Akhtar Mengal is wrong. Divorcing Balochistan is not an option.

But Akhtar Mengal is right. Things remaining as they are, is not an option either.

There is an urgent need to recognise the gravity of what is happening in Balochistan. Having done that, it is equally vital to put the situation in its proper perspective.

Let’s face it: the six points presented by Mengal in front of the Supreme Court sound reasonable. They raise demands which should form the bedrock of any civilised and law-abiding society. No institution, least of all a government, should indulge in kidnapping and murder and then get away with it. This is doubly true if the victim happens to be a citizen of the state that is indulging in such reprehensible acts. We love to hate the United States, but when it comes to its own citizens, the American government and its institutions and agencies strictly uphold the rights of the individual as enshrined in their Constitution. America may wreak havoc in the world, and treat non-Americans as sub-humans, but it dare not violate its own law as it pertains to its own citizens.

When al-Qaeda leader Anwar Awlaki - a US citizen - was identified as a potential target for a drone strike in Yemen, there was a serious debate in the White House regarding the legality of the US government ordering the assassination of one of its own citizens. Finally, a legal way was presented to President Barack Obama, who then ordered the hit and a drone took out Awlaki.

United States does not bother with such niceties when it comes to killing citizens of other countries.

Here it’s the opposite.

So it’s not hard to believe what Mengal says about extra-judicial killings. Even one victim is one too many. But then recall a tragic reality: Pakistan is a hard state and the State of Pakistan has a heart of stone. The state is overbearing, domineering, cruel and traditionally unencumbered by the dictates of law. When a lowly cop can torture a man in the police station - thereby breaking many laws in addition to violating the basic human dignity of the victim - and get away with it, the supra agencies can, and do, get away with much more.

So no arguments on this: nothing can justify extra-judicial killings, and they must stop!

Now to more complicated stuff. Is Balochistan on fire and on the brink of secession as we are made to believe? Let’s pause for a moment and get a perspective. Yes, BLA militants are on the warpath and yes, many influential sardars and their sons are openly calling for breaking away with Pakistan. Yes, also that Baloch youth feel completely alienated from Islamabad and yes, most blame the centre for treating them like second-class citizens. Yes, Baloch feel exploited, neglected and discriminated.

So yes, the situation cries out for a solution, but no, the entire province is not in flames and certainly not on a secessionist warpath. Population figures may be disputed, but roughly half the inhabitants of Balochistan are Pashtuns. They may have their own grievances, but they are not threatening secession. By this logic, half the residents of the province are content in remaining within the federation. Of the other half, clearly not every single Baloch is involved in militancy and secessionism. That leaves a portion of the 50 percent of the population of Balochistan who is talking of “divorcing” Pakistan.

And let’s also not forget who has been kidnapping and butchering settlers in Balochistan. Innocent men and women have been gunned down for the sole reason that they are not ethnic Baloch. So yes, go ahead and rake the agencies over coals for their brutality, but then save some serious condemnation for the Baloch militants, who are trying to ‘ethnically cleanse’ the province. If there’s a reign of terror in Balochistan, there’s plenty of blame to go about.

Bleeding hearts should take note.

And what of those who are advocating secession from exile? Again let’s not get carried away by the flow of a single narrative. Many of their arguments have merit and should be taken seriously, but also keep in mind that these sardars are not paragons of virtues themselves. There is something seriously wrong with the narrative that Baloch should be left alone to do as they like with their traditional way of life. I’m sorry but in a modern federal nation-state, this just does not cut it. Every single inhabitant of Balochistan has the right - a legal, not a traditional right - to live a life of dignity and equality. Yes, it’s wrong for the centre to thrust development down the throats of the Baloch, but it’s equally wrong for the state to leave them at the mercy of medieval sardars, who refuse to acknowledge that the world has evolved, leaving them far behind. In case they haven’t noticed, it’s not exactly the seventeenth century they’re living in.

Who will account for the billions of rupees these sardars have pocketed in the name of their people? Who will answer for the poverty, illiteracy and the wretchedness of life, as lived by a common inhabitant of Balochistan? It’s easy to blame Islamabad, Punjab, Army etc for everything that is wrong in Balochistan. Yes, all three must carry some burden of the blame, but clearly not all.

When we skew the narrative completely to one side, we tend to lose balance. Akhtar Mengal is right to talk about the deprivation and persecution of his people, but he is wrong to think that he and other sardars have nothing to answer for.

The writer is the host of “Tonight with Fahd” on Waqt News.  Email: fahd.husain1@gmail.com Twitter: @fahdhusain