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Bridging the Rubicon

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Why is it that the armed forces and the government disregard the rights of the Baloch people who were a reluctant partner in the first place, and have now increasingly become alienated and seek a radical solution for the cure of their oppression and deprivation?

Professor Ghulam Hussain Saba Dashtiari — a popular teacher, renowned literary figure and above all an outspoken, active and uncompromising political activist — was gunned down early this month. The killing evoked some condemnation and censure but it seems that, except for the Baloch and Balochistan, this is now a forgotten chapter conveniently sidelined until a new atrocity is committed by the rampaging ‘death squads’.

This apathy is probably because the state would like to see the end of people like Professor Saba Dashtiari because of their demand for the freedom of Balochistan. Due to consistent apathy, and not because of the ubiquitous ‘foreign hand’ that the state functionaries use as an excuse to conceal their follies, many Baloch have crossed the Rubicon and seek no compromise. It deserves mention that Saba Dashtiari’s coffin was draped with the popularly accepted independent Balochistan flag.

Statements about Baloch grievances are churned out on prime ministerial visits to Quetta but precious little happens, just as after their ‘Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan’ farce. Bogus platitudes and false promises cannot defuse serious crises yet this is the only tool in their kit of governance. The free hand given to the FC and the army in Balochistan has only worsened an already bad situation but the heedless state ploughs ahead recklessly. The people of Bengal crossed the Rubicon because the Pakistani state, with its atrocities, apathy, arrogance and abuse constructed the bridge across the Rubicon for them, and this is exactly what is happening in Balochistan now.

On June 5, Daily Times reported that from May, for five days, the business and trade life in the coastal township of Pasni had been paralysed because police officials, the Coast Guard and FC carried out a massive operation. A local journalist, Sajid Noor, stated that the FC and Coast Guard, in a May 30 Monday morning illegal search operation, conducted a raid at a local hotel and forced the people to stand up, form a queue and say “Pakistan zindabad”, which they did.

They then demanded that people say “Dr Allah Nazer and Azad Balochistan murdabaad” and “Dr Allah Nazer is an agent of India”. The people refused and, infuriated, the security officials beat them up, destroyed the hotel and tore a picture of deceased HRCP activist, Siddiq Eido. They were then asked to run out onto the street and the security personnel chased them and whisked away two hotel employees, Nadeem Baloch and Arif Sher Muhammad.

Later, the FC, police and ATF raided the residence of Pasni Fish Harbour President Shahid Sabzal, arrested people and destroyed his house. Continuing their operation, the forces then roughly manhandled BSO-Azad worker Afzal Dilbar and his uncle. The next search operation was carried out in Ghulam Sarwar Street ward no 1 where, at the house of Shakidad, a student named Essa was badly beaten.

Simultaneously, in Karachi, Asif Ali Baloch, a nephew of Ghulam Mohammad Shaheed, was picked up and is still missing. Earlier this month, the body of 70-year-old Ahmed Marri, one of the nine Sherani Marris abducted near Karachi last month, was recovered from Uthal. Atrocities against the Baloch are relentless and remorseless. The question asked is: why is it that the armed forces and the government disregard the rights of the Baloch people who were a reluctant partner in the first place, and have now increasingly become alienated and seek a radical solution for the cure of their oppression and deprivation?

The answer lies in the fact that the most effective imperialist and colonial instrument for the subjugation of nations is the creation of false myths. These are myths woven to give them an aura of invincibility, inviolability, impunity and sanctity to intimidate the subjugated into a disabling defeatist mental frame in which opposing superior entities and institutions is sacrilegious and profane.

The Greeks and Romans, projecting themselves as gods or demigods, employed it admirably, convincing the subjugated that they were lucky to be subjects. Eventually, the repressed realised that these myths were a load of rubbish and gradually broke their physical and mental shackles. Spartacus was prominent among those who saw through this charade.

Modern imperial powers like Britain had no mythology to depend on so the carrot and stick policy was utilised — with more stick because they felt it was their Christian obligation to civilise the savage natives. Savages, ironically, who not very long ago had possessed the library of Alexandria, built Timbuktu University, the Rani Kot, Ranthambore Fort and Taj Mahal, etc.

Force was always an essential ingredient in administering the natives who were accorded rights insofar as was compatible with the colonisers’ interests. Eventually, these imperial powers reluctantly surrendered their right to rule because revolutionary ideologies changed the geo-political situation worldwide and natives resisted the bondage. Unfortunately, even in single nation countries, the powerful elite, with rare exceptions, emulated the old colonists and the masses continued to suffer. In multi-national countries, invariably, the dominant nation usurped the rights of other nations in an even more vicious manner.

These new company bahadurs combined religion with their supposed cultural superiority and brute force to nullify the language, culture, history and economic prowess of the nations under their tutelage to ensure unchallenged supremacy. Inarguably, when the new ruling elite chooses to label the country as ‘Mamlikat-e-Khudadad’ it precludes (after all you never look God-given gifts in the mouth) that it could ever do anything wrong, therefore criticising or opposing it is sacrilege. Naturally, the institutions and individuals too, supposedly, take their powers from divine authority and become equally sacrosanct beyond justice and criticism. The frequent recourse to brutality as in Balochistan, Karachi and Kharotabad, as well as the touchiness displayed by the corps commanders stems from this belief. Sectarian violence too is its by-product.

If someone finds it hard to believe that the Baloch sufferings are for real, they should remember that the atrocities in Kharotabad and Karachi were perpetrated in full public view. Unfortunately, the atrocities against the Baloch are unrecorded so the media, civil society and people in general tend to ignore them.

All would do well to remember that atrocities are atrocities even when they fail to reach your drawing rooms via television. People everywhere and not in Balochistan alone should resist these new ‘company bahadurs’ for if they do not, then needless to say that these brutalities will gradually creep closer to them and will finally engulf them too.

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