No regrets


Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The subcontinent has a long history and a strong tradition of dynastic rulers. The rulers since independence have always invoked those images, values and times. That we do not have monarchy still has not been for the lack of effort on their part. The Generals, on the other hand, unable to invoke a dynasty, have depended on Nadir Shahism (the word Bonapartism doesn’t quite convey the real subcontinental flavour). These historical hangovers and pantomimes have played an important role in determining the way we have been governed.

A very distressing and anti-people method of governance has been the end result of these attitudes; good governance requires institutional policy making, decision taking, and a policy implementation system. It also demands unimpeachable integrity on the part of those who wield power; a culture of tolerance and open-mindedness is equally indispensable. Without these crucial elements we end up with the chaos, confusion and corruption which have become the hallmarks of governance in this Citadel of Islam.

The rulers here, both civilian and military, have been autocrats answerable to no one, heeding no advice, governing the country like a fiefdom. Musharraf has very cogently summed up the system of governance here in two words: ‘No regrets’.

The General in his interview with NDTV bluntly stated that he has no regrets regarding the killing of the octogenarian Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. The reason: there could be “no political understanding with a man with an army.” “Anyone who maintains a military and tries to challenge Pakistan, the government of Pakistan and the military of Pakistan…there is no doubt in my mind…there is no duplicity in this — we will crush him,” Musharraf warned. To make it more acceptable, he added that the military had to…“crush him…as you are doing in India,” in apparent reference to Kashmir.

Apparently he thinks that if India chooses to ‘crush’ people then it is kosher for him too. Little does he realize that with those words he forsook those for whom he had ventured into a catastrophe named Kargil. He provided implicit justification to the Indian atrocities simply to justify the atrocities here.

To seek justification for one’s mistakes in the blunders of others exposes the absolute shallowness of the rules of governance employed to mis-govern this country. The oppression in Balochistan is being justified by equating it with Kashmir. Next we may hear the justification for disappearances of political activists in the context of the Argentinean and Chilean experience. What justification will be sought for the Bajaur and Damadola drone attacks? Probably, in the bombing of Qana by the Israelis. Such pathetic shallowness spells doom.

This debilitating policy of ‘no regrets’ has stricken this country from the very beginning. There was ‘no regret’ when in early 1948, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in his Curzon Hall speech categorically stated: “Urdu and Urdu alone shall be the state language of Pakistan”, without a thought for the 45 million Bengalis and the 30 million multi-lingual and multi-cultural people of this wing, because then only 3.3 percent of the people were Urdu speaking. Liaqat Ali Khan’s constitutional proposals of 1950, which relegated the Bengalis to a secondary parity partner, were a continuation of that total indifference to the rights and wishes of the majority.

Had wisdom prevailed, regrets been expressed and amends made, there would have been no tragedy of December 17th, 1971, and the people of Bengal would not have suffered the atrocities they were subjected to.

In Balochistan the same disregard was shown for the people’s wishes when it was forcibly annexed in 1948. No regrets were shown about it or for the consequent actions including the punishment meted out to Nawab Nauroz Khan and kin. On the contrary massive military operations were launched in 1973 to suppress the increasing dissent against injustices. The injustice of all these actions has increasingly and irreversibly alienated the people and what we see there today is interwoven with all those events of the past.

Army operations, indiscriminate arrests and forced disappearances are the order of the day in Balochistan. The government has sought help from the UN for 84,000 ‘internally displaced persons’. A majority of them, i.e. 59,000, are women and children. It should be noted that the men are outnumbered by 3:1.This displacement underlines the scale on which military operations, despite denials, have been taking place and the sufferings they have entailed for the people. The total figure, according to an independent analyst Nizamudeen Nizamani, is actually 286,000. It is a humanitarian catastrophe which indicts those responsible for it.

On December 18th, a columnist of this paper writing of her visit to Quetta said, “You could not have blamed me or my fellow passengers for believing for a second that we had entered a war zone.” This comment speaks volumes about the consequences of the present policy of ‘no regrets’ there.

The rulers have to be applauded for their consistency in implementing the ‘no regrets’ policy across the board. They have been even handed in depriving and alienating the minority provinces though the modus operandi has differed, force being the mainstay in Balochistan and now in NWFP as it was in the end days in Bangladesh.

The rulers of all hues and skins have vied to outdo each other in mis-governance. It would be difficult to shortlist the best among their achievements, but here is a selection of some masterpieces.

No regrets for the Constituent Assembly dissolved or Martial Laws imposed. No regrets for going back on promises of taking off the uniform or conducting bogus referendums. No regrets for freezing of foreign currency accounts or storming the Supreme Court. No regrets for writing off billions for cronies or buying Surrey Palace. No regrets for bounty hunting for the US or capitulating with one phone call. No regrets for hundreds missing or for extra-judicial killings. No regrets for selling nuclear secrets or exploding N-bombs. No regrets for very selective accountability or jumbo sized cabinets.

Here are a few more. No regrets for plots allotted to cronies or going for Umras on taxpayers’ money. No regrets for baton charging women or roughing up journalists. No regrets for comments that women get raped for money and immigration or for launching books at official expense. No regrets for selling the Steel Mill for a pittance or taking loans for useless projects. No regrets for buying bullet-proof Mercedes or AWACS while people go hungry. No regrets for buying a Rs 5 billion machine for Pakistan Security Printing Press without a tender or useless rail engines worth Rs. 5 billion and then exonerating the uniformed buyers. No regrets that we are among the top corrupt countries or we have imported PMs.

The list is ominously long and woeful. Alarmingly there is a palpable sense of smugness, conceit and complacency in the perpetrators of these injustices and misdemeanours, and this is a dangerous sign for prognosis of the state’s health and its well being.

Certainly it is not for nothing that collective human wisdom accepts, in principle, the adage that, “If one accepts one’s mistake, half the battle is won.” Here, in the Land of the Pure, it is a cardinal sin to accept mistakes. The only advice heard in the corridors of power here is one which furthers their goal of perpetuating their rule, in or out of uniform.

The country has been systematically looted and misgoverned for eons now. The people have to fight for and regain their sovereign right for an equitable governance instead of this unjust ‘no regrets’ system. To achieve that goal, it is essential that every injustice be opposed tooth and nail so that all the avenues of unjust rule are forever closed.

Let the rulers be acquainted with the fact that the people too will have ‘no regrets’ when they will be free from the mis-governance that they are made to suffer in the name of the ‘writ of the state’, ‘national interest’ and ‘Pakistan first’.

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

This article was first published on 28 December 2006 in The Post

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