HRCP rally and seminar on Balochistan: HR activists demand Army withdraw from Balochistan
* SCBA president says government usurped Balochs’ rights
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: Hundreds of human rights activists came out on the roads on Sunday demanding the Pakistan Army leave Balochistan.
The rally began at the HRCP head office to Kalma Chowk. Hundreds of HRCP members, peace activists, including children, participated in the rally. The activists shouted slogans against ‘dictatorship’ and demanded the Pakistan Army stop military action in Dera Bugti.
The activists were wearing black armbands and held black flags. They stayed at Kalma Chowk for half an hour and attracted hundreds of people. Many vehicles were stuck at Kalma Chowk.
Earlier, participants at a seminar stressed that only people of Pakistan had the right to govern Balochistan and no army or dictator would ever be allowed to exploit its resources. The participants called for political dialogue to resolve the issue.
Justice (r) Tariq Mahmood, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president, was the keynote speaker, while HRCP chairman Tahir Mahmood Khan, secretary general Hina Jillani, former HRCP chairman Afrasiab Khattak, noted activist and columnist Rashid Rehman and others also addressed the seminar.
Activists Syed Iqbal Haider, Dr Mehdi Hasan, Sadia Baloch and Noshab Ali addressed the rally and condemned General Pervez Musharraf’s statement indicating an attack on Dera Bugti.
“The Quaid wanted Pakistan to be a democracy. Instead, we are being ruled by the military,” the SCBA president said.
Mahmood said that all the past governments of Pakistan had usurped the rights of the Baloch. He said that bureaucrats who served in Balochistan made it their domicile and secured bureaucratic positions for their children through the provincial quota.
He said that the only benefit of the army would be the construction of cantonments in Quetta to ensure the supply of Sui gas to the people who had been deprived of it for the last several decades. “However, the cost of military intervention will be great. I myself am a Baloch and have been insulted for the last many months at a check post near my house,” he said.
Mahmood said that the army and Frontier Constabulary had failed to stop regional smuggling. “The way to deal with the current crisis is surely not that people become emotionless and involve themselves in scams and corruption,” he said.
“It is not a question of the stakes of generals and feudal lords but a question of the stakes of Pakistan and its people,” he said. He said that the root cause of terrorism should be determined. He said that it was unfortunate that people who were being called ‘terrorists’ today were people who were brainwashed and commissioned in various organisations by Gen Zia-ul-Haq in the name of ‘Islamisation’.
Hina Jillani said that the rights of the Baloch had been exploited for the last 56 years. Khattak said that it was an issue of restoring democracy and people’s rights. Rehman said that the issue of modernisation had consolidated the nationalism of Balochs who were the real citizens of the province. Khan, the HRCP chairperson, conducted the seminar and demanded the government consider the Baloch a part of Pakistan and not traitors and enemies.