In Search of Solutions
An Autobiography of Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo
Edited by B.M. Kutty
Published by: Pakistan Study Centre University of Karachi & Pakistan Labour Trust Karachi
Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo’s role in the politics of Pakistan had many noticeable and unique characteristics. He will always be remembered for his principled stands and pragmatic approach in politics. Coming from a remote village of Baluchistan, he rose to the respectable position of an elderly statesman of Pakistan’s politics. Mir Sahab, that is how he was addressed by both his fellow politicians and the political rank and file of the parties he led or remained associated with in his long political career, had been a member of National Assembly, and, for about nine or ten months, the Governor of Baluchistan. He had also been an important leader of the National Awami Party (NAP), National Democratic Party (NDP), and later, the founder-president of Pakistan National party (PNP). But, the offices held were not as important as the perception and vision for which he was known and which he tried to inculcate in Pakistan's otherwise directionless politics. Mir Sahab was a man of conviction who could see beyond the confines of his times and immediate surroundings. He can very rightly be described as one of the very few political leaders of the twentieth century Indian subcontinent, who firmly adhered to the principle of human equality, social justice and peace throughout their political career. While being a firm believer in the right of self-determination of all nations subjugated by colonialist and imperialist forces, he never succumbed to the negativity of racism or national chauvinism. He was equally critical of all forms of exploitation and discrimination perpetrated upon the working class and weaker section of the society by the elites of the nation struggling for emancipation from the colonial domination. Despite the fact that he hailed from a very backward and tribal society, Mir Sahab had developed an astonishingly progressive outlook on all social, economic and cultural issues. He was, undoubtedly, a Humanist par excellence.
Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo was a man of great conviction and resolve. Beginning his political career as someone committed to freedom and independence for the Baluch nation, he stood firmly for federalism within Pakistan, once he was convinced of the soundness of such a solution. However, he also believed that a centralised federation without sufficient autonomy for the provinces would not work in Pakistan. He was a strong supporter of maximum provincial autonomy and thought that by overcoming the inter-provincial disparities of economic development and by allowing the people of all provinces their due right, Pakistan could emerge as a viable and prosperous federation. He went even further to advocate a collective South Asian identity and vision for the region in the phase of accelerated globalisation in the 1980s.
Mir Sahab was against all types of discrimination and extremism. He was opposed to the use of religion for political ends.
Mir Sahab was an avid reader of books on almost every subject of social import. Even when he was in jail he sought books and asked his friends to send as many books as possible. His excellent personal library in Nal is a testament to that aspect of his life. His quest for knowledge continued till the end. He once asked for some of Leon Trotsky’s works as he had not read them. He was provided two of Trotsky’s most famous books The Permanent Revolution and The Revolution Betrayed. A few months later while browsing through his library in his village, one was astounded to find that both the books were read and there were remarks written, paras underlined on almost every second page!
Mir Sahab was an extremely kind and humble person. He treated all human beings, young and old, men and women, friends and foes, with utmost respect, sensitivity, care and love. Under no circumstances would he allow himself to be overpowered by anger.
Like in his political views, he was moderate in his personal life too. Perhaps, the only extreme thing that one noticed in his life was his fondness of green chillies and perhaps it was this taste of his which took the toll and contributed to the very rapid deterioration of his health in his last days.
In presenting Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo’s autobiography, Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi and Pakistan Labour Trust feel the pride that we have been able to preserve a very important source material on Pakistan’s political history. This autobiography has been compiled by Mir Sahab’s close associate Mr. B.M. Kutty who shared Mir Sahab’s ideas and ideals and always remained with him during his good or bad days. Mr. Kurty has rendered a great service by preserving Mir Sahab’s notes with care and by writing down this valuable autobiography. On behalf of our respective institutes, we thank Mr. B.M. Kutty and hope that soon he will write his own political memoirs which, it is believed, would have a lot of food for thought for the readers of our history. We also thank Mr. M.B. Naqvi, a very senior journalist, who knew Mr. Bizenjo well and is fully aware of his political contribution and ideas, for suggesting the title of the autobiography, In Search of Solutions. Finally, we thank Mr. Yasir Hanif for preparing the book for print and also for the compilation of its index.
Karamat Ali Prof. Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed
Managing Trustee, Director,
Pakistan Labour Trust, Pakistan Study Centre,
Karachi University of Karachi
The main culprit: US imperialism
The United States and its western allies were always apprehensive of the influence and prestige of the Soviet Union in the developing world. They sought to ensure by all means fair and foul that the small oil-rich states of Middle East and the countries in the vicinity like Pakistan did not enter the Soviet sphere of influence. Inherently anti-people sheikhdoms, monarchies and dictatorships in the region, which were scared of the advancing lava of progressive Arab nationalism with pronounced pro-Soviet leanings, were forced to seek safety and security in the lap of western imperialism. There was a confluence of interests between the imperialist powers and these rulers. In the entire region, no government except that of India could claim to enjoy the support of the people. All others were usurpers.
The root cause of all the tension and instability in our region is foreign interference. Be it yester-years’ Iran-Iraq war or the on-going Afghanistan crisis, the periodical army takeovers in Pakistan, the decades-old Arab-Israel conflict, the interstate disputes and rivalries between the developing countries, the endemic hostility between Pakistan and India – all are links in the same chain. By pitting these countries and peoples against one another and, for good measure, using the Soviet thereat card from time to time, the US-led imperialist bloc has been able to keep the ruler of these third world countries under perpetual fear of being over-run by popular movements, while they go about freely plundering the latter’s natural resources and also make huge profits by selling them weapons. This vicious cycle is going to last as long as the peoples of these countries fail to assert their sovereignty and ownership over their resources and enforce a system of governance, free from individual or collective exploitation.
The anomalies of Punjab’s politics
As the representative party of the progressive, anti-imperialist forces of Pakistan, NAP emerged as the most articulate forum of the oppressed classes, communities and nationalities of Pakistan in the short span of two years since its formation in 1956 (PNP) – 1957 (NAP). As the NAP grew stronger and its programme became popular, repression by the state and criminalization of politics at the hands of the reactionary forces also became more intensive.
Every two or three years the dominant class had to invite the armed forces to crush the rising popular discontent and protect their vested interests. As Punjab had unfortunately become a strong bastion of reactionary vested interest groups and assumed their leadership, NAP could not grow into a popular all-Punjab political party. Our party comrades in Punjab had to encounter formidable obstacles while trying to organize the party. In East Pakistan and the smaller provinces of West Pakistan, the party stood on strong foundations because the party programmer reflected the people’s aspirations and needs; hence they responded positively. In Punjab, the situation was different and therefore our Punjabi comrades had to bear the brunt of state excesses on the one hand and on the other, face allegations of working against the interest of Punjab (interest of Punjabi elite, actually). The people of the other provinces, by thoughtlessly blaming Punjab and Punjabis for all their problems, also hurt the sentiments of our Punjabi comrades, One must give due credit to our Punjabi comrades for standing firm on their political and ideological commitments in the face of all these adversities and provocations.
Punjab had most of the time suffered from a deficit of popular political leadership. It had often remained under the domination of civil and military bureaucracy, feudals and mullahs. People’s movements were made ineffective or irrelevant in what is today known as West Punjab, to ensure that the source of recruitment for the armed forces was not affected.
On the other hand, Punjab was in terms of skill, enterprise, education and productive potential, far ahead of all the other provinces of Pakistan. Though East Pakistan was the majority province in terms of population, all the sources and levers of power were monopolized by Punjab – civil bureaucracy, armed forces, education, skill – all were under the command of Punjab. It was also the stronghold of feudal power. Making use of these instruments of power, the ruling elite of Punjab denied legitimate participation to others in the country’s governance. All policies and plans were drawn up by them, for them and any obstacle in their way was removed with the help of the bureaucracy and the armed forces. It has been like a cycle – some sort of toothless democratic dispensation running the country for a certain period, followed by army rule replacing it for a few years, then giving way to a civil dispensation for another few years – and so the cycle continues till today.
Secession of East Pakistan and after
When Awami League won the elections in 1970, Punjab’s ruling elites, in connivance with a scheming politician from Sindh, refused to transfer power to the winning party. It will be relevant to point out here that the political opportunists in the smaller provinces too were in the camp of the self-seeking opportunists of Punjab, The natural consequence was the popular uprising of the people of East Pakistan. For the first time in history, a majority nationality was forced to raise the slogan of secession to save itself from the excesses of the minority! And eventually they seceded in the most heart-rending circumstances. A tragedy of such magnitude had perhaps seldom occurred even during the most barbaric periods in human history – the slaughter of innocent human beings on such a massive scale and so many lakhs of people being displaced and rendered homeless.
After East Pakistan became Bangladesh in a sea of human blood and tears, the military bureaucracy and opportunist politicians proceeded to crown their fake hero Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as the Chief Martial Law Administrator and President (of the leftover Pakistan) and actually celebrated the event! The motto was: Forget the tragedy as a bad dream and strive for a bright future in the new Pakistan! The story of how Mr. Bhutto proceeded to construct his ‘new Pakistan’ – how he pursued a double-faced policy during his negotiations with NAP and how the functioning of the democratically elected NAP-JUI government was obstructed constantly in the bid to build up the case for its eventual dismissal and how at last that government was dismissed after a torturous ten months in office – have been narrated earlier in this book.
Four and a half years of military action in Baluchistan got Mr. Bhutto nowhere. The issue was not just the hatred which the military action and the arrest and trial of the entire NAP leadership and activists generated against him in Baluchistan; the fact was that his wrong policies resulted in wide-spread discontent in the whole country, so much so that his government was forced to resort to martial law-like steps in different cities to quell public protest. Protest rallies and meetings were taking place in various cities and townships at the call of the UDF – an alliance of the opposition parties – and the army had to be deployed in Karachi, Lahore and other cities. Eventually, Mr. Bhutto was forced to announce in November 1976 that general elections would be held in March 1977.
By the time Bhutto came to realize that unless he came to an understanding with the opposition parties the armed forces would be tempted to move in, it was already too late. PNA’s decision to boycott the provincial assembly election after serious charges were levelled against the government for rigging the National Assembly election that preceded it and PNA’s call for a countrywide strike had created the ideal setting for the army to strike. As Mr. Bhutto played his habitual game of hide and seek in his negotiations with the PNA, his hand-picked Chief of Army Staff, General Zia-ul-Haq, and his Generals were engaged in finalizing their plans to oust him. Before Bhutto could move against them, they moved and seized power on 5th July 1977. Mr. Bhutto and most of his cabinet colleagues were ‘taken into protective custody’ and placed under detention in Murree.
Though the Generals’ greed for power had to do much with this unfortunate turn of events, most of the politicians were so blinded by their hatred of Bhutto that they were willing to shake hands with the devil if that would help them get rid of Bhutto. They failed to realize that with all his personal faults and all the odious things his government had done to the country and its people, he still did represent some sort of a democratic facade which was better than a military dictatorship.
Thoughts from Hyderabad jail
In Hyderabad jail, except me and one or two comrades, all the others were near unanimous in their preference for Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law over Mr. Bhutto’s civilian rule! As far as I remember, reports from outside the jail were also not very different. One doesn’t have to look too far for the reasons; during Mr. Bhutto’s civilian rule, everyone was in one way or other harassed, humiliated, imprisoned, tortured or cheated.
Mr. Bhutto’s four and a half years’ military action in Baluchistan gave birth to extremist tendencies among the youth. The subsequent decade of Zia-ul-Haq’s military-mullah rule further sharpened these tendencies, as Baluchistan continued to be denied its legitimate rights within the federation. Today, the political leadership of Baluchistan and in Particular the youth seem to have arrived at the conclusion that there is no future for smaller nationalists in Pakistan. I agree that this should not have been the answer to Mr. Bhutto’s and General Zia’s misrule and misdeeds. The answer, in my opinion. Should have been a redoubled commitment to waging a sustained struggle to overthrow their anti-people regimes through mass people’s movements. Given Baluchistan’s minimal clout in terms of manpower, it was not possible for the Baluch to initiate or lead such a movement. In the given situation, the immediate logical response was adventurism, taking the Baluch youth on the path of pointless sacrifice.
I tried from the beginning to avoid confrontation, but Mr. Bhutto’s politics of opportunism and lust for power, coupled with the inflexible stance of some of my comrades, intervened to foil my efforts to seek a non-confrontational way out. Armed confrontation became the only option. There are very few precedents in history of a people enduring such trials and tribulations and facing such a mighty foe in combat for four and a half years with such monumental courage and determination, as the people of Baluchistan, the youth in particular, have done in recent years. However, owing to the lack of proper planning, absence of the necessary objective conditions and above all, due to the lack of a realistic approach, all these sufferings and sacrifices have come to naught.
In Hyderabad jail, where more than sixty of us were undergoing trial on wild trumped up charges of treason, the future of Baluchistan and other smaller nationalities and the course of action to be take (n) remained constantly under discussion and debate. Towards the last days of our stay in jail, this debate had reached what I may call its logical conclusion. Particularly, in so far as the Baluch leadership was concerned, a decisive point had been reached.
The senior detained members of NAP from Baluchistan, called a meeting in jail to take a final decision on what should be the future course of action. Two viewpoints emerged: (1) Fight for national rights within the framework of Pakistan; suspend the resistance movement which has taken the path of violence; call the men back from the mountains; (2) Upgrade the present movement into a full-fledged struggle for separation from Pakistan; those who are in the mountains be asked to stay there and reorganize themselves for this mission.
Nawab Khair Bakhsh, Sardar Ataullah and three other comrades were of the opinion that the Baluch or for that matter any other small nationality has no future in Pakistan. Their argument ran as follows:
Punjab will not let any other nationality live with honour and dignity. If East Pakistan despite its numerical and electoral majority, could be exploited and oppressed with impunity to the extent that they were left with no option but to secede, who is going to pay heed to the wailings of the Baluch with their miniscule size in terms of numbers? The blood and sweat we will squander in the futile exercise of seeking to reform Pakistan should be saved for the noble cause of the liberation of Baluchistan. Therefore, no move should be made to bring back the men who are still in the mountains or in Afghanistan,
I was of the view that the opinion of my comrades was conditioned partly by subjectivism and partly by the absence of any focused investigation into or a clear understanding of the contemporary national and international developments and objective conditions. However, it is not difficult to understand their position. With the opportunistic coalition of Panjabi-Muhajir vested interests in control of the engines of power since the first days of Pakistan until 1969, Baluchistan was not even acknowledged as a province. Whereas all other regions – Punjab, East Bengal, East Pakistan, Sindh and NWFP – were allowed some kind of provincial identity and related autonomy, the Agent to the Governor General of Pakistan (AGG) continued to be the all-powerful ‘Ruler’ of Baluchistan! Direct or indirect army actions were launched periodically from day one till the Bhutto era, in the course of which tens of thousands of people were killed, thousands of families were made homeless and reduced to (the status of) destitutes, all the fundamental rights and liberties of the people were suppressed and Baluchistan’s national leaders and political workers were jailed and subjected to torture for long periods. It is a never-ending saga of betrayal of trust that still goes on. Not only successive federal governments but political parties too – dominated by the Punjabi ruling elite have all along been bitterly opposed to the struggle of the Baluch for their legitimate rights, labelling their demands as parochial, and so on.
Viewed in the above context, one would not find anything unusual about the subjectivism of my comrades. It is but human to react in the way they did in the given circumstances. They were justified in being overwhelmed by what they and their fellow Baluch were going through. But if you pry a little deeper into the Baluchistan-Pakistan conundrum, you would see that answer did not lie in what my comrades were proposing. Granted that we were and are under the combined pressure of a legitimate sense of frustration, persecution, deprivation and denial of rights for decades. But, take a look at our location and status. We are situated in a region where global interests and designs of major world powers compete and collide. As I have stated earlier, South Asia, particularly Pakistan, is a fertile ground for plots and intrigues hatched by US imperialism and its western allies to destabilize Soviet Union and China and to have a dominant influence in oil-rich Iran and the Gulf states.
It will be very naive on one’s part to think that the western imperialist powers will quietly sit and watch the disintegration of Pakistan and allow Baluchistan to break free. Baluchistan constitutes 48 per cent of Pakistan’s territory and 98 per cent of its sea coast and from a military point of view is one of the most strategically vital spots in the world. If it secedes from Pakistan, will Pakistan survive?
Three questions arise at this point:
1. Is it necessary to break Pakistan?
2. Is it true that the dominant ruling nationality, Punjab, and its leadership have crossed the point beyond correction and self-reform; that they are bent upon pushing Pakistan into the abyss at all costs by persisting in their wrong policies towards Baluchistan?
3. Can one say for sure that Punjab will not give up its domineering posture towards the smaller nationalities?
I believe that the people of Punjab, including the Intelligentsia and the enlightened among the ruling elite of Punjab, are not insensitive to the gravity of the crisis staring them in the face. Imagine the scenario if Pakistan breaks up. How devastating will be the civil war that will accompany such breakup? Can Baluchistan, which is still passing through a semi-tribal phase with so many disparate tribes and sub-tribes pulling in different directions, evolve a viable centralized system of governance? How can so many tribes and clans be united and made to accept an integrated state structure? Baluchistan lies at the mouth of the Gulf; it is so close to Iran and Afghanistan and constitutes South Asia’s most strategically vital western flank; how can it be kept free and safe from the coveting eyes of external forces?
Keeping all these possibilities in mind, and the objective conditions around us, I had reached the conclusion that the aim of our mobilization should not be predicated on Punjab-bashing and secession. On the contrary, we should unite and fight for the political and economic rights of different nationalities within the framework of the demand that:
1. Each nationality shall have exclusive and indisputable control over all its resources;
2. Each nationality shall be politically and economically autonomous and sovereign as explicitly stated in the 1940 Lahore Resolution, and only such powers shall be conceded to the centre, on which all the units are unanimous and without which their defence and development can be hampered. All such decisions have got to be voluntary and unanimous. Tyranny of the majority will be counterproductive and self-defeating.
3. Each nationality shall be free and autonomous in terms of its language, culture, customs, traditions and lifestyle.
My last effort
This is my last effort. I have been at this exercise for the last ten years since our release from Hyderabad jail. I have been frequently going to Punjab and trying to persuade the leaders of Punjab to read the writing on the wall. I have been pleading with them from every platform I have had access to, to join the struggle of the smaller nationalities for their legitimate rights; rather to assume the lead in winning the confidence of the smaller nationalities by acknowledging their rights without any reservation.
The apathy shown by the ruling classes sometimes leads me to think that the position taken by my comrades, and which I have been dismissing as subjective, is perhaps not so. On the contrary, I now tend to ask myself: am I the victim of a flawed line of thinking? Is it a sense of frustration that inhibits me from correctly evaluating the reality-driven standpoint of my comrades? The intelligentsia and the thinking segment of the smaller nationalities are finding it increasingly difficult to bear the burden of persistent denial and its predominant positions in the bureaucracy and armed forces. They argue and I cannot but agree with them that no one can or will tolerate a life of slavery for all times.