An unbridgeable chasm of distrust – Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


The government wages a subtle demographic war in Balochistan that has witnessed the highest population increase of approximately 250 percent

Mir Muhammad Ali TalpurAn unnamed security officer told journalist Zahid Gishkori: “We are going for a four-layer plan for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), integrated with a new security policy and an estimated 32,000 security personnel will guard over 14,321 Chinese workers engaged in some 210 small and mega projects in Pakistan.” This means some two-and-a-half security personnel will protect every Chinese national. This plan includes the presence of over 500 Chinese security personnel for capacity building of the newly raised special force. It also means Chinese boots on the ground in Balochistan and that is just the beginning.

A ministry of interior official disclosed that according to this plan Balochistan would get more security as six wings (5,700 personnel) of the Frontier Corps (FC), 3,000 police constables and 1,000 Levies personnel would guard all the routes. The Pakistan marines and the border security forces would also guard the port and its adjacent routes. He added that the military was setting up a special security force (nine battalions) comprising an estimated 12,000 personnels’ induction into the special division to be headed by a serving major general. So, there is going to be the militarisation of Balochistan on the excuse of protecting the Chinese for the CPEC’s projects.

Not content with this martial law being imposed in Gwadar to protect the Chinese, simultaneously it is being made out of bounds for the Baloch. The in-charge of the Gwadar security force, Brigadier Shahzad Iftikhar Bhatti, disclosed that new resident cards would be issued to citizens of the port city. He said, “The responsibility to make Gwadar a safe city has been given to the Pakistan army and new army check points had been established at the entrance of the port city to enhance the security for foreign investors and the general masses.” This in practical terms means that along with repression the demography will be suitably doctored.

This demography thing cannot be brushed off lightly. The government wages a subtle demographic war in Balochistan that has witnessed the highest population increase of approximately 250 percent. Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini disclosed to a Senate committee: “The government settled four million people in various parts of Balochistan in the past three decades.” Add to this the introduction of religion into the political, social and cultural ethos to wreak fundamentalist changes within society and it confirms the Baloch view that the Pakistani establishment is waging an all-out war to obliterate the Baloch identity forever.

The Baloch view all this with trepidation as even without the excuse of protecting the Chinese and their infrastructure they have, for nearly 68 years, been at the receiving end of state committed atrocities as punishment for political dissent and autonomy demands. They realise that with $ 46 billion up for grabs (incidentally this is not all that big a sum; Exxon oil profits in 2008 were $ 46 billion), the establishment will unleash the most vicious brutality. There is not a day when the media does not trumpet the killing of so many militants or their capture. Last month, Balochistan’s home secretary admitted that more than 8,000 persons were in custody. The FC, intelligence agencies, army and death squads enjoy immunity with total impunity. The vice-Chairman of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, Mama Qadeer Baloch, says that more than 20,000 people were missing even before the authorities admitted these arrests.

A four tier security in Balochistan is the natural consequence of the four tier exploitation, suppression, oppression and repression on political, economic, cultural and social fronts that has been practiced since March 27, 1948 when Pakistan forcibly annexed Balochistan and made exploitative policy the cornerstone of its governance in Balochistan. All this has created an unbridgeable chasm of distrust between the Baloch people and the Pakistani establishment, which has led to so many sacrifices on the part of the Baloch, and they continue to resist unwaveringly.

How do you expect the people to trust so-called development and progress when all that trumpeted progress and development simply means enriching the coloniser? Sui gas was discovered there in the early 1950s; how much of that valuable resource was used for the Baloch people? Most of it since then and even now is used for Punjab and was initially used for Sindh as well. The Saindak copper and gold mine has given nothing to even the people of Chaghai. The fishermen are restrained from fishing by the navy near the numerous naval bases along the coast. The story goes on and on.

The question of why the Baloch resist this so-called progress and development is asked quite often. This question has very valid answers that the colonists and their supporters fail to see or understand. In August, Mr Majeed Akhter, an assistant professor of geography at the Indiana University, Bloomington wrote a piece, ‘Infrastructures of colonialism and resistance’ and in it dealt with this issue, especially of CPEC from the Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon’s viewpoint.

He says, “Fanon argued that the social-scientific and political categories – like ‘modernity’ and ‘development’– simply do not work when trying to understand the actions of colonised peoples in colonised spaces. This is especially true when we speak of the attitude of the colonised towards a coloniser’s attempts to develop or modernise its colonised spaces through technology. Technological impositions from the coloniser are rejected, often violently, by the colonised. This is true even when technological ‘gifts’ may appear to be universally beneficial such as in the case of vaccines or dams. The colonised cannot disassociate the technological artifact from the culture and agenda of the coloniser.”

He adds, “Thus, the resistance against dams in Balochistan is not a rejection of modernity. It is, first and foremost, a rejection of the coloniser’s version of modernity. For the colonised, the coloniser’s version of modernity cannot be separated from the will to subordinate the colonised.”

In a nut shell, for the colonised, the coloniser’s version of modernity cannot be separated from the will to subordinate the colonised. Furthermore, the Baloch do not disassociate the CPEC and other so-called development projects like Reko Diq from the culture and agenda of the coloniser and hence resist it. The Baloch, having suffered immeasurably at the hands of the Pakistani establishment since March 27, 1948, therefore naturally view all the so-called development as a threat to their political, economic, cultural and social rights and an attempt to do away with their identity so they have at a huge cost relentlessly resisted all sorts of intrusions and infringements.

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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