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Analysis: Schamlosigkeit!

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The respect that the Arab princes and rulers accord to the rulers and politicians here is apparent from the choice epithets used for them in WikiLeaks. Some are considered dirty but not dangerous and others are dangerous but not dirty, and yet these shameless people go grovelling to their liege lords like serfs and subjects

Respecting rights is not the done thing with the powerful because there are no checks on their power. The eternally precarious position of the weak is thoroughly illustrated when a government takes on a people and uses ‘the greater national interest’ argument to justify its injustices. This attitude closes all avenues of dialogue, discussion and compromise, and the people are forced to accept unjust deals and agreements at the threat of physical retribution from the state. Misuse of power in this manner requires a special quality of shamelessness, which is well expressed by the German word Schamlosigkeit.

The Reko Diq issue is once again dominating the political, economic and even judicial scene. There is much hue and cry at a valuable natural asset being sold off for peanuts to Tethyan; owned by the Canada-based Barrick Gold and Chilean Antofagasta Minerals, but it has strong supporters. The controversy surrounding this sordid saga is not about the rights of the people over their resources but about the hefty commissions and kickbacks involved.

At stake in Reko Diq is not only an enormous reservoir of gold, silver and copper, but also the legitimate right of the Baloch people over their resources but no one seems willing to honour their rights. The exploiters’ — both corporate and political — sense of justice becomes warped in inverse proportion to the profit involved.

All are bothered about the gold, copper and silver prices and profits but conveniently forget the main character, the Baloch people and their rights, in this saga. They figure only as a secondary concern for all the concerned parties, the federal and provincial governments and, of course, Tethyan.

The Reko Diq hullabaloo started, when for reasons best known to him, Chief Minister Sardar Aslam Raisani and his cabinet gave Tethyan a Christmas shocker on December 24, 2009 by cancelling its agreement for exploration of copper and gold, terming it “a step towards getting control over provincial resources in accordance with the wishes of the people”.

This stirred a hornet’s nest and immediately the then US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, warned that “multinational corporations will not invest in a country where deals are cancelled”. Even Canada’s international trade ministry urged Pakistan to “fulfil their obligations under a 2006 Pakistani-Canadian-Chilean agreement potentially worth billions of dollars”. Raisani was promptly overruled by the federal government.

This project has potentially unlimited reserves but the Tethyan CEO, Gerhard Von Boris, says, “Keeping in view the risk involved, it was a fair deal that the TCC would get 75 percent share while Balochistan would get 25 percent ownership share.” Taxes and royalties may increase the government’s share to 50 percent but no one even mentions the people’s share.

He also said, “The value of the project will be realised in a time period of 56 years and this project will produce 22 billion pounds (10 million tonnes) of copper and 13.5 million ounces of gold.” To justify their 75 percent share, he added that, “the prices of gold and copper are highly volatile”.

They certainly are volatile; gold has gone up from $ 34.94 per ounce in January 1970 to $ 1,389 per ounce today. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know the route this volatility will take. Towards the end of Reko Diq’s life, the price may be the same as January 1970 but without the decimal point. The only way that gold prices can fall now is if an alchemist successfully turns base metal to gold at minimal cost.

Here, our easily purchasable politicians and bureaucrats do not hesitate to barter away their souls and, in Reko Diq’s case, the asking price is not their souls but the easily dispensable rights and future of the Baloch people.

The rights of the Baloch people seem inconsequential to the centre and they flout them with brazenness. Recently, Balochistan Assembly Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhootani minced no words and exposed the immense pressure being put on them by the Prime Minister’s House to allot 70,000 acres in the environs of Hingol National Park to Arab princes for rest and recreation. He emphasised that the Balochistan government had earlier refused this land to a federal security institution because of the local people’s opposition. The Arab princes would do well to remember that in Balochistan they will not enjoy the tranquillity that Cholistan offers because here the people will definitely resist their unwanted presence.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, president of the UAE, alone has been allotted hunting permits in Zhob, Ormara, Gwadar, Pasni, Panjgur and Washuk districts. Pakistan is a signatory of the UN Bonn Convention on migratory species, which protects the endangered Houbara Bustard. But expecting respect for ‘bird rights’ where ‘human rights’ suffer immeasurably is infantile fantasy.

The Arab royalty have also been granted tax exemptions for all their property and imports for hunting purposes. The Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) clarified that “similar exemptions were also given to the United Nations, charitable organisations and diplomats”. The Arab rulers certainly qualify as ‘charitable organisations’ for the rulers and politicians here. They give them asylum and plead their case with the US.

The Pakistani politicians and the establishment are very fragile and vulnerable to pressures as is amply proved by the WikiLeaks or rather the ‘Wikitorrents’ that they have turned into. WikiLeaks certainly threatens to sweep away many a reputation and career around the world except perhaps in Pakistan and the Middle East where phenomenally shameless unashamedness or Schamlosigkeit exists as a unique quality in the rulers and establishments; the worse the reputation, the better are the chances of success.

The respect that the Arab princes and rulers accord to the rulers and politicians here is apparent from the choice epithets used for them in WikiLeaks. Some are considered dirty but not dangerous and others are dangerous but not dirty, and yet these shameless people go grovelling to their liege lords like serfs and subjects.

These rulers and politicians and the establishment sacrifice self-respect for material benefits; they cannot be expected to stand up for the rights of the Baloch people over their resources and land. And, moreover, because the Baloch do not expect them to protect their rights, they will resist Tethyan and the Arab princes’ encroachments on their land and resources in the same way that made, in spite of the huge military presence, Amoco Oil Company give up oil exploration in the Marri area in 1974.

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