Saturday, February 05, 2005

Wishes of majority of the Balochs should be respected

Balochistan figures in all news and discussions in the media as well as in lives of people concerned about the confrontation between the Baloch people and the Government of Pakistan. The concern is real and palpable because of the past history of recurring armed conflicts between the people of that Province and the State. It seems that the people in power never learn from history and are bent upon repeating it with far more disastrous consequences.

The recent events in Sui are a manifestation of what really afflicts this country and its ruling classes. It is also the expression of a people outraged by the arrogance of the rulers and their utter disregard of their rights. The people there were not just outraged at the rape of a respected lady doctor who had opted to serve in the wilderness but also at the continued rape of their rights and resources by rulers since the very inception of Pakistan.

These events are just an indicator of what can be expected in future on a much wider and intense scale if the rulers continue to persist on the disastrous course of confrontation in the belief that their supposedly overwhelming fire power and brute force is the panacea for all problems of this country.

The recent statements are a clear indicator of the mind set that prompted the confrontations in the past and seem to have charted out the same course for the future. In the “Dawn” issue of Thursday 27th January on the front page Musharraf talks of conciliation along with the underlining of the importance of the several Mega-projects completed or underway and the emphasis that they will be completed anyway, on the back page the headline “CANTONMENT TO BE BUILT IN SUI: ARMY” brings you back to the real world and make you give up any false impression that Musharraf’s statement may have created. Lt.Col Mazhar Masood says “We have come here and TAKEN OVER 400 hundred acres of land allotted to the Pakistan Army.

We will soon build a cantonment (garrison) here which is the need of the area”. He puts icing on the cake by adding that, “You can see only sand dunes here, but within very short time a cantonment will be built and the sand dunes will be turned into green land”. Mr.Lt.Col Mazhar Masood no one doubts your ability to turn the sand dunes of Sui cantonment into green land ,in fact it is this ability of the ruling classes that is the real cause of concern for the people of Balochistan and the people of minority Provinces.

The Cantonments and the areas of Mega-Projects seem to be the islands of Green in the otherwise barren landscape of those Provinces. Your statements maybe reassuring to the investors who are invited to invest in Balochistan but your pronouncements cause concern among the common people who feel threatened by the presence of Cantonments.

The attempts to create ‘Hamlets’ by relocating people in Sui or other envisaged sites for cantonments will never be of any strategic value as ‘soft targets’ abound in Balochistan as has been proved by the knocking down of towers carrying high tension wires and the blasts damaging railway tracks forcing the trains to run only in daylight time.

The solution lies in respecting the rights of the people in Sui and in Balochistan rather than trying to create buffer zones to protect installations. If this policy is followed, there may soon be more Cantonments in Balochistan and more deployment of the Army there than on the borders where the Army really needs to be.

In my recent visit to Lahore I was surprised to see huge billboards there inviting people to the new El Dorado (Gwadar), asking them to invest and Buy in the Land of Promises and Land of Opportunities. All this causes concern in the minds of people of Balochistan and creates the resentment and anger at the injustices which was expressed by the people in Sui. The need is to create a sense of participation and sharing among the people where the natural resources are found but it seems that the Government has no sympathy for the people there and are interested in helping the rich make even quicker bucks at a terrible cost to the people.

There have been talks with between some Baloch leaders and some representatives of the Federal Government and a Parliamentary Committee has been formed to help find a solution to the simmering confrontation that has been continuing for sometime in that historically volatile Province but it seems that not much headway has been made and it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

The two sides have diametrically opposed view points which certainly can’t be bridged until and unless there is a radical departure from the basic premises by one of the sides and this to me seems impossibility. It is the scenario of the immovable versus the unstoppable, the Government is not ready to compromise on its Mega-projects and the Baloch people are not willing to make things easy for them until their fears are addressed in an acceptable manner, Musharraf’s acceptance of the Committee’s recommendations notwithstanding.

The providing of the jobs of peons and watchmen to the locals was never and never will be the solution to the problem. The real issue is the right of the people over their resources, until and unless there is progress on this sticking point there can never be peace in the Province. I would like to present an analogy which may seem to be out of place to many and many would condemn me for it but I think it has a bearing on this issue.

Had the people of Arab Emirates not been given the rights over their resources but been made content with the jobs of peons and watchmen that they began with, would there ever have been the prosperity and the social development that is seen there now? I do not think that it would have been possible. So until and unless the people are made the masters of their fate there will never be the social and economic progress, the progress that the Government has always claimed to be in favor of. Countless Gwadares will not be able to bring about changes in the lives of the people.

Someone among the Sardars at present taking a leading role in the dialogue may decide to compromise ,this seems very likely , but this will only postpone the confrontation for sometime only for it to re-emerge with a vengeance in not so very distant future. The people of Balochistan will not abdicate their rights even if some leaders decide to do an about turn.

No single leader has the exclusive rights to speak about certain areas supposed to be in his area of influence. Sardar Attaullah Mengal was wrong in saying that only Akbar Bugti could speak about Sui. Every Baloch has as much right to Sui as has Akbar Bugti, if this principle is not accepted the Balochs would be replacing one set of autocrats for another.

The indifference of the Establishment is not limited to this Province alone; it treats Sindh and NWFP with equal contempt and disdain. The problems of Kalabagh Dam, the Greater Thal Canal, and the Wana Operations are all examples of the way that the Federal Governments (both military and political) deal and have dealt with the Provinces. On this count the governments certainly has been even handed. Punjab too has its Okara Military farms problems if none other.

It seems that the present government is more interested in Greening of the Punjab, the Mega-Projects, the Cantonments, the Defence Housing Societies and the Okara Military Farms in utter disregard of the wishes of those who are directly affected by the adverse effects of this Greening process and at the cost of much needed unity. This disregard is bound to have unexpectedly disastrous consequences for the country and its people. In fact the seeds for disaster may already have been cast.

The attitudes of the Governments towards the Balochs and their leaders have always been condescending and this has worsened the matters. By terming people who ask for their rights as “sub-nationalists” in the same derogatory manner as one calls someone sub-human doesn’t help promote understanding and trust between the antagonists. If demanding ones rights is a crime in eyes of the present Government then there is no hope of any progress in the dialogue that is supposed to be taking place openly and on the quiet.

The BLA is certainly not a figment of imagination as is apparent from the scale of its activity. The Interior Minister Mr. Sherpao says that since the year 2003, 1,529 rockets have been fired and 113 bombs have exploded in Sui, Gwadar, Kohlu and Quetta. Regardless of the fact that most Baloch leaders’ evasion of direct replies on its existence and the government’s attempt to minimize its importance, it seems that it cannot be wished out of existence.

Theories about what it is and where it gets it aid from abound, including the oddest one that it is being helped by the USA which is not happy with China’s involvement in Balochistan. The usual RAW explanation has been forwarded by the Government on numerous occasions; finger has been pointed at Iran too but that seems the most unlikely one because it would create problems for itself in the areas where Iran itself oppresses the Balochs.

One thing is certain that there are people out there determined enough, with adequate resources and know how to sustain the activity at this level. Presence of BLA and its activities may not be expressing the real level of resentment that the Balochs feel on their being denied their rights and on their resources being exploited but it is an expression nonetheless; I feel the resentment is much deeper and pervasive.

The wishes of the majority of the Balochs will have to be respected if any meaningful understanding is to take place. The Government should learn a lesson from its mentor’s mistakes, the USA thought that Iraq would be a piece of cake but it has become the quagmire which will eventually bring about the undoing of USA, it is the beginning of the end for the super-power dominated World Order.

The Iraq war will prove to be the first of the Great Social and Political Tsunamis of this century that will change and rearrange the World Order in favor of those who are fighting for their rights. The Iraqis are fighting the war of entire world and they deserve our thanks and support to continue doing the glorious task that they have undertaken. The confrontation in Balochistan could herald similar changes in the in the country and also the region.


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