‘The Long March for Justice’: On the pedagogical aspects of Baloch resistance


Mir Muhammad Ali TalpurNations are best educated through a truthful presentation of their history, traditions and culture but this becomes well nigh impossible when they are colonized because the colonizer distorts history to make way for its narrative which it wants to superimpose on the psyche of the colonized nation to make slavery look dignified and therefore more acceptable. The role of history in raising the consciousness of nations is what the colonizer fears most and this is what they intend to counter when they set about distorting history with fabrications and spurious figures to belittle the history of the colonized people to ensure unopposed domination and abject obsequiousness. This is exactly what Pakistan has done with Baloch and Sindhi nations here. The Baloch had not opted for Pakistan but Sindh had without realizing the dire consequences it would bring in its wake. Pakistan has continually distorted history to superimpose its narrative; you’ll hardly find a mention of Baloch or Sindhi heroes in the text books, even the roads and places are named either after persons from Islamic history or post 1947 persons.

This being the situation for the Baloch, who were denied their independence when Pakistan in violation of all moral, political and international norms forcibly annexed it on March 27th 1948, they have not passively accepted this as fait accompli and have resisted it since the first day of its illegal occupation. With the annexation Pakistan set about task of distorting history and changing their social and political ethos by imposing their text books with warped versions of history which made one believe that nothing ever existed before 14th August 1947. Because the Baloch had neither Frantz Fanon nor Jean Paul Sartre and even if had had them their teachings would not have made an impact because the state in a systematic manner, while blaming the Sardars, continued to deny education to Baloch. Left with no other option the Baloch resisted this subjugation physically with armed struggle and this armed struggle became the new medium of educating the Baloch of their history and simultaneously writing contemporary history.

Each phase of Baloch resistance to Pakistan’s illegal annexation created awareness and understanding of Baloch history in contemporary terms and helped them keep hold of the real Baloch political, cultural and martial ethos. First it was Agha Abdul Karim who took to mountains in 1948, then it was Nawab Nauroz Khan Zarakzai the Chief of Jhalawan who resisted the second occupation of Kalat in October 1958 and wrote more contemporary history with unparalleled sacrifices when two of his sons and five of comrades and relatives were hanged on 15th July 1960. This resistance poignantly raised the consciousness of Baloch and made them more aware of the indignity of subjugation and rallied them to resistance.

Without constant teaching nations become stagnant and torpid with tendency to accept indignities and exploitation without a murmur so the teaching had to continue and the lessons then came from Mir Sher Mohammad Marri who in 1962 went into the Marri hills to resist Pakistani encroachments on Baloch land and culture. His contribution to the Baloch struggle was qualitatively on a higher plane because this was the most organized and consistent defiance of Pakistan since 1948 occupation. This struggle introduced political aims in the resistance, not that past struggles were apolitical, and the demand for Baloch independence became more overt and prominent. This contribution of his of making politics the guiding factor helped make all future resistance more potent and more dangerous for the Pakistani state and its domination. Shaheed Ali Mohammad Mengal and others too contributed to the resistance and hence the teaching of people by continued resistance in Mengal area as well. Needless to say that each new phase was on a qualitatively and quantatively a higher stage and contributed to Baloch political consciousness accordingly.

The struggle of Bengali people in 1971 and the inhuman Pakistani atrocities there to stop them from achieving independence did a lot to educate the Baloch about the real nature and designs of Pakistan regarding the nationalities which either opted to join it or were forced to join. The temporary and reluctant delegation of limited powers to the Sardar Ataullah Mengal government as the National Awami Party had a majority in Balochistan was destined not to last long because Pakistan could not stomach a truly people friendly nationalist government in Balochistan. Allowed a difficult and tenuous nine month life from May 1st 1972- February 13th 1973 this government was dismissed of flimsy charges and resulted in the most intensely fought phase of Baloch resistance to Pakistan’s domination. It was not only better organized but was also more widespread than previous ones and helped raise awareness about the hazards of being a colonized people where the colonizers disregarding your legitimate rights could and would do as they please. This phase was marked by active involvement of Baloch students and urban dwellers.

The decision of the Marris to not to accept the amnesty announced by Zia ul Haq in 1977 and their prolonged stay from 1975-92 as refugees in Afghanistan combined with self-exile of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri from 1982-92 there certainly helped educate the Baloch about the Pakistani state’s designs and its potential to harm Baloch interests. The stay as refugees there demanded sacrifices and patience but the people there proved they could face all odds for Baloch rights. This stay of Baloch and the top leader in Afghanistan was a statement of intent which was not lost on either friends or enemies. The Marris who returned stay at New Kahan near Quetta have suffered immeasurably at hands of state but their resolve remains unshaken.

The latest phase of resistance began in year 2000 when Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri was arrested on trumped up charges of murder of Justice Mohammad Nawaz Marri. It should be mentioned that while other political leaders wavered between resisting and appeasing Pakistan Khair Bakhsh Khan has always consistently stood by his commitment to Baloch independence and statehood while those like Dr. Malik and his ilk are content with living on handouts of crumbs from table of Pakistan. He has been and continues to be the symbol and beacon of Baloch resistance. His consistency has educated Baloch fighting for their rights to be unwavering in their struggle for their goals. This lesson has not been lost on all Baloch who want a life of dignity in freedom.

Musharraf deluded by his and army’s supposed invincibility threatened and used strong arm tactics against Baloch to cow them into submission. The 2005 December 14th rocket attack on him during his visit to Kohlu prompted him to indiscriminately attack Baloch and resulted in martyrdom of Nawab Akbar Bugti on 26th August 2006 and of Mir Balach Marri on November 20th 2007 but this policy did not lead to the results that Pakistan expected. The resistance not only strengthened but also became more widespread. With the so called democratic government of Pakistan Peoples’ Party in power in 2008 the repression bordering on genocide began as Pakistan let loose the Frontier Corps and death squads of Baloch mercenaries on those Baloch who demanded their rights.

The number of Baloch victims of enforced disappearance which Aftab Sherpao as Interior minister admitted numbering 6000 in 2005 has increased exponentially since and according to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) now exceeds 18000 and since 2008 more than 800 of these abducted Baloch have been tortured beyond recognition and dumped it different places in Balochistan and Karachi to intimidate Baloch who continue to fight for their rights. Very few Baloch families remain unaffected by the dirty war as many have lost relatives and friends but still they remain committed to seeking their rights. This genocidal dirty war that Pakistan is waging against the Baloch has strengthened the resolve of Baloch nation to seek its separate identity and destiny.

The Baloch resistance has entered a new phase and never before there was such widespread support and involvement from all of social strata in Balochistan. It is not limited to a tribe or an area but encompasses Balochistan physically and spiritually. The increasing repression and disappearances saw formation of VBMP with Nasrullah Baloch as Chairman and Mama Abdul Qadeer Reiki as Vice-Chairman and their protest of token hunger strike at different press clubs to create awareness about the plight of missing. Despite promises by politicians and the Pakistani Supreme Court none of the missing persons was recovered and not a single perpetrator prosecuted.

New situations demand new approach. The Sarmachars, those who fight in the mountains and cities, are teachers as their actions and sacrifices create awareness among the Baloch populace but their message is limited by their inaccessibility and the dependence on social media as mainstream media refuses to touch the Baloch issues and many of those who write try to present balanced views and end up supporting state narrative and thus help undermine Baloch cause. The lessons that the Sarmachar teachers with their valor teach are invaluable and important not only for Baloch but all those who want to throw off the colonizers’ yoke.

In present conditions a larger classroom with millions of students was needed to educate and create awareness about the rights and the curse of slavery among the Baloch and all the nationalities, especially Sindhis, oppressed by state. So Mama Qadeer supported by Banuk Farzana Majeed and relatives of killed and disappeared persons set out on their Long March from Quetta on October 27th to Karachi where they reached on November 22nd. After resting for three weeks on 13th December 2013 they set out on the second phase of their Long March from Karachi to Islamabad and they have walked more than six hundred kilometers from Karachi till now and reached Larkana.

It would be unjust not to mention the role of the missing, abducted and killed Baloch activists who get abducted in the first place because they stand up for Baloch rights in educating the masses; no one abducts the ilk of turncoats like Dr. Malik. These heroes who die because they refuse to succumb to torture teach us a lesson to value loyalty to Baloch cause and resist oppression and exploitation that colonizers unleash. Their lessons are written in blood and sacrifices and they deserve our unreserved respect and gratitude. It is for them and Baloch rights that the Long March was initiated and continues.

This Long March has indeed become a venerable teacher of the masses. I think that in present circumstances when there so many obstacles are put up by the state to stop the message of awareness from reaching the people there is no better teacher than this Long March. The VBMP Long Marchers are imparting the invaluable lesson of dedication and selfless sacrifice to the Baloch nation. With each step they take they teach the people of Balochistan and Sindh that there is no life worse than a life of slavery. This March has brought the Baloch and Sindhi nations together like never before as ordinary Sindhis and nationalist Sindhis wholeheartedly come out in support. Sindh and Sindhis have proved that they too are fed up with the exploitation that has gone on for long in name of ‘national interest. The Jeay Sindh Mutahida Mahaz has been in the forefront and other Jeay Sindh nationalists too have supported the VBMP Long Marchers in every way. Millions have seen it and countless thousands have marched some distance with them however there is danger that the young male participants of the March will be targeted by the state to punish them for their participation in defiance that this Long March symbolizes.

These VBMP marchers are truly heroic teachers whose blackboard is the road and their pens are their blistered and tired feet with which they write lessons of glory of freedom. Their March is teaching people the value of freedom in a unique way and their dedication and selflessness is in true Baloch spirit. Each step that these brave and dedicated souls take is a lesson to cherish and emulate. One can only hope and pray that the Baloch and Sindhis learn well from them and emulate them in service of their respective nations. They walk not only for Baloch rights and Baloch victims of oppression but for all oppressed. The determination, iron will and the courage that these brave marchers have displayed in face of overwhelming odds is heroic and historic and adds an entirely new chapter to the Baloch struggle. Onwards towards victory!

Tailpiece: Despite overwhelming odds this march has thrown at them, like death threats, continuous walking, cold, rain and other problems that come in a journey like this, they have not compromised on principles and they boldly refused to be guests of Bilawal who offered them a place in Larkana and they also refused the PPP’s offer for lunch because they have not forgotten how Baloch suffered during PPP’s rule in 1973-77 and the PPP’s tenure from 2008-2013.

Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur 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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