Security-conscious officials in Islamabad are not only hampering the efforts of Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch to give easy access to relief work in earthquake ravaged Balochistan province, but have also derailed the plans of Premier Nawaz Sharif to provide a massive relief package there.
“I am facing problems,” Dr. Mailk Baloch conceded on the phone from Islamabad Tuesday.
Dr. Baloch said the provincial government can issue NOCs, an official permission document, to domestic non-profits only. “We have given NOCs to 20 domestic relief and charity organizations. As far as the U.N. and foreign relief agencies go, the permission has to come from Islamabad,” he said.
But sources privy to the entire situation said both the efforts of the chief minister and the plans of Premier Sharif were road-blocked by the omnipotent soldiers, whose iron-fist policy in Balochistan is the main cause of the 12-year-old insurgency.
“I know on good authority that Premier Nawaz Sharif was extremely disturbed and keen on earthquake response and wanted to sanction a relief-recovery-development package to the affected area but seemingly has been stalled by the military establishment and the bureaucracy in Islamabad,” a senior international development official said on condition of not being named.
However, the official expressed his fears over the security of internationals in Balochistan. “My fear is that if one U.N. employee gets abducted, hurt or killed in the aid operation, it will effectively seal the fate of all development in Balochistan,” he said, adding, “There is no dearth of mischievous and immature people around who would do just that.”
This was an oblique reference to the February 2009 kidnapping of John Solecki, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Quetta. Solecki was freed after two months, but in retribution the Pakistani intelligence officials abducted, tortured and umped the bodies at least three leading political leaders Ghulam Mohammed Baloch, Lal Munir Baloch and Sher Mohammed Baloch. The U.S. embassy in Islamabad had condemned the killings.
Dr. Baloch, himself an eye specialist, was keen to give permission to the Doctors Without Borders to work in Awaran and Kech, but the security establishment rejected his request.
Observers in Quetta point out that the earthquake clearly shows the soldiers are still calling the political shots in Balochistan and are in no mood to allow the civilians run the affairs, putting cold waters on Dr. Baloch’s efforts for peace in Balochistan. “Dr. Malik Baloch calls for international help to the earthquake victims but the federal government does not give the relief organizations NOCs. This shows the amount of political clout he has in running the affairs of the province,” said a Quetta-based development specialist Azmatullah Baloch.
The chief minister appears to be walking on egg shells. On the one hand the security establishment has tied his hands, and on the other hand the extremist insurgents insist that neither the provincial nor the federal government be involved in the relief operations.
“Any aid to the government would help them prolong their stranglehold on Balochistan,” said Sher Mohammed Baloch, spokesperson for the Balochistan Republican Party, who is also linked with the militant Baloch Republican Army.
Led by Brahumdagh Bugti, the B.R.A. has made two attempts on the life of Dr. Malik Baloch and has killed his party sympathizers.
Risking his personal security, Dr. Malik Baloch had camped in Awaran for quite a few days to oversee the relief work after the September 24 earthquake left 400 dead, more than 1,000 injured and nearly 25,000 homes demolished.
Dr. Malik Baloch said, “I will be meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today (Wednesday) to discuss the whole situation.”
Dr. Malik Baloch is urging international assistance in reconstruction of roads, schools, homes and water supply lines.
The international development professional, who spoke on the condition of not being named, said, “What is needed is to push Pakistan to put more resources at the disposal of Government of Balochistan so that they can act swiftly.”