Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Interview : Senator Sanaullah Baloch

Right to self-rule

Sana Baloch

(Note: Senator Sanaullah Baloch is secretary information of Balochistan National Party. Mr. Baloch recently gave an interview to The News. It is an interesting reading. We are pasting the excerpts from the interview with thanks from the News. Interview was made by Raza Khan Muhammadzai)

What is the real problem in Balochistan?

Sana Baloch: The real problem in Balochistan is (a lack of) province's recognition as a federating unit of Pakistan. Balochistan became part of Pakistan as a result of agreements reached on 17th and 27th of March, 1948. In these agreements, Balochistan was ensured by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the (federal) government that if the province became a part of Pakistan, its interests would be given priority. The province was promised a special status within Pakistan. These things are clearly mentioned in a speech that Jinnah made on 4th October, 1947. Otherwise, the upper and lower houses of that time Baloch parliament had virtually refused to join Pakistan. Today the (federal) government says that Sardars are rogues but the agreements that we are talking of were not signed by any middle class Baloch man or political activist. The referendum of the Shahi Jirga of Quetta which had to take place (to decide on the issue) comprised of Sardars and Nawabs.

In the present scenario, Balochistan problems have not been understood, realized or addressed. Just 20 days after Balochistan accession to Pakistan on 27th March, 1948, first military operation was launched in the province on 15th April, 1948. Then came one-unit, making Baloch to demand for the special status they were promised. These demands resulted in the second military operation that started on 6th October, 1958. Many leaders (of the movement for special status) were hanged and scores sent to prison. In 1969, another very aggressive military operation was launched in the Marri area. The fourth military operation in 1973 had no justification because the province was then being run by a democratic coalition government of Sardar Attaullah Mengal, National Awami Party (NAP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). This government in its short nine month tenure established first university, first medical college, and first board of intermediate and secondary education in Balochistan. All this development was not liked by Iran, (Zulfikar Ali) Bhutto and the United States (because of increasing Soviet influence in neighboring Afghanistan where they wanted to support religious elements as a counter measure). Baloch basically belong to a liberal political culture and there is very little religious extremism among them. So, (after failing to secure Baloch support for the Afghan affairs) the democratic government of Baloch was dissolved and a massive military operation was launched in the province in which 5,000 Baloch were martyred and 3,500 military and paramilitary troops were killed. The operation continued till 1977.

So, this is the real issue. We Baloch in the 21st century demand our just constitutional and legal political rights. For instance, we say that if oil and gas is extracted from the land of our ancestors then we have the right over the revenue it generates. If God has gifted a coastline to Balochistan, then the control of Baloch over it should be recognized. We must have the right to plan (for the promotion of) our culture, language, education and for our identity and (we must have the right) to spend money on these plans. Then we should be allowed to rely on ourselves as far as leadership, politics and planning are concerned.

(But in response to all these demands), the fifth military operation has been launched in Balochistan since July 2004. As part of this operation, 584 check posts have been established and about 33,000 Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel along with 12,000 coast-guards deployed (in the province). Many brigades of army have also been deployed and intelligence network has expended.

Instead of resolving (our) small and legitimate problems, the (federal) government has taken an aggressive attitude. This is the main reason for the mistrust between Balochistan and the federation. In case, attempts are made to maintain status quo (on these problems), the situation will further aggravate.

Do you mean that there is a fully-fledge military operation going on in Balochistan?

Sana Baloch: In fact, military operation has never ended in Balochistan. Since 1977 deployment of military and paramilitary forces has continued. Unfortunately, these forces are working on the same colonial structure which is a legacy of the British Raj. Surprisingly, of the 33,000 FC men (deployed in Balochistan) only 300 belong to the province. Pakistan's 70 per cent coastline falls in Balochistan but only 98 Baloch are part of the 12,000 coast-guards deployed in the province. Even in the British period, exploitation of Balochistan was not so structural as it is now. When we demanded that the FC should comprise of Baloch, we are being bombarded.

In Pakistan, the able leadership of Balochistan as well as other small provinces has never been allowed to govern. They have been treated as suspect characters.

How different is the current situation in Balochistan from the past?

Sana Baloch: As far as (Balochistan) liberal political tradition is concerned, even today nationalist political parties work under a liberal and secular political philosophy. Our's is a democratic and political course which is unacceptable for the undemocratic posture of Islamabad. So to defeat this philosophy of ours, intelligence agencies with funding from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries are setting up madrassas in Balochistan. A particular group which enjoys special privileges is being inducted in the political structure of Balochistan. They are semi-literate, religious extremists. (But) they are a gathering of people without any political acumen.

Do you mean that the differences between Baloch nationalists and Islamabad are also philosophical?

Sana Baloch: The issue of Balochistan is simultaneously political, psychological, cultural and geographical. It is either the good luck or the bad luck of Balochistan that its geographical location is of extreme strategic and economic importance.

People of Balochistan are culturally different from other nations of South Asia. Our attitude and traditions are different from the mainstream sub-continental traditions. Above all, people in Islamabad do not believe in the political norms in which we believe. So overall the differences in thinking between them and us have given rise to this tussle. They are unable to understand us and we cannot follow them. They are trying to paint us in their color while we are striving to protect our politics and traditions through the mechanism of self-defense.

As a Baloch, how do you view Pakistan's future?

Sana Baloch: USSR (Union of Socialist Soviet Republics) used to call itself a federation but due to its centralized political structure, it dismembered. Yugoslavia is another recent example. In Indonesia, East Timor could not be kept within the federation. In Iraq, the success that the Kurds had suggests the same trend.

If Pakistan, despite all these instances, does not adopt a loose federal structure and real decentralization of power, its political future will not appear to be very bright. If a country wants to survive in the modern world, then it will have to keep modern political experiences in view. In Pakistan, there are only five major nationalities while there are states excellently working as loose federations even though they contain 35-36 nationalities.

What is the economic future of Balochistan?

Sana Baloch: It has the most prosperous economic future in the region. Balochistan has two of the five largest reserves of gold/copper in the world. The province has 19 billion barrels of off-shore oil and six trillion cubic feet off-shore gas. From our on-shore deposits of gas in the province, Pakistan has been benefiting since 1953. There are a lot of other minerals and metals (in the province). Unfortunately, 2000 people have died due to drought in the area where gold and copper deposits lie. In Balochistan.

What's your view on the allegation that the US is behind nationalist activities in Balochistan?

Sana baloch: In a country which is a victim of internal political instability, where institutions do not function, where there is no room for democracy, where there is no political space for either political or religious minorities, there is no need for the US or some other outsider to interfere. So, I do not think that some foreign power is involved in Balochistan. The deprivations in Balochistan are so profound and massive that people don't need outsiders to know about them. When our children die in front of us, our young people commit suicides due to unemployment and our women have to fetch water from 50 miles afar, then it gives rise to reaction, militancy, hate, violence and mistrust. All responsibility for this situation lies with the rulers of Islamabad. It is due to their wrong policies and d above all due to their strategic intentions that Balochistan is seething in anger. Until 1992, Balochistan was intentionally kept backward due to 'national' strategic ends conceived by the strategic elites of Pakistan. They did not want Balochistan to become economically attractive place. if they have opened up Balochistan a bit since 1992, it is again for their own exploitation. (What they are doing in the province) is not development, its exploitation. Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) is doing exactly what East India Company did.

You have talked about Iranian involvement in Balochistan in 1970s. What is Tehran's role in the present crisis?

Sana Baloch: On one side we have an extremist Shia state which suppress Baloch and on the other there is Islamabad which also suppress them. Both have their own interests which they want to achieve from Balochistan. I may add that if Tehran and Islamabad stick to their policies regarding Balochistan, they will have to face the consequences. Baloch nation has become used to starvation and hunger; it has faced poverty and seen military operations. The dream of pipelines, economic development, prosperity and stability will prove a pipe dream for both Tehran and Islamabad without resolving the Baloch issue. We are annoyed by Islamabad's attitude but we are not happy with the Iranian behavior as well.

Do you believe that the dream of a Baloch state can be realized in the existing international situation?

Sana Baloch: Baloch do not want to establish a big separate state. But at least they can expect from both the countries to give Baloch children the right to speak and write their own language. Baloch should be free in cultural affairs and in planning for development. Above all, the ownership of the development projects in their area must rest with Baloch. While we are ready to share the benefits of these development projects with others, we do not tolerate someone taking away everything from us and then giving something to us as in charity. The dream of development of Balochistan can only be realized by Baloch themselves. The development of Balochistan should not be dictated by changes in international situation. Baloch have the capacity to develop economically by leaps and bounds provided they get a little bit of self-rule.

Do you think that the constitutional package being proposed by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League can rectify the situation?

Sana baloch: Subjects on the Constitution's concurrent list are of social nature. They do not concern geo-political, economic and political questions. Even if Balochistan is given the jurisdiction over subjects in the concurrent list, Islamabad will still remain the centre of power. To make Pakistan a workable federation, a new equitable social contract is urgently required among all the nationalities living in the country. Most importantly, there should be a guarantee against any future military coups. If they happen nevertheless, the nationalities should have the right to decide their destiny themselves.


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