‘Spectre of dismemberment over Pakistan’

June 22nd, 2008 - 6:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, June 22 (IANS) The Pakistani government should heed the dire warning of a senior parliamentarian that the country faced “another dismemberment” if its provinces didn’t receive their fair share of developmental funds, an editorial in a leading English daily Sunday said. Senate deputy chairman Muhammad Jamali “has done the federation of Pakistan a considerable service by delivering an outburst in which he spoke of the possibility of ‘another dismemberment’ of the country”, The News said.

The editorial was titled “Straight talking”.

“Though his remarks were greeted by shock in a nation accustomed to covering up its difficulties, rather than squarely facing up to them, Jamali has placed on the agenda an issue crucial to the future of the country,” the editorial maintained.

Speaking on an “unusual point of order”, Jamali warned his Balochistan province was unable, due to financial constraints, to draft its budget, that Rs.800 billion was owed to it by the centre as royalty on gas, and that unless provincial autonomy was granted the “disintegration” of Pakistan was a possibility.

Jamali’s emotional speech elicited quick response from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who allocated Rs.3 billion from his discretionary fund to the province.

“But this is simply an emergency measure to resolve an immediate crisis, as is the committee set up to look into the royalty issue,” The News noted.

“Far more difficult and demanding is the task of weaving together a federation whose units pull away from each other,” it said, adding: “As Jamali warned, the day may come when a passport is required to visit places that today fall within the country.”

Noting that it was “important” that Jamali’s words were “taken heed of”, The News said: “Only when there is a readiness to accept that a crisis exists, can an attempt be made to solve it.

“At present, beyond the occasional report of a blast or a statement from the chief minister, we hear little in the mainstream media of what is happening in Balochistan.

“Reports of major land scams at Gwadar (port the Chinese are building) have only recently begun to surface, but the resentment that simmers everywhere and can be picked up the instance one moves outside (provincial capital) Quetta, is rarely reflected,” the editorial added.

Now that the “unhappy matter” of the situation in Balochistan and the tensions within the federation had been brought up, “they need to be debated fully in parliament.

“Many who remember the tragic events of 1970 recall a similar reluctance to talk of the hatred and anger that grew in what was then the country’s eastern wing. The same mistakes must not be repeated, the warnings coming in must be heard and we must act before it is too late to do anything at all,” The News contended.

In the parliamentary elections held in December 1970, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had won a large number of seats in West Pakistan but Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League in East Pakistan won an overall majority in parliament.

Bhutto refused to accept an Awami League government and famously promised to “break the legs” of any elected PPP member who dared to attend the inaugural session of the National Assembly. Capitalising on West Pakistani fears of East Pakistani separatism, Bhutto demanded Mujib form a coalition with the PPP.

Under considerable pressure from Bhutto and other West Pakistani political parties, then president Gen. Yahya Khan postponed the inaugural session of the National Assembly after talks with Mujib failed.

Rahman then declared the independence of the new nation of Bangladesh on March 26, 1971. Actual independence, however, came only on Dec 16, 1971 after an India-Pakistan war that began 13 days earlier saw the surrender of 93,000 Pakistani troops in East Pakistan capital Dacca, now renamed Dhaka.

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