Saturday, April 16, 2005

Balochistan: skirting the core issue

Balochistan: skirting the core issue

4 arrested for Quetta bombing

Staff Report

QUETTA: Four militants have been arrested for bombing the shrine of a Shia saint last month that killed 43 people, police said on Friday.

The men were detained two days after the March 19 attack on Dargah Khel Shah Fatehpur Gandawaha close to Naseerabad after a bomb-making accident in the same region that injured one of them, said Balochistan police chief Chaudhry Yaqub at a press conference.

“Police arrested Maulvi Abdul Hakim, Muhammad Aslam, Abdullah and Abdul Hakim who masterminded the attack, from a local mosque. They belong to the banned militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba. They were very clever people. They kept changing their statements during investigations, but now they have confessed to masterminding and carrying out the bomb attack near Naseerabad,” said Yaqub. He said the suspects had trained at camps in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s tenure, but he would not say whether they were involved in previous sectarian attacks.

“They are terrorists and their trial will be held very soon,” he said. The suspects and their lawyers were not available for comment. All four have been in police custody for the past month.

Balochistan: skirting the core issue

By M. Abul Fazal

The political solution of the Balochistan problem on the lines it is being sought by the federal government, addresses every question except the core issue - the structural crisis in the province.

The fact is that the so-called sardari system has long outlived whatever usefulness it may have had. Now it is a fetter on the economic progress of the people of Balochistan and an obstacle to their political evolution.

The government's attempt to skirt this core issue in its effort to resolve the crisis there is as inane as its hope to bring about economic development of the country without land reforms.

The sardari system has been engendered by the backwardness of the province - a backwardness that it owes both to nature and to history. But the system's present shape is the result of the British policy under which Balochistan was entirely a strategic question, subordinated to imperial military needs. The survival of the sardari system up to the present times, in turn, holds back change.

Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan, covers almost 350,000 square kilometres. But only six per cent of its area is under cultivation. The agricultural productivity is low due to aridity, except in the irrigated areas of Kacchi. This forces the rest of the population to depend upon pastoralism, auxiliary work, etc., which naturally contributes to the survival of tribalism.

Tribalism can express itself in a number of pre-capitalist modes of production. But it seems to survive best with a pastoral one, because this mode is not only the product of the extreme poverty of land, it is able to achieve a stable equilibrium at a low level of productivity. Pastoralism thus most often appears as the principal branch of production in a tribal society.

The pastoral mode of production has two means of production - land and cattle (including sheep, goat, etc.). The first is usually communal, though access to it can, in certain circumstances, be controlled by the tribal chief. The second is owned by individuals.

There is a contradiction between the two kinds of ownership. But the poor quality of the land and the backwardness of the tools of production required by pastoralism do not permit the growth of productivity to a stage where a dominant exploiting class can arise within the tribe.

This is the origin of the claim of equality of all members of the tribe, as well as of the sentiment of loyalty to it. Secondly, in a pastoral economy, cattle is both the "capital" and the product. But its growth does not depend on the quality of the tools. It requires more intensive labour, which means that a larger family can have a bigger herd, though a limit is imposed upon the herd's expansion by the amount of pasturage available. This is usually circumscribed by the total amount of land owned by the tribe and the manner of its use by it.

On the other hand, more land does not necessarily lead to a bigger herd due to the insurmountable limits to the yield of labour in this branch of production, which is another barrier to differentiation within the tribe and the emergence of an exploiting stratum in it.

True, in spite of low productivity, some surplus can be accumulated by a small stratum engaged in trade with the city. However, this stratum is unable to turn into an exploiting class because of insufficient monetization and the lack of motivation for production in a subsistence economy.

Lastly, even where pastoralism exists in symbiosis with sedentary agriculture, as in some parts of Balochistan, it never synthesizes with it. Thus the two kinds of activity do not play the role that differentiation plays within the economy to carry it up.

Furthermore, since pastoralism prevents a division of labour between physical and mental work, it does not promote literacy. The common Balochs, thus kept outside the threshold of science, are paternistically referred to by the chiefs as "the simple folk of Balochistan", by which they mean naive and a people which resents progress.

In short, pastoralism is not capable of engendering the kind of inner tension which breaks the equilibrium in other modes of production, enabling them to move to a higher mode.

The tribal chief was needed originally not to rule the tribe but to organize its defence against outsiders and generally look after its interests in dealings with the outside world.

Low productivity precludes his material existence being much above that of others in the tribe, though he may levy contributions upon the tribe, mainly in the form of unpaid labour or cattle-heads.

His income can rise visibly higher only through an infusion of money from outside the pastoral or tribal economy e.g. subsidy, royalty, tribute or illegal activities on the national frontiers. Thus, the pastoral socio-economic formation, bound to a subsistence level of production, is like a primitive biological organism, endowed with longevity but incapable of evolving.

Balochistan's modern history can be said to have begun in the seventeenth century when a tribal confederation was created there, led by Ahmed Khan of Kalat. His descendant, Nasir Khan, was able to bring all the tribal chiefs in the province under his hegemony in the next century.

However, tension persisted between the Khans of Kalat and the tribal chiefs, who, while recognizing him as suzerain, kept tugging at the central power. And it was these chiefs who, while accepting payments from Sir Robert Sandeman, the British officer, joined him in forcing the Khan of Kalat to submit to British supremacy though the treaty of 1854.

Under it, Kalat gave control of its foreign relations to the British in return for an annual subsidy of Rs 50,000. Then, the various tribal chiefs or sardars gradually began to receive subsidies directly from the British, in fact, becoming British agents for their tribes. Thus laid the basis of the sardari system which, in spite of its formal abolition in 1976, is still with us.

As independence approached, Kalat claimed that it was different from other "native states" of British India as it had accepted British control only of its foreign relations and not British paramountcy.

Thus it declared "independence" two days before Pakistan's independence and, at one stage, even attempted to join India on certain terms but the attempt was rebuffed by Nehru.

The Quaid-i-Azam advised the Khan of Kalat to accede to Pakistan but the Khan demanded a guarantee that no change would be made in "the historic traditions and customs of the Baloch without their consent".

This simply meant that the tribal organization, with all its oppression and stubborn backwardness, would be left undisturbed. The Quaid, of course, refused. Meanwhile, Makran, Kharan and Lasbela acceded to Pakistan.

Kalat did so in March, 1948 only under the threat of police action by the federal government. Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai, the leader of the Pakhtuns, who inhabited northern Balochistan, too opposed the accession of the Baloch states to Pakistan.

Following independence, various tribal chiefs entered politics on the basis of the strength of their tribes. They joined parties like the National Awami Party (NAP), which stood for maximum "provincial autonomy" which was really a programme to render the federal government incapable of leading the country's economic development.

This, in spite of the fact that a backward country, buffeted by the forces of the world capitalist market, cannot industrialize its economy without centralized accumulation, which only a strong central government can undertake.

Powerful tribal leaders like Akbar Bugti, Khair Bux Marri and Ataullah Mengal, together with Ghaus Bux Bizenjo, held sway in Baloch politics till the seventies. The first three were heads of their tribes, while the last one rose on his political merit and, moreover, brought young, educated Balochs into politics.

At the same time, a middle class, independent of tribes and tribalism, made its appearance. However, it was weak and thus unable to present itself as an independent alternative to the tribal leaders. Therefore, its politics had to take the route of Baloch "nationalism" which by its nature is based on class collaboration.

The tribal leaders added some socialist slogans to the programme of the NAP, to which they belonged, to give it a "progressive" touch and to keep the support of the young middle class intellectuals.

Thus, Lenin seems to have come in handy to all sorts of people. Z.A. Bhutto saved the feudal class, while destroying the industrial bourgeoisie, the hope of our future, under a socialist slogan. The tribal leaders caught hold of his theory of national self-determination to try to protect the most backward features of Baloch society.

In the elections of 1970, the NAP captured all the three National Assembly seats from Balochistan and also formed the provincial government in Quetta. Power has the merit of revealing the class character of a party. It did not fail to do so in this case.

The young middle class Balochs, who had worked ardently for the electoral success of the NAP, discovered, not for the first (and certainly not the last) time, that every nationalism's class alliance serves the interest exclusively of the exploiting class; the petit bourgeois was again confronted with the fact that the resolution of contradictions between classes inside his head is not the same as their resolution in reality. Thus the contradiction between the Baloch Students Organization and the NAP was complete by the time Bhutto dismissed the latter's government in Balochistan

Now the sardars took to armed resistance to the federal government's efforts to improve the infrastructure in the province, terming it neo-colonialism. However, their leftist posture was now meaningless as they moved steadily towards cooperation with the post-Bhutto military regime in Islamabad.

What was important for them were not slogans like, "free" Balochistan, the confederation or Baloch "rights" within the federation, but the protection of their power and privileges within the tribal structure. These were now sought to be secured through deals with Islamabad.

The sardars had originally dreamt of an independent Balochistan, as the province was said to be rich in many minerals, including oil. An independent Balochistan could therefore become a rentier state, whose mineral wealth would be exploited by multinationals paying huge royalties to the Baloch rulers - a sort of out-sized Qatar or Abu Dhabi. As the Pakistan state proved too powerful to be subdued, the sardars moved to attain their objective within Pakistan.

Now they demand "royalty" from any enterprise in Balochistan, whether Pakistani or foreign - a royalty which should be due to the federal government. And they want a share in road-building contracts that they earlier denounced as neo-colonial.

How can anyone reject the right of the government of Pakistan to decide about where to station armed forces units within the country? Or its right, indeed the duty, to promote development? But the federal government has reduced its choice of action to either military operation or bargaining with the tribal chiefs. Incidentally, this too was the policy of the British rulers because Balochistan was of no economic interest to them. It was only of military interest to them.

But how can this be the policy of Islamabad? Hence, there is a contradiction in the federal government's perception of considering Balochistan as one of the federating units of the country having an equal status, on the one hand, and its preference to strike deals with its tribal chiefs, on the other.

No one expects the government to be promoting a class struggle in the province. But it has to take into account the full spectrum of the political forces there, specially since the middles class forces, not to talk of the working class, are growing, while the traditional power-brokers are weakening. Hence, the need for the tribal forces to use force and make a nuisance of themselves.

The government has to stand firm against war lordism and draw the emerging bourgeoisie and the lower middle class into politics. It has to isolate the sardars, as the relics of the past, and not treat them as its sole interlocutors in Balochistan.

PONMSA to boycott Balochistan University convocation

By our correspondent

QUETTA: The office-bearers of the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement Students Alliance (PONMSA) on Friday announced to boycott the 5th annual convocation of the Balochistan University to be held on Saturday (today) against the arrests of activists of a students organisation.

Addressing a news conference, central leader of PONM student alliance Khalil Baloch said the activists of the student organisations would stage a protest demonstration in front of Quetta Press Club during their ongoing protest movement against the arrests of over a dozen activists of the students organisation on the same day.

Giving details about their protest campaign, he said protest demonstrations would be staged in front of Balochistan Assembly on April 21. Similarly, the demonstrations would also be staged in Loralai district on April 23 and in Mastung on April 26.

He added that a public meeting would be held on April 30 in front of the QPC to protest against the police action in the university and deployment of the police force in the campus. He alleged that the government had turned the educational institutions into police stations by deploying police force there.

He said that the police had arrested Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, Ahmed Jan, Dr Imdad and other office-bearers of the student organisations without any justification. He claimed that students were being punished for their affiliation with nationalists' political parties of the province.

Rocket fire in Dalbandin

By our correspondent

QUETTA: Unknown armed men fired two rockets at the microwave station in Dalbandin area of district on Friday Chaghai, damaging the boundary wall of the station. Levies officials told The News that there was no loss of life in the firing.

Sardar Hasani joins PML

By our correspondent

QUETTA: Former provincial president of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hasani has announced to join the Pakistan Muslim League, expressing his confidence over the PML leadership. He said this in the presence of Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Muhammad Yousuf at the Chief Minister Secretariat here on Friday. Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hasni said the PML played an important role in the development of the country, especially Balochistan. He said he decided to join the PML because of the policies of the present government as well as the efforts made by the Muslim League for restoring democracy in the country.


At 12:17 PM, Blogger Zedwheels said...

Hello Baloch Freedom Movement, I've just been playing Serious Sam 2 before getting down to do some research into chart currency trading; on the whole I'd rather continue playing. First place I came to was Balochistan: skirting the core issue so I've been having a goog time reading your blog. There are some ideas that I could maybe incorporate into chart currency trading to make it more useful. Thank you!


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