Thursday, March 03, 2005

DON’T PUSH THE BALOCH.

By:Major General Ahsan Ahmed (Retd)


It may not be common knowledge to majority of Pakistanis that in the pre-partition era, Kalat was one of the two princely states out of over four hundred in the subcontinent, whose ruler was authorised to communicate directly with the Viceroy on all government matters without going through Council for Princely States.



In that period, the state of kalat extended up to Quetta & Pishin & its ruler was authorised to collect taxes from a large area even beyond its boundaries. At the time of partition, Khan of kalat was not keen to join Pakistan unless this privileged status was to be continued in the newborn state. This was not to be. Sensing the hesitation on the part of the Khan, the central government threatened military action leaving no chance for him but to accede to Pakistan. This state of attitude continues since.



This largest province of the country was not given the status of a province till 1970 when General Yahya Khan broke one unit, the only good deed he ever did during his despotic rule.



Huge resources of natural gas were discovered in Sui in early 50s & an agreement was signed regarding payment of royalty, rent for the land & compensation for other facilities to be used by the central government for installation of gas plant & its accessory structures etc. Gas was later discovered in other provinces after a lapse of about two decades or so. The new agreements signed with these provinces had the rates of royalty etc much higher than what was being given to Balochistan at that point in time. In spite of strong & consistent protests by the Baloch, this disparity continues.



To add insult to injury, gas from Sui was taken to every nook & corner of the country, the sole exception being Balochistan including its provincial capital ignoring the pleas & protests of Balochistan’s population who continued to use coal to keep warm during severe cold season after season. Quetta got its first gas connection in 1985. This “favour” was granted only after enough quantity of gas was discovered in other parts of the country.



The highhanded attitude of the Centre in Pakistan always gains new heights during military regimes as compared to civilian governments. The provincial government was not consulted on the mega project of construction of deep-sea port at Gwadar neither in the planning stage nor on beginning of implementation. Compare this to projects like Northern Bye Pass, Lyari Expressway etc in Karachi where not only the provincial government but also the local government is fully involved.



The training of local people to contribute towards operating the port should have started simultaneously with the implementation of the project. This would have enabled the locals to get jobs not only as peons & labourers but also in the upper & technical strata especially when thousands of educated youth are jobless in the province. This was not done for reasons best known to the rulers.



The Baloch population experienced the change in the demography of the province in the 80s subsequent to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugee’s majority of whom purchased properties & businesses & settled down for good, bribing their way to the government offices to get national identity cards etc. The start of construction of Gwadar port was marked by the mad rush to purchase thousands of acres of adjacent lands at throw away prices by the entrepreneurs from other provinces exploiting the poverty & ignorance of locals.



It is a recognised fact that a port city always grows faster than other cities. The fears of local population about becoming a minority in their own province should not, therefore, be dismissed casually but need to be looked into on priority & solutions sought especially about the voting rights of these newcomers. This problem is specific to Balochistan being the least populated of all provinces in the country. Any comparison with the two ports at Karachi and large migration of people in that mega metropolis would be irrelevant & malafide.



The controversy about building cantonments in the province could have been avoided by showing a little bit of grace by the military government. Even if it is agreed that construction of new cantonments could be a strategic requirement, why the Khakis should push it down the throats of the Baloch? This is because the military has never been able to read the mind, psyche & cultural attitudes of its own people whom they have been governing for most of the period after independence.



Statements like the ones from DG ISPR that “army will build cantonments where ever it likes”, smacks of the attitude of an occupying force and not like a national force like Pak Army. Considering the particular case of Sui gas installations, a force of not more than one battalion is enough to guard these. A military base could be in place for this purpose, leaving the cantonment for the time being.



This was done in Chore (Sindh), where a military base remained in place for a considerable period before a cantonment was built. Since the present rulers take all their decisions “in supreme national interests”, including the rigging of elections, keeping the parliament under their thumb etc etc why not this decision as well?



As regards the demand for provincial autonomy, this is not limited to Balochistan alone. This demand was raised at the time of framing as well as signing of ’73 constitution & it was agreed that the concurrent list would be transferred to the provinces after ten years. In view of the breach of this promise & the continued sufferings at the hands of the Centre for last so many decades, it is not surprising that Baloch leaders are not only demanding the subjects given in the concurrent list but also some more presently under Islamabad.



The record of the present government in this case is worst in the history of Pakistan. The devolution of power instead of starting from the centre & moving downwards surprisingly started in the middle of the line of power. The devolution of power started at the level of the provincial capitals & moved to the district. Conversely, the provincial capital got nothing devolved to it from the Centre. Later, in a shrewd way with malafide intentions, the local governments were practically brought under Islamabad these are the ways a military government works because it does not have a popular power base at the grass root level. The earlier this problem is solved the better for the federation.



There have been numerous occasions in the past where military personnel have been involved with the civilians in brawls & what not. An example that immediately comes to mind is the Tando Bahawal case in Sindh when late General Asif Nawaz Janjua the then Chief of Army Staff took spontaneous action, arrested the army personnel including officers who were court martialled & punished well & proper.



If my memory is right, one officer of the rank of Major was given capital punishment. Every section of populace was satisfied. In contrast, the tragic case of Dr Shazia has become a public relation disaster for Pak army the blame for which goes right to the top. No one has the power or the right to announce that Captain Hammad is not guilty when the process to find this very fact or otherwise is still in motion.



No one in Pakistan believed anyway that justice would be done to the victim even before General Musharraf blared out his own verdict. In the first place, the FIR was registered after an unexplainable delay. Further the PPL authorities did not let the local police to do their duty. When after a lot of public hue & cry, the police did arrest the two senior doctors & locked them up in the police station, the place was raided by DSG & FC personnel & the two doctors were taken away but not before thrashing the police officials so thoroughly that they had to run & took refuge in Sindh.



The main accused instead of being arrested after the lodging of FIR, was produced on TV claiming his innocence. How many of such accused persons have had this unique privilege in the history of this unfortunate nation? Dr Shazia, on the other hand, was drugged making it impossible to record her statement & later without the knowledge of local police, was shifted to Karachi where she is virtually under house arrest in the name of her security.



All this has happened for the first time in the recorded history of the Baloch including the unprecedented incident of a procession of women coming out in the streets of Dera Bugti to demand justice for the woman who had come to their land as a working guest.



The usual theory of involvement of a foreign hand in the present upheaval in Balochistan has to be looked into keeping the geo-political scenario in mind. Bomb blasts, destruction of railway tracks etc have been occurring in this part of the country for quite some time now. It is only the increase in frequency of such incidents in the recent days & the claiming of their credit by the clandestine “Balochistan Liberation Army” which has reached an alarming proportion.



As far as the involvement of the foreign countries is concerned, Iran has been pushed against the wall on the issue of its nuclear programme. The mega project of gas pipeline from Iran to India through a safe & sound Pakistan is very much in her interest. Most significantly, a liberation movement in Pakistani Balochistan is bound to engulf Iranian Balochistan as well. However, it may not be too far fetched to think that an independent Balochistan may fit in the American strategic plans to keep a vigil on the Central Asian Republics rich with natural resources at one end & the Middle East on the other with a deep sea port at Gwadar sitting on the mouth of the most important oil supply line to the western world.



This can be done by neutralising Afghanistan, Pakistan & Iran with India as the declared strategic partner acting as the local policeman of the region. The big question is even if the seed has been thrown in the field from outside, who prepared the soil to nurture this seed?



The only contribution of the government to solve this multifaceted problem of national scale has been to form two committees consisting of Senators & MNAs. Even the most optimistic from amongst us know the worth of our members of parliament vice vie the decision-making exercise of this military government.





Our military rulers have to understand the fact that they cannot run a country of 150 million people like they run GHQ. Responding to a volatile situation by retorting, “This is not 1970. They would not know what hit them,” is a response akin to that of a child who has been pushed down to the ground by schoolmates. Such arrogance shown by a totalitarian ruler can throw the country in an avoidable catastrophe.



If the government does the folly of launching a military operation in Balochistan, the terrain is so vast & difficult & the Bloch are so much used to the gorilla warfare in their homeland, the conflict would suck in more & more troops as happened in Occupied Kashmir. Above all this would be the beginning of the end of this federation, this country & this nation. By the way, did Raza Shah Pahlavi, General Pinochet, George Fernandez etc know what hit them?





A parting unsolicited advice to whom it may concern. Don’t push the Baloch over the cliff or into the Arabian Sea. These people know how to climb back to the top of the hills & can swim with ease in the deep sea. They too have come a long way since 1970.



The writer is Pakistan’s Former Director General Health, Former Minister Health & Population Welfare Sindh& Former Pro-Chancellor Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences, Sindh. He is author of two books.

1 Comments:

At 1:33 PM, Blogger illahinoor said...

My dear Baloch friends, I have been saddened by the
oppression and injustice the Baloch have been suffering
as well as by the internal conflicts. Though I am not Baloch,
I have had the interests of the Baloch people on my heart for
almost sixty years. When I was a university student,
Almighty God gave me a great love for the Baloch and a
desire to serve them in any way I could. I have lived
among the Baloch for many years, have entertained many
in my home as my bahoT, and spent almost ten years
working with groups of Baloch friends to translate the
Paken Injeel into the Makrani dialect. God is alive
and real. He has all power and has a special love and
compassion for oppressed people. His love was not in
word only but in action. He came among men in the
person of Isa al-Masih who was born of a virgin and
grew up to live a life of spotless purity. He healed
the sick, raised the dead and fed the hungry
multitudes. The religious leaders hated Him because
He exposed their hypocrisy. Finally, God permitted
them to turn Him over to the Romans for execution. He
willingly yielded Himself into their hands and
suffered a terrible death that we deserved because of
our sins and shortcomings. The wonderful news is that
death could not hold Him. He rose victoriously on the
third day and went back to Heaven. He offers
forgiveness and new life and all who trust Him are set
free from selfishness and despair to serve the living
God. This is the true hope of the Baloch people. The
Spirit of God is calling many to this faith all over
Balochistan and Sindh and hundreds are finding new
hope and energy to build a new society. Praise God,
there IS hope for the Baloch.
Gon neken waahagaan, Shumey Nako, Noor

 

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