Last month, the Pak assembly witnessed the commencement of a new phase in the nation’s history. Years of suppression by Punjabi dominated politicians and army within the country, had to end at some time and regional ethnicities would begin to gain prominence. Punjab was the favoured destination for all development, whether it was benefits of the CPEC, establishment of industry or creation of infrastructure. All other provinces were ignored. Revolt within Pak against this elite has now started.
In their national assembly, opposition members questioned the government’s actions of attempting to take over Karachi under an obscure Article 149 of the constitution. Bilawal Bhutto stated, ‘This country has already been broken once in the past when Islamabad tried to control a state,” he said in reference to the secession of Dhaka. “It’s not that those people were less patriotic than you or me […] If PPP and other like-minded parties don’t stand up, tomorrow, separate Sindhi and Pashtun states might be formed.’ This is only a small part of the changing Pakistan. Qureshi was forced to respond and ended up threatening the opposition.
During the address of the President to the national assembly, opposition members sought to disrupt the proceeding by shouting, ‘Go, Niazi Go’, targeting Imran, while holding pictures of arrested politicians. All opposition politicians, who could challenge Pak’s deteriorating economic and internal situation have been placed behind bars on trumped up charges, adding to internal anger.Evidently,anger is rising by the day.
Post the abrogation of Article 370 by India, Pak began concentrating on challenging Indian decision, little realizing that its own follies and atrocities are getting increased international coverage. Protestors and banners criticizing Pak for atrocities inBaluchistan, Waziristan, Sindh and POK were far larger than those of Pak sponsored Kashmir posters and protestors at both Geneva and New York. Pak did manage to divert internal financial woes, rising costs, unemployment and inflation towards Indian actions. However, regionalism has begun to rise. Pak has now begun fighting for survival of the state itself.
Baluchistan is leading the battle for freedom, to control which, Pak has resorted to near genocide. Protests outside the UNHCR in Geneva and the UN in New York displaying photographs of ground realities gained international attention. Within Pak, there are regular attacks on Pak troops or rangers, casualties remain hidden from the public, due to media blackouts.
In retaliation there are mass disappearances, rapes, killings and torture. Each such incident only increases anger within. The US, to placate Pak, during US-Taliban talks, designated the Baluch Liberation Army (BLA) as a global terrorist group. With talks collapsing, this designation may remain only because it was announced.
Bilawal mentioning a separate Pashtun state may not be just anoff the cuff remark. The rising power of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) in Waziristan is evident. Its elected leaders have been arrested without charge and releasing them on conditional bail after months of detention has done little to placate local anger. The criticism of their release by the Punjab dominated central lobby indicates the rising split within the country. PTM members are being threatened daily, arrested, tortured and killed only because of their demand for the right to live.
Their demands have been removal of landmines (which country plants landmines against its own people, and is banned internationally), check posts, stop to enforced disappearances and accountability for fake encounters. Curfew and communication blackout in the region have existed for eternity, yet the rallies of PTM have hundreds of thousands attending. The Afghan national leadership wore Pashtun caps as a solidarity with the Pashtuns. Afghanistan has never accepted the Durand Line, nor do the Pashtuns desire to be a part of Pakistan.
With US-Taliban talks shelved, the Taliban would now move into the region dominated by the PTM adding to atrocities. The peaceful movement is bound to become violent. The TTP (Pakistan Taliban) is already a threat to the Pak state.It has on occasions captured tens of Pak security force personnel deployed in the region and on one occasion, even a company strength. Pak’s dreams of the Taliban occupying the seat of power in Kabul would enable it to withdraw forces from the region have gone up in smoke. Hence, Imran is desperate for US-Taliban talks to recommence.
The demand for Sindhu Desh, long suppressed by force, has again begun to rise. The Pak army has never been able to suppress Karachi which remains the Sindhu Desh stronghold, thus is attempting to do so by employing an obscure article of the constitution. Altaf Hussain, the self-exiled leader of the MQM, spearheading the movement for a Sindhu Desh, has begun calling for resistance. It would be crushed by force adding to internal anger.
The anger within the local population of PoK is crossing boiling point. Atrocities, denial of equal rights, forced suppression by the army and state brutality has led to increased resistance within. Demands for joining India or for an independent Kashmir are rising. The army is responding hard while ensuring a complete media and communication blackout. It is only a matter of time before the situation reaches a point of militancy. Recent rejections of Imran’s rallies in PoK are indicator of increased anger against Pak and desire to join India.
Pak is presently training PoK residents as terrorists to be launched in India. Quite likely, they would turn their guns on the Pak army as its atrocities on their population increase. Anger within Gilgit Baltistan always existed. It was the most ignored region of Pak, exploited for resources, but denied its dues. With rising anger within PoK, it is not long before similar violent protests break out in this region too.
Pak always differentiated between its Sunni majority and Shia minorities of Gilgit Baltistan. It deployed the Shia’s of Gilgit Baltistan, serving in the NLI, in Kargil, and subsequently even refused to collect their bodies, most of whom were buried by the Indian army. The bodies of Shia NLI soldiers killed near the LoC on 30/31 Jul this year, remain in the open, ignored by Pak, while the remains of a Sunni soldier killed on 05 Sep was immediately collected by displaying a white flag.Naturally, there would be anger against such differentiation.
The reason for anger in all outer regions of is that Pak is dominated by Sunni Punjab leaders, both in the army and the Government. It has exploited all outer reaches, Baluchistan, Waziristan, POK and Gilgit Baltistan, while giving them nothing in return. Further, as a nation Pak has never truly integrated. Added to this is mass unemployment and rising inflation. Movements are being suppressed by brutality which has led to intense hatred against the central leadership.
The world should now carefully look at Pakistan and advice its leadership. If ignored, Pak could become a failed split nuclear state, a danger to global peace and security.
The author is Major General (Retd)