COMMENT : The dispossessed are definitively disenfranchised — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


Land in Balochistan, like that of Sindh, would have been parcelled out had not the Baloch understood that dispossession means disenfranchisement

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur“For a colonised people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity” — Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of  the Earth.

Land acquisition is the surest way for securing a stranglehold on the people to be occupied. Before the Zionists got powerful enough to force the Palestinians from their land, they bought it with the lucre of wealthy Jews, of whom Baron Benjamin (Edmond James) de Rothschild (1845-1934) is important. He transferred 25,000 hectares of land in 1900 to the Jewish Colonisation Association. According to an estimate, the total loss resulting from the unjust land acquisition by the Zionists reached Pounds 7.43 billion. By 1948’s general armistice, Israel had taken over 77 percent of the Palestinian land. First money dispossessed the Palestinians and then thanks to the western powers, force did the rest.

Presently, the Palestinians live on slivers of land in Gaza and the West Bank, which keep getting thinner with walls, increasing illegal settlements and blockades. It is not only the land that is taken; with it go all rights, resources, water, access to the sea, right to travel; in short, the right to live. The most essential tactic of ensuring domination is land acquisition for without occupying land, colonialism cannot succeed and the surest way to disenfranchise people is to dispossess them. The September 2010 Herald reported, “Pakistan Navy, in a clear violation of Land Acquisition Act, to the distress of local landowners and the ire of Baloch political activists, acquired some 13,500 acres in Turbat and Dasht areas of Kech district, Makran division, Balochistan. Turbat landowners moved an application to the provincial government saying they were not even informed before their lands were acquired and were paid nothing by naval authorities.” The report added, “Graffiti directed against security forces has appeared on the walls of public and private properties in Gwadar, Pasni and Turbat and this year’s Independence Day was observed as a day of protest in some areas of the division. Eyewitness accounts suggest that some angry protesters burnt the national flag as well as emblems of the security forces on August 14 in Gwadar, Panjgur and Kech districts, and instead reportedly hoisted what they call the flag of independent Balochistan on electricity and phone towers.” Ironically, many castigate and condemn the Baloch for resisting the injustices they suffer.

Although there are already four major cantonments, 59 mini-cantonments, approximately 600 check posts, six PAF bases and four naval bases including the mega Jinnah naval base in Ormara, the state, disregarding the intense resentment of the Baloch people, continues to acquire even more land in Balochistan. Some 30,000 acres have been taken for a new naval base in Kalmat, which is inhabited by the Kalmati and Sanghoor clans/tribes, 95 percent of whom engage in fishing activities. The Khor Kalmat lagoon, rich in high-quality prawns, different kinds of fish and many marine species and their breeding ground, covers 10,216 hectares and has 21 percent of  Balochistan’s mangroves. Needless to say, naval bases destroy the environment and critically disrupt the lives of locals by dislocating them and depriving them of fishing areas.

In May 2007, even the selected Balochistan Assembly resented the Musharraf government’s plans for a grand Sonmiani port city on 500,000 acres. Malik Siraj Akbar (Daily Times, May 26, 2007) reported: “Maulana Abdul Wasay revealed that Babar Ghori, Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, had been coaxing the provincial government in Quetta to sell each acre of said land in return of only one rupee.” Siraj added, “The same modus operandi had been applied recently while selling several acres in Gwadar’s elite Singar Housing scheme and huge land areas in Gwadar were sold to a multi-billionaire entrepreneur on cheap rates to construct a five-star hotel there.” The Gwadar land grab was so vicious that a Supreme Court bench had put a stop to all sales and allotments. Earlier in March that year, the Balochistan Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution against the PAF acquisition of thousands of  acres of Bazai tribe land in Aghbarg area near Quetta.

Dealing with Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) demand for around 80,000 acres, including 23,000 acres in the Hingol national park and intended use for testing JF-17 fighters’ firepower, I had written ‘Testing times’ in a national daily in May 2008. It evoked a strong reaction and the PAF spokesperson questioned my contention, which I defended. Raising such issues invariably invites the ire of institutions and individuals, and letters criticising me followed. Details of land acquisition injustices in Balochistan can be found in my articles, ‘Buy land — they’re not making it anymore’ (Daily Times, February 7, 2010) and ‘The mega follies’ in a national daily on January 31, 2008)

Sindh, like Balochistan, has suffered immeasurably too. Mr Isa Daudpota’s letter in a national weekly dated October 19-25, 2012 quotes Shahid Kardar’s Polarisation in the Regions: The Roots of Discontent. He wrote: “Out of the 1.48 million acres of land made cultivable by the Ghulam Mohammad Barrage, 0.87 million acres were allocated to defence personnel, tribesmen of Quetta and the Frontier, and settlers from East Pakistan. Of the 0.64 million acres of the Guddu Barrage land, 0.32 million acres were allocated to defence personnel, civil bureaucrats and families displaced by the construction of the new capital, Islamabad, and the Tarbela and Mangla dams. Of the 0.28 million acres of Sukkur Barrage land, 0.13 million acres were given to army personnel. In most instances ‘defence personnel’ were synonymous with Punjabis.” Mr Daudpota poignantly added, “Simple arithmetic shows that of the 2.4 million acres of irrigated land, 55 percent (i.e. 1.32 million acres) went to non-Sindhis.” Still people complain that Sindhis whine needlessly. The PPP government’s Zulfikarabad project, like its Local Government Ordinance, is a black warrant for Sindh and Sindhis.

Land in Balochistan, like that of Sindh, would have been parcelled out had not the Baloch understood that dispossession means disenfranchisement. No one on any pretext has the right to disinherit the Baloch nation of their inalienable right to ‘their most essential value’ and the reason of their dignity: their land. They have resisted all attempts to deny them this because they do not want to end up dispossessed, disenfranchised and destitute like the Palestinians on the Israeli state-allotted slivers of land. Their future and their dignity rests with their right to and control of their land.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, Write-up

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s