Volume 6, No. 2, February 2024
Editor: Rashed Rahman
Although an amnesty was declared in 1970, the Farrars (rebels) of Marri area weren’t disbanded but continued as in the past and kept the government wary and unable to make any physical or political inroads into the Marri area. In 1970, before the general elections, Mir Ali Bakhsh Talpur of Mirpurkhas visited Babu Sher Mohammad Marri in the Tadri mountain along with Mohammad Bhabha and Yusuf Nashqandi. Mohammad Bhabha was a political activist and believed that educated youth could be of help to the Baloch people. He put that proposition to Babu, who accepted it after consultation with Sardar Khair Bakhsh Marri and Mir Hazar Khan Ramkani. Thus began the involvement of Marxist revolutionaries with the Baloch resistance.
The 1970 elections in Pakistan saw the Awami League (AL) of Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman win a majority. Thereby the person who had been branded a traitor in the Agartala Conspiracy Case stood on the threshold of becoming the Prime Minister (PM) with a majority big enough to have his way. But for the Punjab-dominated establishment and army, this was an unacceptably bitter pill to swallow for it could have loosened their grip on power forever as the AL had the support of the National Awami Party (NAP) of Wali Khan in West Pakistan. Moreover, the Bengali people were more politically aware and would likely thwart any attempts at usurping civilian power. Then began the pantomime of how to deny the Bengalis their rightful share in power. The establishment found in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto a willing partner in the efforts to thwart Sheikh Mujib from getting into the coveted position of PM. The simmering political confrontation between Mujib and Bhutto led to the inevitable outcome of denying the Bengalis their share in power by the use of military force. On March 26, 1971, a brutal military assault was unleashed on the Bengali people. The resistance by the Bengali people rendered the Pakistani establishment’s brutal suppression a failure. Then India entered the fray and the fate of united Pakistan was sealed on December 17, 1971 and Bangladesh was born.
By December 1971, Mohammad Bhabha and the London group’s Asad Rahman, Ahmed Rashid and Dilip Das were in the mountains of Balochistan with the Farrars. My involvement was because Mohammad Bhabha was a friend as his father Hameed Bhabha and my father Mir Ali Ahmed Talpur were friends. The London group also included Rashed Rahman and Najam Sethi, both of whom looked after the urban organisation, communications and logistics. Dilip Das was picked up along with Ali Sher Marri in early 1975 while Najam Sethi was arrested in December 1975 and remained incarcerated till the dissolution of the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case tribunal. Mohammad Bhabha, whose eye was incapacitated in a mishap, left the Marri area sometime in August 1973 and went abroad to garner support.
Some Baloch and other friends are sometimes critical of these non-Baloch comrades who decided to work with and for the Baloch resistance. It is always easy to criticise people without knowing what difficulties and problems they faced to assimilate and then serve the people as best they could. It may be easy for some to dismiss their contribution to the struggle for they fail to understand that living in extremely difficult physical conditions and being hunted and yet not giving up in those difficult years is a credit to them.The one who sacrificed his life for that struggle, Dilip Das, should never be forsaken or forgotten.
This group proved a blessing as being educated and politically progressive, they organised education and healthcare for the people and gave the struggle political direction. I had trained with a doctor for six months to learn about diseases and their treatment. This later helped me treat people as they had no other access to doctors or healthcare. There were no roads in the Marri area then and taking the sick to even the nearest city of Sibi was cumbersome and difficult. Our being educated and with some basic knowhow of medical care helped to ease some issues and problems encountered in the environs of our guerrilla camp.
The state feared revolutionary politicisation of the Baloch through these educated cadres and their potential to improve the military tactics of the Baloch guerrillas. It was not long before the news reached the long ears of the state that Marxist revolutionaries were working with the Baloch. This increased the already deepened fears regarding the strength and efficacy of the resistance in the minds of the establishment and the urgency in their plans to crush the Baloch movement before it could pose a threat to the state. The plans for the ouster of the Sardar Ataullah Mengal government weren’t solely prompted by our presence, though that surely must have been a factor. Moreover, Iran was demanding curbs on the nationalist aspirations of the Baloch as the Shah feared its spillover effect in Iranian Balochistan. Apart from these factors, the deciding impetus of the brutal suppression campaign emanated from the military establishment’s fear of losing Balochistan along with its resources and vast area to the nationalists, who would put an end to their ambitions of exploiting the resources of the Baloch.
On March 1, 1973, Babu Sher Mohammad Marri was arrested from Kohlu. Realising that this wasn’t the only step the government would stop at, it was decided that our guerrilla camp be shifted and the fighters spread out into different groups to ensure that in case of an attack, which now seemed possible and probable, it could not eliminate all. There were about 30 people actively involved in the camp. We moved to a secure place with a few comrades and started shifting the few things that were with us to different caves to ensure that these didn’t encumber us and remained safe if the army moved in. The negotiations between the Baloch and the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government were dragging on and there was no assurance that the ousted leadership would be reinstated. Moreover, the people were getting desperate. This was a situation that could not go on indefinitely. Something had to happen somewhere by someone from either side.
The Bhutto government had moved steadily from the day the Mengal government was sworn in on May 1, 1972 to undermine it. The former waited for the opportunity as to when and how they could send the latter packing. This they succeeded in achieving on February 13, 1973 on the trumped up charge of weapons intended for the Baloch resistance found in the residence of the Iraqi Military Attaché in Islamabad. The government’s security forces arrived at the residence with the media in tow. The government seemed already to know all about the weapons. Rafi Raza, who was a federal minister then, told me later that they even knew when the arms arrived in Karachi and from where they were transported to Islamabad. When he learnt that the discovery was announced in the presence of the media, he understood that all possible credibility of the so-called find had been lost.
The dismissal of the Sardar Ataullah Mengal government in Balochistan compounded and sharpened the resentment and the already unbridgeable alienation among the people. But this also gave a free hand and unlimited opportunity to the quarters that were more loyal to the king to try and undermine the influence of those who demanded the rights of the Baloch people. These elements were given the wherewithal and license to promote the Pakistani state’s narrative. These forces under Jam Ghulam Qadir, and more unfortunately at that time Nawab Akbar Bugti, who became the Governor, gave all the pro-state Sardars the best opportunity to go after the dissenting people with hammer and tongs.
But it wasn’t just left to them to undermine and persecute the people they suspected of having sympathies for the pro-people political leadership. The state resorted to its usual method of employing force against the Baloch people as they had two years before in Bangladesh. The consequences of the debacle faced in East Pakistan had not taught them anything. A gradual but steady blockade of the Marri area began. Places like Talli, Lehri, Sibi, Barkhan, etc, where the people usually got their essentials and foodstuff, were rendered off limits to people from the Marri area. The siege was being tightened and people were getting desperate as there had been a continuing drought for the past three years and food grains were desperately short. The blockade was a telling one and people felt threatened. Sham and duplicitous negotiations with the ousted government leaders were also being carried out to give the leaders and people a false sense of complacency.
On May 18, 1973, some four months after Sardar Ataullah Mengal’s government’s dismissal and the ever tightening of the blockade of the Marri area, the impasse was shattered when eight soldiers of the Sibi Scouts on a routine patrol along the railway line were ambushed and killed near Tandoori. The media went berserk. We could only get the radio news. There was a torrent of anti-Baloch venom. General Tikka Khan said that those responsible for this would be brought to justice within 72 hours. On May 22, 1973, army troops were ferried to Mawand by an air bridge of helicopters and established their base there. Mawand is located in about the centre of the Marri area and quite close to the Tadri mountain where we had had our camp until the arrest of Babu Sher Mohammad. The war between the Baloch and the state in its fourth round had now officially begun.
I will say that had the Tandoori ambush not occurred, the Baloch political leaders except for Sardar Khair Bakhsh and Ataullah Mengal would probably have agreed to a lukewarm compromise with Bhutto, which would have resulted in neutralising Baloch nationalism’s struggle approach forever and emasculated the nationalism that Abdul Aziz Kurd and Yusuf Aziz Magsi had practiced, promoted and visualised to ensure that the Baloch live with dignity and freedom in their homeland. This incident forced people to take sides in what was now an open conflict. Before, many preferred to stand on the sidelines as observers and bystanders. This was the first time that the Baloch had struck first at the military, which symbolised the state and its armed writ. Most Baloch responded positively and even those leaders who favoured compromise were willy nilly swept into the conflict.
This phase of the Baloch resistance was qualitatively different from the previous phases as the fight was taken to the army instead of waiting for it to attack. There were ambushes on army patrols wherever the guerillas could attack and safely withdraw. The fight wasn’t limited to the Marri area alone as it sparked up in the Mengal area, in Jhalawan and even in Makran. In the Marri area the command was in the hands of Mir Hazar Khan Ramkani, in the Mengal area under Ali Mohammad Mengal, in Jhalawan with Safar Khan Zarakzai and in Makran with Aslam Gichki.
There were attacks on the army in all these areas where the guerrillas attacked army patrols, pickets and even the troops involved in sweeps to flush out the fighters. Knowing the gorges, gullies, get away routes and water holes, the fighters had an advantage over the army. The guerrilla groups were self-sufficient with a minimum of rations and only their rifles, which were mostly Darra-made .303 rifles with a sprinkling of factory-made ones and even 7mm hunting rifles. They would ambush a patrol, capture their arms and disappear. As the successful ambushes increased, the rifles used in the fighting were G3 or M1 captured from the enemy. With these advanced assault rifles the ambushes became even more deadly. There were hardly any casualties among the guerrillas while the toll on the army’s side kept mounting, even though they had the support of Iranian helicopter gunships piloted by Iranians.
In its frustration at being unable to stop the attacks, the army targeted the people in a systematic manner. Households were attacked, grain destroyed and flocks taken away. The flocks sustain the people and depriving them of these was a deadly blow. But this wasn’t all. People were killed in these operations to deprive the fish (guerrillas) of the sea (people). Even the water skins (mashkizas) were slashed. A lot of people were forced to move to Sindh. It was in late 1975 that the first Baloch refugees crossed into Afghanistan. The Baloch are very sensitive about family. To ensure the safety of their families, the Baloch sent them through difficult routes to Afghanistan and then President Daoud Khan generously accommodated them.
All these brutalities and hardships did not deter the fighters, who in the Marri area were under the command of Mir Hazar Khan. The army patrols were hit as far as Rakhni in Barkhan district bordering D G Khan, Munda Wad, which borders the Pashtun areas, and Bolan. This unsettled the army as it felt it wasn’t secure even in the settled areas. The elusive guerillas always evaded the cordons that swept the area in ‘search and destroy’ operations conducted in near division strength. Being unable to limit or destroy the guerillas is very demoralising for any army. According to Selig Harrison, three fourths of the attacks were in the Marri area (Selig Harrison: In Afghanistan’s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1981).
This was the first pan-Balochistan resistance. It was a qualitatively different resistance as army pickets and patrols were attacked actively, unlike the ‘passive’ ones of the past. Had Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti adopted his 2005-2006 position then, it would have put a lot more pressure on the state as the Sui gas supply would have been at risk. Sindh had at that time not become the main gas producer. This may even have forced the Bhutto government to come to the negotiating table, but it was not to be. Moreover, the combined Marri-Bugti area would have become even more impossible to control. The Marri fighters were often confronted by the Bugtis when they had to enter the Bugti area to evade the pursuing Pakistani forces or trying to take a breather there. Fortunately, these confrontations didn’t escalate into actual fighting. Maybe with Nawab Akbar and the Bugti people’s participation, the ‘critical mass’ essential for getting the Baloch their rights may have come about.
The toll on the Baloch stalwarts was heavy as Ali Mohammad Mengal (August 19, 1973), Mir Lawang Khan (August 7, 1973), Jalat Khan Marri (1975) and Mir Safar Khan Zarakzai (August 9, 1976) were all martyred while fighting the army at different fronts in Balochistan. These were body blows to the resistance, but the fighters weren’t demoralised and continued the fight. The September 1974 Chamalang operation by the army, where Marri families were targeted, forced the fighters to surrender as helicopter gunships and fighter jets were used against them. This was a blow, albeit not as great as the Bhutto government tried to project it by broadcasting interviews of those who surrendered on the radio. The fight continued in other Marri areas and the attacks on the army didn’t end till well after July 1977.
This phase of fighting continued till July 1977 when Ziaul Haq ousted Bhutto and released the NAP leaders in phases: the Pashtun leaders first, then other accused of the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case and lastly the Baloch leaders for they were the thorn in the military’s side. Jail probably mellowed and changed a lot of people. Small differences were magnified in the enclosed cells and minor differences that had existed even in the best of times became insurmountable once these personages were once again in the comfort of their homes. Aspirations and dreams were abandoned, the promises made to the people forgotten and forsaken. This was a tragic blow to the morale of the people, who had tethered their hopes on the verbal commitments and promises of their leaders. Not only did the Baloch and Pashtun leaders part ways, inter-Baloch unity too lay in shreds. In this emotional and political turmoil, it was only Khair Bakhsh Khan and Sher Mohammad Marri who did not forsake their position on the Baloch struggle.
The fighting eased, although the struggle was never only for the release of the leaders or other short-term goals. The people had suffered immensely during the four years of repression that followed the Baloch response to the unjust dismissal of the Sardar Ataullah Mengal government. Most resistance leaders had taken refuge in Afghanistan when their continued presence in Balochistan became problematic. They included Mehrullah Mengal, Lal Bakhsh Rind, Aslam Gichki, Mir Hazar Khan Marri and others. The only difference among them was that many Marris had migrated to Afghanistan and Mir Hazar could and did muster groups that were sent back to continue the struggle.
A lot of Marris and other Baloch, including myself since the end of 1974, were underground in Sindh and D G Khan. It was a battle for preservation as in the Marri area the operations were intensifying and it was essential to seek safety for families, especially women and children. Some people sold their souls and helped trace out those in hiding but mostly they remained safe due to the sympathies of people helping them. A lot of families gradually and incrementally shifted to Afghanistan.
It is noteworthy that the Bhutto government created an Afghan Cell and persuaded anti-Daoud people like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and others to come to Pakistan so pressure could be exerted on Daoud to relinquish support for the Baloch and send back the Baloch refugees. The Afghan Cell wasn’t disbanded even after Bhutto’s ouster and the pressure also continued to be exerted on Daoud Khan. As more and more anti-Afghan government people reached Pakistan and were inducted into what became the embryonic Mujahideen, Daoud succumbed to the pressure and told the Baloch leaders that they would have to return to Pakistan under guarantees. The Baloch leaders recalled how the Pakistani government had honoured its guarantees to Shahzada Abdul Karim and Nawab Nauroz Khan, so they were reluctant, but did not have too many options.
The tables suddenly turned when Daoud Khan was ousted by the Khalq Party on April 28, 1978 in the Saur Inqilab (Saur Revolution). The Khalq and Parcham (communist) Parties both were sympathetic to the Baloch and they refused to send back the leaders or the refugees. I reached Afghanistan on June 22, 1978. The Marris were then living in three camps. One was at Shorawak because the Afghan government had not yet given them permission to come to either Kandahar or Zabul where the previous two main camps were. The Kandahar camp’s leader was Yakoob Durkani while the Zabul one, which was in Apo Tangi in the mountains, was under Mir Hazar’s command. The Shorawak camp refugees were later allowed to come to Zabul under Mir Hazar’s command. The Afghan government gave rations and a small monetary stipend of 300 Afghanis per adult and 150 per child. There were around 3,000 people, women and children included, in these camps. The bulk were in Zabul.
In July 1978 the Ziaul Haq martial law government announced an amnesty for all those in Afghanistan. While many accepted it and returned, the Marris and Mir Hazar, after consultations with Khair Bakhsh, Babu Sher Mohammad, the educated cadre (London Group) and clan heads, did not avail it and decided to continue living in exile.
If they too had returned, would things have been different today? I feel that it would have been different because the continued stay of the Baloch in Afghanistan was something that not only worried the Pakistan government but also gave a glimmer of hope to those Baloch who wanted to continue the struggle for rights. It should be kept in mind that these were people experienced in guerilla warfare, staying as a united group ready for another round. The flame was kept alive and not only that, a better part of the present round of struggle was initially dependent on them. They took the fight to the government and this fight kindled other embers. The struggle still continues.
The split between the Baloch and Pashtun leaders and also among the Baloch leaders did not augur well. Most resigned themselves to a long, intolerable stalemate where the forces demanding rights would be marginalised while the state would continue with its exploitation of resources, indoctrination of people, changing of the social ethos and creating political forces to counter those involved in the struggle for rights, thereby hoping to change the social and political ethos from that of struggle to that of submission.
People who wanted rights were not pessimistic. Their hopes were boosted when Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri came to live in Kabul in 1982. He always had been the staunchest among those demanding rights. It was understood that many of the Marri tribe and also the Baloch people in general would follow his lead. These hopes were not ill founded but being so far away from the actual field of struggle was not helpful for in that period the means of communication in comparison with today’s world were primitive and rudimentary. News and views took a long time to filter out. Long periods of inaction are not conducive to bolstering morale. As a result, people tend to slowly drift into passivity, inattention and, naturally, inaction. Politics becomes stagnant, people begin to lose hope and slowly shun their political ideals for dreams and expectations of a possibly well-off life. Political stagnancy is political death. The best option for those who refused to return was to continue fighting on their own, remain in exile and bide their time. Most other elements of the struggle front had given up by accepting the amnesty.
The Afghan communist government itself was beset with a US-led-west-cum-Muslim countries’ sponsored rebellion with Pakistan playing a major role because of proximity and the already established anti-Afghan alliance through the Afghan Cell. Money and arms poured in for the anti-Afghan government forces who got a new impetus with the entry of the Soviet Union into Afghanistan on December 27, 1979. I was there that day in Kabul and had brought a letter for Asadullah Amin, a nephew of Hafeezullah Amin, the head of the secret service at the time, to ask for some arms for self-defence. This request became necessary because the so-called Mujahideen, who resented our presence and with the exhortations, money and arms from their sponsors, threatened our camp. Also, the night-long fight between the Soviet troops and troops loyal to the Parcham Party on the one hand and the forces loyal to Amin on the other, underlined the emerging precarious security situation.
It was the sheer determination of the Afghan people that they were able to keep the west and the Islamic bloc-sponsored Mujahideen at bay for so long. The Soviet Union also put in a lot of people, arms and money, but could not sustain it due to internal weaknesses. The turmoil created by the war naturally affected us as well. During this prolonged conflict, quite a few Baloch became victims of the Mujahideen’s attacks on Baloch travellers, rockets falling on camps and sometimes armed encounters. A couple of Baloch became victims of Soviet troops, who mistook them for Mujahideen.
The war that raged in Afghanistan was debilitating and disastrous for the people and the country. In such a situation, the Afghans couldn’t be expected to support the Baloch cause as they themselves were fighting to survive the international onslaught. However, despite all this, when at the start of 1987, Khair Bakhsh Khan asked other Marris in the Marri area to come to Afghanistan, the Afghan government facilitated their transportation, rations, etc. It should be noted that the Zabul camp had had to shift to Lashkargah in Helmand province in April 1981 because the situation there had become untenable due to the blockade and attacks by the Mujahideen. The Lashkargah camp was near the airport. The Soviet army’s garrison camp and the city being nearby, attacks by the Mujahideen came to an end for some time. People got the opportunity to indulge in petty trading and even some cultivation of fodder and crops. This was a period of long suspension of any armed action in Pakistan.
The Baloch armed struggle had ended once the Baloch leaders were released and some Baloch leaders in exile in Afghanistan returned. The disunity among the Baloch leadership was now public knowledge. Political work and political canvassing for Baloch rights came to a near standstill. Only the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) was still carrying the mantle, but it too was riven by factions supporting independence and others seeking a compromise. There was no political or social organisation among the Baloch dedicated to disseminating the Baloch rights agenda. This was to prove detrimental in the long run. It has had a telling effect on the Baloch struggle because people left to their own devices preferred to shun the collective interests and welfare and seek personal and individual betterment. Had there been an organisation or party that would have strived for forwarding and projecting collective interests, the rush for a better personal life would not have assumed tsunami proportions, compounded and sharpened by the political parties claiming to be ‘Baloch Nationalists’ and personages who sought benefits, power and pelf at the cost of the collective interest.
Madrassahs and social ethos
This rot and drift towards self-interest over the Baloch national interest was aggravated by the government’s systematic, organised and concerted effort to transform and change the old Baloch social ethos of secular and nationalist feelings with the help of religion. The onslaught began in the shape of Saudi-funded madrassahs and a free rein to the religious parties and organisations to change the Baloch mindset by dangling the dreams of Paradise in the other world in place of their struggle for a collective paradise in this world. The Arab countries and the west funded an anti-Afghan people’s war. This became a defining and determining factor for this war needed recruits and religious fervour and the madrassahs were the best vehicle and instrument to achieve these ends.
The religious parties and organisations took advantage of two factors: the general poverty that was a direct fallout of the persistent and continuous systematic and wilful neglect of the needs of the people of Balochistan and, secondly, the pathetic state of the education system. The education system was in shambles with dilapidated school buildings, mostly single or two room structures, many of which even lacked toilet facilities. As if this was not enough to deter people from seeking an education, the system was riven with ghost teachers and ghost schools where money was just disappearing without teaching even a single student. These two factors allowed the religious parties and organisations to cash in on people’s needs and resentment by offering their children free education, accommodation and some monetary help. The madrassahs proliferated exponentially and though attempts were made to register them, the exercise remained fruitless. Today the madrassahs number in the tens of thousands. It is not that this proliferation is without the consent of the state; it is promoted, protected and sustained by it for its own ends.
When Awaran was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on September 24, 2013, the UN humanitarian envoy, Dr Abdullah Al-Matouq, said the UN was ready to help with relief work in Balochistan’s earthquake-affected areas but the Pakistani authorities refused. The then ruling coalition of Hasil Bizenjo and Chief Minister Dr Malik gave a lot of sympathy statements and promises but did nothing, while the National Disaster Management Authority stopped an international aid caravan of the UN, WHO, WFO and UNICEF. The doctors of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) were refused entry. Importantly, Dr Malik in a statement claimed that they had initiated operations in Awaran to end its status as a no-go area due to the Sarmachars (insurgents). Even the BSO (Azad) camp for relief was forcibly evicted although the government invited and helped Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) and Jamaat-i-Islami’s (JI’s) Al-Khidmat to set up relief camps. The FIF’s black-and-white flags lined the main street and JI’s banners exhorted the faithful to prayer in Awaran city. An FIF camp/madrassah was constructed just outside Awaran. These ‘charities’ were brought in not for charity, which the UN, Oxfam and others offered and could have truly helped the affected people, but for the purpose of undermining an essentially secular social ethos and nationalist insurgency.
The essential difference between the Baloch Sarmachars/nationalists and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), along with their proxies operating in Balochistan, is that the Baloch Sarmachars/nationalists represent the historical secular ethos of Baloch society, which has always been Baloch society’s hallmark and is adhered to by a majority of the Baloch while the TTP and its Baloch proxies who also double as anti-nationalist death squads want to create an Islamist ethos, which the Pakistani state has sponsored through proliferation of madrassahs throughout Balochistan and nurturing Islamists as strategic assets to counter not only the secular ethos but also Balochistan’s rights struggle. Allowing only its strategic assets’ religious outfits to deliver aid in Awaran is a clear example of that intention and the attempt at irreversibly changing the historical secular ethos of Baloch society.
The Pakistani military establishment nurtured and promoted radical religious fundamentalism, which today can be seen in Balochistan in the shape of ‘death squads’ that target the Baloch who seek their rights and the other equally vile and evil groups that target religious minorities such as the Hazaras, Shias and Zikris. Two sectarian militants, Usman Kurd and Daud Buledi, were arrested by police and then sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in November 2003. They were kept in an improvised high security prison in Quetta’s Cantonment area. On the night of January 18, 2008, these two dangerous militants mysteriously escaped from that high security prison and continued to wreak havoc on the Hazaras, religious minorities and anyone who visited shrines. This shows that the government and its bigoted psyche is responsible for the carnage against the Hazara Shias, other Shias and shrine visitors, for without using the religious militants raised and trained for Kashmir and Afghanistan and actively promoting madrassahs, the largely secular ethos would have survived and the tolerance for diversity that had prevailed in the past would have continued.
A quote of C S Lewis will help us understand the nature of a state where religion and temporal affairs are both used to browbeat and intimidate people so that this state has its way without any dissent being voiced against its injustices. Where social and political means do not achieve the results that the state desires, he says, “Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep; his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” This puts the Pakistani state’s behaviour in proper perspective. Pakistani rulers, overt and covert, have always been an embodiment of robber baron omnipotent moral busybodies guided and goaded on by their interests, which they cloak in the false garb of religion and the national interest. They and their institutions’ beliefs and attitudes – while enjoying absolute immunity because of the unbridled power they wield — are tempered by their conviction that their atrocities are morally justified. Therefore, hopes for justice have and always will remain a forlorn utopian dream for those who, like the pseudo-nationalists in Balochistan, compromise on the plea that they seek the betterment and welfare of the Baloch from within the system. These compromises undermine the struggle of the Baloch people, who are doomed unless they unite and resist injustices against all.
Self-righteous states transcend all boundaries and think they are infallible and omniscient. Unfortunately, the state’s conviction of its moral righteousness is not restricted to itself; the next step is forcing people to acquiesce in whatever it thinks is correct and best for them. This self-righteousness stems from a disconnect from reality and the attempt to impose one’s views is an extension of that basic folly, because such delusions never stay confined to source. Naturally, states with absolute powers and religious orientation always trample on human rights because they think they have a ‘divine’ sanction for that and they do not even need to provide a fig leaf for their depredations against the people. Such states and their leaders think making people submit to their thought and philosophy is their divine duty. They try to coerce people into accepting their views and this coercion is limitless in its scope and brutality. Fortunately, the people have their own minds and interests, and therefore they refuse to submit and all coercion eventually fails.
Religious extremism has been a scourge wherever it raised its head; however, it becomes doubly deadly when the state adopts it for suppressing the people’s struggle for their rights. The problems that such states and institutions create are proportional to the strength of their beliefs and the power they wield. Unsurprisingly, they commit all sorts of human rights abuses and atrocities with an exceptional zeal and passion. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the French Catholic philosopher, put it succinctly: “People never do evil so completely and so cheerfully as when they do it in the name of their religion.”
The state hasn’t yet relented in this dangerous and deadly strategy, which means that the government-sponsored ‘death squads’ will continue to make the lives of the people in Balochistan miserable and precarious. The injuring of Bramsh and killing of her mother is a poignant recent example.The carnage against the minorities will continue. There will be no peace in Afghanistan. Getting this genie back into the bottle is impossible and equally impossible is getting the indoctrinated Frankensteins to unlearn the misanthropy they inculcated in their minds so successfully and meticulously.
These self-appointed infallible and omniscient states and institutions become extremely brutal and merciless once they sense the defeat of their beliefs and policies and their imminent end. The state and its institutions have been ruthless in the extreme and have already upped the ante against the Baloch because they persist with their struggle for their rights and resources. It is this mindset and an unfavourable global situation that the Baloch are up against. The Baloch therefore see no option except that of resisting with everything at their disposal. The will of the people has to prevail eventually.
Nations are best educated through a truthful presentation of their history, traditions and culture, but this becomes well-nigh impossible when they are colonised. The coloniser distorts history to make way for its narrative, which it wants to superimpose on the psyche of the colonised nation to make slavery look dignified and therefore more acceptable. The role of history in raising the consciousness of nations is what the coloniser fears most. This is what they intend to counter when they set about distorting history with fabrications and spurious figures to belittle the history of the colonised people to ensure unopposed domination and abject obsequiousness. This is exactly what Pakistan has done with the Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun nationalities here. The Baloch had not opted for Pakistan but Sindh had without realizing the dire consequences it would bring in its wake. Pakistan has continually distorted history to superimpose its narrative that all are Muslims and in the interest of Islam all should submit to and accept the state narrative and its actions as supreme. You will hardly find a mention of Baloch, Sindhi or for that matter Pashtun heroes in the textbooks. Even roads and places are named either after persons from Islamic history or post-1947 personages.
(To be continued)