New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 21st, 2015
Is Jinnah really Pakistan's founding father?
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
It is not the ideology primarily
By Farman Kakar
Bengal 1971: revolution, war and defeat
By Lal Khan
No one wants to be wrong, This is what terrorism does
By Fawad Kaiser
By Kamal Siddiqi
The Balochistan saga
By Tariq Khosa
Is Jinnah really Pakistan's founding father?
Yasser Latif Hamdani
December 21st, 2015
In a few days the nation will once again pretend to pay homage to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on his birthday, which falls on Christmas Day. There will be a change of guard at his mausoleum. Politicians and functionaries of the state will go lay floral wreaths on his grave. It happens every year. Every year it reeks of hypocrisy. Pakistan of today is the precise opposite of what Jinnah stood for and what Jinnah wanted for it on almost every count.
Any honest student of Jinnah’s politics from 1906 to 1948 will tell you that there is no greater anti-Jinnah document, completely and totally in contradiction to what Jinnah stood for, than the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. It is not that hard to determine the truth behind this claim I make here. Every speech and every legislative instrument Jinnah was involved in right from the time he joined the Congress Party in 1906, when became a representative on the viceroy’s council in 1910 and later on as a member of the Indian central legislature, is all part of record in both parliamentary and legislative records in both India and Pakistan. This record shows Jinnah to be an astute liberal democrat committed to the principles of modern democracy and equality of citizenship for all Indians regardless of their religion, caste or creed. It also shows that Jinnah’s famous August 11 speech was not a one-off ‘aberration’ but was a restatement of a lifelong commitment to human rights and freedom.
When measured up to Jinnah’s speeches and statements in the Indian central legislature as well as Pakistan’s constituent assembly, the 1973 Constitution appears to be fundamentally bad. By barring the offices of president and prime minister of the republic to non-Muslim Pakistanis, it creates precisely those bars that Jinnah had warned against. Such a situation was unacceptable to Jinnah in 1947 but it is even more inconceivable and out of place in the 21st century. What if such a provision disqualified Muslims in the US? We condemn hatemongers like Ben Carson and Donald Trump but do we have it in ourselves to condemn this institutionalised bigotry in our own Constitution?
The 1973 Constitution was amended in 1974 to declare an entire sect as being outside Islam, this sect being the Ahmedis. From 1937 to 1944, the pro-Congress Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam and other religious groups constantly pressurised Jinnah to declare Ahmedis as non-Muslims and throw them out of the Muslim League. Jinnah not only wisely resisted the pressure but also declared any such move as nothing less than a conspiracy to divide Muslims along sectarian lines. For this he was abused and attacked as Kafir-e-Azam but he did not give in on principle. He refused to declare Ahmedis non-Muslims, arguing that he was no one to declare anyone who professes to be a Muslim to be a non-Muslim. Tragically, the state that calls him its founding father is today the only state in the world that not only has taken upon itself to define who is a not a Muslim but which forces its officially sanctioned Muslim citizens to sign off on a declaration that they consider Ahmedis non-Muslims. It is a matter of absolute shame that we have to sign off on statements like that in this day and age. But if only that was the case. In Pakistan, Ahmedis have been arrested for the ‘crime’ of reading the Quran and for saying salaam. The law of the land actively encourages bigotry and fanaticism, and condones persecution.
The 1973 Constitution also privileges a group of unelected ulema (clergy) to sit in judgment over laws passed by the National Assembly (NA), albeit in an advisory role. This institution is called the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). Jinnah said, in February 1948, that “Pakistan will not be a theocracy to be run by priests with a divine mission.” Yet that is precisely what the CII is: a body that ensures Pakistan is a theocracy run by priests with a divine mission. There is absolutely no occasion for the existence of such an odious, anti-modern and reactionary body in any modern nation state. But then we are neither modern nor a nation state. Maulana Sherani, the current chief of the CII, recently announced that CII would soon be discussing whether Ahmedis are non-Muslims or whether they are apostates meaning whereby whether they can be tolerated or whether they should be killed off.
In the past, the ‘esteemed’ body also declared that girls under the age of 16 could be married off. In doing so they declared the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929 as being un-Islamic. The irony here is that Jinnah was one of the strongest supporters of that law when it was passed in the Indian legislature. It was during the course of this debate in September 1929 that Jinnah said: “If my constituency is so backward as to disapprove of a measure like this then I say the clearest duty on my part would be to say to my constituency, ‘you had better ask somebody else to represent you’.” Then we come to the blasphemy law. When Section 295-A to the Indian Penal Code (now the Pakistan Penal Code) was being passed in 1927, Jinnah made it clear that bona fide academic criticisms of religion would be protected. Little did he know that Pakistan would actually go on to enact 295-B and 295-C in the same law, which have become readily available tools for silencing any academic debate over religion in Pakistan.
I have just scraped the tip of the iceberg. To detail every instance of where Pakistan has acted against Jinnah’s ideas would require an entire book. Why then do we insist on inflicting on him the epithet of “founding father of Pakistan”? The Pakistan he founded ceased to exist the day the majority of Pakistan walked out and formed Bangladesh. This new Pakistan’s founding fathers are Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Maulana Maududi, Mufti Mahmood and General Ziaul Haq. This motley crew has forever damned Pakistan to hell. Of course, there is no doubt in my mind that after Pakistan has been humiliated enough internationally for its morally untenable practices, it will have to revert to the sort of state Jinnah wanted but that is still far off in the future. Perhaps some of us will live long enough to see that day.
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He can be contacted via twitter @therealylh and through his email address email@example.com
It is not the ideology primarily
December 21st, 2015
For more than two weeks now, the San Bernardino mass shooting by a Muslim couple once again brought to the fore the question of what motivated the duo to carry out such a shooting spree. The knee jerk response was one of holding Islamic scriptures responsible for providing grounds for Muslim violence against non-Muslims. The most important question is: does Islam espouse violence against non-Muslims? This article resists the temptation of equating and/or associating Islam with violence too readily not only because of the unresolved question of who speaks for Islam but also because the interventionist policies of the west in the Muslim world play a crucial role in radicalising Muslims. In fact, Islam is not the source of conflict but the means used by militant Islamists to popularise their political agenda.
Any Muslim who kills fellow human beings should not be linked to Islamic ideology regardless of whether the killer associates himself with Islam or not. The association of a Muslim killer with Islam is problematic on multiple grounds. For one, the question is: who speaks for Islam? Obviously, although there are 56 Muslim majority states, there is no single Islamic state — a state where the Quran and sunnah are the law of the land — on the world map. In the case of Islamic State (IS), although the entity has all the hallmarks of a de-facto state, ranging from population to territory to government and sovereignty, it does not enjoy recognition from any state. Even if for the sake of an argument IS is recognised as a state then its claim to Islam is contesting on the ground that a tiny state short of recognition of its Islamic credentials from other Muslim majority states cannot speak for the whole community of Muslims or Islam for that reason. Seen this way, a Muslim couple cannot represent more than a billion and a half Muslims around the globe no matter whether the pair formally associate themselves with Islam or not.
In fact, and ideally, only the holy Prophet (PBUH), in his capacity as the prophet of Allah, spoke for Islam. It should not, however, suggest that no one can speak for Islam after the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam. Under the current conditions, only an Islamic state of all or at least majority Muslims run according to the holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) with democratically elected rulers may represent Islam. Since such an entity does not exist, a self-professed Islamic state cannot claim to represent Islam. This begs the question about whether Islam enshrines the use of force or not. In fact, the holy Prophet (PBUH) did go to war against non-Muslim enemies much like democracies have been waging wars against non-democratic states. In a similar way, like a democratic polity, Islam does have a coercive apparatus — soldiers and weaponry — and the paraphernalia of a state ranging from administrative machinery to judicial arbitration to legislature. The question is not whether Islam enshrines the use of force or not (which it does) but who is entitled to use it. Like in democracy, in Islam, it is a democratically elected government that is entitled to use force as required by the holy Quran and sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). The question is: how to diagnose individualistic terrorist incidents the like of Sans Bernardino?
Treating the Sans Bernardino incident as a criminal case without associating it with Islam does not mean that it did not have some real reasons behind its occurrence. Right wing literature in the Muslim world holds the west responsible for Muslim woes. Many among conservative Muslims believe that the 9/11 terror attacks were an American ploy to dismantle the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Similarly, the unabating violence in Iraq is attributed to the US invasion of the country in March 2003 so as to exploit the oil resources of that country. Among the most conservative Sunni Muslims, the west’s bombing of IS in Iraq and Syria is seen as a western conspiracy to prevent the rise of an Islamic state, which the west is fearful of as the Islamic notion of justice and fair play are a threat to vested interests in the west. This is what Sunni radicals contend. Whether the west is guilty of stirring trouble in the Muslim world or not is another matter but the fact remains that many conservative Muslims accuse it for their enduring problems, which have radicalised them to the point of violence. Nevertheless, this should not mean that ideology is not involved.
Here comes the role of one of the strands of interpreting holy scriptures. This literalistic reading of the holy texts is rooted in the belief that every Muslim has a sacred duty to stand against injustice even if it requires committing atrocities against innocent fellow human beings. As a matter of fact, this intolerant worldview cannot explain Islamist violence until it interacts with more important factors of the real or perceived grievances of Muslims against the west. Absolving the west, especially the US, from its intervening policies in the Muslim world will not help manage Muslims’ grievances against the west. After all, western involvement — especially that of the US — in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria has been an important factor in engendering the power vacuum to provide an enabling environment for non-state actors to rise at the cost of governmental authority.
In order to diffuse the situation, western countries should avoid intervening in the Muslim world. In practical terms, this would entail disengaging from Syria while conducting national elections under the UN’s auspices there. In Iraq, US disengagement should accompany the strengthening of the central government along with resolving the genuine grievances of the Sunni minority in the country. In the context of the Palestinian issue, the west, especially the US, should at least restrain Israel from committing atrocities against civilians for the near future. Moreover, the dire need is one of engagement through dialogue among religious scholars of different religions with the objective of minimising the widening gap among diverse religions.
Farman Kakar is a researcher and political analyst based in Quetta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @mughtian
Bengal 1971: revolution, war and defeat
December 21st, 2015
Forty-four years ago, on December 16 and 17, 1971, Dhaka fell and Pakistan’s army surrendered East Pakistan in a humiliating defeat. Lieutenant General A A K Niazi, the martial law administrator of East Pakistan, surrendered to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the joint commander of the Bangladesh-India allied forces. Air Commodore A K Khandker acted as witness on behalf of the Bangladeshi armed forces. The Instrument of Surrender document signed in recognition of the defeat and transfer of power read as follows: “The Pakistan Eastern Command agrees to surrender all Pakistan armed forces in Bangladesh to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief of Indian forces in the Eastern Theatre...” Subsequently, around 93,000 Pakistani troops and officials were taken as prisoners-of-war by the Indian army, the largest number of prisoners of war (POWs) since World War II.
Thousands of people celebrated at the ceremony in central Dhaka marking the liberation of Bangladesh and the victory in the civil war that began on March 25, 1971. In India there were triumphant exaltations amongst the ruling classes and the military’s top brass. Some generals wanted to “finish off Pakistan” and have the next day’s lunch in the grandeur of the Lahore Gymkhana club located in Lawrence Gardens in pre-partition Lahore, so legendary for its sumptuous food and opulent parties amongst the subcontinent’s elites. However, Indira Gandhi was too crafty and cunning to have committed such a blunder that would have provoked another revolutionary upheaval leading to the overthrow of the edifice of the rulership of her class. As is usually the case, revolution erupts in the aftermath of war. She saved the system but just months after this ‘historic victory’ there was a revolt of the Indian proletariat that ultimately led to her overthrow. Indira the ‘goddess of war’ and the victorious heroine of 1971 did save capitalism by this war strategy but had to part with her regime.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a sombre state set in with the oppressed masses utterly confused and bewildered in the aftermath of the gigantic events that had triggered the unprecedented turbulence of war, revolution and counter-revolution. Apart from the military strategies and other blatant mistakes of West Pakistan’s ruling classes, the debate in Pakistan mainly focuses on episodic and superficial features of the defeat. Whilst it is true that the end of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh once more brought into question the relevance and validity of the Two Nation Theory, nevertheless an examination from the people’s perspective or a class analysis remains rare. In reality, the war, repression, genocide and defeat with the separation of East Bengal were part of another strategy of imperialism and the ruling classes of India and Pakistan to divert, distract, derail and defeat the revolution of 1968-1969. During these 139 days the ordinary masses of Pakistan from Peshawar to Chittagong were, for the first time, united on a class basis, the only real and genuine bondage to unite and fight for their collective emancipation. The break up of Pakistan also unambiguously demonstrates how world imperialism and the national bourgeoisie will go to calamitous extremes to preserve the rule of their system of capitalist exploitation.
History witnessed in those testing times the occupations of factories by the workers, the seizure of land by poor peasants, the awakening of women and the valour of the students and youth, which fed into a revolutionary situation in both East and West Pakistan. The delay in the revolution diverted the movement on class struggle along national lines particularly in East Bengal. It was the disastrous role of the left leaders in East Bengal that led to this disastrous nationalist digression of the social revolution. The Indian and world powers catapulted Mujib to the helm instigating a ferocious civil war and the separation of Bangladesh. However, in the aftermath of the Pakistani army’s surrender in December 1971, a new conflict began in Bangladesh. In the areas lost by the Pakistani army in East Bengal during the national liberation struggle, a form of Soviet situation developed. The invading Indian army in connivance with the reactionary bourgeois nationalist forces of East Bengal brutally crushed them.
The seventh fleet of the US Navy was anchored in the Bay of Bengal with marines on board. American imperialists feared that the Indian army would fail to crush the Soviets that were mainly controlled by the socialist Jatyo Samajtantrik Dal (JSD). Had the social revolution succeeded in East Bengal, its prevention of spreading into West Bengal already in ferment would have been next to impossible. In the post-war, crisis-ridden subcontinent, a red, united Bengal with its traditions of uprisings would have set revolutions alight throughout the region. Its impacts would have had devastating repercussions for imperialism on a world scale. The Indian bourgeois state ensured that Bengal remained divided mainly on a religious basis.
In West Pakistan, the defeated, humiliated and shattered Pakistani army was in no state to resist a new mass uprising. There were revolts in several garrisons and General Gul Hassan rushed from one cantonment to another to quell these rebellious young officers and ranks. Bhutto, now in power, announced radical reforms calculated to defuse any new upsurge but he was destined ultimately to failure due to the burgeoning crisis of Pakistani capitalism.
Pakistan was created not as a nation state but as a state comprising of several nations. This is crystal clear from the alphabets that its name is made up of. The nascent Muslim capitalist class failed to create the modern industrialised state and society it had promised. They got their independent market but, due to their economic and technological incapacity, failed to complete the task of creating a new nation. National exploitation continued along with crushing class coercion. Ultimately, the explosion of class contradictions in 1968 led to a mass revolutionary upheaval. A Leninist party could have led the revolution to a socialist victory.
However, Bangladesh’s national liberation has failed to unite Bengal and resolve the basic socio-economic problems of the oppressed masses. Ever since, the conditions of the workers and the youth under capitalist exploitation in Bangladesh and Pakistan have only worsened. The elite’s intelligentsia repeats the same old rhetoric of shallow patriotism and hollow sovereignty. Class and national oppression with excruciating deprivation and misery are traumatising societies. Massive upheavals and gigantic events impend on the horizon. The most important lesson to be learnt from December 1971 is to unite and take the class struggle to its finish. The genuine movements of national liberation have to be supported and linked to the revolutionary class struggle to overthrow this vicious system. In East Bengal, this failed to take place due to the absence of a Marxist leadership. In Pakistan, another 1968-1969 can emerge on a higher plane. Its victory on a socialist basis will begin the process of abolition of poverty and suffering of almost one fourth of the human race that inhabits South Asia.
Lal Khan is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and international secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at email@example.com
No one wants to be wrong, This is what terrorism does
By Fawad Kaiser
December 21st, 2015
Terrorism has once again been the major topic in public discourse in recent weeks. One year ago, 144 lives were lost in Peshawar’s Army Public School (APS) massacre of December 16, 2014, the deadliest attack in Pakistan’s history. On week ago, Los Angeles schools were closed due to a threat emailed to the school district, two weeks after the deadly attacks in California. The shutdown closed more than 1,000 schools attended by 640,000 students across the city. The threat was later deemed a hoax. On the same day, officials in New York received a similar message but concluded it was likely a hoax. Schools there, however, remained open. The shutdown in LA underscores the difficulties counter-terrorist forces face in responding to threats amid fresh fears of terrorism. The growing threat of terrorism is succeeding in its mean effort to force millions to change their daily patterns out of fear. Two terror attacks thousands of miles apart this week highlight the multiple facets of terrorism and the global challenges involved.
Even though there did appear to be no explosives-laden backpacks and no mysterious packages seen in the LA school terror incident it was not dissimilar to the fear witnessed by the living child survivors of the APS school massacre. What matters most is the similarity in the perception of those threats that led to demonstrate what it means to be terrorised?
Children and schools in Pakistan receive threats all the time. But with the San Bernardino shootings still a vivid memory and with a somewhat more detailed threat at hand, Los Angeles district officials believed they had little choice but to close the schools. Had anything happened to a student or teacher, the horror would have been unspeakable, a wound from which it would be hard to recover. It is easy to understand why the LA district administration erred on the side of safety.
The costs of doing this are heavy, though. Thousands upon thousands of children get forced to change their lives and plans; chances are that many of them will not recover from the stress, anxiety and the fear that it may generate. Poor families in Pakistan can ill afford education anyway and this causes even more serious problems when they cannot send their children to school if they also have to worry about the additional stress of safety in schools. Poor education, poverty and unemployment have all been well reported as known risk factors that can breed terrorism.
This is what terrorism does. It strikes such fear into us that a threatening email can force a change in our way of life and put reasonable doubts among critics to debate the legitimacy of the threat response. Terrorism aims to inflict not just death and injury but deep rooted splitting that ripples through society long after the attacks are over. But what options do we as a society have, especially when the possible victims are children? Perhaps if the Malala Yousafzai and APS attacks had not occurred then the threat response to schools in Pakistan would have been easier to dismiss. But being more relaxed a year from now could be an even bigger mistake; people with ideologically inspired evil on their minds do not tend to offer warnings.
What new wisdom can the Saudi-led military alliance for terrorism carry into the future? The coalition may serve as a platform for security cooperation, including provision of training, equipment and troops, and involvement of religious scholars for dealing with extremism. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir did say that the participating countries would themselves decide about the extent of their participation. US State Department spokesman John Kirby said those 34 nations were already part of the 65-plus-member coalition against Islamic State (IS). Now would it be a parallel alliance or will this alliance work with the US-led international coalition? This is something worth questioning.
On a bigger level, it is important to remember that this threat did not just target the children in Peshawar and in Los Angeles. It targeted everyone who sends children off to school each day with the general sense that those children will be safe there. But then, how strongly are we willing to react to the new fear that our children’s lives might not be as secure as they had seemed? Security checks at every school before each school day? Sure, the threat this time in LA’s school district may have been unfounded but what about next time? This is perhaps the most insidious part of this terrorist threat: the strangling of liberty. Fear is dangerously powerful and can quickly become corrosive. Overreaction certainly plays into the hands of the terrorists, giving them exactly what they want in response to fear. But then no wants to be wrong and cannot afford to take the safety of children for granted either.
There are no easy answers. But as Pakistan engages with other counterparts in their alliance against terrorism, it has to be acknowledged that standing firm against terrorism requires deeds, not just words.
The writer is a professor of Psychiatry and consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in the UK. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Kamal Siddiqi
December 21st, 2015
We are smug in the assumption that despite all the rhetoric coming out of the debates in the US, the saner and sensible candidate will finally win. After all, that’s how it has worked in the past as well, with possibly a few exceptions.
While the pundits are predicting that Trump will finally bow out of the US elections, for Muslims that is not the real issue. Trump has caused a stir with his remarks. Narendra Modi also became the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy though a platform of hatred to rile up the voters.
So far, much of what Trump has said has been condemned by most. There are those with whom his statements have found favour. After all, the attacks do not seem to have abated and there is growing frustration. Polls indicate that people have lesser faith in their government’s ability to check home-grown terrorism.
While President Obama has said all the right things regarding Syrian refugees, what we are seeing is that the states have not all gone with his sentiments. There is a growing wariness with Muslim immigration.
Credit goes to the right-minded people of the US who have stood against acts of violence against the Muslim community. But one cannot discount the element of resentment that is brewing.
One cannot deny the fact that a number of terrorist attacks have been conducted or planned by Muslims. We can always share statistics that suggest that it is not only Muslims who have been involved in such acts. The public perception of the Muslim community, thanks to a media that is already antagonistic, continues to be negative.
The community for its part is not one single entity and that is why its response has also been varied. Most Arab-Asian Muslim communities in the US tend to focus their activities around the local mosque and do very little to reach out to others. There has been little Muslim philanthropy funding community activities and many of the followers have remained inward looking.
The African-American Muslim community, of course, is a totally different entity altogether. There is rarely any interaction between the two.
Without claiming to be an expert on the Muslim community in the US, one can see that there are tough times ahead. The local leadership is not geared to take on the challenge. As is the case in many such instances, there are divisions and disputes that hinder any collective voice on a national level.
More worrisome is that there is no effort within the community to debate where things are going wrong. How are right-minded, middle class educated Muslims becoming radicalised?
Muslims have not questioned the activities and teachings of some entities in the US that promote sectarian hatred as well as a general rejection of Western values and beliefs. These entities continue to thrive in the West and their followers are not checked.
Regardless of whether Trump comes to power or Clinton, the Muslims of the US need to start talking to both themselves and to others around them. Many Muslims have only co-religionists in their social circles. Others reject many of the values which actually brought them to this country in the first place.
For Muslims of Pakistani origin, it is time to cut the proverbial umbilical cord with their country of origin and become Americans. Forget about politics in Pakistan and what was reported on the Pakistani channels, or who is corrupt and whether the army is the solution. This is not your issue any more. Worry about Donald Trump and your non-Muslim neighbours instead.
While some say the problem lies in the new generation, the solution also lies with them. It is time the America-born new generation of Muslims took up the reins of leadership. They should decide how to take things forward.
Kamal Siddiqi is Editor of The Express Tribune
The Balochistan saga
December 21st, 2015
AS 2015 draws to a close, it is worthwhile to evaluate the implementation of point 17 of the National Action Plan: “Empowering Balochistan government for political reconciliation with complete ownership by all stakeholders.”
The framers of NAP were idealists. They wanted complete ownership by all stakeholders, disregarding the fact that there is only one player that has the final say in Balochistan: our military-led security establishment, including the intelligence agencies.
Would they let the civilian provincial government as well as the provincial assembly formulate a policy of bringing the Baloch sub-nationalists to the mainstream of the strategically important province? To be fair to the civilians, an honest effort was made.
Is the security establishment willing to use ‘soft power’ by co-opting Baloch sub-nationalists?
Nawaz Sharif tried to woo Sardar Ataullah Mengal before the 2013 elections. Choosing ballot over bullet, Akhtar Mengal and his BNP-M contested elections despite grave threats and warnings from all major insurgent groups, including the Hyrbyair Marri-led BLA, Brahmdagh Bugti-led BRA and the Allah Nazar-led BLF. This was a huge step that lent credibility to the electoral process.
The election results were a surprise in the eyes of some credible analysts. The security establishment has historically preferred the Bizenjo-led nationalists to Mengal-led political elements. This was true during Gen Musharraf’s military rule when military intelligence was seen to undertake political engineering before, during and after the 2002 and 2008 general elections. As police chief of the province in 2007, I personally came across and protested acts of high-handedness by the agencies concerned against the illegal custody of Baloch nationalists.
Akhtar Mengal feels that his party was denied a few seats in the 2013 elections at the behest of the establishment. However, the Sanaullah Zehri-led PML-N and Hasil-Bizenjo-led National Party ‘emerged’ victorious and formed a coalition government. To his credit, Nawaz Sharif selected NP’s Dr Abdul Malik Baloch to be the chief executive of the province.
As far as I can recall, he was the only ‘Mr Clean’ in a governance paradigm that has always thrived on corruption and the misuse of federal funds in the past. He tried his best to set a personal example in ensuring good governance. Thank you, Sir.
However, he could not succeed on various counts: the missing persons issue is not resolved; the kill-and-dump strategy has not been outrightly abandoned; and the angry Baloch sub-nationalists have not — so far — come to the negotiating table. So, in the context of NAP, the provincial government was not allowed to deliver what it promised.
Now, Sanaullah Zehri is going to be the titular captain of the ship during 2016-18. He has said that “bringing angry Baloch into the national stream” was his first priority. He also claimed that the people of Balochistan and the country would witness positive changes in the province during his tenure.
He has a Herculean task cut out for him. First, he has to overcome his own reputation of a tribal sardar with bloody feuds haunting his past. Second, he will be compared with his predecessor on the issue of resisting corrupt practices and providing good governance. Third, as chief of Jhalawan, he has to constitute a tribal jirga for parleys with the Khan of Kalat in London and the Bugti grandson in Geneva. As for Marri in London, that appears out of the question given the rivalry amongst the sons of late Sardar Khair Baksh.
On bringing the angry Baloch into the national mainstream, he will have to play according to the rules set by the security establishment. As a Baloch sardar he may succeed in appeasing fellow chieftains (ie Khan of Kalat and Bugti). But would this make a real difference in restoring peace? Symbolically, maybe, but not unless the BLF is brought to the table.
The Baloch insurgency has got out of the hands of tribal chiefs and is being effectively led by middle-class, educated but disgruntled youth largely concentrated in the hilly terrain within Turbat, Panjgur, Gwadar and Awaran districts. With an estimated strength of 6,000 at their peak, the BLF is struggling to keep followers motivated.
Being a non-sardar and from their neighbourhood, Abdul Malik Baloch was not provided enough room to manoeuvre to bring the disaffected youth of BLF to the political mainstream by giving them jobs and empowering them through local government. He, unfortunately, missed the boat.
During 2013-14, the establishment was accused of employing kill-and-dump strategy, illegal confinements, coercion and FC-led security operations against Baloch insurgents. In June 2015, the FC claimed to have killed a brother and nephew of Dr Allah Nazar amongst 13 militants accounted for. Later, there were unconfirmed reports of the death of the BLF chief, which have been denied through a video release.
However, during 2015, a stick-and-carrot approach was adopted by the former army commander, Lt-Gen Nasser Janjua, who is now national security adviser after his retirement. The new commander of the Southern Command, Lt-Gen Aamir Riaz, has said that the “Pakistan Army wants to see Balochistan emerge as a peaceful and economically thriving province moving on the path of progress and prosperity.”
I know personally that Gen Aamir is an enlightened soldier and is capable of allowing the use of the ‘soft power’ of the state to restore peace in Balochistan. But the question is about the strategic thinking within the security establishment. Are they willing to use ‘soft power’ by co-opting the Baloch sub-nationalists rather than coercing them? Coercion results in subversive activities. The elements of ‘hard power’ should be invoked sparingly, otherwise they lose their efficacy.
Balochistan presents the saga of constant use of brute force to run the political affairs of the province. Giving the Baloch their due rights and treating them with respect would be a good way of palliating historical wounds. Meanwhile, in accordance with the letter and spirit of NAP, the provincial government needs to be empowered to bring about political reconciliation with Baloch nationalists. Dr Baloch had developed a reconciliation package. Its secrecy is vital for efficacy. The security establishment should lend a helping hand rather than trying to impose peace.
Tariq Khosa is former IG, Balochistan Police.