Tribute To A Comrade By Sana Baloch

Titled “Chakar Khan”, after the great Baloch hero, Asad Rahman courageously campaigned to change the mindset of the ignorant civil-military establishment.

Baloch are in silent mourning, not because another Baloch leader got killed, but because of the loss of Sheikh Asad Rahman – a friend of Balochistan, a great intellectual and human rights campaigner. He had chosen to stand with the Baloch people during difficult times, living in the rugged mountains with them and struggling against the politics of ZA Bhutto. When innocent Baloch people were being bombed during 1973-77, Asad and his comrades were teaching Baloch children in tent schools and treating victims in makeshift hospitals.

Titled “Chakar Khan”, after the great Baloch hero, Asad Rahman courageously campaigned to change the mindset of the ignorant civil-military establishment. He used reason and logic to highlight Baloch people’s misery, pain, suffering and genuine political grievances. Nothing – jail, exile, torture or government enticements – deterred him from his cause. During Musharraf’s military rule and ruthless operation against Balochistan, he rekindled his campaign to awaken Pakistan’s otherwise oblivious elite about ground realities and Baloch suffering.

During the 1973-77 bloodiest Baloch-Islamabad conflict, the Baloch voice was completely suppressed due to Pakistan’s strict media regulations and ZA Bhutto’s civilian dictatorship. Reports of Baloch women being abused while in military custody, disappearances, and burning down of villages never made it to the mainstream press.

However, human rights groups took serious note of the situation and started disseminating information about the systematic killings of the Baloch people. This information served to persuade a few young non-Baloch London based students to become revolutionary Baloch comrades. A group of around 10 students left London’s luxurious lifestyle and moved to the inhospitable terrain of Balochistan to serve and defend the powerless Baloch from the wrath of Z A Bhutto and his military might.

The study of progressive literature along with some information about Balochistan’s rights violations worked to help the young pro-Baloch group better understand humanity, human rights and exploitation of the poor by the ruling elite. Loaded with revolutionary ideas and passion, Sheikh Asad Rahman was the youngest of the group. This passionate London-group started learning Baloch language, culture, and social norms, and travelled with small groups of Baloch fighters. The group compiled facts about the Balochistan conflict, and human rights violations, and started writing small reports and leaflets in Urdu and English for the outside world.

In 2002, when Musharraf launched a massive onslaught against the Baloch, Asad strongly supported the people of Balochistan. He started writing columns, and met with influential policymakers, diplomats and civil society organisations.

During my time in Islamabad as a member of the Senate, I was really honoured to meet and listen to Asad Rahman’s experienced and visionary ideas. Soon after joining Sungi Development Foundation, he wrote a masterpiece in early 2009 titled “Lack of Democracy and Socio-Economic Development of Balochistan”, highlighting historical facts about Baloch-Pakistan relations, ruthless exploitation and linking massive injustices to violent conflicts and civil wars in society.

As a true friend of Balochistan and an honest analyst, he refuted the establishment’s narrative about Balochistan, which revolved around sardars and the tribal system. In his concluding remarks he wrote “It has been proven that (the) government cannot do development works to improve the living standards of the people because of the vested interests and the corruption, inherent in our political system. Also because of the economic policies being implemented which cater only to strategic, federal and class interests. Many a time the prime minister and the president have claimed that these mega projects will improve the living standards of the people of Balochistan by the trickledown effect but history is witness that results are usually the opposite.”

He was very concerned about the endless miseries of the struggling Baloch. In his booklet he also suggested that “the Balochistan crises must be addressed on an emergency basis to rectify the 60-year mishandling of Baloch demands resulting in grievances and resentments that have brought Pakistan to the brink of another civil war. Pakistan can no longer afford military rule because it has resulted in burdens of international debts, balance of payments deficit, inflationary trends that are widening the gap between the haves and have nots and an economy that is nearing default while its policies have driven the country into another catastrophic civil war with the Baloch.”

Asad’s sudden death is not only a major loss for the Baloch in Pakistan who have very few tested and trusted friends, but will be felt in each and every corner of Pakistan where social, political, religious and ethnic intolerance is skyrocketing. (Courtesy: The News International)

The writer is a Baloch leader and is former senator and member of the National Assembly. Tweets @Senator_Baloch; Email: baloch [email protected]; website: http://www.sanabaloch.com

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