COMMENT: Respect for mandates! —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
The army has the authority to ensure that all Baloch people get to see a ‘ten rupee note’ in their lifetime, though it has often enough shown them the devastating prowess of multi-million dollar F-16s, helicopter gunships and artillery shells
Prime Minister Gilani, in what the newspapers called ‘a rather strong statement’, asked the Frontier Corps (FC) and other law-enforcement agencies to respect the mandate of the Balochistan government and help restore law and order in the province. He said, “I have spoken to the army chief, director-general ISI and other officials, and all are ready to help.” This they call strong! Incidentally, provincial authorities had recently sought the federal government’s intervention to help improve its perennially strained relations with the FC. Needless to say, the FC has often been accused by members of the Balochistan government of committing human rights violations and running a parallel government in Balochistan.
The FC blames the provincial government for the poor law and order situation.
Evidently, the mandate of the Raisani government, whatever that may be, is not being respected. Secondly, the relations between the provincial government and the FC are chronically estranged, and thirdly, the prime minister too, as powerless as the provincial government, wields no authority over the FC; hence the appeal to the army chief. Ironically, he overlooks the fact that nowhere have armies accorded respect to people who consistently demand rights and self-determination. They are considered troublemakers and unpatriotic. It can be safely concluded that it is only the army that has the authority to ensure that all Baloch people get to see a ‘ten rupee note’ in their lifetime, though it has often enough shown them the devastating prowess of multi-million dollar F-16s, helicopter gunships and artillery shells.
The most poignant words in Gilani’s statement are respect and mandate. I wonder which mandate of the Raisani government he refers to, because ushered into power by the machinations of the agencies and poll-rigging and maintained by pork barrel politics, they simply serve the Centre. The words respect and mandate ring hollow and meaningless when used in the context of Balochistan.
Let us briefly trace the respect the Pakistani state has shown for the mandate of the Baloch people for their genuine representatives. The saga of injustices against the Baloch begins as a pre-partition phenomenon. When in June 1947 the British government announced partition, a referendum to decide the fate of the Baloch tribal areas of Dera Ghazi Khan was planned. With a devious referendum of July 29, these areas were illegally acceded to Pakistan. This was just the prelude.
In the partition plan of June 3, 1947, both Pakistan and the British accepted Kalat State’s sovereignty. On August 4, 1947, the Standstill Agreement recognizing the free and independent status of Balochistan was signed with the government of Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat, Ahmad Yar Khan, declared Balochistan independent on August 11, 1947. Members of the Dar-ul-Umra and Dar-ul-Awam (upper and lower houses of Balochistan respectively) reiterated the independent status of Balochistan.
Certain that Balochistan would not accede, conspiracies to subdue it were initiated. In blatant violation of the Standstill Agreement, separate instruments of accession with Lasbela, Kharan and Makran were signed on March 18, 1948. The Pakistan army moved into Pasni, Jiwani and Turbat on March 26. Khan, under duress, surrendered to the accession demand on March 28, which was formalised on April 1. This is how the mandate of the Baloch people was respected by Jinnah, who ironically had presented Kalat’s memorandum to the Cabinet Mission in May 1946, supporting the independence of Kalat. The sovereign Baloch State lasted only 227 days.
Not content, in 1950 the Pakistani establishment coerced the Baloch Tumandars (tribal chiefs) of the tribal areas of Dera Ghazi Khan to merge with Punjab. An obelisk at 6,470 feet above sea level at Fort Munro brazenly proclaims the injustice. Apologists for the state do not tire of mentioning that Punjab has more Baloch than Balochistan while conveniently overlooking this travesty.
The Pakistani state didn’t rest at this. It wanted to accord more respect to the mandate of the Baloch people. On October 6, 1958, Kalat was again under assault and Khan was arrested on charges of secession. Nawab Nauroz Khan led the resistance against this injustice. When promised redress of grievances in a solemn covenant on the Holy Quran, he gave himself up in May 1959, only to be arrested and tried by a military court; his two sons, relatives and friends, seven in all, were sentenced and hanged in Sukkur and Hyderabad jails in July 1960. He and his youngest son were awarded life sentences.
The leaders of the Baloch, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Mir Gul Khan Naseer, Ghous Baksh Bizenjo, Mir Sher Mohammad Marri and others spent long spells in jail and under restrictions limiting their movements. The Pakistan government respected the mandate and cultivated love for Pakistan among the Baloch thus.
The people of Balochistan entrusted their affairs to their leaders in the 1970 elections, which compelled Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government to allow them reluctantly to form the provincial government. The central government resented them because they held the interests of the Baloch people close to their hearts and would not kowtow to the Centre’s dictates. Any honest upholder of Baloch rights is suspect in eyes of the Pakistani establishment. Malleable and obsequious politicians like the present lot have always been favourites of the Pakistani establishment.
With the help of their cohorts in Balochistan, the Centre created hurdles and eventually staged the high drama of the Iraqi Embassy arms find, dismissed the real representatives of the people on February 13 and blockaded the Marri and Mengal areas. What followed is history. This is how they have been respecting the mandate of the Baloch people and yet unashamedly talk about respect for the mandate of the Baloch people.
The Baloch resent demographic changes and the government encourages them with Afghan refugees and making Gwadar a lucrative venue for the same purpose. In November 2010, the federal government wanted the provincial government to sell 70,000 acres of land in the coastal districts of Lasbela to Arab Princes who would make plenty of Shamsi Airbases if allowed. The entire Balochistan would have been long sold had not the Baloch defended their inherent rights mandate with arms.
All along, the Pakistani state has just paid lip service to Baloch rights, mandate and dignity while doing its utmost to obliterate the Baloch.
Musharraf unleashed the last round of persecution against Baloch people, but the PPP government, interested only in ensuring its political longevity, even if that means selling their soul to Satan himself, has surpassed him. The abduct and kill policy, though quite old, has attained a new ferocity under this dispensation. American resolutions and their ilk notwithstanding, the responsibility for securing respect for their mandate eventually lie with the Baloch themselves.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org