Modi not the first, we talked about Balochistan too: Congress

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not the first to raise concern over the situation in Balochistan, Congress said , insisting that the party-led UPA government had consistently spoken about the “spiralling violence” and “heavy Pakistani military action”. “Congress and UPA government have condemned the human rights violations in Balochistan as also in PoK by Pakistani forces and establishment on multiple occasions in the past,” party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, noting that the first time the UPA did so was on December 27, 2005.

Besides, he said, none less than the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in reply to a parliamentary question on March, 2, 2006, categorically condemned the spiralling violence in Balochistan and heavy military action, including use of helicopter gunships and fighter jets by the government of Pakistan to suppress the people of Balochistan.

Earlier, in the wake of reported killing of 50 Baloch people in the Pakistani army action, a spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry had expressed hope that the government of Pakistan would exercise restraint and take recourse to peaceful discussions to address the grievances of the people of Balochistan, Surjewala said.

His statement came a day after the Congress appeared to be speaking in different voices on the issue and the AICC even distancing itself from the remarks of senior leader Salman Khurshid on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to Balochistan in his Independence Day address.

Congress had termed Khurshid’s remarks as “his personal view”.

In his address from the ramparts of the Red Fort yesterday, Modi had talked about the situation in PoK, Gilgit and Balochistan and said people from there have thanked him for raising their issues.

Noting that Modi must realise the “folly” of BJP and its leadership in opposing Congress and UPA earlier, Surjewala said the Prime Minister instead of indulging in self-praise and self-promotion as he did in the Independence Day address, needs to have a sense of history and must thank his predecessor Singh.

“Rhetoric from Red Fort and headline management by PM Modi is fine but he needs to tell the nation about the BJP government’s actual ‘Pak Policy’ that leaves even the most vocal supporters of Modi completely confused and bewildered,” he said.

Surjewala said that in August,Surjewala said that in August, 2006, the UPA had spoken about the unfortunate killing of the veteran Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, describing it as a “tragic loss” to the people of Balochistan and Pakistan. It had underlined the need for a peaceful dialogue to address the grievances and aspirations of people of Balochistan, noting that “military force can never solve political problems”, he said.

Besides, he said, a reference to Balochistan also appeared in the joint statement dated July 16, 2009 at Sharm-el-Sheikh when Pakistan “conceded for the first time” its role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack as also recognised the overwhelming evidence handed over by India.

“It is a different matter that BJP, which was then in opposition, had bitterly attacked Manmohan Singh, the then PM, and UPA for compromising India’s position,” he said, adding even at that time, Balochistan leaders had thanked Singh and the UPA government for raising the issue.

Raising a number of questions about the Prime Minister’s remarks, Surjewala wondered how does he propose to take the issue of human rights violations in PoK and Balochistan further? What is his government’s policy as also ‘way forward’ on the issue?

“Has the Prime Minister raised the issue of these human rights violations even once in bilateral talks with Pakistan over last 24 months?” he asked.

He asked whether the government would take it up now either in bilateral dialogue or at another international forum.

Claiming that Modi’s “flip-flops” on Pakistan have become legendary, he said suddenly the Prime Minister and his government have started speaking in a different language without following up on the issue of punishing the perpetrators of terror attacks in Pathankot, Udhampur and Pampore.

Surjewala said the Prime Minister should immediately take stock of the alarming situation in Kashmir and provide the much required healing touch.

“The Prime Minister, who even indulges in the symbolism of observing Diwali in Kashmir, has not found time to visit J&K even once, although 65 people have died and nearly 3,000 injured since the latest episode of unprecedented violence in Kashmir Valley,” he said.