Comment: Let Bygones Be Bygones —mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The Baloch are seeking to undo the historical wrong committed against them on March 27, 1948, and all the injustices that stemmed from that

Prime Minister (PM) Raja Pervez Ashraf talking to reporters in Gwadar recently said, “We should forgive each other,” and that we should move towards a new era of development and progress in Balochistan. He added, “All of us should forget the past mistakes and atrocities committed by the previous government in Balochistan and move forward to achieve the goal of development and make it a developed and prosperous province.” It is all very convenient to blame the previous government while forgetting the slow burn genocide that has continued under the PPP-led government’s watch; it is a case of a very, very selective amnesia.

Representing the terra nullis school of thought he added, “Balochistan had big potential for growth and development and exploitation of its natural resources would transform the economic situation of the entire country.” To confound reality he added, “The people of Balochistan are owners of their natural resources, which will be spent on the development and prosperity of the province.” While in fact all that was exploited from Balochistan in the form of natural gas from Sui, copper and gold from Saindak, marble from Chaghai, fish from the sea, not a penny accrued to the Baloch account. Most of the Balochistan districts along with Dera Bugti languish at the very bottom of the Human Development Index in the most deprived category. Admitting the army’s overriding say in Balochistan, PM Ashraf added, “The army had constructed roads and provided security to the Gwadar port and other important installations.” Like always, he blamed certain elements who were trying to create law and order problems to deprive Balochistan of the fruits of progress. Some progress!

The appeal, “We should forgive each other” or let bygones be bygones becomes a very convenient cliché to disguise the reality. If a Nelson Mandela after taming the white apartheid regime offers a conciliatory hand with ‘let-bygones-be-bygones’, it can be understood as a generous gesture but when a Raja Pervez Ashraf asks the oppressed Baloch to forgive and forget, it is sheer deceit. What answer would the Bosnians have given had Radovan Karadzic or Slobodan Milosevic asked them to let bygones be bygones? This forgive-and-forget business suits the perpetrators because it veils their crimes with a mask of bogus tolerance.

The same day that PM Ashraf came up with his forgive and forget philosophy, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dipu Moni asked her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar to apologise for the 1971war crimes committed by the army during Bangladesh’s bloody liberation struggle. If the Bengalis have been not able to overcome the 41-year-old trauma of brutal depredations by the Pakistan army, how on earth does PM Ashraf think that the Baloch would forget and forgive the relentless and ever-intensifying brutalities and agree to the let bygones be bygones offer?

One needs to ask the Pakistani establishment why and what all should the Baloch forgive and forget? Should they forget the forced annexation of March 27, 1948; the July 15, 1960 martyrs; the unjust imprisonment and torture of Baloch leaders in Qulli camp; the 1960s army’s depredations in the Marri, Mengal areas; the 1973 illegal dismissal of the elected Ataullah government by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto; the massive military operations of the 1970s; martyrdoms of Safar Khan Zarakzai, Jalat Khan Marri, Duleep Dass and the other brave Baloch; the continuing 2005 military operation; martyrdom of Nawab Akbar Bugti Khan, Balach Khan Marri, the Langove brothers and thousands of others – the cream of the Baloch youth and intellectuals? Could and should these be forgotten or forgiven?

Should the Baloch forgive the political, military, economic and social depredations that have intensified relentlessly for the last 64 years during which generations of Baloch have suffered deprivation, discrimination and denial of rights? The PM should understand that these crimes are not minor transgressions of the Pakistani state against the Baloch but are great historical wrongs committed against them. Historical wrongs are neither easily forgiven nor readily forgotten. There never has been accountability for these wrongs and without accountability, the perpetrators – feeling safe – readily commit more harsh injustices against mankind. Had Pakistan been taken to task for its forced annexation of Balochistan, surely the Bengalis would not have suffered. One unpunished injustice leads to hundreds of injustices and this has been the history of the Pakistani state.

For long, Pakistani heads of state and government have been making offers of forgive-and-forget and, in fact, reconciling with smugglers, extortionists, drug barons, human traffickers and all sorts of mafias including the political ones under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), tax amnesties, reconciliation policy, truces, Local Bodies Ordinances, etc. In all such deals, there is a share for all concerned parties and they bend over backwards to ensure the success of such despicable deals. Raja Pervez Ashraf seems to be so much under the illusion of the success of these deals that he has come up with a similar offer to the Baloch.

The Baloch are not seeking whitening of their black money nor are they seeking amnesty for their ill-gotten wealth under the NRO; they are not looking for political concessions for contesting elections nor the Senate seats given as bribes to turncoats and supporters of death squads. The Baloch are seeking to undo the historical wrong committed against them on March 27, 1948, and all the injustices that stemmed from that; therefore, they would not even give such an offer a second glance. They have set their eyes on an honourable goal and they fully understand it would come at a price.

The price to be paid for honourable goals rises considerably when the state succeeds in corrupting large enough segments of society into accepting slavery as something normal. The present farce enacted in the Balochistan Assembly shows that state efforts have not gone to waste. We see these people only concerned with personal welfare; they are not only refusing to see the injustices against the Baloch but also actively participating in them. It, therefore, is essential for the oppressed to heed what Assata Shakur, the Afro-American activist has said, “People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”

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 [email protected]

Courtesy: Daily Times

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