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Talk of Balochistan 'too much' for Pakistani envoy

india Updated: Dec 16, 2009 14:23 IST

IANS
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"It is too much!" remarked Pakistani High Commissioner Shahid Malik after an Indian speaker blasted Islamabad over the crisis in Balochistan.

And much to the diplomat's discomfort, another speaker, this time from Pakistan, compared Islamabad with Kabul in terms of security concerns and terror threats.

An exasperated Malik was prompted to say: "It is too much."

The event was the launch of an autography of the late Baloch leader Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo ("In Search of Solutions"). A panel discussion followed the book release, organised by Policy and Planning Group (PPG).

PPG president K.T.S. Tulsi welcomed the guests, including many from Pakistan, and recalled the history of Balochistan, inviting criticism from Pakistani guests and the high commissioner.

"Through most of their history Balochs (have) administered themselves as a loose tribal confederacy. The urge to be independent rulers burned bright in them. The Khan of Kalat (Baloch ruler), Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, declared independence in 1947," Tulsi said.

"Yet eight months after the Khan's assertion of independence, Pakistan forcibly annexed Balochistan," Tulsi said reading from his written speech.

"But Balochi aspirations for an independent state were not quelled completely," he went on, as hushed conversations broke the pindrop silence at the venue event at the India Islamic Cultural Centre Tuesday evening.

"In 1973, a war of independence broke out in Balochistan. (Then India prime minister) Indira Gandhi was quick to provide assistance to (Baloch fighters)," he said.

"For five years there was total war. The Pakistan Air Force was extensively used and its Mirage and Sabre fighter jets carried out strikes all over rural Balochistan. (There was) widespread use of napalm (bombs)."

At this, Malik's uneasiness was obvious. He drank water, scratched his forehead, and fixed his eyes for sometime at the high ceiling of the auditorium.

Former Indian minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, the PPG patron, tried to defuse the situation.

"Tulsi sahib made some controversial remarks which we don't subscribe to," said Aiyar, a former Indian diplomat who has served in Pakistan. But that was not an end to Malik's predicament.

Another speaker, this time from Balochistan, refuted Tulsi but warned that Pakistan's continuous support to US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan was "dangerous for the region".

"The spillover of religious extremism is threatening the region. Look at Islamabad. It is a five-star jail today. The guns that were trained at Kabul have turned around at Islamabad. Islamabad and Kabul are no different today (from the security point of view)," Senator Mir Hassan Bizenjo, the late Baloch leader's son.

Malik disagree. "I beg to differ, Tulsi Sahib and Senator Bizenjo Sahib. I am sorry, Tulsi sahib, but it is lack of research. And the two cities (Islamabad and Kabul) cannot be compared. The stage has not come, and God forbid it will never come."

The envoy said Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has publicly apologised to Balochs for historical wrongs and has announced a slew of measures for "national reconciliation and restoration of rights of the people of the province".