Illegalities committed under the cover of the constitution or judicial approval does not make them either palatable or morally acceptable
The army through General Kayani
has stated its position on the Balochistan issue in a one-liner that says, “Army fully supports any political process as long as it is within the Constitution.” This was in response to the Balochistan National Party President Akhtar Mengal’s recent moves and statements during his visit and the reactions to it. This short army statement has set the parameters for those who would try to deal with the issue of Baloch rights and the consequences therein to the Baloch for demanding their inalienable rights. This ISPR statement also warned that any steps taken in violation of the constitution would be unacceptable.
This means that the Baloch should not ever cherish hopes for change in the state’s policies. For since March 26, 1948, when the first Governor General Jinnah ordered the army into Jiwani and Pasni and the next day forced Khan Kalat Ahmad Yar Khan to accede to Pakistan, ending the Kalat state’s short-lived 227-day independence, the army-preferred constitutions have been in place. That injustice and all that has transpired since are considered constitutional by the Pakistani state. The second assault on Kalat on October 6, 1958 was also constitutional because the judiciary legalised that martial law as it did in the subsequent instances. Martial laws and the military rulers’ Provisional Constitutional Orders (PCO) were legalised by the judiciary, making them de facto constitutions. Many luminaries now adorning the Supreme Court had endorsed Musharraf’s PCO.
In this country, all state-approved actions, regardless of their legality, are considered constitutional. It was under this principle that the sons and relatives of Nawab Nauroz Khan were hanged at the Hyderabad and Sukkur jails on July 15, 1960. The 1960s military operations in the Marri and Mengal areas too were equally constitutional. The March 25, 1971 military crackdown on Bengalis after denying the majority winning Awami League the right to rule was also constitutional. Nothing here has ever been done in violation of the constitution, which ironically represents the will and policies of the army and has always been adhered to by all state institutions. General Kayani has simply restated it, lest any politician has any funny ideas of becoming a hero, to ensure that there is no deviation from the prescribed course.
Sardar Ataullah Mengal’s elected government’s dismissal in Balochistan in February 1973 and the subsequent army action was undertaken by the civilian government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, ironically after the promulgation of his much flaunted constitution. During that military action, fully sanctioned by the constitution, thousands were killed, innumerable injured, and hundreds of thousands displaced. The constitutions here have promoted and protected excesses against the Baloch people as they did in the case of Bangladesh.
Illegalities committed under the cover of the constitution or judicial approval does not make them either palatable or morally acceptable. It certainly would not be out of place to mention that the South African apartheid was enshrined in the constitution as was, until recently, the discrimination against the Aborigines in Australia and the African-Americans in the USA. The Israeli settlements in the West Bank have a legal and constitutional cover but that does not mitigate the sufferings of the Palestinians or make them acceptable. The Serb dominance in Yugoslavia too was constitutional though it did not stop the Bosnians, Croats and others going their separate ways eventually. The Turkish constitution oppresses the Kurds. Constitutions have never guaranteed national rights for colonised people. Here too the constitution is used to ensure the continued deprivation of nations, the much-heralded 18th Amendment notwithstanding.
In the last 65 years, the Baloch have borne the brunt of five military operations, all conducted within the accepted constitutional parameters. The Baloch are finding it extremely difficult to understand what good is rule within the constitutional confines for them. Since Musharraf’s 1999 judicially sanctioned constitution, and under this elected government, thousands of Baloch have gone missing and thousands have been killed, more than 600 in the last two years. Thousands are internally displaced and people in the areas under the army’s and the Frontier Corps’ (FC’s) fiat are subjected to brutal operations like the recent ones in Tootak and Gidar near Kalat.
The routine humiliating searches at check posts and raids on houses are also part of the constitutional supremacy that prevails here. For the Baloch things do not change; they suffer equally under military as well as civilian rulers; they suffer under Raisani misrule and their lot will not change with Akhtar Mengal’s rule. There is a saying in Sindhi, ‘Saagi maani saag saan’, which means, ‘Always the same bread with the same broth.’ The Baloch people are wary of Mengal because they see him reinforcing the status quo of constitutional confines that has been their bane.
Ironically, the present chief minister Raisani, having often stated on record that the FC runs a parallel government, claims there is no military operation in Balochistan but that the FC has been given police powers for a limited time. Incidentally, the Korean War was initiated as a police action by the UN in 1950 and President Harry S Truman referred to the US response to the North Korean offensive as a ‘police action’ under the aegis of the UN. Police action in military/security studies and international relations is a euphemism for a military action undertaken without a formal declaration of war. So a war is being waged against the Baloch under the garb of a police action. All the missing and the killed and the dumped are the result of this police action.
The tragedy and pain for the Baloch is not about the missing and the dead only; the tragedy of the absolute deprivation of three generations’ potential and opportunity is equally painfully poignant. The Baloch cannot be faulted for no longer believing that elections and constitutions are a solution to their problems because although supposedly elected governments are in place at Islamabad and Quetta, the atrocities against them continue with even more ferocity than during Musharraf’s ‘constitutional’ regime. Expecting the Baloch to trust empty assurances or to be cowed by threats is foolish, to say the least.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted