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Charting the uncharted

Balochistan cannot and should not be an exclusively Baloch club; different people have lived here since centuries and have as much right as the ethnic Baloch to live in peace here

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances existing already, given and inherited from the past” — Karl Marx.

Haiyrbiyar Marri’s ‘Baloch Freedom Charter’ has generated a needless controversy in the social media and local media about who is right in supporting it and who in opposing it. The controversy has assumed an ugly and vicious character in which a no-holds-barred attitude prevails and everybody involved wants to outdo others in being blunt. My intention here is not to support any of the views, which I will certainly do if the situation demands, but to talk about the issue generally and how it is disillusioning friends, antagonising supporters and creating schisms instead of the unity that it was supposed to promote and create.

Charters, manifestoes and programmes articulate the stance and policies of groups or parties so that the goals are laid down to ensure or garner support from all. These cannot be sacrosanct and binding on all because these essentially are proposals for cooperation to those the parties or groups feel will or can support it. By their very nature, these are never final, conclusive and ultimate because parties and groups need to keep evolving and changing with the demands of the circumstances and adapting to changed conditions. Before someone equates adaptation to capitulation, we should see that during 24 hours we adapt to the day and night conditions. Anyone insisting on carrying on during the night the way he/she does during the day is bound to come to sorrow soon.

Charters are meant to chart the uncharted paths of revolutions, struggles and movements. These cannot be created in a void and neither be applied in a void; they have to represent the ground realities and not the wishes of an individual, group or party. To become a charter truly it has to be representative of the majority of those it is concerned with and provided it also considers the world as it exists in reality, not as the authors see it. Charters are serious business and demand to be dealt with in all seriousness and gravity as the future of entire movements may hinge on how these are seen and received.

This ‘charter of freedom’ has generated controversy instead of the unity that it was supposed to create and build upon. If something becomes a bone of contention among those supposed to be on the same side, then it should be evaluated not on who or why it has been presented but by its implications for the unity that it ostensibly set out to accomplish. If it is divisive, the authors should be brave enough to admit it and seek consensus for the formulation of a new document, which would be the closest to the wishes, demands and needs of the majority.

I have not seen the controversial charter but some of its features were put on a website and had the normal promises and platitudes that certainly are not being debated because these reiterate the universal principles of equality, justice, democracy, rights and peace. Whosoever may decide to present a charter will of necessity include these unless of course he wants a blatantly fascist state demanding a ‘final solution’. It is the way it has been presented and then pursued that has generated controversy. Its advocates and detractors have been vociferous and vituperative and this has sullied the debate, which could have been healthy if king-sized egos had not become insuperable obstacles. I advise that this debate should end now as it creates a lot of misgivings in the minds of the ordinary Baloch like me and enemies derive great satisfaction from the mutual division and derision.

I too, due to force of habit, want to put in my two-penny worth of thoughts on the charter business. First of all, I want to make it clear that Balochistan cannot and should not be an exclusively Baloch club; different people have lived here since centuries and have as much right as the ethnic Baloch to live in peace here. These people include Sindhis, Jats, Jamots, Hazaras, Pashtuns, Hindus, settlers, Zikris, Loris, Dombs and Christians. Balochistan has to be for all those who are loyal to it and serve it. With so many different people living here, I repeat that it cannot be an exclusive Baloch club.

Simply put, equality, justice, democracy and rights on paper and paying lip service to them is pretty meaningless. In practice, these mean you are absolutely tolerant of dissent and criticism. This is doubly essential here because ironically all those who were persecuted or thought they were persecuted ended up doing exactly what was done to them, albeit in a more vicious and brutal way. The very best examples are Israel and Pakistan. Many of Israel’s Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis but Israel now surpassed them in their treatment of the Palestinians. The same applies to the Pakistani establishment, which fearing suppression as a minority in undivided India, unleashed terror first on the Baloch who were numerically less, and then on the Bengalis, though they were the majority. Both forsook their past and attained unparalleled heights as barbaric states.

There will have to be genuine meritocracy so that truly talented persons have the opportunity to help build what the charters present and ask for. When favouritism, cronyism and palm greasing supplants meritocracy, you get opportunists and their ilk in the driving seat. Meritocracy will be strengthened only when resources are shared equally and opportunities for health, education and employment are uniform. Plurality alone will ensure progress because personality and dynastic politics create cesspools of corruption and criminality. Politics will have to be decriminalised and detoxified for becoming acceptable and worthy of participation. Accountability and transparency in all aspects of governance alone will ensure democratic rights being protected. Empty promises and platitudes have never worked and never would.

The present petty bickering has to end; what can people expect of those who supposedly lead them and bicker ceaselessly? Egos should be put aside, allegations put on hold and efforts be made for consensus for common interests. History is unforgiving; it will downsize all who have a false impression of their importance and utility. All concerned would do well to remember that no individual is bigger than the struggle.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

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