By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr Ikramul Haq
February 22, 2012
The great poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, on his return from a visit to Dhaka in the wake of dismemberment of Pakistan composed ‘Dhaka say wapsi par’ (On returning from Dhaka) depicting the agony and pain of the separation between the two wings of the country due to follies of our military and political leadership. After four decades of that catastrophic event and tragedy, instead of learning any lessons from history, today’s rulers are doing the same with the people of Balochistan. Blaming foreign hands for everything going wrong, they are in complete denial, ignoring the legitimate rights of the masses and least pushed in solving the long-standing issues of deprivation, poverty, education and economic justice for all.
Our embassy in Washington, while rightly reacting furiously on the move of Rep Danna Rohrabacher informed the outside world that “Balochistan has a directly elected provincial assembly of its own and has due representation in the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan.”
Is this sufficient to satisfy those who claim nothing less than independence? Are elected members of Balochistan playing their role in pacifying their angry brothers?
The move by a US House representative is certainly offending to our territorial integrity and is totally unacceptable. But what about those who claim that “…articles in the Balochistan Liberation Charter that relate to Balochistan’s independence and ‘one person one vote’ after independence cannot be amended in any case. Our youth and leaders have sacrificed for an independent Balochistan, we will not go back a single inch from our stance.”
How do our rulers intend to deal with voices raised by many Baloch leaders recently for an independent Balochistan? Is an All Parties’ Conference a viable solution?
It is justified for our ambassador in Washington to remind the Americans that “Balochistan’s affairs and issues are an internal matter of Pakistan, and it is for the people of Pakistan and our democratic institutions to address these [issues].” Every Pakistani’s concern and question is: where are these democratic institutions?
In Balochistan, civilian rule is a farce. The province is ruled by men in uniform. If this is an undeniable reality, why are we hiding it? What is preventing the government from opening political dialogue with all the Baloch leaders?
There is no disagreement over the right of government to condemn any resolution in the US House of Representatives about Balochistan, but at the same time it is the duty of the government to punish those who are guilty of violence and excesses against the Baloch people.
We maintained silence when the same thing was happening with the Bengalis and the point of culmination came in 1971. In 2012, we are once again heading towards a similar disaster. Should we still remain quiet?
We should not repeat the mistake of remaining silent, naively believing the so-called rulers who say that all the problems are created by a handful of miscreants in connivance with enemies of Pakistan. The process of national reconciliation should not be left to political and military leadership – both are guilty of causing mayhem in Balochistan.
The issue of human rights violations in Balochistan must be solved on war footing before it is too late to convince the people that an independent Balochistan is not the only solution. Winning the hearts of the angry Baloch youth will not be an easy task, but there is still hope to bring them back into the national stream if true autonomy is given.
The centre should keep only defence, foreign affairs, currency and communications and all other matters should be vested with the federating units – the survival of Pakistan now rests in a confederation where the provinces have meaningful control over their resources.
Baloch leaders have recently accused the establishment of using “the fundamentalist jihadi forces against the secular and tolerant Baloch nation” – they are referring to conglomeration of ultra-right militant groups under the name of Difa-e-Pakistan Council, alleged to be proxies of intelligence agencies. This is a serious allegation and needs to be looked into objectively.
These elements are in fact friends of neo-colonial forces that are being used in the new great game for destroying the Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project and ultimately for the containment of China.
If these forces are not contained and sanity does not prevail this time, we may have another poet writing another lament.
Dhakasay wapsi par
(On Return from Dhaka)
hum ke tahrhe ajnabi itni madaraatoon ke baad
phir banain gain aashnaa kitni mulaqatoon ke baad
(After those many encounters, that easy intimacy,
we are strangers now –
After how many meetings will we be that close again?)
Kab nazar main aaey ge bai_dagh sabzey ki bahar
Khoon ke dhabbey dhulain gain kitni barsaatoon ke baad
(When will we again see a spring of unstained green?
After how many monsoons will the blood be washed
from the branches?)
thay buhat bai_dard lamhey khatm-e-dard-e-ishq ke
theen buhat bai_mehar subhain meherbaan raatoon ke baad
(So relentless was the end of love, so heartless –
After the nights of tenderness, the dawns were pitiless,
dil to chaaha par shikasht-e-dil nay muhlat he na di
kuch giley shikvey bhi kar laitey manajaatoon ke baad
(And so crushed was the heart that though it wished
it found no chance –
after the entreaties, after the despair — for us to
quarrel once again as old friends.)
un se jo kehney gaey thai “faiz” jaan sadqa kiye
unkahee he reh gai voh baat sab baatoon ke baad
(Faiz, what you’d gone to say, ready to offer everything,
even your life –
those healing words remained unspoken after all else had
The Balochistan cauldron
By Sheikh Asad Rahman
Enforcing a politically sustainable settlement in Balochistan necessitates the reining in and permanent exclusion of the GHQ from the political sphere
The shrill indignation in the media and government circles that emerged around the US Congress resolution on Balochistan has finally exposed the class-based atrocious nature of callous insensitivities of the Pakistani state and civil-military bureaucracy to the value it puts on human life, especially in respect to the people of Balochistan, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistani columnists, journalists, political analysts have written and debated on television, some on and off, others extensively over the years, about the Balochistan conflict. Civilian and military governments along with elected legislators chose to insidiously ignore the writing on the wall being pointed out. The East Pakistan debacle was constantly quoted in these analyses to no avail.
Denial, disinformation, harassment, in some cases abduction, illegal detention and even extrajudicial murders of columnists, debaters, journalists, activists who dared to raise their voices was the response by the military establishment, with civilian governments acquiescing in the establishment’s diktat. It finally took the US Congress resolution to bring the issue into the public domain because of international exposure just as in 1976, the 1973-77 civil war was internationally exposed by Lawrence Lifschultz in the Far Eastern Economic Review. Till then the rest of Pakistan was in the dark about the conflict in Balochistan as there was no independent national coverage or debate and only the state’s misinforming propaganda machinations were available to the general public, reminiscent of the 1971 war in East Pakistan.
Public debate and exposure of actions undertaken in ‘aid of civil power’ by the armed forces are perceived as a challenge to the unbridled control the military establishment enjoys in Balochistan, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan to perpetuate its own (confused and anti-people) agenda, the so-called and convoluted ‘national security’ paradigm. Public debate and information seems to be anathema to the military establishment and any individual’s or organisation’s patriotism and credibility is immediately questioned if he dares to bring such issues into the public domain. I, personally, had to undergo hours of interrogation over three days by ISI officials in 2010 when my organisation, Sungi Development Foundation, organised a conference on Balochistan’s issues. The basic questions asked were: who are you? What are you doing? Why are you doing what you are doing? My cell phone was under surveillance till recently.
Governor Balochistan inaugurated the conference, parliamentarians and civil society participated and got extensive media coverage. Two speakers from Balochistan were mysteriously killed (Habib Jalib, BNM Secretary General, and Mohammad Razzak, a young lawyer from Kalat) within a month of the conference. It should be noted that we had invited the COAS, DGs ISI, MI, ISPR and FC to participate in order to understand the concerns being debated and respond to questions. None participated but they did send an ISI colonel and a major to monitor and report back to the high command.
Secrecy and denial are tactics that always get exposed in the long run. Even with all this hullabaloo and questions being asked in the Baloch missing persons’ case in the Supreme Court the ISI wants in-camera hearings. If they have concrete evidence, as they claim, of foreign interference and Baloch resistance groups’ connivance, why are they not willing to produce it in the public domain and open court hearings? What do they want to hide and not disclose?
My critique of the electronic media discussion panels on this issue is that they invite people who have no background or informed knowledge of the history of the political differences, approach and subsequent deterioration in Balochistan.
The Baloch leadership being interviewed is understandably wary (being under threat) and at the same time unable to calmly present their case because of the long history of atrocities against them and their people for which they are justifiably extremely angry and pushed to the point of no return by our establishment. To be perfectly honest, invited panellists are also monitored by the ISPR and channels are instructed not to invite knowledgeable panellists who can discuss the realities of the conflict. Channels that did invite such panellists after the extrajudicial murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti were immediately informed to desist from calling them again. So much for the independence of the media!
Can the situation be retrieved from the point of no return? Some of the younger Baloch leadership (Hyrbyair Marri and Bramdagh Bugti) are sceptical because of personal agonies they have suffered as many of their Baloch elders have been extra-judicially murdered at the hands of the military establishment over the last 64 years.
Can the current political or future dispensation wrest control of Balochistan, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan from the GHQ before reaching a critical breakup point? That can only happen if the federal, provincial governments and all political parties set aside their own vested power interests and stand united with the leadership and people of Balochistan. Enforcing a politically sustainable settlement in Balochistan necessitates the reining in and permanent exclusion of the GHQ from the political sphere.
Confidence-building measures need to be taken immediately, which address the missing persons and mutilated, tortured, dumped bodies of Baloch political activists, students and leaders, unhindered public movement by removal of FC, Navy and Customs manned checkposts, release of all alive missing persons in the custody of the ISI, MI and FC. A comprehensive compensation and rehabilitation mechanism for families of the martyred and missing persons needs to be put in place as soon as possible. General amnesty to the members of resistance groups and leadership is fundamental. Withdrawing the FC from interior Balochistan and placed along the border to tackle drug, gun and Taliban smuggling and infiltration (mandated duty of the FC) would reduce conflict risk. Curtailing the IB, ISI and MI operations is a prerequisite to bring normalcy to life in Balochistan and must be done forthwith. Agencies funded and backed assassination, kidnapping gangs need to be identified, arrested and prosecuted in relevant courts. Last but not least, all the army officers, serving or retired, who ordered the ISI and FC troops to abduct, illegally incarcerate, torture, kill and dump Baloch activists’ bodies be tried for these gross human rights violations in High and Supreme Courts. This will truly enforce the writ of the governments under the constitution. Then and only then will the estranged Baloch leadership hopefully come to the negotiating table to chalk out the future framework of Balochistan-Pakistan integration or autonomous status. Nothing less will assuage the sufferings of the Baloch.
The writer is Director Programmes Sungi Development Foundation. He can be reached at email@example.com
Re-reading the conflict in Balochistan
Within the bleak context of political turmoil and lack of social development in Balochistan, Karrar’s background as a Shi’ite Hazara placed him at a unique disadvantage. Hailing from a remote valley near Quetta where matriculation is a rarity, he described his hometown as a place where ”nobody wants to see the dream of higher education, because they know that it is impossible.”
His personal journey from Marree Abad, to the Lahore University of Management Sciences, to the Harvard campus in Massachusetts cannot be measured in terms of distance – it is a leap across cultural, traditional and societal barriers. As he put it, the first step was for him to overcome his reservations about English being a ”colonial remnant”, and accepting it as a tool to facilitate progress. After completing his fully funded MPA and PhD in theUSA, he plans to return to Balochistan to raise awareness about the importance – and possibility – of education among his people.
Karrar’s decision is based on first-hand experience of what it is to bridge the chasm between Balochistan and the rest of the world. The province stands in isolation withinPakistanitself; there is a clear disconnect between the population there and the rest of the country, particularly in the urban centres. The gap can be illustrated in terms of education; qualitative standards aside, the literacy rate in Balochistan is more than 20 per cent lower than the national average of 57 per cent. While the Balochistan government has pledged 13% of the provincial budget to the education sector, statistics mean little in the context of a province notorious for the phenomenon of “ghost schools”. Effective disbursement of funds also remains a problem – for instance, it has recently been reported that the largest school in Gwadar has not received a single rupee for maintenance and rehabilitation. This level of misgovernance and neglect is particularly dangerous given the complex political situation in the province, in which the absence of alternate narratives makes it vulnerable to forces fuelling cyclical violence.
Amid ominous talk of separatism, Balochistan has been described by human rights organizations as ‘‘an active volcano that may erupt anytime”. The description is drawn from the examination of a history of grievances harbored by the province against the central government; festering wounds that are renewed by an increasing number of missing persons whose absence is attributed to state agencies.
The strong presence of the army and the ISI in the region aims to stamp out separatist forces, only to stoke Baloch nationalism. As a result, the young Baloch nationalist views his (or her) interests to be diametrically opposed to those of Pakistan as a nation and will not concede that secession is not a viable option; that an independent Baloch state cannot be sustained by untapped natural resources and underdeveloped human resources. This mindset makes the youth of the province susceptible to the kind of violent prejudice that has triggered a rise in brutal targeted attacks against non-Baloch teachers and laborers, as well as minority communities like the Shi’ite Hazaras.
UNESCO calls education and armed conflict ”the deadly spirals”, each affecting the other in multiple ways. Apart from the retarding effect of war on social development, educational institutions themselves can become nuclei for the concentration of ”attitudes, beliefs and grievances that fuel violent conflict”. This is evident from the militarization of student groups in Balochistan, including the Baloch Students’ Organization. BSO members now make up an alarmingly large proportion of the ”missing person” whose cases are pending in national courts. If this is the situation regarding the more educated segment of society, it is a worrisome indicator not only of endemic conflict, but also future instability. The generation on whom it falls to build and create is instead contributing to fragmentation, and the state response is to further exacerbate the situation.