Whereas one would express sympathy with the people of Balochistan for having been neglected during the British Raj, and also after independence by the federal and provincial governments for decades, some Baloch sardars are to be blamed in equal measure for the lack of development and the sad plight of Balochis. It is true that Punjab, being the most populated province, has a larger share in government jobs. However, to blame the Punjabis for their suffering and discrimination is a travesty of the truth. A number of Punjabi teachers and professors have been performing their duties in educational institutions in Balochistan, yet dozens of them have been killed by the Baloch Liberation Army, as claimed by it after every gruesome incident. Recently, four Punjabis, returning from Iran and about to board a Karachi-bound passenger coach at the Bullo terminal, were ambushed and killed by unidentified gunmen after establishing their identity.
In January 2010, four Punjabi settlers were killed; and since then, a number of Punjabi settlers have been brutally
In the past, many efforts were made to bring the dissident Baloch sardars in mainstream politics by addressing their concerns and grievances. During the Musharraf era, for example, committees were formed to resolve the contradictions, but no progress could be made due to the arrogance of those afflicted with the strong-centre syndrome on the one hand, and the arrogance of some Baloch sardars, who stood for an independent Balochistan, on the other. Late Nawab Akbar Bugti had been demanding an abnormal rise in land rent, and also wanted that all lower level staff appointments in Sui be made on his recommendations. Then what Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Sardar Khair Bakhsh stand for is known to all and sundry through their interviews and statements.
After unveiling the Balochistan package, President Asif Zardari was under the impression that Balochistan would turn into a paradise, but not unexpectedly, certain Baloch sardars and self-styled nationalists straightaway rejected the package before it was officially made public, without going through its contents. Anyhow, all the packages will keep enriching the Baloch elites, beefing up their muscle power and empowering them politically.
Our leftists also have their share in creating confusion about the Balochistan issue. Living under the illusion as if they were in a communist state, they wished that Balochistan be given the right to secede. They failed to understand that in a communist state this right is given as a confidence-building measure, and to assure that bigger nationality would under no circumstances exploit the smaller one. But under the present system, which is rotten to the core, such a right could only strengthen the exploitative forces. It is an irrefragable fact that tribalism is firmly rooted in Balochistan, as ethnic and tribal identity is a potent force for both individuals and groups in the largest province with the result that there exists deep polarisation among different groups. Each of these groups is based on different rules of social organisation, which has left the province inexorably fragmented. In fact, tribal group-ism has failed to integrate the state and create a national identity.
Some of the missing persons in Balochistan might have been picked up by the agencies for their involvement in heinous crimes or perceived participation in the war on terror, while others might be undergoing guerrilla training in Afghanistan. But those picked by the agencies ought to have been duly charged with the crime they were accused of having committed and their whereabouts made known to their kith and kin.
It is noteworthy also that condemnation of those responsible for the killing of innocent Punjabis has been somewhat subdued. One wonders why our leaders do not raise their voice for the emancipation of the tribesman from the age-old serfdom of sardars and chieftains to come into his own as a full human being, master of his own will and his own destiny. Of course, the key to the Balochistan problem lies in giving voice to these voiceless serfs and slaves.
During the Musharraf era also, MQM head Altaf Hussain had threatened to quit the federal and provincial governments, if military operation was not stopped in Balochistan. For some time, PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif has been expressing solidarity with the scions of Akbar Bugti, and at least twice vowed to start a long march for their rights. It is fresh in the minds of people that Nawab Akbar Bugti was the Governor of Balochistan during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government, and was a great proponent of launching military operation in Balochistan. Anyhow, a great majority of the members of Parliament belonged to the landed aristocracy – jagirdars, pirs and sardars and new-rich industrialists, who have over time become jagirdars also. They thrive on their serfdom, and would be the last to work for the emancipation of the wretched of the earth.
Having said that, those who have not been weaned off the poison of sham nationalism should take a look at the history of the Balkans, and the fate they met. There was indeed justification for the sardars or the people of Balochistan to wage struggle when they were under unitary form of government in 1950s and 1960s. But once the ‘One Unit’ was done away with and complete provincial status was given to Balochistan, the struggle should have ended. An unusual phenomenon was witnessed: There had been a sort of rebellion whenever there was an elected government. However, the long dormant crisis erupted into a brutal confrontation with the centre in 1973 when the Bhutto government, what it said, had tried to establish educational institutions and construct roads in Balochistan. The insurgency lasted for four years from 1973 to 1977, and it was after the promulgation of martial law by late General Ziaul Haq that sedition cases were withdrawn against Baloch sardars.
No one in his right sense would support or condone military operation in any of the provinces, yet no government worth the name, be it liberal, socialist or Islamic, would allow anyone to challenge the writ of the state. It has to be said that during confrontation between the centre and a few Baloch sardars, it is the common Baloch who has to bear the brunt. However, sardars and feudal chiefs thrive even amid the centre’s injustices and clashes between them and the security forces. It is unfortunate that the civil society does not consider it worthwhile to comment on what sardars have been doing to their people. Those who support the centrifugal forces in Balochistan should be aware of the foreign hand behind insurgency there. In fact, the province’s geopolitical location, as well as its vast mineral resources and valuable coastline, are the reasons for greed of international powers near and far.
Some analysts reckon that a new ‘Great Game’ may make Balochistan as its target. Tehran worries about what conflicts in Balochistan might mean for its Sistan-Balochistan province. International powers, like America and Russia, also eye this strategic region; nevertheless, at least two Chief Ministers of Balochistan had blamed India for exacerbating the situation by supporting and funding insurgents in the province. Nationalist sardars, however, should understand the international
conspiracy because, if any harm comes to Pakistan, they also stand to lose unquestionably. The writer is a freelance columnist. Balochistan riddle By Mohammad Jamil | Published: November 24, 2010