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BNP-M to oppose census till Afghan refugees’ repatriation

KARACHI: The Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) said on Tuesday that it would not accept a census in Balochistan until the four million Afghan refugees in the province were repatriated; the internally displaced Baloch families resettled in their respective districts; and computerised national identity cards (CNICs) issued to all native residents of the province.

“We will not accept the [holding of] a census in present circumstances… such an exercise is tantamount to turning the Baloch population into a minority in their own homeland,” members of the BNP-M’s central committee said in a meeting held in Karachi on Tuesday. The meeting was presided over by the party’s president Sardar Akhtar Mengal.

“Our ancestors have sacrificed their lives to save our homeland for centuries. Holding a census is a matter of life and death for us. Hundreds of thousands of the families of Kohlu, Dera Bugti, Jhalawan, Makran, Awaran and other districts have been displaced because of military dictator Gen Musharraf’s anti-Balcoh policies,” said a statement issued by the party.

BNP-M leaders said taking a census in the present circumstances would infringe on their rights and consign them to a future of insolvency and deprivation. They said four million Afghan refugees had settled illegally in Balochistan and CNICs had not been issued to almost 60 per cent of the Baloch population.

The statement said: “this smells of a conspiracy against us. We believe that the establishment of the country and people at the helm of it want to ruin our millennia-old civilisation.”

“They want to turn us into a minority on our own soil.”

The committee demanded that the federal government hand over full control of Gwadar to the government of Balochistan. They also demanded comprehensive legislation to ensure that the natives of Gwadar were not left at the fringes of their city.

They said the presence of Afghan refugees had caused extremism, Talibanisation and sectarianism in the province. They declared the rulers’ ‘soft spot’ for the Afghans as suspect.

They formed several committees tasked with meeting national and political leaders in Balochistan to share their reservations vis-à-vis census taking in the province.

A committee comprising Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Waja Essa Noori and Abdul Rauf Mengal would meet other parties and groups in the country for the same purpose. They have decided to hold public meetings in Turbat, Kharan and Nasirabad in February.

The meeting asked the National Database Registration Authority to issue CNICs to the Baloch. They also condemned the government for empowering lawmakers to verify blocked CNICs.

“This shows that the government wants to issue CNICs and related documents to Afghan refugees in Balochistan…this merits condemnation.”

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2016

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