Saving Balochistan

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Saving Balochistan

Post  Bolan on Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:51 pm

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Rahimullah Yusufzai

The United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan are presently home to a growing number of Baloch dissidents who feel insecure in Pakistan and are disillusioned with Islamabad. One had an opportunity to meet two prominent Baloch figures during a recent visit to London. One was Mir Suleman Dawood Khan, the Khan of Kalat, or Begler Begi (in Balochi language) as the past rulers of the state used to be called. The other was Nawabzada Hyrbyar Marri, the son of veteran Baloch politician Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri.

Both no longer see a future for the Baloch people in the federation of Pakistan. Suleman Dawood in his blunt manner and Hyrbyar Marri in his soft tone argued that they are left with no other option but to seek independence due to the repeated military operations in Balochistan and the violation of the previous agreements by the Pakistani authorities. However, Suleman Dawood doesn’t refuse talks with Islamabad provided international guarantors acted as mediators and oversaw implementation of any future accord.

Hyrbyar Marri thinks differently. He and his colleagues did talk about international guarantors, but that was in the past. He said theirs was an independence movement rather than separatist as the Baloch were resisting occupation of their homeland and protecting their identity. Like other hardliners, he stressed that history was distorted as the Baloch people didn’t join Pakistan willingly with Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo moving a resolution in the Kalat state assembly against the move and the Baloch under Agha Abdul Karim picking up the gun to protect their independence.

Suleman Dawood has been granted political asylum in the UK and is living in Cardiff where the mountains remind him of his native Balochistan. A British newspaper once referred to him as a “king without a kingdom.” The Kalat state was annexed by Pakistan on October 14, 1955 and the then Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, lost his formal position. However, the title Khan of Kalat continued to be used and his grandson Suleman Dawood as the heir is using it nowadays. The Baloch tribal system and the institution of the Khan of Kalat have certainly become weak, but Suleman Dawood in his capacity as the hereditary head of all Baloch tribes managed to convene in Kalat a jirga of Baloch Sardars including those living in Punjab and Sindh to discuss the situation arising from the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti in a military action in 2006. He felt Bugti’s death was a national tragedy for the Baloch and it necessitated the holding of a grand jirga to outline the future course of action for the Baloch people.

Subsequently though, the momentum provided by the jirga at Kalat couldn’t be maintained. Most Sardars attending the jirga are part of the federal and Balochistan government and have no intention to spoil their beneficial relationship with the powers that be. Hyrbyar Marri refers to the pro-Pakistan Baloch elite as slaves concerned only about securing their personal interest. The fact remains that the Baloch notables raise hue and cry and espouse nationalist cause whenever they are in the opposition. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if they have deserted the Khan of Kalat, who too is facing criticism for his inability to approach the International Court of Justice to fight Balochistan’s case against the state of Pakistan. He doesn’t like being reminded about his oft-repeated intention to petition the court. When this question was posed to him, his reply was that there is an appropriate time for everything. The International Court of Justice is normally approached when two or more states have a dispute and it remains to be seen how Suleman Dawood would convince the court that he could legitimately represent the old state of Kalat.

Suleman Dawood is in his mid-40s and older than Hyrbyar Marri who is around 40, but his language is tough and his style is abrupt. Arguing that he was disliked because he spoke the truth, Suleman Dawood narrated stories as to how he annoyed General Pervez Musharraf in their two meetings in Islamabad and Kalat due to his plain-talking and later did the same to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. He recalled telling Musharraf in 2001-2002 that he had left the Pakhtuns in the lurch by abruptly changing his Afghan policy. On another occasion, he claims to have lectured Musharraf on the tribal structure of the Baloch people and warned him that the Baloch would fight until the end this time. When Zardari phoned him and claimed he had full authority to resolve the Baloch issue, Suleman Dawood said he advised him to first find and punish the killers of his wife Benazir Bhutto. For Gilani, who reportedly called him six times including once through the efforts of the Khan of Kalat’s mother, his answer was that the UN, the US, the UK, the EU or some other European or Arab country must become involved as guarantors before any new agreement could be reached between the Baloch people and Pakistan. To Shaukat Aziz, his ‘shortcut’ answer was that you are just a City Bank employee with no understanding of the Baloch way of life. And when British MP of Pakistani origin Lord Nazeer Ahmad called and promoted the idea of reconciliation, Suleman Dawood said he told him to get Britain involved in the matter as a mediator and guarantor to make it work.

It would be understandable if none of the above-mentioned people approached the Khan of Kalat again with an offer of talks and reconciliation given his apparent inflexibility and loss of trust in Pakistani rulers. Neither the Khan of Kalat nor the Baloch nationalists and separatists are willing to repose trust in the present federal government or attach hopes with the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan. The package of reforms, special funds, jobs and development that this initiative offers is dismissed outright and President Zardari’s sincere apology for the past mistakes by the state in Balochistan and his efforts to politically resolve the Baloch problem aren’t given due importance. Such is the lack of trust in Islamabad and so wide is the gulf between the two sides that no initiative is considered adequate to atone for the sins of the past.

Unlike the Khan of Kalat who wants to unite all the Baloch people living in a number of countries in the region who, according to some estimates, total 12 million or even more – Hyrbyar Marri is more realistic and considers the idea of Greater Balochistan a conspiracy. He definitely wants Baloch unity and is against the artificial borders that in his view have split the Baloch people, but he realises that uniting the Baloch and winning independence would depend on the international situation and the policies of the world powers. At the moment though, there isn’t any real international support for the Baloch cause. In fact, both Hyrbyar Marri and Suleman Dawood complain about indifference by the great powers and the international community to the plight of the Baloch people. The disunity in Baloch ranks, more so among the nationalists, and the tribal differences too are pushing back the Baloch cause.

The Baloch cause would be best served by remaining part of Pakistan, but a bigger effort is needed to remove their grievances and give them their due rights. The Baloch sense of deprivation and their fear of being turned into a minority in their own land cannot be overcome by making promises. The Baloch want iron-clad guarantees and in their view this could only come from big powers and international organisations. It is sad that we don’t have men and women of stature in Pakistan to offer such guarantees. Perhaps our Saudi friends, who have often become involved in Pakistan’s internal affairs as mediators, or someone else, could step in to bail out Pakistan and save Balochistan.

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