Consensus against the Baloch in the establishment has always been unanimous because of its desire to exploit Balochistan’s resources, its huge land mass and long coastline
The Supreme Court exercise, which ostentatiously began for addressing Baloch grievances regarding missing persons, has ended up prescribing more of the same medicine. The interim order has thoroughly exposed itself as the establishment’s policy statement, which encourages employing brute force to coerce the Baloch to remain compliant and submissive to the dictates of the state. Declaring the incompetent Raisani government — which is but a tool in the hands of the Centre and the army — illegal because it has not yet been able to suppress the Baloch struggle for their rights is not surprising. The order demands of the Centre to replace it with a more uncompromising direct rule. The Baloch do not really care either way. A person asked someone’s opinion regarding the better qualities of himself and his brother. He was bluntly told that if you were dust he was ashes and vice versa. There will be no change for the Baloch, come dust or ashes.
I am not jumping to conclusions nor wrongly presuming and attributing intent where none exists. The Chief Justice blows hot and cold simultaneously; a media-reported dialogue between him and Rehman Malik will succinctly illustrate that. It went thus: “Democracy does not entail the killing of people in Balochistan,” the Chief Justice said. Malik said the issue in Balochistan was not that of law and order, adding that the province was experiencing an insurgency. The Chief Justice remarked that government should control the insurgency with its latest weaponry, security forces and helicopters. He overlooked the fact that the government is already trying its damnedest to control the insurgency not only with its latest weaponry, security forces and helicopters, but also with enforced disappearances and killings, targeted killings of intellectuals, mercenary proxy goons with government-provided finances, weapons and rahdari vehicles. The state has thrown all that it can at the Baloch but has miserably failed.
President Zardari’s speech at the concluding session of the fifth National Conference of South Asian Free Media Association (Safma) on media, militancy and fair elections is noteworthy. He said, “There is need to have consensus following the policy of reconciliation to achieve the desired results in the war against terror and ensure peace and security.” He added, “We agree that we need to act against militants, but are we ready for a possible blow back?” Simply put, it means punitive actions against the Taliban will prompt them to strike back.
One can safely deduce that regarding the suppression of Baloch rights, there is an absolute consensus within the establishment; no wonder, since March 27, 1948, they have seen five military operations and sustained repression. More importantly, because the Baloch, unlike the Taliban, have not been indiscriminate in their violence with suicide bombings, etc, and their ‘possible blowback’ does not constitute a threat for innocent people, they, therefore, become an acceptable target. Consensus against the Baloch in the establishment has always been unanimous because of its desire to exploit Balochistan’s resources, its huge land mass and long coastline. Hence the establishment does not care for the Baloch sufferings but then that is how it always is where ever the terra nullis principle is the guiding dogma for the establishment.
The terra nullis attitude becomes amply apparent from Najma Sadeque’s article, “The global and local land-grab” in a national daily. She writes, “That includes the Arab investors — whose ambitious plans in Pakistan include a million acres in Balochistan alone — that are on hold until some peace ensures safe implementation.” She further adds, “The Middle East press also reported Balochistan’s chief minister signing an MoU with Abraaj Capital for 200,000 acres of land in Balochistan. There were other reports that the UAE, Emirate Sovereign Wealth Funds and Abraaj had together acquired 800,000 acres for agribusiness but the locations remain secret.” Had the Baloch not resisted the Pakistani economic and political depredations, Balochistan would have been parcelled out among different investors long ago.
The judiciary has also gagged Baloch leaders’ media statements on grounds that they promote terrorism while leaders of proscribed religious outfits, notorious for terror here and abroad, freely move around making speeches simply because no court dares to convict them and no witness is foolhardy enough to testify against them. The state-sponsored ‘strategic assets’ that can cow down institutions are given a free hand but those who threaten establishment’s exploitative plans are barred from even expressing their thoughts.
The federal interior minister does not tire of his mantra of insurgents donning the uniform of the Frontier Corps personnel to commit crimes. Speaking to media recently after the Supreme Court Balochistan hearing appearance, he said: “Those who had been talking about dismembering Pakistan were accusing the government of killing their people.” He then claimed, “Acts of terror were being committed using uniforms of FC personnel; in fact, it was the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) that had been accepting responsibility for the attacks.” Astonishingly, though the FC running a parallel government besieges Balochistan with its 21,500 posts, well supported by innumerable Customs, Coast Guards, Police and Levies posts, yet they fail to apprehend these impersonators. The truth is that the state itself is guilty of these crimes or gets them done through their proxy militias with government-provided rahdari vehicles and weapons.
The latest statements by the so-called three pillars of the state — the president, army chief and Chief Justice — each wearing the self-assumed mantle of messiah for the people and each claiming that he has the solution for all the ills, expose the differences that simmer underneath. But when it comes to the Baloch and Balochistan they speak, think and act in unison. It would indeed be surprising if the ruling elite had divergent views over the suppression of the Baloch and the exploitation of Balochistan.
The Baloch sacrifices for their rights are unmatched and these continue unabated so those leading the struggle should ensure that these sacrifices do not go in vain; this is their prime responsibility. Ironically, while the different institutions of the state though wrangling for supremacy agree to deprive the Baloch of their rights, the Baloch groups struggling for those usurped rights find it difficult to agree on the crucial issues, which could decide the outcome of the struggle and ensure that the past and future sacrifices do not go in vain. The Baloch have to understand that without unity there will be no realisation of the lofty dreams we all are so fond of dreaming.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org