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By: Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
The present situation in Balochistan is critical in the political context which is naturally overshadowed by an armed conflict that has ebbed and flowed in different periods but never seen a complete victory of either side. This situation has now become critical as both sides struggle hard for political and military gains. The Baloch armed might is naturally no match in a head on battle for the organized and well oiled machinery that Pakistani army is but the very fact that they have not only survived but continue to inflict losses speaks volumes for the Baloch peoples’ ability and determination for achieving their political goals.
Words are craftily used to obscure issues and mislead people. People unnecessarily killed are palmed off as ‘collateral damage’ and death squads are conveniently termed as ‘patriotic elements’ by Pakistani generals in 2011. Here is the link:
To understand the present and to face the future we need to delve into the past. Balochistan takes name from Baloch and they complement each other. Baloch national identity is millenniums old and with passage of time it has been reinforced by Baloch resistance to foreign aggression be they the Persians, Afghans, British or Pakistanis. It has now crystallized into its most potent and all encompassing form thanks to their resistance to Pakistani oppression.
Most people know Balochistan as simply 44 per cent land mass of Pakistan but what many people do not know is that it wasn’t by choice; it wanted coexistence but was forced into merger. Balochistan is considered ‘terra nullius’ a land without people which it isn’t. There are people too there; people whose lives have been destroyed by injustices since March 27th 1948.
To understand why Baloch people resisted Pakistan’s attempts to subdue them we will have look at Balochistan’s past. Nations are defined by the cultures and all have their own qualities. Culture is what we are; it is a reflection of our actions because culture isn’t something external; it doesn’t exist independently of us. What we stand for, what we oppose and resist, what we believe in and how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives represent not only us but our culture as well. We cannot be judged apart from our culture and neither can our culture be judged apart from us. What we do and how we live represents our culture. We represent our culture with our actions and not with our words and empty platitudes. To be a Baloch you have to live by the values that make you a Baloch; Baloch culture is what a Baloch does.
The Baloch history of resisting aggressors forms the crux of its culture and they are brought up in an ethos that equates freedom with dignity. Children are taught to be stoic and independent because the hard life in the mountains and deserts has no place for dependents. Baloch pride in their stoic approach to life and I have seen Baloch bury their killed relatives without a trace of emotion on their faces. The Baloch way of life makes him independent as he has to battle to survive against the odds of an unforgiving terrain and basic economic conditions.
Various influential tribes which wielded authority were spread over Balochistan and around mid 1600 a Baloch Confederacy took shape under the Khan’s of Kalat. This Baloch confederation prospered and strengthened under Naseer Khan Noori (1749-1794).
The British eyed Balochistan for use as stepping stone to Afghanistan so the British army returning from the first Anglo-Afghan war attacked Kalat on November 13th 1839 where Mehrab Khan ruled on excuse that Baloch tribes harassed their forces, he resisted bravely and was martyred; November 13th is observed as ‘Martyrs Day’ in Balochistan.
The Baloch resistance was unorganized and sporadic but persistent. In May and August 1840 British detachments were wiped out by the Marris in Battles of Sartaaf and Nafusk respectively. Again in 1859 and 1862 the Marris fought decisive battles at Mawand and defeated the joint forces of Mir Khudadad Khan of Kalat and British. Towards end of WWI the British anxious for expendable cannon fodder asked Baloch tribes for recruits but the Marris refused and that resulted in Battles of Gumbaz in 1917 and Harab in 1918; Marris suffered heavy casualties as they faced machineguns with flintlocks and swords and had tied the ends of their shirts so avoid retreat. The Baloch not only militarily resisted the British but were politically active as well. RAW and Mossad didn’t exist then.
The Treaties of 1841, 1854 and 1876 and the subsequent alterations and the over-riding interests of Britain notwithstanding all accepted Khanate’s independent status and continued till in 1947. Detailing all that happened till 1947 would take time so we fast forward and only mention that Jinnah as a lawyer represented Ahmad Yar Khan’s efforts for independence at legal forums. On 4th August 1947, “The Standstill Agreement” between Pakistan, the British and Balochistan was signed and the sovereign status of Balochistan was accepted. The Khan declared Kalat independent on 11th August 1947.
A written constitution was promulgated and the Darul Umra and Darul Awam declared Balochi as the national language. Assembly sessions were held in September and December 1947 and favouring alliance rejected accession to Pakistan. On December 14th 1947 Darul Awaam passed a Resolution reaffirming its intention to remain independent and to not to accede under any circumstances. Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo made a landmark speech there which is still considered as a valid argument for independence of Balochistan.
He said, “We have a distinct civilization and a separate culture like that of Iran and Afghanistan. We are Muslims but it is not necessary that by virtue of being Muslims we should lose our freedom and merge with others. If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan then Afghanistan and Iran, both Muslim countries, should also amalgamate with Pakistan.
We were never a part of India before the British rule. Pakistan’s unpleasant and loathsome desire that our national homeland, Balochistan should merge with it is impossible to consider. We are ready to have friendship with that country on the basis of sovereign equality but by no means ready to merge with Pakistan. We can survive without Pakistan. But the question is what Pakistan would be without us?
I do not propose to create hurdles for the newly created Pakistan in the matters of defense and external communication. But we want an honorable relationship not a humiliating one. If Pakistan wants to treat us as a sovereign people, we are ready to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation. If Pakistan does not agree to do so, flying in the face of democratic principles, such an attitude will be totally unacceptable to us, and if we are forced to accept this fate then every Baloch son will sacrifice his life in defense of his national freedom.”
I always have wished that Bizenjo Sahib had stood by what he said then. Edward G. Browne in the Vol 1 (page 169) of his ‘A Literary History of Persia’ tells about an incident about the great Arab poet al-Mutanabbi` (905 A.D.-965 A.D.) who “is generally regarded by all Arabic- speaking people as the greatest poet of their race. He died for a verse he had written. Once when he was attacked near Kufa by Arabs of the tribe of Asad and worsted in the combat, he was preparing to take flight when his slave cried to him: Let it never be said that you fled from combat, you who are the author of this verse:-
‘I am known to the horse-troop, the night and the desert expanse
Not more to the paper and pen than the sword and the lance!”
So al-Mutanabbi turned to combat and met his death like a true son of desert.”
Had Bizenjo Sahib been steadfast he could have secured right that Baloch have been demanding but he preferred to compromise.
Convinced that the Khan would not accede Pakistan on March 18th signed separate instruments of Accession with Kalat’s feudatories states of Lasbela and Kharan and Makran. On 26th March 1948 Pakistan army moved into Pasni, Jiwani, and Turbat. Khan capitulated on March 27th and signed instrument of accession. Resentment at annexation led to armed resistance; on May 16th Prince Abdul Karim, Khan’s younger brother decided to lead the national liberation struggle and migrated to Afghanistan but was refused help. Abdul Karim naively believing promises returned with followers but were ambushed and captured near Harboi Mountain and sentenced to varying terms in prison.
In October 1957 Ahmad Yar Khan convened a meeting of 35 Baloch Sardars at Palace Hotel Karachi and demanded end of ONE UNIT and formation of new province of Balochistan. Such demands perturbed the establishment and the October 1958 Martial Law was imposed on plea that Khan wanted to secede with Afghan and Iranian support. Kalat was once again attacked and Khan arrested.
The Baloch people resented this injustice and Nawab Nauroz Khan went to mountains demanding Khan’s release and One Unit’s dissolution. He had some 700-1000 men under his command and had a series of clashes with the army. In April 1959 a platoon of Pishin Scouts was wiped out and later a convoy was attacked some 30 miles South of Quetta. Unable to subdue him they resorted to treachery; Doda Khan his nephew brought Quran with assurances that his demands would be met and amnesty granted. Instead Nawab and his 163 men were arrested and 7 persons including his two sons were hanged at Hyderabad and Sukkur Jails on 15th of July 1960; they were the first martyrs of Baloch national struggle.
In 1962 exiled Mir Sher Mohammad Marri jumped bail in Sindh and went to Balochistan to organize armed resistance in the Marri and Bolan area; while Ali Mohammad Mengal did the same in Mengal area. It was Sher Mohammad Marri who kept the flame of resistance burning by defying Pakistan’s attempts to bring Marris under heel.
After 1970 elections and independence of Bangla Desh who were pushed to that extreme in May 1972 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reluctantly made Ataullah Mengal the Chief Minister; he did not want the Baloch Nationalists ruling in Balochistan. On February 10, Pakistani authorities with media in tow raided the military attaché residence and found a huge cache of arms. On February 12, Mengal’s government was unjustly and illegally dismissed although it had 13/7 majority; the NWFP government resigned in protest. The dismissal of Mengal government and increasingly strict blockade of Marri area culminated in the Tandoori incident, (near Marri area), on May 18, 1973 when eight Sibi Scouts were killed in an ambush. Three days later army ferried by helicopters landed in Mawand and General Tikka Khan promised to quell the rebellion within 72 hours. Those 72 hours have stretched way beyond their estimates.
The army conducted operations all over Balochistan but concentrated more on the Marri area where most of actions against it occurred. Iran helped with helicopter gunships, materials and money to stamp out resistance which it feared would spillover. The military operations forced many Baloch mainly Marris to migrate to Afghanistan. Disappearances were rife then too; among them were Asadullah Mengal son of Ataullah and his friend Ahmad Shah who were abducted on 6th February 1975. Duleep Dass son of Air Commodore (ret) Balwant Dass along with Sher Ali Marri was picked up by army intelligence at Belpat in early 1975 and their fate remains unknown. There were many many more.
During this four year conflict both Baloch and army suffered heavy casualties. After Bhutto was ousted Zia released the Baloch leaders but last of all expecting concessions yet got none. He also announced general amnesty while all others Baloch in exile in Kabul returned but Marris who had suffered most and didn’t trust Pakistan decided to stay on in Afghanistan. They returned after fall of Najibullah Government in 1992.
With Musharraf’s arrival in 1999 the attitude towards Baloch became overtly hostile. In year 2000 Khair Bakhsh was arrested on trumped up charges of murder of Justice Mohammad Nawaz of BHC. Musharraf threatened the Baloch nationalists that this was not seventies they wouldn’t know what hit them. Musharraf’s Mega-schemes of Gwadar and other projects created more misgivings as the Baloch felt that all this was being done to engineer demographic changes which would eventually leave them out on a limb.
Nawab Akbar Bugti despite old age and medical conditions continued to resist and on 26th August 2006 he was martyred in Marri area. The ‘dirty war’ in Balochistan intensified with arrival of PPP’s government in 2008. This ‘dirty war’ with no holds barred is similar to those conducted in Argentina and Chile. In October 2013 during the SC bench hearing the attorney general disclosed that Rs 400 million from Intelligence Bureau’s (IB’s) secret fund had been used for counter-insurgency in Balochistan during 2008-09. If IB alone spent 400 million imagine what others must have spent can be imagined.
This systematic ‘dirty war’ has taken a heavy toll of Baloch lives; Mama Abdul Qadeer the Vice Chairman of Voice of Baloch Missing persons who with some lady relatives of missing persons and three young boys marched some 3000 kms in 106 days from Quetta to Islamabad, says that more than 20000 persons have gone missing; five persons I personally know are missing. Since the kill and dump policy began more than 3000 Baloch activists have been abducted, tortured, killed and dumped mostly in Balochistan but at times in Karachi. Some 25 persons who I personally knew have become victims of this policy.
Mass graves were discovered in Tutak in January 2014 and were the handiwork of the death squads let loose on Baloch but the commission set up to investigate couldn’t even find a person to blame. But that wasn’t surprising; for all the rhetoric that flowed freely in the SC not a single person was charged or punished for the crime of enforced disappearances. All state institutions here are equally complicit in crimes against humanity that are committed in name of security in Balochistan.
Despite the relentless ‘dirty war’ the Baloch people have continued to resist as they see no hope either in Quetta or Islamabad. The majority of Baloch had no expectations from parliamentary politics and had therefore effectively boycotted elections as proved by the fact that Dr. Malik as a winner for PB 48 Kech secured only 4539 votes while the total number of voters there is 74,374 and in spite of all the bogus voting only 14 per cent people cast vote. For PB 41 Awaran Abdul Qudoos Bezinjo secured only 544 votes, he is the Deputy Speaker, from the total votes 57666; a mere 1.18 per cent people voted. The Election Commission and NADRA had said in September 2013 that 65 percent of the votes cast in Balochistan were bogus. Though Dr. Malik has been projected as middle class nationalist leader he is neither; it needs a lot more than rhetoric alone to be either.
Hafiz Shirazi says,
‘Hazaar Nukta Bareek Tar Za Moo Eenja Ast
Na Har Kay Sar Ba Tarashad Qalandari Danad.
Sainthood comes at a cost and sacrifice.
A shaved head doesn’t a saint make.
The Baloch resentment is not only against economic plunder they resent the various political and military means used to disempower them politically and economically; they resent the crude attempts by Pakistan to change the historical secular social ethos with help of Madressahs and fundamentalist organizations under guise of charity outfits as have been used in Awaran after the September 2013 devastating earthquake.
The future of Balochistan is viewed very differently by Pakistan and Pakistanis on one hand and by the Baloch on the other. Pakistan sees it as the land where its burgeoning population can be accommodated; it is seen in terms of ports and harbours it has, they see it as the testing ground for A-bombs and assorted missile tests, they also see it as the energy corridor for their friend China because that corridor will surely spike the real estate prices which the elite will benefit from as they attempted to do in Gwadar. Balochistan is seen as a vast stretch of land with plenty of resources as ‘terra nullius’ a land belonging to no one waiting to be exploited for benefits of others instead of Baloch.
The Baloch see Balochistan as their motherland which they gave an identity to and which in turn did the same. They see it as the repository of their culture, history and way of life; they know that without land they lose all meaning and above all they resent the illegal annexation on 27th March 1948. The Baloch have crossed the Rubicon and will travel on the path they have treaded so long and given so many sacrifices for. The Baloch seek an independent, sovereign Balochistan.
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