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Altaf offers role on Balochistan

— Seeks army’s guarantee for talks

— Fears country’s dismemberment

— Says ties with Musharraf severed on Balochistan handling

— Accuses govt of criminal neglect

— Lends support to people to overthrow unpopular rulers

— Asks Haris to capture fields from landlords

Salim Bokhari

LAHORE – Chief of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain is more than willing to lead any effort aimed at resolving the Balochistan crisis as he strongly feels that any further delay in launching “such an effort will be criminal and may lead to dismemberment of the country”.“If no early solution is found, Gwadar would be occupied by the American forces with active support of the Indian agents. God forbid, if such an eventuality takes place, Gwadar would be converted into a US naval base and would be used against China. Let’s not allow this to happen”, Altaf Hussain told The Daily Mail in an exclusive telephonic interview from London.Recalling Bangladesh’s tragic separation, Mr Altaf regretted that our successive governments have learnt no lessons from the past. “The present leadership was either not aware of the density of the issue or was guilty of a criminal neglect.”The MQM chief said that he had been in consistent touch with the top Baloch leadership. “I have always stood with them for their genuine and legal demands and would continue to do so in the future,” he said, adding: “I can persuade the angry Balochs to come to negotiation table provided they are not deceived or cheated again. In the past when such an atmosphere was created for talks, the ruling elite betrayed them due to which they are not willing to believe anyone from Islamabad.”According to him, foreign hands were at play in Balochistan only because the nationalist Baloch leaders were forced to leave the province. “Most of them were either in Afghanistan or in Western capitals. I am in touch with them on regular basis and they trust me.”Asked if at any stage the MQM would work closely with former president and COAS General Pervez Musharraf who has recently launched a political party under the name of ‘all Pakistan Muslim League’, Mr Altaf Hussain said he had a good working relationship with him, but he developed differences with him over the manner in which he handled the Balochistan situation. “General Musharraf was wrongly advised by his close associates and he took a wrong approach to eliminate insurgency, which further complicated the issue”, he said.Without mincing his words, Mr Altaf said the army’s top brass and the ISI chief must provide assurances to disgruntled Balochs that they would not be defrauded again like in the past. “My heart aches to see the prevailing situation in Balochistan where the list of missing person was swelling and a series of target killing was unleashed, eliminating the renowned Baloch nationalist leaders. In such an environment, how can normalcy return,” Mr Altaf questioned, urging for “the right decision at the right time.”To another question, the MQM chief said he had all along been against the military operation in Balochistan and advised General Musharraf not to take that course. “He did not listen to me since he was vulnerable to others’ advice. There have been several army operations in Balochistan in the past and nothing got resolved. Instead, the grievance increased resulting in serious credibility gap”, he said.To a question, Mr Altaf said present and the past rulers have all been sold out to the Americans and were compromising on national interest to serve their foreign masters. “The country was bleeding at the hands of unprecedented floods and suicide bombings and our ruling elite and the opposition were playing in the hands of Pakistan’s enemies,” he said, and warned that it is about time that they change their attitude or get ready to pay the price for their deeds.On flood relief, Altaf Hussain said his party workers had spread across the country and were engaged in relief and rehabilitation operation. “I am personally monitoring the entire activity and would not rest till the last affected person was provided shelter and environment where he could earn his living with respect and dignity.”About the role of Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation in relief activities, the MQM chief praised that members of this organisation were working round the clock with a missionary zeal and warned of series consequences to those who were out to hinder their efforts. He said the Foundation’s network was working across the country selflessly and people in these areas were fully appreciating their contribution. The MQM chief reiterated his earlier statement when asked what was the possible solution of rehabilitation of flood victims, saying the ‘Haris’ should return to their respective villages and towns and capture the cultivable fields of the big landlords. “Time has passed for ‘Jagirdars’ and ‘Waderas’ to continue suppression of “Haris’. “It is in their interest that they distribute their lands among ‘Haris’ otherwise they would take possession on their own.He said the situation was ripe for a revolution and if the rulers did not change their attitude and policies, masses would make them accountable on the crossings and streets across the country. He said his party would lend full support to the people in their bid to overthrow unpopular rulers paving the way for a healthy change. “Gone are the days when the ruling elite could hoodwink poor people of Pakistan.”g

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