COMMENT: Mascots, spurious legitimacy and predatory exploitation — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


This so-called ‘future of the world’, if it is allowed to be built, would jeopardise Baloch economic and political rights and even their existence

Mir Muhammad Ali TalpurThe malady of loot of resources by predatory establishments in connivance and partnership with equally predatory multinationals and countries is globally common. The Africa Progress Report produced every May by a panel of 10 prominent figures headed by former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan highlights the problem. Annan, in a BBC interview after its release, had said that tax avoidance, secret mining deals and financial transfers were depriving Africa of the benefits of its resources boom. Likening it to taking food off the tables of the poor he said, “Africa loses twice as much money through these loopholes as it gets from donors.” The report said that between 2010 and 2012 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) lost $ 1.3 billion in revenues, equivalent to double DRC’s combined health and education budgets, in five under-priced mining concessions sold in highly opaque and secretive deals. No wonder the ‘Save the Children’ charity says the DRC is the world’s worst place to be a mother in. Naturally, the beneficiaries like Martin Kabwelulu, DRC’s mining minister, had termed the report a ‘pack of lies’.

The predatory establishment here by giving China carte blanche in deals in Balochistan deprives the Baloch of their resources and jeopardises their future. In Saindak, the Metallurgical Construction Company of China (MCC) by simultaneously being the producer and buyer of Saindak copper is circumventing all legal and moral barriers and shamelessly profiting at the cost of the Baloch future. Syed Fazl-e-Haider, a respected analyst, in his op-ed, “Chinese stakes in Balochistan”, printed in a national daily on April 18, 2005, wrote: “Government of Pakistan has also signed a MoU with MCC on March 22, 2002 for the Duddar Lead-Zinc Project in Lasbela, Balochistan. Under the agreement, it is committed to investing up to $ 80 million there. The lead-zinc deposits are estimated at over 17 million tons. This project has mining and concentrating capacity of 660,000 tons a year. Once completed, the mine will be able to enhance its production to 100,354 tons of zinc concentrate and 32,584 tons of lead concentrates annually. The project will commence production by the end of 2007.” The project began trial production of zinc concentrate in 2009 but its operators put in abeyance the raising of production to full capacity until prices rise; the MCC prefers that all benefits accrue to it.

The Gwadar-Kashgar saga is going to be much more predatory and vicious than the Saindak and Duddar one because a lot more is at stake for a Pakistan reeling in economic and political crisis and a China desperately in need of an energy corridor. Globally flaunting their favourite nationalist mascot Dr Abdul Malik, Pakistan thinks it has secured enough spurious legitimacy to exploit Balochistan’s resources with impunity. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has termed the Gwadar-Kashgar rail-road link and oil pipeline as the ‘future of the world’. Pakistani rulers always erroneously consider themselves and their projects as the focal point of the universe, while in fact with this energy corridor for China, Pakistan will only be a beneficiary of transit fees. This so-called ‘future of the world’, if it is allowed to be built, would jeopardise Baloch economic and political rights and even their existence, while mascots will hope that their services to the Pakistani-Chinese depredations in Balochistan will be adequately rewarded. Pakistan has a history of serving international bullies for meagre returns and surviving on transit fees as the two Afghan wars prove. It is something that Pakistan has perfected because it has never risen above being what Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed rightly termed a ‘Garrison State’ and has written a book with the same title tracing that journey.

The Punjab government’s soft corner for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) does not augur well for the Hazaras and Shia. It recently not only released three members of the LeJ but also agreed to remove police pickets from some River Indus islands, thereby making the entire Kacha in Rajanpur area a safe haven for the LeJ. The Pakistani establishment is uncompromising towards the Baloch as intelligence agencies find, kidnap and kill sympathisers and supporters of Balochistan and Sindh’s rights, but they have never arrested members of sectarian outfits, and even those somehow arrested by police were surreptitiously released. Usman Kurd and Daud Buledi, sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in November 2003, escaped from the jail located in the high-security zone of Quetta cantonment on January 18, 2008. But they were not the only ones, as on December 13, 2012, two high profile sectarian hit-men Shakirullah Jan and Arifuddin escaped from the sub-jail Cheeta in Gilgit-Baltistan after intoxicating the security personnel on duty although 50 staffers of the Frontier Corps (FC) and police were guarding the prison. Since these mysterious escapes, sectarian-related carnages increased.

It seems that Balochistan’s government, termed by many as the salvation and harbinger of justice and rights for the Baloch people under Dr Malik, wants a force even more vicious than the already available predatory FC to be better able to conduct pogroms against the Baloch on the excuse of improving the law and order situation, which they feel is necessary to satisfy the Chinese before they can start implementing their predatory exploitation. The Balochistan government’s lawyer representing it before the Supreme Court in Islamabad on July 16 said, “The provincial government was not in a position to play a proactive role in the absence of a special force against the 48 ‘farari camps’ situated in the border areas where some five to eight thousand members of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) were active.” This means Dr Malik and company want to employ even more brutal force to annihilate the Baloch Sarmachars (insurgents) who they dread, hate and see as a challenge to their bogus brand of nationalism that brought them to power. All pseudo-nationalists collaborating with Pakistan against Baloch rights cannot but promote and employ brute force to try to neutralise the Baloch struggle for their rights. All including the Jams and Raisanis have failed to dent the Baloch determination; the present ones too will fail miserably.

Tailpiece: The much touted middle-class representative Dr Malik exposed his leanings and intentions when he suspended the Superintendent Police City Quetta, Samiullah Soomro, following a scuffle between police and private guards of Balochistan’s Senior Minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri after the former had justifiably stopped his guards from entering the premises of the Balochistan Assembly. Even under the non-Sardar chief minister, the rules of jungle law prevail in Balochistan.

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

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