Long live free and united Balochistan

Long live free and united Balochistan

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The terribly sad state of Balochistan

By Nosheen Ali
Published: May 23, 2011

The writer is a development sociologist, and a visiting scholar in the Center for South Asia Studies at University of California, Berkeley nosheen.ali@tribune.com.pk
In 2006, Pervez Musharraf launched a military operation in Balochistan and killed a former governor and elected chief minister of the province, Nawab Akbar Bugti. This was a watershed moment in the region, which radicalised even ordinary, apolitical Balochis to join the long-standing nationalist movement for regional rights and justice. More than 50,000 Baloch were displaced during the extended military operation that surrounded the killing. Even worse, national and international organisations were obstructed from providing humanitarian relief to those people who fled the violence. Unicef came out with a report on the condition of these IDPs and it was asked to retract it.

The military operation in Balochistan has only intensified over the last five years, with many in the province seeing it as nothing but a brutal form of state repression. Reportedly, more than 4,000 people have been illegally abducted and detained. Out of these, around 149 were later found dead, usually with their dead bodies found by the roadside. The dehumanising nature of the violence is evidenced not just in the ways people are tortured — with holes drilled in the head and bodies mutilated beyond recognition — but also in the way their bodies are discarded. One note accompanying a decomposed corpse said, “Eid gift for the Baloch”.

Those who have been kidnapped, tortured and killed are not just armed militants hiding in the mountains. A vast proportion of them are from the urban middle class, including students, engineers, lawyers, journalists and activists who have been engaging in civilian protest against what they perceive to be wrong policies of the state and the establishment. As the Guardian reported two months ago, a Baloch farmer went to court to file a case for his missing son but his lawyer was murdered. When he subsequently went to the media, the president of the local press club was murdered. Now, no one wishes to speak up for him.

In this situation, why should we be surprised or offended if some children in the province refuse to sing the national anthem and local schools refuse to fly the national flag? Why do we shudder when an increasing number of people in Balochistan — including women, for the first time — shout slogans that go against the existence of Pakistan. Every dead body is an embodiment of a renewed resolve to fight the policies of the centre. This, in turn, has brought about retaliatory violence. Armed Baloch groups have also resorted to horrific forms of indiscriminate violence. They used to blow up gas pipelines. Now they carry out target killings. Of Punjabi settlers, government servants, even Chinese engineers — any blood that the elite might care about.

To address the situation, the present civilian government had introduced the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package in November 2009, promising a ban on new military cantonments, a commission on enforced disappearances and payment of overdue gas royalties. This is exactly what was needed. But the Gilani government remains powerless in the face of the forces that continue to run and rampage Balochistan. US military aid was meant to train and equip the FC to fight the intrusion of the Taliban into Pakistan. Instead, a situation has arisen where Pakistan constantly has to hear accusations that it is sheltering the Taliban in Balochistan.

Forty years ago, the eminent sociologist, Hamza Alavi, wrote that it was the Pakistani Army itself which was most threatened by the Bengali demand for regional autonomy. The Awami League, which had an absolute majority in parliament, was committed to aiding development by decentralising economic policymaking and reducing military expenditure. Moreover, army cadres were fed the self-perpetuating delusion that Bengali nationalism was ‘an Indian-inspired, Indian-financed and Indian-engineered move to disrupt the unity of Pakistan’. This was accompanied by an added delusion — that Bengali nationalism was limited to a small number of intellectuals and politicians and if they were eliminated, the obedience of the Bengali people would be restored.

These are precisely the twin delusions which were used to drive and justify a systematic campaign of violence against the Bengalis in 1971, at the hands of our armed forces and the Jamaat-e-Islami militants, alBadr and alShams. We all know the result. These are precisely the delusions that undergird the current campaign of terror in Balochistan, with new sponsored wings such as Baloch Musalah Defa Tanzeem and Sipah-i-Shuhada-i-Balochistan. Additionally, worryingly it seems that, extremist Islamic forces are being mobilised to quell the secular Baloch struggle.

Hasn’t the use of radical Islam as ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan already landed us, as well as our neighbours, in extremist depth? The biggest threat to our sovereignty is neither India nor the US, it’s from within, from our inability to ensure supremacy of parliament and elected civilian rule. We urgently need to have in place a system, as mandated by the constitution, where elected governments are sovereign and have control over the military and its various arms. This should be accompanied by the return of all those who have ‘disappeared’ in Balochistan in recent years.

The recognition of political, economic and cultural rights for constituent regions is fundamental for any federation to survive and is central to the functioning of a modern democracy. Yet, generations of Pakistanis have been made to believe, the army-backed logic that extending these rights is the vey antithesis of modern nationhood, because it is tantamount to ‘provincialism’ and destroys Pakistani and Muslim unity. This is our fundamental problem. A positive Pakistani identity can never be based on the repression and denial of the many histories and societies that, in fact, embody the life and spirit of Pakistan. All we have to do is acknowledge and respect them, instead of killing and dumping them.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2011.

Reader Comments 
All Comments Reader's Recommendations .Kashif imran
19 hours ago

Reply excellent articke i would add one thing in the past baloch insurgency was controlled by Nawabas and sardars but now it has been converted into mass insurgency led by well educated middle class commanders ,untill and unless you are not giving the genune rights to baloch, pakitsan can not control baloch mass insurgency.if pakistani establishment can address baitullah,Mulla nazir,Maulna fazlullah,Maulna Sufi and othe millitants concerns by signing deals and giving them huge amount of money clandestinelly why should not to talk to secular and liberal baloch who belive in democracy.These baloch’insurgents were once the part of political process when you close the democratic doors on them they had only one option to take arms.in balochistan IGFC is running the show and its true a soldier has the bullet not ballet…..

19 hours ago
Reply Nosheen Ali Ji, I salute to your Voice of Reason.

Indeed, the popular Fear that delegating power to state governments and local governments will lead to collapse of a Nation is surely erroneous and misplaced: a Falsehood perpetuated by paranoiac, deranged individuals in the name of Nationalism.

The fact is that in countries like India and Pakistan (which are true federations), the delegation of powers to state and local governments will lead to: strengthening of Nationhood, deepening of Democracy, effectiveness of Administration, overall Development and, (to an extent) Transparency and Accountability.

18 hours ago
Reply Education….education…. education. It is the only hope for this God forsaken country!
Dear Leaders: please educate the people of Pakistan.

Recommend10..Muhammad Mudassar
18 hours ago
Reply A very good article and we hope media will contribute to aware people of pakistan on the basis of hidden facts.

18 hours ago
Reply you made valid points but it would be good if u would hv included foreign intervention matter and the stakes of military clearly in that piece.

18 hours ago
Reply ‘an Indian-inspired, Indian-financed and Indian-engineered move to disrupt the unity of Pakistan’

Similar voices are still echoed from the darkness of power corridors, where they even can’t count their fingers.

In Gilgit – Baltistan, the nationalists are being labelled as Indian agents because they demand constitutional rights and devolution of power to the region. The powers that be think these demands are centrifugal and sectarian elements are trying to hijack the political deprivation.

I ask them, if there are external forces at play in Balochistan and Gilgit – Baltistan, then what’s going on in Bahawalpur, Saraiki Belt and the Hazarra?

Listen to and respect the voices of the people because they make what Pakistan is. Statehood cannot be imposed on masses, people can be inspired to look forward to becoming part of the state. And that will require political and economic stability at one hand and appreciation of cultural and religious diversity at the other hand.

Thank you Nosheen for the brilliant piece.

18 hours ago
Reply Thank you!

Recommend1..Oneeb Munawar
18 hours ago
Reply Excellent piece.
The army and the ISI need to stop calling the shots.
The politicians need to man up to their duties and their people. Otherwise it’s just going to be history repeating itself.

Recommend1..Noor Nabi
18 hours ago
Reply The true aspirations of the people of Baluchistan can never be supressed. It has been tried unsuccessfully by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf. The largest province of the Federation – despite supplying its natural gas for the homes and factories of the country – remians the least developed. Why? Has the Pakistani establishment not learnt a leasson from the secession of East Pakistan? To thrust imperialism in the name of national unity has not worked in the past, is not working now, and will not work in the future.

17 hours ago
Reply Instead of understanding the dynamics of ethnic nationalism that are spread of decades, we simply blame it on external forces. As if one day people woke up, took up arms and turned against the state. External forces may put fuel on fire and exploit the underlying malaise, but a popular insurgency can never be a result of conspiracy.

Gas was discovered at Sui in the 1950s. It reached Punjab in the 1960s. It reached Quetta in the 1980s and Dera Bugti, where it was discovered, in 2000. Can a state survive after committing such gross acts of injustice? Are the people of Baluchistan mentally incapacitated that they wont realize this exploitation of their resources?

We didnt learn any lesson from Dhaka fall. Those who dont learn from history are destined to repeat it.

17 hours ago
Reply fist of all i would like to thank you for writing something (not all but a part) true about the situation in Balochistan. please you (all pakistani writers) try to write something atleast once about the real cause of Balochistan which is that Balochistan was occupied by Pakistan in 27 march 1948 by force. (dont believe the Balochs) try to find out (almost) the 14 august 1961 edition of ” The Dawn” (a leading news paper of pakistan) in which Gen.Akbar khan (who was heading the pakistani occupieing forces of that time) said that ” We were ordered by M.Ali.Jinnah to Occupy kalat (Balochistan) and khannaties (states under the rule of Balochistan)…
If you cant get the dawn news paper go to your army and ask them for records they keeps (just in case).

17 hours ago
Reply If only I could, I would abolish the army’s role in all civilian matters and send out a special envoy of peace to balochistan to appease them right now. It is a crime that so many of us brush aside the magnitude of the problem by just saying that it is Indian involvement otherwise the people of balochistan are with us! We must now compensate for what we have allowed to go on for so long by giving them more than the funds they deserve and starting education and developmental projects there right away. Personally, you can all do you tiny bit right now by creating awareness about this issue and convincing people you know, that this problem is real and that it is NOT India that is to blame but our own government (for neglect) and our security forces (for terrible human rights abuses). Don’t let this become the second time our army rips us into two. wake up!!!

Recommend6..Ahmar Mustikhan
17 hours ago
Reply Thanks for a nice article. However, not just the majority but ALL of the 160 victims who were forcibly disappeared, tortured, killed extra-judicially and in execution-style and their bodies dumped on the wayside since July last year were political and freedom activists.
Since Pakistan is a rogue terrorist state, it does not openly admits its actions.

Recommend17..Noman Sheikh
16 hours ago
Reply The short-sighted policies of the Army will disintegrate this nation. Pakistan is destined to drown in blood from civil war.

Recommend15..Habiba Younis
15 hours ago
Reply Thanks for highlighting the grave Baluchistan issue, its something even neglected in press!

12 hours ago
Reply During Bangladesh war Gen Tikka Khan who was leading forces in east pakistan(then) said he wants land not people.Now same thing is happening in Baluchistan

11 hours ago
Reply With hundreds of Baloch being tortured and killed, why has nothing been done to stop it? Obviously our generals and their agencies are beyond the control of politicians. The lives of ordinary Pakistanis does not matter, they can die in their thousands as long as our ‘ghairat’ and ‘DHA plot’ policies stays in place.

10 hours ago
Reply Every and each country in this world have created armies to defend themslves,,,, the only country who has been cursed by an army is Pakistan!!! All problems facing Pakistan,,,is her army and her intelligence agencies,,, who block each and every aspect of peace and development. This army never will be able to stand against India and so called free Kashmir,,,but also not willing to accept the fact. The very same army has blocked all efforts of peace with India. The same army, have taken away the right of people to govern and develop the country. This army has taken 120 million Pakistanis out of 140 hostage. Why? Because the other 20 million are benefiting from this hopeless situation. This 20 million, are relatives, families , dependents and bearucrats, who benefit from all and everything, the rest are jys slaves, with no voice at all. Pakistan, can surrvive and prosper, but firsr, this army and its dependent agencies, should be dissolved, new defence force should be established, provinces, should have all rights, includingh decleraing themselves independence, making peace with India unconditionally. Every thing should be transparent. Otherwise, the way of going down to history as a bad expriment of British colonialism is clear. And for Balochistan, it is crystal clear, that this nation in next 2 to 5 years time, is an independent state.And that time, the only result, will be the landlocked Punjab, who has to pay for the all deeds of 64 years of Pakistans barbarism towards Baloch, Sindhi and the Pashtoons. Pakistan is doomed to die, peacefully or violantly. There is not a 3rd way for it!!!

Recommend2..Mir Chakar Khan
10 hours ago
Reply The Baloch appreciate the support of rational and compassionate Pakistanis such as the author to our plight. However words alone will not heal our wounds. Those in charge have taken no concrete action to correct our woes. We want freedom.

10 hours ago
Reply Nosheen, agree with most but not all of what you have written. While Balochistan has suffered for sure, no part of Pakistan remains uneffected by the Army and its atrocities. In almost every city with cantonement the civilians are # 2 citizens who have to bear calmly all sorts of injustices- small and big- at the hands of the cantonement dwellers. A few things we need to do include:
1) Learn from fall of Dhaka- we have to admit that Pakistan Army and Establishment were by far teh biggest culprita and look at the policies of the centre that led to the feeling of exploitation and oppression in the the East Pakistan (and now Balochistan) and address them.
2) However, people of Balochistan should know that people in otehr provinces are with them. NO ONE thinks it fair or right that Sui gas reached areas in Balochistan much later than areas in other provinces and many other such injustices. I think it is time for a Pakistanis for Balochistan movement that so many of us already believe in.
3) Peaful protests ALL over PAKISTAN supporting the recent steps taken by the provincial government but also asking for additional steps.

Recommend2..akthar zafar
9 hours ago
Reply why don’t our bleeding heart liberals talk about the ethnic cleansing of punjabi settlers in balochistan also? all this hue & cry about the missing people & the bodies being found,why no interviews with the relatives of the punjabis killed only because they were punjabis,why no talk shows about these killings??

why no tweets about the punjabis killed after seeing their ID cards to know where they were from?? this one sided treatment of the issue by the media is unjust in the extreme.

Recommend1..Kamran Asdar Ali
8 hours ago
Reply Nosheen, thank you for sharing this important and necessary piece of writing.I also appreciate your linking it to 1971 and showing the parallels. The annexation of Baluchistan happened in 1948 and we have continued to treat it as a colony.

7 hours ago
Reply Soon we will have an Army without a country.

It becoming more and more obvious that all our military leaders must have been hiding behind the door when God was handing out the brains. Clueless, they have repeatedly taken refuge behind the banner of self-proclaimed ‘super patriotism’. Having lost all wars, they appear convinced that mere slogans and vilification of others will save the country.

Recommend2..Tribune Reader
7 hours ago
Reply Why does no one ever raise the following Questions:

Why is the Baloch private sector not doing anything towards development and industrialisation in the province?

Why the Baloch elite, the millions it could spend genuinely helping the Baloch people is instead using millions of dollars of their resources to arm the Baloch youth and turn them against their own country? The millions spent on guns, could be spent on schools, hospitals, infrastructure, housing etc for the Baloch people.

Why are the Baloch silent on the ethnic cleansing on Punjabi settlers and the open broad day light murders of intellectuals and academics visiting Baloch universities?

Why are Punjabi civilians being punished for the crimes of the state or the armed forces?

Why is the BSO (Baloch Student Organization) silent when ethnic non Balochi’s including other students face discrimination, harassment based on their ethnicities?

Why is the same BSO not choosing a re-conciliatory diplomatic approach in working for a sustainable solution with the provincial and federal government instead of openly advocating hatred for Pakistan and the Government of Pak?

Why is it silent when the infrastructure is destroyed by their rebels, if you blow up the gas pipeline, your not only halting gas supply to the rest of Pakistan, but also your own province?

If the Baloch rebels and the BSO want those held accountable for crimes against Baloch people by the Pak army, are they willing to hold their thugs accountable that are conducting ethnic cleansing in the province?

Is the BSO willing to hold those accountable who have been advocating anti-pak sentinments accountable when situation becomes stable and sustainable?

There is more than 1 side to this coin, beyond blind unconditional empathy for the Baloch people that Pakistani journalists are feeling? Very few are even daring to mention the ethnic cleansing of Punjabis, and other non ethnic Baloch groups, very unfortunate. Even fewer are daring to suggest, that this is just a fight for power, land, resources and control by the Baloch elite.

7 hours ago
Reply A good writing. Very few people take a critically perspective view of the post-Bugti Balochistan. While the disenfranchised Baloch rose against the brutality of the army, there came a rapid increase in the incidents of sectarian killings, targeting the unarmed Shias. Hundreds killed by LJ, an organization formed and supported by the state, since then in sectarian-related killings don’t receive media attention. But locally, the state wanted/wants to flame the Shias’ anger against Baloch which it has failed to do so far.

Recommend2..Mir Chakar Khan
6 hours ago
Reply @Fouzia:
We appreciate your sympathies but the Baloch patience has run thin. I think the time for us to stand with the establishment has run out. A few liberals protesting does not seem to have given us our rights. Our only hope is independence.

Recommend2..Loneliberal PK
5 hours ago
Reply Don’t bother, Nosheen. We’re way too busy flooding the diplomatic vale with tears over India’s transgressions in Kashmir. We have no time to evaluate our own actions in Balochistan.

4 hours ago
Reply Tribune Reader, you could be man enough to write your name and openly support the state narrative instead of using TR. :)

4 hours ago
Reply Sorry Baluchistan… we all are responsible for your miseries…please forgive us..new generation will surely make difference..InshaAllah..I pray for you all…

Recommend..Ali Wazir
3 hours ago
Reply What a great country we live in. Army is effectively at war with all the tribal areas, Swat and Baluchistan. And still must support the troops, Salute the Shuhada… lol

Recommend..Tribune Reader
3 hours ago
Reply @Imran:
What a joke, u actually expect me to put myself in harm’s way by revealong my identity in an era where the worth of a human life is non existent and people in this country are killed by trigger happy lunatica for having an opinoon, no way buddy. I am not interested in being on the receiving end of a bullet Of the BLA or BLF etc. Dream on!!!!!!


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