Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Dynamics of Baloch Resistance in Pakistan


By: Dr. Naseer Dashti

The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices - submit or fight. For a majority of conscious Baloch that time has now come to Baloch people. A growing fear of cultural, economic and political domination has prompted an extensive discussion among Baloch nationalists in Pakistan for formulating a viable and feasible strategy for countering the ever-dominating maneuvers of the state. The discussion regarding participation in the legal and constitutional bodies of the state is a hot topic of discussion especially among youth and students. Baloch political elite are also conscious of far-reaching repercussions of recent political and strategic changes in the world polity in general and the region in particular. The nationalist leadership and groups in Balochistan are increasingly under pressure from different quarters to forge a united front of patriotic forces on a common minimum program of national salvation. The recent proposal by one of prominent Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akber Bugti regarding the formation of a single Baloch political party is heatedly being debated throughout Balochistan and abroad. Whether a single party or a united front, it is a widely shared view among Baloch that there is a need to develop a common, united platform of all sections of the nationalist movement. This article is a brief discussion on the dynamics of the present phase of Baloch national struggle in Pakistan.

The Baloch National Question in Pakistan

The National Question concerns the oppression of one or a number of other people/s by a dominant colonial power. Consequently, the right to self-determination or to national independence exclusively can be claimed by the oppressed. Balochistan was conquered by force and is today ruled by force. At moments when the occupier feels itself threatened, it does not hesitate to use the gun. When the gun is not in use other devices are brought into play in an attempt to crush the Baloch people’s genuine political and economical aspirations and to mutilate the cultural and traditional values of Baloch people. These include legal and administrative terror, fear, social and economic pressures. Deliberate confusions are being generated by the propaganda of state machinery and the education system highlighting the grandeur of a non existing Islamic Umma and the “holy” Pakistani culture. Whether in reserve or in actual employment, brutal force is ever present and this has been so since the incorporation of Balochistan in to Pakistan in 1948.

Massive military crack downs of atrocious proportion waged against Baloch people in 1948, 1958, 1973 and the present military operation in Marri, Bugti, Jhalawan and Southern Balochistan is the latest in this series.
Attempts to the eradication of Baloch culture by denying education in mother tongue and superimposition of north Indian language and culture on Baloch people and non-acknowledgement of a Baloch existence as a separate national entity within Pakistan. The Pakistani national state has been adopting an approach of induced assimilation to the dominant nationality. National integration that is the creation to a novel Islamic nation from several ethnic nationalities as part of their nation-building efforts.
Gaining hold of the Baloch land by encouraging settlers from majority nationality to move to northern Balochistan, for example, in Quetta and Sibi in the past and the recent allotment and occupation of the thousands of acres of lands in the coastal belt and the planned settlement of 2.5 million people in Gwadar.
Subjugation tactics by the use of armed violence, state terror against Baloch, such as with the use of torture, selective killing of Baloch elite by fomenting intertribal and intra-tribal conflicts by various state agencies.
A ‘state of siege’ has been imposed on Balochistan through police, paramilitary and coast guard repressions.
Electing or selecting government functionaries have imposed an indirect or internal colonial rule by manipulating and under hand tactics of government agencies.
Keeping Balochistan intentionally backward while ruthlessly exploiting its natural resources for the benefit of majority nationality.
Encouraging fundamentalist religious elements allied with state establishment and funded and patronized by it to take over, in the long run the very fabric of a secular Baloch society.
In all the institutions of Pakistan, the Baloch are practically and statutorily excluded from the political, economical and cultural processes of the state. Political power, except for some marginally delegated powers to provinces, is explicitly the monopoly of the central government dominated by Punjabis. The Baloch people are being ruled as a conquered and colonized people. All of this is being rationalized on the basis of ideology of Pakistan, the core of this ideology is the conquest and domination of the minority nationalities of Pakistan, Baloch among those is the most exploited and oppressed.

Balochistan has been ruled in a manner of indirect colonial rule. Conquest and domination by an alien people, a system of discrimination and exploitation based on ethnicity, technique of indirect rule; are the traditional trappings of the classical colonial framework. From the very beginning Non-entities were duly crowned as “chiefs", of the different Baloch tribes by the state establishment in order to corner the genuine Baloch leadership. Parties were created in Balochistan to fragmentize Baloch society among middle, lower and upper classes. In the name of elections, agents of state security agencies were “elected or projected” as the representatives of Baloch masses. These "representative and leaders of Baloch masses" were and are being encouraged to enrich themselves by all means provided they are prepared to do the bidding of the state establishment. The so-called incorporation in the provincial power structure of some "Baloch" leaders is a thorough corruption of colonial traditions and merely an extension of majority domination by proxy. The system of proxy or indirect rule has been favored by many colonial powers throughout history. In the Pakistani context its purpose is creating a class of relatively privileged Balochs who would thus acquire a direct material interest in the preservation of the institutions of national domination at the expense of their own people. The fact that some of these collaborator tribal chiefs and leaders of so-called Baloch middle class could trace descent from those heads of tribes and other notables who sided with the Pakistani establishment from the very beginning is quite interesting. The state is also fostering and propagating non existing intertribal and intra-tribal rivalries among those Baloch tribes whose chiefs are leading the Baloch national struggle. This is to combat, not only the nationalist tribal chiefs with the help of their own people, but more importantly to crush, an inclusive, Baloch Nationalism.

The national question of Baloch is an old sociological reality historically constituted. Baloch never accepted the partition of their homeland Balochistan, in the aftermath of the unjust decisions of the boundary commissions reached between British Empire, Persia and Afghanistan during 19th century and annexation of Kalat State by Pakistan in 1948. The Baloch demand for self-rule constitutes a democratic pursuit that is incompatible with the despotism and religious-based nationalism of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The Baloch resistance movements in Iran and Pakistan had all the same background - the will of national liberation. In the contemporary world many politically unstable African and Asian countries include disparate ethnic nationalities, frequently embattled because of national boundaries that were artificially drawn by European colonialists. In spite of the diversity of struggle in the 20th century, the Baloch struggle was for a purely nationalist agenda aiming to replace foreign rule by a native rule.

The Baloch Options

Baloch masses firmly believe that Baloch identity is more at peril than ever before. Baloch have suffered more than just national humiliation. Baloch people are deprived of their due in the country's wealth; their skills have been suppressed and poverty and starvation has been their life experience. The so-called democratic institutions such as district governments, provincial assemblies and federal bodies are a gross insult to Baloch national inspiration and mockery of federalism in Pakistan. These have proved in practice to be blind alleys serving mainly as a delaying tactic to ensure the prolongation of the period of Punjabi domination over Baloch and other nationalities. There is disillusionment among the majority of Baloch with the prospect of achieving national salvation by traditional peaceful processes. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to the domination and cultural and economical exploitation had been closed by the state, and Baloch are placed in a position in which they had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the state. Many politically active groups are in firm belief that under the highly sophisticated police state of Pakistan it is questionable whether a movement can succeed in a program of mass political organization beyond a certain point without starting a new type of action. And the only option left for them is to answer the state violence with armed resistance of the oppressed masses. But are the conditions favorable for an all out struggle including armed resistance by Baloch masses?

In the typical colonial-type situation armed resistance becomes feasible only if:

There is readiness to respond to the strategy of armed struggle with all the enormous sacrifices which this involves;
There is in existence a political leadership capable of gaining the organized allegiance of the people for armed struggle and which has both the experience and the ability to carry out the painstaking process of planning, preparation and overall conduct of the operations.
There exist favorable objective conditions in the international and regional polity.
From the time alien rule was imposed on Baloch people there has been - historically speaking - unbroken resistance to the domination. It has taken different forms at different times but it has never been abandoned. There were regular armed clashes, and battles. The superior material resources of the enemy, the divided and often fragmented nature of the resistance, the unchallenged ascendancy of imperialism as a world system, the historically understandable absence of political cohesion and leadership in the Baloch camp; these and other factors combined to end the past phases of Baloch resistance against foreign domination in defeat and confusion.

Regarding the support of the world community to their cause they believe that on international level a polarization of forces has occurred. There are forces of fundamentalism, and terrorism creating chaos and instability. There are forces which would like the world to be a safe place for all humanity acknowledging the birth right of different nations, nationalities and ethnic groups to be governed by the representatives of their own selection, in their own cultural and traditional ways. On the face of it major western powers such as Britain, Germany, France and the United States and Japan who have an enormous stake in the ongoing war against terrorism constitute a formidable support for the rogue state. Already they have done much to develop the economy and armament program of the state. But there is the wide spread belief among the political observers on international affairs that the support of western alliance to states like Pakistan with a fundamentalist establishment and nuclear potentials is a temporary one and a major strike by western powers is on card against such rogue states.

In one sense conditions are connected and interdependent. They are not created by subjective and ideological activity only. These conditions are brought about not only by developing political, economic and social conditions but also by the long hard grind of resistance movement. They depend on such factors as the response of the enemy, the strength and weaknesses of the enemy and the experience gained by the people themselves not in academic seminars but in actual political struggle. The new and apparently the final phase of struggle of Baloch people is taking place in the context of a new world political milieu, in which the fundamentalist and religious and rogue states are increasingly under pressure from world community to reform their social, economic and political systems. Baloch are part of the zone in which international pressure is highest on the countries where Baloch are being subjugated as a nationality.

Majority of the Baloch intellectuals and writers and conscious leadership believe this a deceitful excuse that the Baloch landmass is not capable of sustaining a protracted resistance. It is also not convincing for them that actual phase for the struggle for national rights is put off because they have not achieved an adequate level of preparation and organization. They also dispute the argument that the international situation is not favorable for a Baloch uprising. Many elements in nationalist circles believe that in the present world scenario what the Baloch as a nation must now do is to develop a program to be put into effect in the event of certain expectable and inevitable geo-political upheavals in the region. They believe in carrying out the struggle on the basis of an authentic Baloch identity and on the basis of right of self-determination.

The enemy is not invincible

The decades of indoctrination of state armed forces and the masses and deeply felt theoretical rationalization which centre on survival of the state on brute force will make enemy, the Baloch face, a ferocious and formidable foe. There is the reinforced feeling of confidence among Pakistani ruling elite that their fortress is impregnable and unassailable considering the state’s immense military power and nuclear capability. For the moment apparently, the Baloch face what is by and large a united and confident enemy and all significant sections of the dominant nationality are in broad agreement on the question of defeating Baloch struggle for national emancipation. Although it looks that the state is in stable command and can afford an enormous military budget. But if there is one lesson that the history of national liberation struggles has taught, it is that the material strength and resources of the enemy is by no means a decisive factor. Armed resistance by a suppressed people almost by definition presents a situation in which there is a vast imbalance of material and military resources between the opposing sides. It is designed to cope with the situation in which the enemy is infinitely superior in relation to every conventional factor of warfare. Protracted guerilla warfare is par excellence the weapon of the materially weak against the materially strong. Given its popular character and given a population which increasingly sides with and shields the armed insurgents whilst at the same time opposing and exposing the enemy, the survival and growth of an armed resistance is assured by the skilful exercise of tactics. Superior forces can thus be harassed, weakened and, in the end, destroyed. The absence of an orthodox front, of fighting lines; the need to protect the widely scattered installations on which the state economy is dependent; these are among the factors which serve in the long run to compensate in favor of the armed resistance for the disparity in the starting strength of the adversaries.

The mobilization of a large force in the course of a protracted struggle will place a further burden on the workings of the economy of the state. The most favorable factor concerning the confrontation of Baloch and state is that the enemy resources are all situated within the reach of Baloch resistance forces and theatre of war can easily be extended to the heartland of Punjab and there will remain no secure asset safe from sabotage, and armed action.

Physical environment which conforms to a special pattern is indispensable regarding arm resistance- thick jungle, inaccessible mountain areas, swamps, and a friendly border and so on. But guerrilla warfare can be, and has been, waged in every conceived type of terrain, in deserts, in farm fields, in built-up areas, in plains, in the bush and in countries without friendly borders or islands surrounded by the sea. This whole question is one of adjusting survival tactics to the sort of terrain in which operations have to be carried out. There might not appear to be a single impregnable mountain or impenetrable jungle but Baloch land abounds in terrain which in general is certainly no less favorable for guerrilla operations than some of the terrains in which other armed resistance movements operated successfully in Asia and Africa. Balochistan tremendous size will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the occupational forces to keep the whole of it under armed surveillance in strength and in depth. It is necessary to stress these factors not only because they give balance to the efforts of Baloch nationalist forces but because - properly assessed - they help destroy the myth of the enemy's invincibility.

Political Control over Armed Resistance

To ignore the real situation and to play about with imaginary forces, concepts and ideals is to invite failure. The revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always the spring-board for revolutionary advance. Indeed what appears to be "militant" and "revolutionary" can often be counter-revolutionary. Untimely, ill planned or premature manifestations of violence impede and do not advance the prospect for the achievement of ultimate aim and are clearly counter-productive. It is obvious therefore that policy and organizational structures must grow out of the real situation if they are not to become meaningless clichés. The new phase of Baloch national struggle is occurring in a new situation. It is taking place in a different era and in a different context from those which characterized the early struggles. It is happening in a new kind of world - a world which is no longer bipolar.

The armed struggle is the political struggle by means which include the use of military force even though once force as a tactic is introduced it has the most far-reaching consequences on every aspect of a society or a movement. The riot, the street fight, the outburst of unorganized violence, individual terrorism; these are symptoms of the militant spirit but are not being appreciated in today’s international political milieu. The winning of freedom for a nation by armed struggle demands more than passion. It demands an understanding and an implementation of theory and techniques in the actual conditions facing the nation. It demands a sober assessment of the obstacles and an appreciation that such a struggle is bitter and protracted. It demands, too, the dominance in the general thinking among resistance cadres of achievement over drama.

Many experts on liberation struggle reject the approach which sees only the short-cut of isolated confrontations and the creation of armed resistance centers as the catalyst for revolutionary transformation of the oppressed masses. Also, it is not easy to determine the point at which sufficient concrete political and organizational preparations have been carried out to give the armed resistance pockets the maximum chances of survival and growth within any given area. There is no instrument for measuring this. But the importance of the subjective factors must not be overdone and before embarking upon a path which is in one sense tragic, although historically inevitable and necessary, certain of the basic minimum conditions already mentioned must be present and certain minimum preparations must have been made. It is important to emphasize this because national liberation movement must reject all manifestations of militarism which separates armed people's struggle from its political context.

Perhaps in today’s realities the dangers of the obsolete doctrines of 1950s and 1960s regarding the creation of armed resistance areas (foci) as the generator of mass resistance should be analyzed properly. One of the vital problems connected with this bears on the important question of the relationship between the political and military. There should be no ambiguity concerning this. The primacy of the political leadership should be unchallenged and supreme and all militant units should be subordinate to political leadership. This approach is borne out by the experience of the overwhelming majority of national liberation movements which have engaged in such struggle. With the historical background and traditions of Baloch resistance in Pakistan and Iran, within the memory of many people and the special developments of the immediate past, the involvement of the masses is unlikely to be the result of a sudden natural and automatic consequence of military clashes. It has to be won in all-round political mobilization accompanied with armed activities. This includes extensive counter propaganda and agitation throughout Baloch land and internationally to cope with the sophisticated torrent of misleading propaganda and disinformation of the enemy which will become more intense as the struggle sharpens. The masses have to be activated in a multitude of ways not only to ensure a growing stream of recruits for the fighting units but to harass the enemy politically so that his forces are dispersed and therefore weakened. This calls for the exercise of all-round political leadership.

The national liberation struggle is neither static nor does it take place in a vacuum. To believe that the course of struggle is determined solely by the fighting units involves the fallacious assumption that the masses are rock like and incorruptible and they will join the struggle automatically. The adversary is aware that the side wins the allegiance of the people, wins the struggle. In fact history proves that without the most intensive all-round political activity this is the more likely that the result may not be positive. It is therefore all the more vital that the leadership of the national liberation movement is nation-wide and has its roots both inside and outside the actual areas of combat. The confidence in final victory rests not on the wish or the dream but on the understanding of the prevailing conditions and the historical processes. This understanding must be deepened and must spread to every level of our society.

The Quest for a Baloch National Front

Politics of any kind is successful but only when backed by firm resoluteness, clear ideology and robust leadership. In the course of active defence who will lead the Baloch masses through this struggle? It is the most decisive issue. Policy could be realistic when it is based on the actual conditions of the people concerned and their enemy, and the world in general. It is, therefore, not the matter of one’s choice but that necessity that leadership should have correct assessment of any situation through close investigations. The leaders who are unable to adjust to the new mood of Baloch masses fell by the wayside. It is imperative that Baloch leadership and intelligentsia must recognise this hard fact that anyone who proposes to serve his people must not expect people to roll stones out of his way, but must accept his lot calmly if they even roll a few more upon it.

The solidarity of Baloch masses and leadership is necessary in the given circumstances. Political leadership must reason and act. In order to do so intelligently, they need to deal with and reason about this challenging situation. The intelligentsia and leadership will have to shed their scepticism; they will have to abandon grumbling and wavering on important national issues. They should be clear and loud and unambiguous on the question of our national identity and our right to rule. They have to reach the people and speak a language that the Baloch masses can appreciate and international community can understand.

How should the common enemy be confronted? What is the solution, and who should mount the charge? The historical responsibility rests on every patriot to call for a Baloch National Front - involving the total mobilization of all nationalist forces. Such a coalition would attract huge popular support. The cohesion and unity of action between the various national and social groupings comprising the National Front will reach new heights. All this will constitute not only moral justifications for a move towards a comprehensive and all out resistance movement, but, what is more important, conditions will be created making a departure in correct direction.

The program of this front must be reflective of the genuine needs and aspirations of Baloch masses. There should be no wavering between provincial autonomy and 1940 resolution etc. any more. The National Front should be of the conviction that both political and economic powers are inalienable rights of the people of Balochistan. Its mission therefore should be to contribute to the task of total political and economic emancipation of Baloch masses.
Keeping into account the skepticism of some leaders and groups regarding the “individuality syndrome” among Baloch leadership, the present initiative should not be an attempt to unify various factions into a single political party. However, the partners in the front should be prepared to address the question of unification and to promote ongoing debate and discussion on it and should keep the issue under review. Maintaining their separateness as political organizations, the various factions should develop collaboration politically and socially in order to bring the people of Balochistan closer together politically, to promote common understanding and ultimate unity.
The National Front should be committed to the development of democracy and freedom and the maintenance and protection of the right of the people of Balochistan to self-determination.
In the present circumstance the United Front of nationalists should not strive to win over the support of the established collaborators and opportunist leadership, rather it should concern the unity of the genuine nationalists themselves.
The National Front must not be a marriage of convenience but should be a political alliance based on a common, genuine regard for the achievement of the final aim of Baloch masses.
The National Front should have as its central issue the struggle against the opportunist ideology, which justifies capitulation.
It is also imperative to co-ordinate the activity of nationalist forces on the both side of Goldsmith Line.
The Baloch National Front should firmly believe in the organised power of the people as the motive force critical to the radical transformation of society and in our particular circumstances in the reconstruction of a new Baloch polity. It is only an organised people who can liberate themselves from political suppression and economic exploitation. It should be the embryo of a coalition of nationalists whose task should be to create conducive atmosphere under which all people are encouraged to participate in the struggle for their salvation.
The ideological creed of the Baloch National Front should be the creed of Baloch Nationalism. The Nationalism for which the national front should stands is the concept of freedom and prosperity for the Baloch people in their own land. It should be a struggle of the Baloch people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience.

Baloch National Front should be the most consistent advocate of an inclusive Baloch nationhood rooted in the Baloch history and cultural traditions with an outlook of modernity and keeping in to account the realities and imperatives of 21st century world polity. Therefore, not only the substance but the form of structural creations must be in a way which the people can see - give expression to the main emphasis of the present stage of our struggle. This national front will definitely withstood the onslaught of state action and propaganda which sadly enough very often is carried out by or through some “Baloch leaders”, through ignorance and fear but worse through selfishness, assist the oppressors directly or indirectly and thus tend to sabotage, though ineffectively, the efforts of Baloch masses to realize freedom in their lifetime.

The history of the liberation of people from the domination of another nation has always been through a terrific struggle involving much sacrifice and suffering on the part of the oppressed and that, therefore, the oppressed can have no cause to believe that they can attain freedom otherwise. All over the world and through all ages, liberation has come that way. Experiences of past Pakistani actions and taking into account of mindset of majority nationality in Pakistan it is convincing to believe that an armed resistance movement would offer the state of Pakistan limitless opportunities for the indiscriminate slaughter of Baloch people. But many in Baloch circles are in the opinion that as Baloch land is already drenched with the blood of innocent Baloch that it is the duty of every Baloch, to make preparations as a long-term undertaking, to use force in order to defend them against force. The ideal of liberation of one’s people and land is cherish-able and worth fighting for and if needs be it is an ideal for which one should be prepared to die.


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