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Balochistan — the only way forward -by Sanaullah Baloch

Due to Islama­bad’s hawkis­h approa­ch, demand of the Baloch shifte­d from greate­r autono­my, self-rule, to indepe­ndence.

The writer was a member of the Senate from 2003-08 and of the National Assembly from 1997-99

The US Congressional hearing on Balochistan in Washington DC on February 9 should be a wake-up call for the centre to correct its current policies towards the province. In the past, the country’s ethnically dominant civil-military establishment failed to maintain control over East Pakistan through the use of weapons and we all know what happened as a result of that. Now, most regrettably, the same disastrous prescription is being applied to Balochistan.

Of course, the elite of Pakistan — and I include the liberal intellectuals in this — do not seem to take the possibility of the province going its own way too seriously. They always seem to take the argument of geography, saying that East Pakistan was geographically separated from the western wing and since that is not the case with Balochistan, any separation would be a figment of someone’s colourful imagination.

In the relatively short span of six years, due to Islamabad’s hawkish approach, the demand of the Baloch shifted from one of greater autonomy and self-rule, to wholesale withdrawal from the federation. Instead of realising that policies undertaken by Islamabad are to blame for the current impasse, many people outside of the province tend to shift responsibility to actors within it. This is a flawed approach and will make an already bad situation even worse.

The current tension between the people of Balochistan and the rest of Pakistan, especially the centre, are caused by growing socio-economic insecurities, and by the systematic discrimination and oppression of the local people of the province by a centre dominated by the country’s most populous province. The Baloch have, for many years now, been living a marginalised existence and now see no hope for improvement. So, from their viewpoint, they are only doing what anyone in their predicament would do, so that their future generations may have a chance for living a peaceful and prosperous life.

Many modern states swiftly address these grievances through political and institutional restructuring of the system. This is done so that those who live in the region and are aggrieved, feel that they are part of the mainstream, and what they think and believe is important as far as the state’s overall agenda and policies are concerned. However, politically less conscious and ethnically dominant countries, impose violent and suppressive means to further subjugate oppressed ethnic groups and people.

An example of this can be found in Yugoslavia where the dominant Serb elite considered other ethnic groups as inferior and deprived them politically and economically. Serbian policy resulted in one of the world’s bloodiest conflicts and ended up with the dismantling of the former Yugoslavia.

In the case of Balochistan, the despair present here is a result of a) persistent institutional oppression; b) never-ending exploitation; c) denial of politico-economic rights and d) increasing national (Baloch) insecurity in the existing state structure.

All this indicates a classical colonial relationship between Balochistan and the centre. The Baloch feel that they are living life at gunpoint, with their daily existence under threat because of the violence that has been going on in their province.

They feel that the centre’s policies aim to control their land for long-term strategic reasons and that this also has to do with the province’s wealth of natural and mineral resources. They also think that their historically-moderate social and cultural fabric is being attacked by forces supported by the establishment and that their underdevelopment is part of a deliberate policy to keep their region deprived.

Previously, protests in the province were ruthlessly suppressed as well. However, this time around, the establishment has to contend with rapidly changing geo-strategic realities, the presence of a loud and vibrant social media and a sizeable Baloch diaspora which is able to rally support overseas.

The only way forward is for the state to address this issue by taking into account historical, cultural, economic and political factors.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2012.

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Dr Uzma Ali

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  • Mr Sanaullah has a very valid point. On Pan Arab- Islamicism:… ”My answer to that is that zero plus zero plus zero is after all equal to zero.” Pakistani Prime Minister, Husayn Shaheed Suhrawardy (a Bengali politician)

    Pakistan has to realize and wake up to the new dynamics of republics and freedom. Islam is not the key of nation building, if it was so 50 Arab nations with nearly the same language, same book and same school of thought would be one. They are not one. OIC is the most toothless organisation world has ever see. The Arab Middle East does not treat Pakistan as being either Arab or Middle Eastern. In 1956, the Prime Minister, Husayn Shaheed Suhrawardy (a Bengali politician) argued against Pan Arab- Islamicism:… ”My answer to that is that zero plus zero plus zero is after all equal to zero.”

    The problem with our leadership is their total callous lack of knowledge. The Suez crisis of 1956 created a grave challenge to the fledgling Baghdad Pact. Each of the four Muslim members of the alliance, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkey, faced domestic pressures to withdraw after the United Kingdom joined Israel and France in attacking Egypt. For the Pakistani government, the crisis came at an important juncture in its national development. After a decade of championing pan-Islamic causes, Pakistani foreign policy had, by 1955, shifted to a much more openly pro-Western position, highlighted by Pakistan’s joining of both the Baghdad Pact and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. The Suez crisis threatened to undermine this new policy and the fragile coalition government led by Prime Minister Suhrawardy. After an initial period of equivocation, Suhrawardy emerged as a staunch defender of the Baghdad Pact, hoping to save his government, but in the process opening deep rifts within his own party.

    Nations are unfortunately based on culture, language, traditions folklore, food and above all ethnicity. Islam has not been able to unite the multi ethnic society under one tabernacle, it is like other Abrahamic religion not dispensed with that faculty. Bangladesh was a separate Bangle nation, they are happier and stronger, so are Punjabis, Baluchistan and Pukhtun and many other diverse nationalities within Pakistan, to bind them together under one geographical boundary under a supreme dogmatic ideology is just out of sync.

    It is like Yugoslavian experiment or USSR experiment, it iwll end in tragedy, make a confederation, give them their rights and stop abusing power from top, I concede Islam is unifying force when it was united Hindustan, but in fraternity of Islamic predominant provinces the idea of one federation is difficult to hold. This is no time for dogma or ideology to be preferred over information, knowledge and modernisation of ideas. It will be ideas that will fill empty stomachs. Nile runs at its optimum capacity to increase yields proportionate to population increases; it is war of ideas not number of prayers.

    This is no time for dogma or ideology to be preferred over information, knowledge and modernisation of ideas. It will be ideas that will fill empty stomachs. Nile runs at its optimum capacity to increase yields proportionate to population increases; it is war of ideas not number of prayers.

    Had there been no partition in a United India, India would have had to contend with a 350-million strong Muslim minority with a keen awareness of their ‘ruled’ past united from North to South against dominant Hindu rule. Partition diluted the political folklore of a heavenly Muslim nation, rather, the failure of Pakistan to present itself as a functional democratic state has helped cool down the Islamic fervour amongst Indian Muslims. The rise of secularism within Indian society is across the sectarian divide. Though in radically charged Kashmir today it requires 700,000 troops to subdue and pacify the regional population, which has not reconciled itself with an imposed Indian identity. Can one truly imagine the consequences of a 350-million strong disaffected minority? Partition separated the most vocal and radicalised segment of the subcontinent’s populace in one area and created a huge buffer between secular India and the Islamic Republic. It also created a bigger distance from the warlords of the North once and for all. It is a blessing in disguise for India that they could phenomenally progress in peace without any intervention from religious warlords from the North or the disgruntled radicalised majority Islamic provinces.
    The heavy weight of the violent North West Frontier province of India by that 1947 partition was bequeathed to a state which was young and created on the concept of a “homeland of Islam’. It was and is tainted with blood. What changed in 1977 was that these landlocked warriors whose forays never extended beyond north of India were put in bed with the most radical elements of the Wahabbi Islam. Peace in Afghanistan actually ensures peace in the subcontinent; it is all about India not Pakistan alone. Take Pakistan out of this equation for a minute, what one is left to grapple with is the long history of bloody invasions that literary crippled Indian subcontinent for 1,000 years. Imagine a ‘united subcontinent’ without the 1947 partition dealing with the nemesis of Talibinsation. An Indian army fighting a war against active northerners without the support of predominant Muslim army of Pakistan would have resulted in a massive revolt amongst the entire so-far quiet Indian Muslim population. Muslims don’t mind as far as eradication of Taleban is carried out amongst brothers.
    Revolutions are about replacing old ideas, about hierarchy and tradition with principles of new Enlightenment based on citizenship and inalienable rights. The modern era that has unfolded in the shadow of the French Revolution mark their birth during the Revolution. The growth of republics and liberal democracies, the spread of secularism, the development of modern ideologies and the invention of total war all owe their meteoric rise in the human sphere as a result of revolution.

    A lesser dosage of ideology to find a solution to the problems of man is the answer, not more ideology; solutions have to be “earth-based;” they don’t lie in the “heavens.” Those divine affairs should be left in the hands of the Custodian of Paradise.