Comment: The ‘iron Hand’ Mentality Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The iron hand mentality has been the bane of the establishment and rulers and it is not something inadvertent, spontaneous or random; it is the natural consequence of the deeply etched religious and racist bias

The Balochistan Cabinet, reports say, in order to maintain the writ of the government, has decided to clamp down on anti-Pakistan elements “with an iron hand”. This ‘earthshaking’ decision implies that previously the Baloch people were being dealt with with velvety hands and utmost compassion. The art of dissembling and deceit should be learnt from this ‘establishment’; they should open another university similar to their ‘strategic depth university’, which teaches the finer points of terrorism in its ‘strategic assets’ department.
This iron hand statement is certainly not surprising because the Baloch had already perceived the absolute sense of desperation gripping the government due to the inexorable rise in Baloch resentment resulting from ever-increasing atrocities and injustices committed against them in the name of ‘national interest’ and other such charades.
The recent demands of those serving Pakistan loyally were a dead giveaway about this extreme desperation that has taken hold in those circles that now see themselves endangered by Balochistan’s rising tide of insurgency. They no longer even try to provide a fig leaf to the fact that decisions in all matters are taken by the army and they are denied even a figurehead position. The fact is their survival depends on the benevolence of the army and not the people they ostensibly represent.
First the Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly Mohammad Aslam Bhootani said, “Because the army has a role in matters concerning the province therefore it should be included in negotiations with estranged Baloch nationalist leaders.” He conceded civilian powerlessness by admitting that the army had its own opinion on security issues and political leaders and parties had their own stance.
Even those who have not yet seen a ten-rupee note know whose writ runs in Balochistan, but publicly condoning and promoting the army’s writ there is tantamount to abject abdication of responsibility by the so-called political leaders and is utterly demeaning for any self-respecting civilian government claiming to represent the people. But as their survival is intrinsically tied to the goodwill of the army, the real power in Balochistan, they serve at its pleasure.
The Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi while awarding honours on March 23 went a step further and suggested that all stakeholders, including the intelligence agencies, should be consulted to resolve the Balochistan imbroglio. Candidly admitting his helplessness he said, “I cannot (even) recruit a clerk in any department, so you should direct questions about law and order and talks (with angry Baloch leaders) to the chief minister and his cabinet members.” The effectiveness of the chief minister and his cabinet is not a ‘Boson’s particle’-like mystery; they have admitted quite often that they play second fiddle to the Frontier Corps (FC)-run parallel government.
The governor was all fire and brimstone a few days later in his address at the concluding ceremony of a three-day festival organised by the Pakistan Army at Askari Park; the civilian government was the comic sidekick there. He thundered: “No one will be able to separate Balochistan from Pakistan.” The right sound bytes to retain the seat he warms presently.
The irony that most events for March 23 were organised by the army and the FC was lost on no one. Each March 23 and August 14 helps reinforce the Baloch people’s belief that those claiming to be their representatives and upholding their rights are in fact simply implementing the commands of the establishment.
These personages have now started fearing the people to the extent that they have no compunction in taking up the fight with those who struggle for Baloch rights. This does not augur well for the people because it will make attainment of their goals more difficult and is pregnant with the prospects of a civil war that ideally suits the establishment. Now the jihadi brigade too, after the turncoat Baloch so-called leaders, are being nurtured for an active anti-people, counter-revolutionary role in Balochistan. These Ngô Ðình Di?ms, Nguyen Khanhs, Nguyen Cao Kys, Vidkum Quislings and Mir Jaffars should however remember that it is the will of the people that prevails and not armed might and weapons. Had this been the case, the United States and France would have been ruling in Vietnam and Algeria today.
The desperation and nervousness that prevails in the establishment in Balochistan is unmistakably apparent from its jamming the cellular services in the province on March 23. Knowing people would ridicule the occasion, they suspended it. It is a blessing that our heartbeats and our speech are not within the ambit of their regulation, otherwise they might suspend those too to get rid of all those struggling for their rights.
The velvety hand that the establishment has compassionately used against the Baloch until now has resulted in immeasurable sufferings for them. There have been so many operations and for so long that there is not an area in Balochistan that has not suffered the state’s military or economic ravages. There are very few people around who were born before Pakistan began this policy of systematic repression and denial of rights in Balochistan. The vast majority of the Baloch have been directly and personally affected by this velvet hand approach and the remainder will be by the envisaged iron hand policy. The resentment among the Baloch has seen a qualitative change from a passive to active resistance.
The iron hand mentality has been the bane of the establishment and rulers and it is not something inadvertent, spontaneous or random; it is the natural consequence of the deeply etched religious and racist bias compounded by a healthy dose of paranoia and fear in their psyche.
Irfan Hussain in his column Pakistan as a Security State said, “Generations of young officers at the military academy at Kakul have been taught that India is the eternal enemy, and that civilians are a necessary evil who have to be endured, but never trusted. A part of this indoctrination is the notion that one Muslim soldier is equal to 10 Hindus.” When you think like that, you put yourself in a hopelessly irretrievable bind from which there is no escape and it leads you towards inevitable destruction. There they also inculcate the idea that armed with their weapons and brute force they can fix all dissenters; that is how they acted against the Bengalis and now against the Baloch. The Bengalis proved them wrong and so will the Baloch.

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]

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