicide, but has also come very clear on Balochistan by telling in no clear terms that violations of Human Rights remains a major concern for US administration and need to be addressed.
Recently his statement about Gen. Pasha, the current Director General of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) by hinting at the possibility of improvement of ties between his government and Pakistan after the retirement of Chief Spy (due this March) has also brought home a sense that US is really getting edgy with the way his top officials including Marc Grossman are denied visit to Pakistan and many of their ground officials (or may be Machos like Raymond Davis) are not given visas while those already in Pakistan are hounded and huddled out of the country. Many western diplomats even expressed this that there seem to be strong indications of involvement of top Pakistan agency in the kidnapping of some westerners from Southern Punjab.
I remember some of my talks with the Baloch nationalists and then with the Chief Operating Officers (usually known as DG) of Rangers and Military (one and the same for all practice purposes but not for taxonomy reasons) in recent years that they have all been complaining about the increased interest of Americans in Balochistan. It was in this vein that though Cameron Munter spent almost a week in Balochistan and expressed an open wish to launch a consulate in the province but the same was denied on reasons of security concerns.
Establishment feels that how many more doors of hostility we can open for Americans. Previously, they claim that Army had to contend with Eastern borders but since 9/11 they have not only been over stretched for an unending period of ten years in a row and now feel concerned for the north-western borders as well. By giving them an official presence in Balochistan, they believe that we will be standing face to face with Iranians.
Perhaps understanding this subtle shift in not only Munter ‘s tone and frequency of statements but an overt action by US Congress, President Zardari is considered to have re-positioned his ship which was evident from the fact that after throwing a salvo of accusations on Army, Prime Minister Gilani has continuously been declaring that he has exemplary working relationship with the army and has no issues with their leadership. It remains a paradoxical situation for the current government because on the one side they do not want to offend US for the sake of continuing their mutilated method of governance and second for fear of letting the establishment-backed horses run-over them in the upcoming political/election battles.