Friday, February 03, 2006

The Baloch Options in Pakistan

By Dr Naseer Dashti

Ideal of liberation of one’s people and land is cherish able and worth fighting for.

The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices - submit or fight. For a majority of conscious Baloch that time has now come to Baloch people. A growing fear of cultural, economic and political domination has prompted an extensive discussion among Baloch nationalists in Pakistan for formulating a viable and feasible strategy for countering the ever-dominating maneuvers of the state. Baloch political elite and workers are also conscious of far-reaching repercussions of recent political and strategic changes in the world polity in general and the region in particular. The nationalist leadership and groups in Balochistan are increasingly under pressure from different quarters to forge a united front of patriotic forces on a common minimum program of national salvation. Majority of the Baloch intellectuals and writers believe in carrying out a resistance struggle on the basis of right of self-determination.

Balochistan was conquered by force and is being ruled by force. Whether in reserve or in actual employment, brutal force is ever present and this has been so since the incorporation of Balochistan in to Pakistan in 1948.

1 Massive military crack downs of atrocious proportion waged against Baloch people in 1948, 1958, 1973 and the present military operation in Marri, Bugti, Jhalawan and Southern Balochistan is the latest in this series.

2 Attempts to the eradication of Baloch culture by denying education in mother tongue and superimposition of north Indian language and culture on Baloch people and non-acknowledgement of a Baloch existence as a separate national entity within Pakistan. The Pakistani state has been adopting an approach of induced integration that is the creation of a novel Islamic nation from several ethnic nationalities as part of their nation-building efforts.

3 Gaining hold of the Baloch land by encouraging settlers from majority nationality to move to northern Balochistan, for example, in Quetta and Sibi in the past and the recent allotment and occupation of the thousands of acres of lands in the coastal belt and the planned settlement of 2.5 million people in Gwadar.

4 Subjugation tactics by the use of armed violence, state terror against Baloch, such as with the use of torture, selective killing of Baloch elite by fomenting intertribal and intra-tribal conflicts by various state agencies.

5 A ‘state of siege’ has been imposed on Balochistan through police, paramilitary and coast guard repressions.

6 Electing or selecting government functionaries have imposed an indirect or internal colonial rule by manipulating and under hand tactics of government agencies.

7 Encouraging fundamentalist religious elements allied with state establishment and funded and patronized by it to take over, in the long run the very fabric of a secular Baloch society.

In all the institutions of Pakistan, the Baloch are practically and statutorily excluded from the political, economical and cultural processes of the state. Political power, except for some marginally delegated powers to provinces, is explicitly the monopoly of the central government dominated by Punjabis. All of this is being rationalized on the basis of Ideology of Pakistan; the core of this ideology is the conquest and domination of the minority nationalities of Pakistan in the name of Islamic Brotherhood. Balochistan has been ruled in a manner of indirect colonial rule. In the name of elections, agents of state security agencies were “elected or projected” as the representatives of Baloch masses. The so-called incorporation in the provincial power structure of some "Baloch" leaders is a thorough corruption of colonial traditions and merely an extension of majority domination by proxy. Its purpose is creating a class of relatively privileged Balochs who would thus acquire a direct material interest in the preservation of the institutions of national domination at the expense of their own people. The fact that some of these collaborator tribal chiefs and leaders of so-called Baloch middle class could trace descent from those who sided with the Pakistani establishment from the very beginning is quite interesting.

The Baloch Options

The National Question of Baloch is an old sociological reality historically constituted. Baloch never accepted the partition of their homeland Balochistan, in the aftermath of the unjust decisions of the boundary commissions reached between British Empire, Persia and Afghanistan during 19th century and annexation of Kalat State by Pakistan in 1948. The Baloch demand for self-rule constitutes a democratic pursuit that is incompatible with the despotism and religious-based nationalism of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. In spite of the diversity of struggle in the 20th century, The Baloch Resistance Movements in Iran and Pakistan had all the same background - the will of national liberation.

In the prevailing circumstances, Baloch masses firmly believe that Baloch identity is more at peril than ever before. Baloch have suffered more than just national humiliation. Baloch people are deprived of their national wealth. Poverty and starvation has been their life experience. The so-called democratic institutions such as district governments, provincial assemblies and federal bodies are a gross insult to Baloch national inspiration and mockery of federalism in Pakistan. These have proved in practice to be blind alleys serving mainly as a delaying tactic to ensure the prolongation of the period of Punjabi domination over Baloch and other nationalities.

There is disillusionment among the majority of Baloch with the prospect of achieving national salvation by traditional peaceful processes. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to the domination and cultural and economical exploitation had been closed by the state, and Baloch are placed in a position in which they had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the state. Many politically active groups are in firm belief that under the highly sophisticated police state of Pakistan it is questionable whether a peaceful movement can succeed in a program of mass political organization beyond a certain point. For the majority of conscious people among Baloch the only option left for them is to answer the state violence with armed resistance.

Are the circumstances conducive?
Here the cardinal question is whether conditions are favorable for an all out struggle including armed resistance by Baloch masses? In the typical colonial-type situation armed resistance becomes feasible only if:

There is readiness to respond to the strategy of armed struggle with all the enormous sacrifices which this involves.
There is in existence a political leadership capable of gaining the organized allegiance of the people for armed struggle and which has both the experience and the ability to carry out the painstaking process of planning, preparation and overall conduct of the operations.
There exist favorable objective conditions in the international and regional polity.
From the time alien rule was imposed on Baloch people there has been - historically speaking - unbroken resistance by the Baloch masses. It has taken different forms at different times but it has never been abandoned. There were regular armed clashes, and battles. The superior material resources of the enemy, the divided and often fragmented nature of the resistance, the unchallenged ascendancy of imperialism as a world system, the historically understandable absence of political cohesion and leadership in the Baloch camp; these and other factors combined to end the past phases of Baloch resistance against foreign domination in defeat and confusion.

In the post cold war era a polarization of forces has occurred on international level. There are forces of religious fundamentalism supported by rouge and artificial countries like Pakistan and Iran, creating chaos and instability. There are forces which would like the world to be a safe place for all humanity acknowledging the birth right of different nations, nationalities and ethnic groups to be governed by the representatives of their own selection, in their own cultural and traditional ways. Although, on the face of it, major western powers such as Britain, Germany, France, the United States and Japan who have an enormous stake in the ongoing war against terrorism constitute a formidable support for the rogue Punjabi state. But there is the wide spread belief among the political observers on international affairs that the support of western alliance to states like Pakistan with a fundamentalist establishment and nuclear potentials is a temporary one and a major strike by western powers is on card against such rogue states.

Conditions are connected and interdependent. They are not created by subjective and ideological activity only. These conditions are brought about not only by developing political, economic and social conditions but also by the long hard grind of resistance movement. They depend on such factors as the response of the enemy, the strength and weaknesses of the enemy and the experience gained by the people themselves not in academic seminars but in actual political struggle. The new and apparently the final phase of struggle of Baloch people is taking place in the context of a new world political milieu, in which the fundamentalist and religious and rogue states are increasingly under pressure from world community to reform their social, economic and political systems. Baloch are part of the zone in which international pressure is highest on the countries where Baloch are being subjugated as a nationality.
The enemy is not invincible

The Baloch face a ferocious and formidable foe. There is the reinforced feeling of confidence among Pakistani ruling elite that their fortress is impregnable and unassailable considering the state’s immense military power and nuclear capability. For the moment apparently, the Baloch face what is by and large a united and confident enemy and all significant sections of the dominant nationality are in broad agreement on the question of defeating Baloch struggle for national emancipation. But if there is one lesson that the history of national liberation struggles has taught, it is that the material strength and resources of the enemy is by no means a decisive factor. The armed struggle is the political struggle by means which include the use of military force by an oppressed people. Armed resistance by a suppressed people almost by definition presents a situation in which there is a vast imbalance of material and military resources between the opposing sides. It is designed to cope with the situation in which the enemy is infinitely superior in relation to every conventional factor of warfare. Protracted guerilla warfare is par excellence the weapon of the materially weak against the materially strong. Given its popular character and given a population which increasingly sides with and shields the armed insurgents whilst at the same time opposing and exposing the enemy, the survival and growth of an armed resistance is assured by the skilful exercise of tactics. Superior forces can thus be harassed, weakened and, in the end, destroyed. The absence of an orthodox front, of fighting lines; the need to protect the widely scattered installations on which the state economy is dependent; these are among the factors which serve in the long run to compensate in favor of the armed resistance for the disparity in the starting strength of the adversaries.

The mobilization of a large force in the course of a protracted struggle will place a huge burden on the economy of the state. The most favorable factor concerning the confrontation of Baloch and state is that the enemy resources are all situated within the reach of Baloch resistance forces and theatre of war can easily be extended to the heartland of Punjab and there will remain no secure asset safe from sabotage, and armed action. Balochistan tremendous size will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the occupational forces to keep the whole of it under armed surveillance in strength and in depth.

The history of the liberation of people from the domination of another nation has always been through a terrific struggle involving much sacrifice and suffering on the part of the oppressed. Experiences of past Pakistani actions are sufficient to believe that an armed resistance movement would offer the state of Pakistan limitless opportunities for the indiscriminate slaughter of Baloch people. But many in Baloch circles are in the opinion that the Baloch land is already drenched with the blood of innocent Baloch. And the ideal of liberation of one’s people and land is cherish able and worth fighting for.