The Gulf of Kohlu incident

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

On August 4th 1964 two US destroyers in the Vietnamese waters in the Gulf of Tonkin claimed that they had been attacked by the North Vietnamese gunboats. This alleged attack had never taken place but a furore was created over this and used as an excuse to begin the bombing of North Vietnam. This was the time when slowly US forces were starting to sink in the morass of their own aggression against the Vietnamese people whom they accused of being Communists. The people of Vietnam only wanted their rightful sovereignty which the US was bent upon denying them. What eventually happened to the aggressor is history.

Incidents like these have been staged and at times State managed all through history to use as excuses for aggression and violation of human rights .In the last analysis the aggressor doesn’t really need this fig leaf for its brazen aggression. The aggressor always uses the logic of the wolf of the famous fable about the lamb and wolf ,in which the wolf alleges misdemeanours but is rebutted every time eventually comes out with the stark intent of eating the lamb come what may. 

The President’s visit to Kohlu and the firing of rockets there and the subsequent injuries to the I.G. and DIG of the FC are being used as an excuse for launching this brutal and repressive campaign against the Marri people. This may come to be known as the Gulf of Kohlu Incident in this regions’ history of conflicts. Kohlu may not geographically be a Gulf but these actions will widen the already existing gulf between the State and Baloch people. The planning and the intent to repress the people of Balochistan were already there and I in my article in The Post of 22nd November had pin pointed it and regretted and condemned the hostile and aggressive mind set towards the Baloch people. 

The situation today is reminiscent of 1973 when the longest and most brutal aggression against the Baloch people was launched. Before the operations were launched there were political as well as military provocations against the people of Balochistan. Selected areas had been blockaded and aggressive patrolling launched followed by the dismissal of duly elected provincial government. This had resulted in the famous Tandoori incident of May 18th 1973.Within three days full scale military operations were launched which had shown the state of readiness for the contemplated action. Then too it was claimed that the operation would be over within 72 hours and innocents would be spared. Ironically it lasted more than four years .Here too the operation has been launched within three days of the Kohlu incident. This too by the government that had pleaded not guilty when accused of delay in providing relief to quake victims by providing the excuse that deployment takes time.

The plight of the people of the area affected by the operation simply cannot be understood .Having had the first hand experience of these targeted and so called limited operations in 1973 I can imagine the problems faced by the people there. If the operations so far have been limited to helicopter gun ships and according to some reports to jet fighters then there will huge casualties as already being reported in media because there is no way to ascertain from the air that the people targeted are in fact those sought. The casualties in 1973 too were very high due to indiscriminate use of Iranian gun ships and PAF jets as in Chamaling and other areas. It is interesting to note that the government had used shortage of helicopters in delay of providing relief goods to quake victims; here it seems they have enough. If the operations are being carried out by ground forces the people will suffer immeasurably due to arrests and harassment as there is no way to distinguish between a common Marri and a fighter. All households have small arms and presence of arms would make them culpable in eyes of those involved in these operations. The Baloch will suffer either way and this does not bode well the integrity of the State.

A glimpse at the history of Marris would help us have a better understanding of the people there. The Marri tribe is of fiercely independent spirit and it strongly defended its freedom against the British .In May 1840 an escort of troops with a convoy was led by a British officer named Clarke was returning from Kahan, the capital of Marri area and at present under attack, was attacked by the Marris at place called Sartaf (cold water) and only thirty of the 160 men contingent escaped. Clarke in his arrogance had sent a message to Doda Khan the Marri Sardar that if he wished to encounter him he was welcome. In August of the same year a large British force led by Major Clibborn went to Kahan to relieve the beleaguered garrison there. This force was attacked at a place called Nafusk near Kahan and very few escaped the wrath of Marris. 

During the WW 1 the British had asked the Marris to provide recruits as cannon fodder for the war but were refused and this resulted in two battles one at Harab and the other at Gumbaz. The Marris suffered heavy casualties but did not accede to British demand. Sardar Khair Baksh Khan the present day Sardar’s grandfather and namesake at a Durbar after the battles was told by the Viceroy that “Marris would think twice before engaging the British” to which he with Baloch dignity had replied that “The British too would think twice before asking us for recruits” The Marris are a fiercely independent tribe who will not submit easily to a show of force and brutal repression. The Marri area is full of cairns marking their fallen heroes. This operation will only lead to hardening of the indomitable spirits.

This operation is unjust and uncalled for and has been undertaken with the sole purpose of suppressing the voices of discontent in Balochistan over the exploitation of its natural resources and the attempts to make the Balochs a minority in its own land by making Gwader the wedge for opening up the hinterlands of Baluchistan.This repression will have detrimental consequences for the entire province by inflaming the sentiments of Balochs all over the country. I daresay scratch a Baloch deep enough anywhere in the world regardless of his political views and you will find a sympathizer for Baloch rights and their struggle for autonomy.

This country has had the misfortune of recently being hit by an earthquake of 7.6 on Richter scale in the Northern areas resulting in immeasurable suffering for millions there. It is nobody’s fault that we live in a seismically active zone of the earth but unfortunately we also happen to live in a zone more blighted by man made disasters .We live in a bewilderingly active zone of irrationality, skulduggery and obtuseness as practised by our rulers. If follies could be measured on a scale we would be leading the world for earth shaking events. Though the intensity of follies is immeasurable , its consequences here show that we have so very often been hit by follies of great magnitude and it is little wonder that all institutions, conventions, norms and values have all been reduced to rubble here. Rights and freedoms of the people of this country have the foremost victims of the quakes of human follies here. There is urgent need of building institutions that are folly quake proof. Unless this is done the people will keep being crushed under the rubble of follies of our ruling elite.

It is a duty of all democratic forces within the country to unequivocally condemn the use of force against the people of Balochistan. This repression is not going to stay limited to Marri area alone and it is bound to spill over to other areas .The people all over Balochistan will resist this latest round of violence unleashed by the present rulers. Meekly accepting this latest injustice against the Baloch people will only embolden the undemocratic forces all over the country to blatantly deprive the people of their right to dissent and differ.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

This article was first published on 01 August 2005 in The Post

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