What you allow is what will continue – Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

If responsibility is to be delegated to Gulf sheikhs for the alleged two billion rupees they spend why not lease it out to the highest bidder? Some are ready to sell their souls for a pittance and this is what we are witnessing

Mir Muhammad Ali TalpurThe argument presented by one Attaur Rehman, who news reports call a local elder, in the Supreme Court (SC) for the petition regarding the ban on decimation of the endangered Houbara bustard by Arab rulers during their yearly excursions in Balochistan (where these migrating birds rest) was shocking to say the least. He said: “The dignitaries who come to hunt the bird have not only established certain projects but are also paying Rs 10 million for hunting 50 birds in season. Balochistan earns approximately two billion rupees every hunting season.” He has been accepted as a party by the SC and, interestingly, the spineless Balochistan government, led by the ever-capitulating Dr Malik, also wants killing to continue because they receive the sheikhs’ handouts and used cars. In 2014, a Saudi prince poached over 2,100 bustards in 21-day hunting safari in Chagai. How much money did he give?

Attaur Rehman’s petition states that by banning the hunt, a large number of welfare projects aimed at upgrading the lives of the locals might be shut down. These include 26 hospitals, healthcare units and dispensaries, 26 housing projects, 22 schools and colleges, 32 water supply projects, 41 tube wells, open wells, windmills, reservoirs and canals, 43 mosques, 16 projects for preserving the environment and wildlife, four Islamic cultural centres and five projects to provide electricity to villages and towns. Are these projects not the responsibility of those who rule Balochistan from Islamabad? If responsibility is to be delegated to Gulf sheikhs for the alleged two billion rupees they spend why not lease it out to the highest bidder? Some are ready to sell their souls for a pittance and this is what we are witnessing. Thank the stars that human meat is not aphrodisiacal otherwise this would have been allowed too — at a higher price.

Mr Attaur Rehman does not understand that the willingness to stay at the mercy of a caricature of charity by the Gulf sheikhs and Islamabad is not something that will change the fate of the people of Balochistan. For this, they will forever grovel, beg and lose all self-respect and will never see themselves economically better off. The more they seek this insulting charity the more arrogant and callous the Gulf sheikhs and Islamabad will become. Is this money inflow worth giving up our dignity and rights over our land and its flora and fauna? Nothing degrades human beings more than the unquestioning acceptance of indignities.

There is another aspect too: Gulf rulers violate the rights of the people on their hunting grounds with impunity and the government overlooks this for monetary benefits. In March 2013, the legal heirs of Nawab of Kharan, filed a constitutional petition in the Balochistan High Court (BHC) against the allotment of hunting areas in Kharan and Washak districts to the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. Pleading illegal allotment of their agricultural land, forests, water channels, water springs, orchards and pastures spread over a vast area without consultation or permission for hunting, it stated that every year the UAE president’s staff establish hunting posts and patrol the area disallowing even owners, tenants and shepherds to enter the area to tend to their land, crops and cattle. What became of this petition is not known but if the influential Nousherwani family feels violated and slighted by the attitudes and actions of Gulf rulers what must be the fate of lesser mortals?

Moreover, the hordes of sheikhs that descend on the endangered Houbara bustard’s migrating routes and grounds are granted tax exemptions for all their property and imports for hunting purposes. I presume the crumbs they distribute must be a fraction of the taxes they would have to pay for their properties and imports. However, this is not the only privilege that these sheikhs eye in return for the money they can spend to buy and bend politicians, officials and so-called elders. In November 2010, it emerged that on the directives of the Prime Minister’s (PM’s) office the provincial revenue department had prepared a summary for selling about 70,000 hectares of land in Lasbela district to Arab princes for hunting. They were occasional visitors for hunting purposes and wanted exclusive control over this valuable land so they could set up their private buildings and airport.

Interestingly, this land was first demanded for a federal security institution (read army) but was rescinded because people opposed it. The desire for land is not restricted to Gulf sheikhs only as in March 2007, the Balochistan Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution moved by the then minister of the Balochistan Development Authority, Abdur Rahim Bazai, urging the federal government to stop the administration of the air force and army from occupying the land of the Bazai tribe in the suburbs of the provincial capital. He said that the air force authorities were trying to hold thousands of acres of land belonging to the Bazai tribe in Aghbarg area near Quetta. He also claimed that not only was the air force seizing locals’ land, landowners were also being arrested without any valid reason or warrant.

So, when you eye only the crumbs that fall into your share and ignore the consequences of giving up on your basic rights for measly projects and meagre handouts, you allow the invasion of your dignity and rights. These intrusions become even more acute with time because what you allow is what will continue. Friedrich Nietzsche said: “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” For a life of dignity no price is high enough but that demands sacrifices. The Baloch have sacrificed a lot and continue to suffer the consequences of massive and brutal ongoing operations in Awaran. However, they refuse to submit or compromise on their dignity and their rights over their land and resources.

Dignity demands sacrifices and comes at a price. Those who do not allow injustices and incursions live and die proudly as masters of their fate. These lines from William Ernest Henley’s Invictus say it all:

“Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.”

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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