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Baloch Ignored and Agonised


By Surat Khan Marri

May 03, 2012

Balochistan and Sind have a historically friendly and brotherly relationship, but the Pakistan People’s Party and its leadership have never had a working relationship with the Baloch people

In Pakistan, politicians and the media generally use a misleading term for the Baloch issue. They call it the Balochistan issue. The difference between Baloch and Balochistan is very clear. Firstly, the Baloch are a people, a national community, whereas Balochistan is a geographical land mass, today a province in Pakistan, also in Iran. Interestingly, Pakistan‘s former president and COAS, General Ziaul Haq used to say, “Our interest and concern is not with the Baloch but we are impatient for Balochistan; the main attraction in Balochistan is its resources and the coast.” Secondly, the Baloch do not live only in Balochistan province. The majority of the Baloch live in Punjab, then Sindh, and lastly in Balochistan. One third of the land mass and population of Balochistan is Pashtun. They have never been a part of or perturbed by the Baloch anti-establishment movement to the extent that when news of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s killing reached Balochistan, there was uproar in the entire Baloch area from Dera Ghazi Khan of Punjab to interior Sindh. Curfew was ordered in Quetta. On the other hand, in the entire northern Pashtun belt starting 20 kilometres away from Quetta, life was normal.

Since 2001, the Baloch are in a state of insurgency. Across the province, even beyond the provincial borders, in Baloch areas, forces have been deployed and there is regular fighting. Pakistan forces and agencies have allegedly kidnapped thousands of political activists. About 300 bullet-riddled bodies of missing persons have been found in different places. The Pashtuns have raised no voice on these incidents. There is no condemnation by politicians and even intellectuals on the Baloch agony.

If local newspapers indicate any trend, there is daily condemnation of the so-called Baloch exploitation of Pashtun resources by Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s Pashtun Milli Awami Party, mainly organised in Balochistan and part of the POONAM alliance. Other member parties are the Baloch-led parties of Sardar Mengal and Senator Dr Malik Baloch.

Under the circumstances, the issue is not of Balochistan but it revolves around the Baloch. Baloch militants, especially nationalists and intellectuals, allege that the Baloch federalist political parties deliberately project and propagate ambiguous terms like Balochistan for the Baloch problem. The federalist Baloch parties claim the Baloch issue is about the right of Baloch governance and ‘right on resources and the coast’. For the last seven years, the BNP-Mengal introduced another term, ‘the right of self-determination’ for the Baloch issue. They never give the term a Leninist explanation or western political thought and meaning. The purpose of ambiguity is to confuse public opinion and to distract attention from the actual problem of insurgency.

The Baloch are divided into three conflicting groups. The first well-known political group is pro-establishment and guided by the agencies. Or it may be called the school of thought that supports incumbent governments, whether headed by Nawab Bugti, Sardar Mengal, Mir Jamali or direct military rule. There was a joke in the early 1960s that someone asked Jam Ghulam Qadir, then a minister, “Why do you change political parties so often?” His reply was interesting and meaningful. He said, “I never change political loyalties and party affiliation. My loyalties are with government; it is the government changing loyalty and parties.”

The second political group is of those that may be called the Pakistani federalist Baloch parties, always striving to form government in the province and have a power share in the Centre. Ironically, these federalist parties never sever their contacts with the agencies and the establishment. All opposition parties in Balochistan participate in elections, and to date, have members in parliament, even ministers in the provincial cabinet.

The third group is termed as nationalists, also called Baloch separatists. They have a long history starting August 11, 1947, when the Khan of Kalat declared independence. According to the researcher Mr Martin (2010), on March 23, 1948, at Karachi, in a meeting presided over by the prime minister, attended by the foreign minister and defence minister along with their secretaries, all three military chiefs’ reported achievements of their forces. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan surrendered on March 27, 1948 and signed annexation papers. His younger brother, Agha Abdul Karim rebelled and camped at Sarlat, Afghanistan. Since that day, the seeds of Baloch separation were sown, which at times flourish; sometimes pruned and cut but never dead.

The present insurgency started by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) in 2001, is the fifth of its kind, being termed as low intensity. It has been a decade now. The Baloch insurgency is continuing in low intensity mode, in spite of the fact that many harsh measures are being taken to crush the movement. Balochistan and Sindh have a historically friendly and brotherly relationship, but the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its leadership have never had a working relationship with the Baloch people. Mr Zardari, the president of Pakistan, is ethnically a Baloch. During Nawab Nauroz Khan’s rebellion and the early 1960s insurgency, Mr Bhutto was General Ayub Khan’s right-hand man. During the 1970 army action against the Baloch, Mr Bhutto was in power. During Ms Benazir Bhutto’s rule, Nawab Bugti led the government in Balochistan and had a very strained relationship with the Centre. Once again, the PPP is in power, and the present army action and counter-insurgency measures are believed to be very harsh. In 1958 Nawab Nauroz Khan was the victim of betrayal and broken promises. General Akbar Khan invited Agha Abdul Karim for talks and dinner and on his arrival, he was arrested. Nawab Nauroz Khan was promised on a Quranic oath to come down from the mountains and that due consideration would be given to his demands. He along with others was arrested; the Nawab died in jail and 14 of them were hanged. All kinds of repressive measures were taken during military actions of the 1960s and 1970s. Allegedly, many innocent persons were kidnapped, tortured and even thrown down from helicopters. Air attacks were very common. Crops and wheat storages were destroyed. A large number of cattle, sheep and goats were robbed. More than 2,000 tribesmen were arrested and kept at the Kohlu concentration camps for long durations.

It is claimed that the 21st century is the age of open and free media. In Balochistan, there is a blackout on what is happening in the interior areas. Only a couple of ‘implanted’ journalists and media teams were invited by the forces and airlifted to Quetta and Chamaling. No journalist dare visit the interior or Chamaling or Dera Bugti on his own. The IG Police, the Frontier Corps and even some generals, including General Musharraf, publically announced that rebellion would be crushed by all kinds of forces of the state.

The oppression and suppression has been going on for more than 60 years. In just past one and a half years, more than 300 bullet-riddled bodies of missing persons who were allegedly picked up and kidnapped by the government agencies and forces were found in deserted places. It is more than tragic that during six decades of repression and killings, political parties or the media have showed no sympathetic reaction across Pakistan. Even the intelligentsia is silent and unmoved.

In Balochistan, it is believed the general elections are around the corner and the public already has dozens of problems like inflation, unemployment, power shortages, etc. They hardly have any time to think about or react on the Baloch issue.

The writer is a freelance columnist

Source: Daily Times, Pakistan