Pervez Musharraf’s article ‘Understanding Balochistan’ was not only misleading, it was full of distortion of facts about Balochistan and the Baloch people. As could be expected of him, he failed to acknowledge in his article the folly of his misplaced military policies (which among other things resulted in that shameful defeat at Kargil). Nor, of course, did he apologise for the loss of lives in Balochistan. Instead, the Commando – who appears to believe that spreading of misconceptions and malicious propaganda can continue to mislead the people of Pakistan on the Balochistan issue – made a crude attempt at disinformation. He thereby sought to acquit himself, the army and the FC of the countless charges of killings, human-rights violation, disappearances, ethnic-cleansing and systematic suppression of the Baloch people.
Today Balochistan is a virtual prison. With thousands of check-posts dotting the province, the Baloch are a society under siege. This land of despair, death, and violence in numerous forms, had largely been peaceful before Musharraf launched an aggressive campaign of what can only be described as “colonisation.”
His policies and actions devastated millions of lives in Balochistan. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, and in the process lost their regular means of livelihood. One tragic result of their displacement was the deaths of countless children from malnourishment in the scattered inaccessible camps. Meanwhile, thousands of Baloch students were deprived of education because they were unable to go to colleges and universities for fear of abduction and murder.
In his article, Musharraf also touted the old “foreign hand” theory, saying, “I have always warned of a known foreign hand trying to destabilise Pakistan through Afghanistan and Balochistan.” Therefore, for him the mass violation of human rights in Balochistan is a planted notion. Similarly, there are no disappearances and no missing persons in Balochistan, according to him; to believe otherwise is promotion of anti-Pakistan by agent provocateurs. His article was a vain attempt to take Pakistanis’ focus away from the tragedy of Balochistan. “It is a pity,” he said, “that human rights violations are not being noticed in Kashmir or Assam in India, but are visible only in Balochistan.” He blames TV anchors and writers in the print media for damaging the solidarity and unity of Pakistan.
As a true Baloch-hater, he believes in dealing with the Baloch people and their leadership with an iron hand. There is no doubt in the minds of the Baloch that the Pakistani establishment, to which Musharraf belonged, has a policy towards the Baloch people of using the “Iron-hand”-for control over Balochistan by force and for the endless exploitation of Baloch wealth. It is this arrogant, brutal mindset which is the cause of all human rights violations in Balochistan, where non-Baloch forces rampantly kill and intimidate political activists.
Musharraf’s pathetic ignorance about Balochistan clearly shows through in his version on the Baloch-Pakhtun divide. On the one hand, he certifies the patriotism of some ethnic communities and tribes by calling them pro-Pakistani, and on the other he accuses others of being anti-state. The Pakhtuns are peace-loving fruit-growers and traders, in his view, and the Baloch are foreign agents.
His knowledge of Balochistan’s geography, tribes, regions, and languages only reveals the extent of his ignorance. According to his deconstructed Balochistan, the Mengal tribe inhabits eastern Balochistan, in areas neighbouring those regions where the Bugti and Marri tribes. In fact, the Mengals inhabit central and south-western Balochistan.
The Baloch-Pakhtun divide and inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflicts in Balochistan are results of the establishment’s deliberate policy of divide and rule. The Baloch and Pakhtuns in Balochistan are well aware of the fact that, although tensions and differences are part of human societies, particularly less-developed ones, these are always inflamed by the establishment in pursuit of its divide and rule policy.
In overemphasising the element of tribal differences and existence of militants the former dictator has deliberately tried to take readers’ attention away from Balochistan’s genuine political demands. Nowhere does he mention the fact that Balochistan has a history of progressive nationalist political parties and movement.
Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was head of the Jamhoori Watan Party and he confronted Islamabad as a Baloch nationalist politician, not as a tribal chief. Nawab Bugti in his political capacity helped many settlers reach Pakistan’s top positions. He chose many settlers to represent his views in parliament. Non-Baloch jurist Muhammad Zafar was elected to the Senate in 1994 as a member of the Jamhoori Watan Party. In 1997, Nawab Bugti chose two Pashto-speakers, including the well-known political figure Khudai Noor, to represent his party in the Senate. Mr Bugti was an open-minded political figure, and not just a tribal chief.
Musharraf mentioned Mengal tribal elders without mentioning their immense role in Baloch politics. Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Akhtar Mengal are not followed by thousands of Baloch for tribal reasons, but because of the two leaders’ commitment to and sacrifices for the Baloch cause. Their views represent Baloch aspirations and dreams and their legitimacy is derived from the Baloch people, not from government agencies. Akhtar Mengal heads one of the largest and most popular political organisations of Balochistan, the Balochistan National Party, and his views represent a strong segment of moderate Baloch political activists of the province. Likewise, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri is respected by the Baloch and neighbouring people because of his policies and his political standing, not because of his tribal position.
Since Balochistan’s democratic voice has always been neglected and ignored by short-sighted ruling elite in Pakistan, Baloch political frustrations accumulated over a long period. Musharraf’s aggressive introduction of military and paramilitary garrisons in Balochistan raised apprehension among the more conscious segments of Baloch society. The political reaction to these exploitative, suppressive and demographic threats was understandable.
Musharraf and the anti-Baloch clique within the establishment hold the Baloch people and their leadership responsible for Balochistan’s underdevelopment and miseries. Yet how can a region develop when it has more soldiers than teachers, more garrisons than universities, more naval bases than institutions devoted to science, technology and research?
In Balochistan, cantonments of the Frontier Corps (FC) outnumber colleges. There are more police stations than vocational training centres and more check-posts than girls’ schools. Is this what Musharraf and his ilk call development?
(To be concluded)
The writer is a former senator from Balochistan. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org