COMMENT : The way forward? — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


There is a long history of state-fabricated excuses to deny the Baloch their rights, albeit like the wolf and lamb fable, they eventually do not need any excuse

The new prime minister (PM) has the age-old agenda of suppressing Baloch aspirations with brute force as his topmost priority and his statements are a dead giveaway of the impending crackdown that people in Balochistan may soon experience. At a two-day National Workshop on ‘Balochistan Situation: Perceptions and Realities — the Way Forward,’ at the military-run National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad, he said — as was appropriate for the venue and the organisers — that if the ‘unrest in small pockets’ was not quelled immediately, it might spill over into other areas. He vowed to eliminate the ‘handful of elements’ who were destabilising Balochistan. His pronouncements are ominous portents of the intensification of the crackdown on the Baloch, who have been relentlessly pursued since 1948. Unsurprisingly, the attendees from Balochistan at the NDU were mostly those who have always openly or tacitly seconded, supported and lauded the atrocities against the Baloch. The way forward at the NDU, it seems, is the use of untrammeled force against the Baloch.

The promise to eliminate the handful of elements who are destabilising Balochistan has not fructified in spite of the numerous military operations for over six decades. It will not fructify with PM Ashraf at the helm either because it is the majority of the Baloch people who resist unjust exploitation and domination; had they been the alleged handful, they would have been eliminated long ago. One however does wonder why the Baloch emancipation seekers are considered a handful. The tens of thousands of brave and heroic Baloch killed and incarcerated during 65 years alone are more than a handful because they represent hundreds of thousands of families.

Raja Pervez offered to have talks but added, “We will not talk to those who are against Pakistan’s sovereignty and who burn its flag.” That leaves Muhammad Aslam Raisani and his ilk for them to talk to and had they been in a position to in anyway influence the destiny of Balochistan, not only would the insurgency have ended four years back but also every past state injustice would have had been accepted as worthy of being extolled as a magnanimous gift. Chief Minister Raisani and company are complicit in the atrocities on the Baloch and are so obsequious that if asked, they would willingly sign their own death warrants. No talks can be successful without the participation of those leading the guerilla struggle, provided they agree even to talk with the state.

PM Ashraf lavished praise on the army and the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and lauded them for ‘promoting and protecting national interests in Balochistan’. The national interests are being guarded by kidnapping and ‘disappearing’ people and conducting military operations. The army denies military operations simply because the FC is doing it, which is the lamest of excuses. Recently, helicopters were used to raid the house of Abdul Nabi Bangulzai and others in Esplinji and Kabo areas; seven persons were killed and many taken away. Similarly, last February in Totak, Khuzdar, 30 persons were taken away; two of them turned up dead, 14 are still missing. However, the attempt to instil terror and intimidate people by abducting and killing more than 500 Baloch in the last 18 months has boomeranged but the establishment refuses to see the reality.

Mr Ashraf also extolled the armed forces in generating economic activities and opening a number of public schools and cadet colleges in remote areas of the province. The Chamaling coal and similar projects are bandied about as benefiting the Baloch though, in fact, only those hand-in-glove with the army make hay. The cadet colleges and naval academies are not educational institutions but means of strengthening the hands of the security state for further exploitation. All this however is an indicator of how much of a say the civilians have in administering Balochistan. Regardless of who is nominally at the helm in Islamabad and Quetta, the real decisions lie with the army and as long as this remains the case, the policy of Baloch repression will continue.

Not satisfied with harassing the Baloch in Balochistan, the Punjab government recently decided to conduct operations against the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from bordering Marri-Bugti areas on the basis of a purported confidential intelligence report about the presence of Farari (rebel) camps in the mountains of Rajanpur, where insurgents are trained in the use of heavy weapons, including rocket launchers and hand grenades. In an operation there recently, two persons, Mawali Bugti, son of Qaisar Bugti, and Ghanra Bugti, son of Kharghi Bugti died, and many were injured and arrested. This operation is being complemented by similar ones being conducted in Bolan, Quetta, Mastung and Kachhi districts.

There is a long history of state-fabricated excuses to deny the Baloch their rights, albeit like the wolf and lamb fable, they eventually do not need any excuse; in March 1948, the excuse of the interests of the Muslim nation was used to annex Balochistan. In October 1958, the bogey of the Khan of Kalat’s imagined rebellion came in handy. In 1973, with Sardar Ataullah Khan’s government in their sights, the situation was manipulated to present a mayhem and anarchy scenario to justify its dismissal. This included the fictitious occupation of the settlers land in Pat Feeder, who had no right to that land in the first place, and anti-government agitation by hirelings of Jam Yusuf of Lasbela. This time around, it is not a person or a government in their sights; this time around, they have zeroed in their sights on the entire Baloch people; of course, collaborators are exempted.

The alienation among the Baloch is not simply because of the atrocities of the state, though these sustain and strengthen the real reasons for the Baloch struggle, i.e. the desire to regain the sovereignty they lost in March 1948. The state and its machinery is oblivious to this past and does not seem to understand that atrocities can never stem the tide of history. The more force is employed as basic policy, the more the people are alienated. Ironically, use of force militates against the interests it is sought to preserve. A Howard Zinn quote elaborates this: “There is a power that can be created out of pent-up indignation, courage, and the inspiration of a common cause, and that if enough people put their minds and bodies into that cause, they can win. It is a phenomenon recorded again and again in the history of popular movements against injustice all over the world.” Much to the chagrin of the state, enough people have put their minds and bodies into the cause in Balochistan now.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

Courtesy: Daily Times 

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