In The Shadow Of The Gun Ii Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The evil nexus between state-sponsored terrorism and corruption is used for depriving the Baloch people of their resources and rights

The Sardars embezzling money meant for development purposes are in league with the government. The evil nexus between state-sponsored terrorism and corruption is used for depriving the Baloch people of their resources and rights

Ikram Sehgal in “Of Empire and Army” says, “There has been a Baloch president and a Baloch prime minister. During their time in office, none of the Baloch nawabs and sardars made any effort to ameliorate the conditions of their own people.” He forgets that the establishment ‘accommodates’ only those Baloch who connive in denying the Baloch people their rights. The ‘establishment’ as a quid pro quo turns a blind eye to excesses and corruption. It now even encourages them to fight a ‘dirty war’ against the nationalists. The ordinary Baloch suffers injustices from both the Centre and its local agents; this has reinforced the perception of non-Baloch hegemony. The only representative government of Sardar Ataullah Mengal, which presented the bill to abolish the Sardari system on July 8, 1972, and worked for Baloch rights, was dismissed after nine months. Amelioration of conditions was not tolerated.

Sehgal says ‘the three ‘nawabs’ of the Baloch, now agitating for ‘independence’, have at one time or the other ‘taken oath of allegiance to Pakistan’. This he thinks obligates their submission to the federation. Mr Jinnah presented Kalat’s memorandum supporting its independence to the Cabinet Mission in May 1946, but did not feel honour bound when in March 1948, he ordered troops into Kalat. Incidentally, Sardar Khair Baksh Marri has neither held office nor signed the 1973 constitution; his son Mir Balach Khan swore allegiance to Balochistan in Balochi in the provincial assembly.

“The incongruity of it all is that the military wants democracy for the Baloch people, but has not been able to translate its objectives into practice. This can only be achieved under a democratic dispensation, which must obtain freedom for the Baloch from its cruel depraved rulers, who hold the power of life and death over them and their children,” Sehgal pontificates. He seems oblivious to history, for if militaries gave way to democracy, they would have in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in Latin America. Atrocities in Bangladesh and now in Balochistan would never have happened. Presently the Baloch are being killed, dumped and oppressed by state institutions and it is these institutions that illegally exercise ‘power of life and death’ over them and it is from them that the Baloch strive to obtain freedom. Now the Baloch are tired of living in the shadow of the gun.

Another allegation is, “The ‘democracy’ that the feudal lords espouse is limited to their own version of despotic rule,” but forgets that the same and more holds true for the democracy that the military envisages for the Baloch. He also forgets that these ‘cruel depraved rulers’ are not ‘the three ‘nawabs’ but are the obsequious Sardars at the beck and call of the establishment, assisting it in its dirty war against the Baloch people. The Sardars embezzling money meant for development purposes are in league with the government. The evil nexus between state-sponsored terrorism and corruption is used for depriving the Baloch people of their resources and rights.

Expressing sympathy and blaming feudalism, the writer says, “The Baloch must be taken out of their life of deprivation and want,” but conveniently forgets that mostly the military has been in power in that province. The present situation was precipitated by Musharraf who, recently, brazenly advocated more Baloch repression. He forgets that the precious little that Pakistan receives as aid is devoted to the military. Two years ago, Fakharuddin G Ibrahim said, “During the last 30 years, Rs 178.3 billion had been spent on education and Rs 98 billion on health while, on the other hand, around Rs 2,835 billion had been consumed on defence alone.” Interestingly, combined health and education expenditure in three decades is a little more than half of defence expenditure in 2010-11 alone. The remainder is devoured by politicians and bureaucrats. This policy of beg and spend for the military is overlooked as the real reason for backwardness here.

The article claims, “The tribal sardars living in self-imposed exile breathe fire against the state in the media but do not represent the majority of the ethnic Baloch nor the vast majority of the non-Baloch who populate Balochistan today.” He is absolutely wrong, for had not the majority of the Baloch supported the ‘fire breathing Sardars’ since 1947, the demand for freedom would have petered out long ago. Moreover, the non-tribal areas of Makran would not have become the hotbed of struggle that they are today.

Sehgal says, “Kill and dump, is certainly not the answer to Balochistan’s problem. Indeed, such acts should be condemned unequivocally.” Then in the same breath he justifies it with: “But what is the Frontier Corps (FC), who are tasked with defending critical socio-economic installations like gas pipelines and electric transmission towers that are regularly being blown up, expected to do when they are attacked violently?” And how does he expect a brave and proud nation to act against those they see as aggressors and the reason for their plight? Certainly, they would not be garlanding FC soldiers and installations.

Demanding exclusion of the Sardars from negotiations, Ikram says, “To negotiate with the hereditary rulers and their hired guns, who represent only a minority of the population, is tantamount to condemning the people to continued slavery. Compromising the basic tenets of society at the point of a gun will prove fatal for the federation.” He is more worried about the federation than the Baloch people, who any way are incidental and secondary in his scheme of things. Why should he expect the Baloch to submit to exploitation and negotiations at gunpoint? The Baloch too will not negotiate in the shadow of the gun, and moreover, without the “hereditary rulers and their hired guns”, no dialogue is going to be of any use.

Ikram Sehgal should understand that the Baloch struggle represents the political will of the people and is not fuelled by hidden hands. It will continue in spite of ever-increasing brutal repression because the Baloch have understood that their repression and exploitation is not by rogue elements but is a well thought out policy of the state to permanently deprive them of their rights on lame excuses of ‘national interests’. The Baloch struggle to put an end to the reign of the gun certainly is not going to vanish simply because Mr Sehgal or the government does not like it.


Ikram Sehgal’s article

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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