Quetta, Apr 28 : The nationalist parties of Balochistan have reportedly refused to attend the all-parties conference (APC) which PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari has called to address Balochistan's grievances. Citing a reason for the same, they said that they have lost their faith in conferences and committees.
Like President Pervez Musharraf, the PPP apologised yesterday to the people of Balochistan for military operations and injustices in the country's largest and the most disillusioned province.
According to the Daily Times, the parties' lack of trust is at its peak after a devastating military operation by the previous government, the subsequent displacement of tens of thousands of Baloch people from Marri and Bugti tribal areas, the killing of two prominent Baloch nationalist leaders - Akbar Bugti and Balaach Marri - and an indefatigable cycle of enforced "disappearances".
The 'harassing' policies of the previous government included freezing several Baloch leaders' bank accounts and putting many of them on the Exit Control List. While some managed to leave the country, their families accuse the government of harassment. Then, two brothers of BNP Secretary General Senator Sanaullah Baloch were abducted in Quetta, allegedly by intelligence agencies to coax him to give up his anti-government stance.
Signs of a change began to appear in Balochistan when assassinated PPP chairwoman Benazir Bhutto opposed Musharraf's policies vocally and suggested a political approach to the settlement of the Balochistan conflict. Baloch leaders recall her vowing in a conference in London to end the military operation in Balochistan and release all the detained political activists. After the PPP formed the government, the Baloch leaders demanded that the party fulfill all the promises its slain leader had made.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani, who belongs to the PPP, has been trying to win the Baloch nationalists' trust, but the nationalists say they see no change in Islamabad's Balochistan policy.
Although the provincial government has withdrawn all the cases, including two of sedition, against Balochistan's jailed former chief minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal, his party the BNP is still unwilling to participate in the APC. A senior political writer said: "It is ironic that Mengal was freed from sedition charges but is held in a case in which he allegedly slapped a Hawaldar of the Military Intelligence."
BNP Secretary General Habib Jalib Baloch says, "The Baloch have been cheated time and again by the Centre under the disguise of parliamentary committees and APCs. We are tired of such measures which, at the end of the day, do not yield any positive results."
According to him, the withdrawal of "fake" cases against Sardar Akhtar Mengal can by no means be described as a confidence building measure. "All cases, expect for which the Mengal Sardar is in jail, have been withdrawn. This is a joke... and then they want us to sit on the negotiations table."
Abdul Rauf Mengal, a former BNP member of the National Assembly, said although Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani had ordered the release of all the judges under house arrest, he "did not utter a word of sympathy with the Baloch people ... We wonder why the promises made to us have been forgotten after the PPP has come to power."
A veteran political commentator was quoted as saying that the fate of the APC would be even more disastrous than the parliamentary committees constituted in 2004. "The parliamentary committees managed to talk to the heavyweights of Balochistan, including Nawab Akbar Bugti and Sardar Attaullah Mengal," he reminded and added "but this time even the moderate forces, such as the National Party, are unwilling to talk."
Billing the APC as a political gimmick, the analyst asked what he calls the million-dollar question: "Who is Zardari going to talk to, when everyone has lost faith in the so-called political process?"