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Timeless tactics

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Any self-respecting government would have resigned long ago but this toothless and powerless CM and cabinet continue to selflessly serve the Centre and persist in hoodwinking people with bluster and false promises

Chief Minister (CM) Balochistan Mohammad Aslam Raisani has demanded that the Frontier Corps (FC) be placed under provincial control in accordance with the 18th Amendment. He claims that from day one he has advocated avoiding the language of bullet and stick and adopting a policy of reconciliation in Balochistan for resolving all issues. He promises that the Balochistan government would never allow the use of force against its people. Wishful thinking, because he is a figurehead only.

Although in power since April 2008, Raisani has failed to understand the real power equation. In January he had said, “The FC has established a government parallel to the provincial government.” He had also rubbished the Balochistan package and had alleged that bureaucrats in Islamabad were the biggest obstacles in implementing the government’s decisions pertaining to Balochistan.

So how, if in any way, has the power equation changed since then that he feels the FC will now agree to accept his pre-eminence? The 18th Amendment, the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award or the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan package have done precious little in alleviating the sufferings of the Baloch. Even a hundred similar acts of parliament or packages will not mitigate Baloch resentment if the magnitude of violence against them increases with every passing day.

Objections against the FC’s role are not imaginary. The Balochistan Assembly had debated its role in August 2008 after its unprovoked firing on people observing Akbar Bugti’s death anniversary in Turbat. Ehsan Shah had informed the House that this incident left one dead and many injured. He had also complained that FC personnel refused to recognise officially issued passes allowing citizens to visit their relatives in Iran.

Sardar Muhammad Aslam Bizenjo had told the House that the people of his native town, Khuzdar, had been similarly mistreated by the FC. Oddly and interestingly, he had also said that the “Advisor on Interior Rehman Malik had promised making the FC answerable to the CM and the provincial government. However, the FC remains defiant.” Apparently this promise of the FC submitting to provincial control is destined to remain just that: ‘a promise’.

During his recent Quetta visit, the Interior Minister Rehman Malik thundered, “Enough is enough. Now the government will use force to restore peace and order in Balochistan because they — terrorists — do not understand the language of love.” He certainly was not referring to the ‘Quetta Shura’. The notorious Baloch Mussalah Diffah Tanzim (BMDF) — reportedly the FC-sponsored killers of Baloch nationalists — was among the five groups he banned, which was but a brazen attempt to hoodwink people.

He also said the FC would have a ‘police role’ and the Balochistan CM would have the authority to decide in which area to use it, but seemingly the CM was not privy to it as the provincial government spokesman later said: “The meeting deliberated in detail the role of the FC and it was agreed that the FC had exceeded its powers and duties. It was agreed to order the FC to remain within the legal framework in future.” Remarkably, they agreed that “the FC had exceeded its powers and duties”.

Any self-respecting government would have resigned long ago but this toothless and powerless CM and cabinet continue to selflessly serve the Centre and persist in hoodwinking people with bluster and false promises. Methinks they find relinquishing their perks and privileges extremely difficult and have instead chosen servility.

There being practically no hope of the FC retracting its well dug in claws from Balochistan, the CM should request the Centre to at least make the FC share its power with him. The FC will always remain ‘primus inter pares’ — first among equals — even if it deigns to allow him any say in governance because that is the norm in all civil-military relations here.

Recently I came across an East India Company 1833 quarter anna. The obverse side has the Company’s coat-of-arms and the reverse side a figure of scales with ‘adal’ — justice — written in the centre. The word ‘justice’ there seemed absolutely repugnant and repulsive to me because the justice that the Company Bahadur dispensed as colonial master is no secret. Surprisingly the loudest protestations for justice always come from exploiters who deceitfully use it as a fig leaf.

Be it 1833 or 2010, the oppressors’ timeless tactics to befool people hardly change. No wonder Rehman Malik said that the NFC Award and Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan package reflected the federal government’s sincerity in solving problems. He regretted that the nationalist leaders ignored the talks offer, although President Asif Ali Zardari had apologised to the people of Balochistan for excesses committed during the past.

In fact the situation for the Baloch has worsened during the cherished democratic rule. The tally of tortured dead bodies that keep turning up regularly is ever increasing, including those of Zaman Khan and Ali Ahmed Marri; the body of abducted lawyer and columnist Ali Sher Kurd was found on Friday, and the number of missing persons too is increasing, such as Zakir Majeed, Chakar Marri, Kabeer Baloch and hundreds of other Baloch. The frequent military actions, economic deprivation and utter neglect of flood-affected IDPs belie the incessant rhetoric of justice, equality and peace. The timeless tactic of use of the fig-leaf of justice by oppressors is for appearances’ sake only because if dispensation of justice was genuinely desired, there would have been no Jallianwalla Baghs then nor Nawab Nauroz Khan or Balaach Marri now.

I fail to comprehend why the subcontinent’s population meekly submitted to two centuries of abominable colonial British rule. Barring a few exceptions, there was no significant resistance to it, nothing to show that the people resented the stigma of slavery. Slavery was accepted as a way of life and the new masters hoped this practice would persist, but thankfully it did not.

Perhaps not many then believed in what the under death sentence jailed Afro-American activist Mumia Abu-Jamal believes in. He says, “Do you see law and order? There is nothing but disorder, and instead of law there is the illusion of security. It is an illusion because it is built on a long history of injustices: racism, criminality, and the genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually, it is insane not to.” He presents a stark choice between submissively accepting the system and slavery or resisting them; fortunately now many believe submission is insanity. This choice however invites unparalleled repression as it has in Balochistan, Palestine and Kashmir today, but the people there have made their choice.

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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