“The Tutak mass graves, where over a hundred bodies were buried, were the work of strategic assets”, says Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur.
Noted intellectual, columnist and an activist for Baloch national liberation, Muhammad Ali Talpur has spent his life championing for the Baloch cause. In an interview, he discusses the situation in Balochistan. Read on:
In a recent radio interview Senator Sana Baloch pointed out: While Punjab produces only 2% of Pakistan’s total gas, 80% of Punjabis have access to use gas. At the same time Balochistan provides 46% of Pakistan’s total gas but only 20% of Balochistan’s people have access to gas. But there have also been reports that Balochistan is discriminated against in the setting of gas prices as well. What other grievances does Balochistan have on the issue of natural gas resources extracted from the province?
We should not forget that it was gas from Balochistan that kick-started the Pakistani economy. Without the find in Sui there would have had been little development. From 1955 to the 1970s, when gas was discovered in Sindh, Sui was the mainstay and was indiscriminately exploited mainly for development of Punjab and Karachi. No one has questioned this plunder. As a consequence, there has been a terrible cost for the people of Balochistan and Baloch.
The following figures show the extent of injustice. These are not the latest figures. There has been no recent study as it exposes the degree of exploitation.
|Province||Production (MCFT)||Total %||Consumption||%|
Province-wise Annual Gas Production: 2006-7
|Province||Non-Associated Gas (MMCF)||Associated Gas (MMCF)||Total(MMCF)||%|
|Source: Pakistan Energy Yearbook 2007|
Province-wise Annual Gas Production and Consumption Trend, 2006-7
|Province||Total Gas Produced (MMCF)||Total Gas
|Ratio (Consumption VS Production in %)|
|Source: Pakistan Energy Yearbook 2007|
|Province||Total gas produced (MMCF)||Total gas consumed (MMCF)||Consumption vs Production ratio|
Source: Pakistan Energy Yearbook 2008
The tables demonstrate how matters have worsened over time.
In a paper entitled “Oil and Gas Resources and Rights of Provinces: A Case Study of Sindh,Naseer Memon, Chief Executive of Strengthening Participatory Organization(SPO), writes: “Sindh and Balochistan together contribute more than 93 percent of the national gas production and therefore can be considered the energy basket of Pakistan. Interestingly, Sindh consumes less than the half of the gas against its production. Balochistan consumes just around a quarter of the gas against its production. Punjab consumes 8.5 times more gas than its production.” He further adds: “There are 2,760,238 domestic consumers in Punjab while in Balochistan only 179,372. Similarly industrial consumers’ number is 4,792 and 46 respectively. The percentages of the above are 53 percent and 3 percent, and 53 percent and 1 percent of total respectively. The national average too is 53 percent and 3 percent respectively.”The exploitation is compounded by the fact that wellhead prices arbitrarily discriminate against Balochistan. These figures will give an idea.Blatantly unequal natural gas production and wellhead prices are as follows:
|Gas field||Well-head price Rs/MMBTU|
Production from Sindh is 5,36452 MCFT/Y. The well-head prices are as follows:
Punjab produces 67,691 MCFT/Y. The well-head prices are as follows:
This government wants to amend the Article 158, which states: “Priority of requirements of natural gas: The Province in which a wellhead of natural gas is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements from that wellhead, subject to the commitments and obligations as on the commencing day.”
The proposed amendment would intensify and legitimize current exploitation and injustice. Balochistan suffers because of the misuse of its natural gas resources, low prices for the misused gas and low employment.
In the National Assembly on April 14, 2006, the then Minister of Petroleum Mr. Amanullah Jadoon gave the following employment figures for Sui Southern and Sui Northern companies:
Total Employment: 11,613
Employees from Sindh: 3,613 (of which 1,960 are for the urban domiciled).
Employees from Punjab: 5,454.
Employees from Balochistan: 353.
Rather than improving the ratio is even more skewed now.
In an advertisement run by the Daily Dawn on October 3, 2014, the Higher Education Commission (HEC), announced 22 vacancies: Punjab 11, Merit 4, KPK 3, Sindh Urban 2, Sindh Rural 1, and AJK 1. There is no quota for Balochistan. Anyone domiciled in Balochistan, has to compete on merit with other provinces. Do you think discriminating against Balochistan is rather policy of a certain government or regime?
This discrimination is definitely a structured phenomenon, not a random governmental action. Its genesis lies in the policy that systematically denies the Baloch all opportunities to develop to a competitive level. It is education that helps empower people to create a level playing field and that is what they do not want to happen.
Farooq Sulehria in his September 06, 2013 well-researched op-ed “Education Apartheid” published in The News, proves that this discrimination is a structured phenomenon. Here he forcefully debunks claims of education promotion in Balochistan, proving that an undeclared apartheid is practiced in the province. He states, “In Punjab and the Punjab-dominated mainstream media, Baloch grievances are often dismissed on familiar pretexts. One clichéd excuse is that the Baloch Sardars impede development in the province. However, every time one looks into the structured discrimination Balochistan has been subjected to, one finds that it is not the anti-development Baloch Sardars but the ‘federation’ that has impeded progress in Pakistan’s biggest province.” He says that the education apartheid imposed by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Balochistan is apparent, as, since the inception, in the fiscal year 2002-03 to 2012-13, it allocated a total of 737 projects worth Rs 157,102 million. Of these, merely 48 projects worth Rs 9,433 million were assigned to Balochistan’s seven universities. He states that the Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Khuzdar, has received Rs 284 million (eight projects) in 10 years but Lahore’s University of Engineering and Technology was granted only Rs 8,361 million (23 projects). Even UET, Taxila, was given preference over BUET, Khuzdar. The former was granted Rs110m (20 projects).Similarly, while Lasbela University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Sciences (LUAWMS) was given Rs 1,943 million (five projects) the University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi and the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad were granted Rs 1,815 million (21 projects) and Rs 2,647 million (25 projects) respectively. Likewise, Balochistan’s only women’s university received Rs 965 million while FJ Women’s University, Rawalpindi, the Lahore College for Women University, Lahore, and the Women’s University, Multan were generously allotted Rs 879 million (10 projects), Rs 847 million (13 projects), and Rs 1,144 million (one project) respectively.
Sulehria adds that the education apartheid in Balochistan becomes even more evident when the allocations for Islamabad are compared, because this comparison nullifies the population-difference argument. The two top beneficiaries of the HEC largesse there, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) were granted Rs 1,520 million* (22 projects) and Rs 7,373 million (28 projects) respectively, which incidentally are Rs 13,145 million more than the total allotted to Balochistan. The total money allotted to Balochistan is less than half the amount allotted to NUST and CIIT. Another aspect of this apartheid, Sulehria says, is that the HEC bureaucracy knowingly and maliciously twists procedures to favour Punjab, and over 60 percent Punjabis went abroad, over its allocated 50 percent quota while the Baloch representation remained below its six percent quota.
The state doesn’t stop there. It has also put the burden of disorienting Baloch youth via education on the army and navy. They are more active than Dr. Malik and his coterie in this field. There is increased emphasis on ‘cadet colleges’ everywhere. The state is more interested in changing the political and social ethos than in providing education.
Viewpoint recently ran interviews with Dr Allah Nazar and Harbiar Marri. Both claimed that the establishment is, on purpose, patronizing religious militancy in Balochistan to counter nationalist forces. Do you agree with this notion?
Evidence on the ground should convince any rational person that the state is actively patronizing religious militancy in Balochistan in order to counter nationalist forces. After the September 24th 2013 earthquake in Awaran, all independent reporters and observers said that the militant organizations of Hafiz Saeed and ilk were being supported to make inroads into areas previously off-limits to them. The consequences of this are increasingly apparent in the attacks against female education specifically and against education generally. Schools imparting modern education are threatened, even burnt down in Kech and Turbat by such organizations as names Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan and Al-Jihad. No culprits have been apprehended.
Moreover Balochistan, which has always been socially secular and where communities lived in peace and harmony, has now been riven by religious antagonisms. On August 28th the Zikrkhana of the Zikri sect was attacked and seven persons were martyred. Among them was Bahktiyar, father of Raza Jehangir, Secretary General of Baloch Students Organization-Azad (BSO-Azad). Raza himself was killed on August 14th last year by the Pakistan army. Before that there was an attack on a bus carrying Zikris in Khuzdar and seven persons were injured.
The Tutak Mass Graves, where over one hundred bodies were found, were the work of ‘strategic assets’. The site was littered with jihadi literature and slogans. Consequently, the bogus judicial commission, set up to investigate, found no one to blame.
The Hazaras are continuously targeted, forcing them to risk their lives by migrating in flimsy boats. The latest attack (this interview was conducted before Oct 23rd attack) recently on Eid shoppers shows that the government while actively pursuing Baloch finds it convenient to turn a blind eye towards sectarian killers as quid pro quo for their help in fighting the Baloch nationalists.
Hopes were pinned on Dr Malik’s government. But many in the media have expressed their disillusionment with the present Balochistan government. How would you personally evaluate the successes and failures, so far, of the Malik government? Do you think if this government fails to provide relief, disillusionment with parliamentary methods in Balochistan will grow?
Let’s be very clear on one thing. The majority of Baloch had no expectations from Dr. Malik and his ilk. They effectively boycotted elections proven by the fact that Dr. Malik as a winner for PB 48 Kech constituency secured only 4539 votes while the total number of voters there is 74,374. In spite of all the bogus voting, only 14 per cent people cast votes. For PB 41 Awaran, Abdul Qudoos Bezinjo, the Deputy Speaker, secured only 544 votes from the total votes 57666: a mere 1.18 per cent people voted. The Election Commission and NADRA said in September 2013 that 65 percent of the votes cast in Balochistan, were bogus.
Only the liberals, given to wishful thinking, were taken in by his middle class rhetoric. Unaware of the ground reality they expected him to perform miracles. Some people are enamored with anything labeled middle-class and sing paeans without reservation, ending up with pie in their face. All that Dr. Malik’s government has done so far is sign memorandums with China and attend the so-called cultural and sports galas arranged by the army and Frontier Corps, the real rulers in Balochistan, to give them a civilian face. All the promises they made remain unrealized. Though he often said he would resign if he couldn’t solve the missing persons issue yet he presides over the slow genocide of Baloch and plunder of Baloch resources.
The Baloch, a large majority, have no faith in parliamentary methods. This is not because foreign powers discourage confidence, but because all governments since the government of Sardar Ataullah Mengal (1972-73), have done precious little to ameliorate the plight of Baloch. Dr. Malik and his government are considered to be henchmen of the army and FC. There is no love lost between them and Baloch people.
Do you think that because peaceful struggle is not achieving substantial gains, militant resistance groups are winning more and more Baloch youth, as a result? Also, Dr Allah Nazar claims that there are roughly 6000 militants resisting the Pak Army. Do you think a 6000-strong force can guide the resistance to liberation against one of world’s biggest armies?
Before I answer this question let me say that I believe that it is the people, not the size and strength of armies that determine the course of history. Had armies been instrumental then by extension the world should have been ruled by Pharaohs’, Alexander’s and Genghis Khan’s ancestors, even today. The USA would not have been defeated in Vietnam or the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, if armies were the final arbiters of historical process. Armies are mostly of ornamental value in history. This will hold true to eternity.
The Baloch youth particularly, and the people in general have lost hope in peaceful struggle. I repeat, not because of foreign powers, but because of the treatment meted out to them since March 27th 1948. The Baloch youth cannot be expected to docilely accept the fact that army and FC can and may pick them up arbitrarily. Naturally, the only way out for them is to join the Sarmachars to give themselves a fighting chance to survive or die with dignity. Needless to say, the 6000 Sarmachars that Dr. Allah Nizar mentions for his organization alone are not aliens planted in Balochistan. They have relatives, friends and sympathizers. Moreover, these 6000 have broken with normal life at present and there are many more willing to join the Sarmachars’ ranks as time goes by. The most important point however is that these 6000 Sarmachars are the fish in vast sea of Baloch people who support them. There are a lot more Sarmachars and I believe they are capable of turning the tide of history.
In recent years, the new generation of Baloch resistance leadership has declared that it would accept help from India, the USA or whomever. In the past, such leaders as Ghaus Bux Bizenjo, Nawab Khir Bux Marri and Sardar Ataullah Mengal were known for their socialist leanings and anti-imperialist bent of mind. Do you think there has occurred an ideological shift as well with a generational shift?
This shouldn’t be seen as an ideological departure from the old stance. It is just an acceptance of the changing ground realities. They fully understand that it is their own strength that will determine victory or defeat because anyone considering helping them will not do it in a vacuum. The Baloch society is egalitarian and there still are tribes like the Marris where the land is communally divided every decade. The current leaders can only depart from socialist leanings and an anti-imperialist bent of mind at grave risk to their credibility and chances of success. Declaring that they would accept help doesn’t mean that they will accept the same sort of treatment that Pakistan metes out to them, from some other power or country. Any forthcoming help will have to be on basis of equality.
Do you think Baloch grievances can be mitigated within the present framework of federation or is it the case that Balochistan has reached a point of no return?
I believe that Baloch grievances cannot be mitigated within the present framework of federation because it is not a question of some isolated injustice, oppression and exploitation against the Baloch people. The injustices have been committed in a systematic manner under institutional guidance and every passing moment has simply reinforced the Baloch belief that they can never get justice in Pakistan. For them it is no longer a question of securing some odd NFC Award or a miserable 18th Amendment. They now want to be the masters of their destiny.
Anywhere else in the world a 106-day march to protest the enforced disappearances of thousands of people and the systematic ‘kill and dump’ policy, would have attracted some response. But here the Long March by Mama Qadeer Baloch and brave Baloch women did not even evoke a sympathetic word. If anyone still thinks Baloch will be appeased by empty words and hollow laws they are sorely mistaken. In spite of promises by the highest court, not a single person responsible for the ‘dirty war’ in Balochistan has been charged, let alone prosecuted. Reaching the point of no return wasn’t an event. It was a process and that process is now irreversible.
There was an attempt from the platform of PONM to rally the oppressed nations to defend their rights. It picked up steam but was ultimately disbanded. The situation has deteriorated even more. Do you think an alliance of nationalist forces should emerge not merely in Pakistan but across South Asia?
An alliance of nationalist forces is the need of hour today, not only for South Asia but also for the entire world. The Scottish referendum didn’t come out of the blue. It has reasons embedded in the way majorities treat the minority nations. Yugoslavia imploded because Serbs were unwilling to accommodate Croats, Bosnians and others. Tibet and other regions inhabited by minority peoples and dominated by majorities like China etc. are demanding removal of the yoke. This is a worldwide phenomenon and it would surely help if they all developed some sort of unity.
Here, resentment is not only found in Balochistan. There are many in Sindh who resent their exploitation, as do the people of Gilgit and Baltistan. National oppression would end more quickly and with less gore and blood if all the oppressed worked toward the creation of some joint front despite the different regions they inhabit.
In the nationalist struggles, the question of class is consigned to the back seat in the name of unity. The Baloch national struggle is hardly an exception. Your comments please.
In the Baloch nationalist struggle the class question is consigned to the back seat because the primary enemy for any national struggle is the national, not the class oppressor. There is no doubt that it is the upper class that actively collaborates with the enemy and this creates the basis for class struggle in future. But not all belonging to upper classes are in the enemy camp. It would be utterly foolish, if not suicidal, if those struggling against the national oppressor, in their enthusiasm for class struggle, antagonize and alienate these valuable supporters.
Sadly here the right-wing and the left-wing, on different ideological grounds, support the unity of the Pakistani state at the cost of minority nations’ aspirations. The left in Pakistan, which represents the class struggle has never understood the realities of national struggle and acts more like a representative of the state rather than of the ideology that it is supposed to honour. When the people of Bangladesh were trampled upon in a most vicious manner many on the left supported the army and condemned the Bengalis. I feel if the left had been more forthcoming in support of that national struggle the Baloch too would have had supported the class struggle more actively.
While the situation in Balochistan is alarming in many ways, do you think there is any realization in power corridors? Or, is it the case that military hopes to pacify Balochistan through guns and a dose of religion? Can they be as ignorant as they were in 1971 despite the writing on the wall? If yes, from where springs this utter ignorance of the situation?
Those residing in the corridors of power are blind to what goes on in the real world. Drunk on power they are arrogant to the extreme and believe they can use force and underhanded tactics destroy the aspirations of the people. They think their three pronged attack strategy will eventually defeat the Baloch. Their strategy depends mainly on force. The second is the introduction of religious elements into Baloch society to change its historically secular social ethos, and thirdly they use infiltrators and plants among the ranks of Sarmachars to create divisions and factions. This strategy has been in place since 2007-2008 when the Investigation Bureau alone spent rupees 400 million for counter insurgency in Balochistan. Money is used to buy loyalties and to hire spies. All this has worked to a certain extent but certainly not up to their expectations as Sarmachars continue to strike at will and lately have been targeting their religious proxies.
This utter ignorance stems from their misplaced belief that they are the torchbearers of Islam and this country was made for Islam. The army used to teach that one Muslim is equal to 10 Hindus. They think they represent the best of Islam which is exactly opposite of the reality. In Bangla Desh they had the idea that force would set everything right. They had the support of religious parties but all that came to naught.
Illiterates of history can never read the writing on the wall. They always repeat the same mistake and then blame others for their follies.
‘What is to be done’?
To be honest, nothing much. Because the warring sides are irreconcilable. There is no hope for a peaceful settlement. It will it will be a long drawn out struggle in which the Baloch believe they will be victorious. Expecting Pakistan to give up easily amounts to self – deception. However expecting the Baloch to give up easily is an equally naïve approach. Pakistan has become the focal point of world terror and is a safe haven for assorted terrorists. This is not because of some rogue elements. It is institutionalized and state supported. Pakistan has become a threat to world peace. However it should be understood that an independent, democratic and secular Balochistan would help curb rising state sponsored religious militancy and could be instrumental in the creation of a peaceful atmosphere in the region. This scenario may seem improbable today but is the only one which can ensure peace in the region.
Note: Dear Friends there is an error in figures for which I am to blame. In the question regarding HEC at one point it says “The two top beneficiaries of the HEC largesse there, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) were granted Rs 1,520 million (22 projects) and Rs 7,373 million (28 projects) respectively, which incidentally are Rs 13,145 million more than the total allotted to Balochistan.” Correction be noted that the Figure for CIIT is not 1520 but is Rs. 15205. Thank you. Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
[Courtesy: View Point Online]