February 01, 2005

What a Prophetic Writer Said About an Independent Balochistan in 1992

What a Prophetic Writer Said About an Independent Balochistan in 1992

By Amir Mir
Special to the South Asia Tribune

LAHORE, February 1: Almost prophetic writer Abul Maali Syed predicted this 13 years ago while writing about Balochistan of the year 2006, in his book “The Twin Era of Pakistan: Democracy and Dictatorship”, published by the New York-based Vantage Press Inc.:

“Who would have believed that Balochistan, once the least populated and poorest province of unified Pakistan, would become independent and the third richest oil-producing country after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait?"

"Who would have thought that this vast terrain was impregnated with vast reservoirs of oil and gas?” The development in Balochistan was neglected and whenever a tribal chief spoke about the plight of their people, the Pakistan government shoved the barrel of a gun at him and silenced him.

"Today, having lost East Pakistan, Balochistan, Sindh, and part of Seraiki belt, Pakistan is still entangled with Pakhtoon tribes on her northern border and is no more in a strong position to hold on to the Pakhtoon area much longer.

"Who would have thought that Kashmir, for which unified Pakistan went to war with India two times and in the process destroyed herself, would be an independent state and a member of the United Nations. They did not get the independence through the negotiations or the plebiscite; it came when the Kashmiri nation rose and wrested their independence.”

Though the writer of the book had said all this in 1992, a cursory glance at the Balochistan of 2005 clearly shows that the situation in the strategically important largest province of the country has come to a pass where the ongoing violent movement by the Baloch nationalists for greater political and economic rights has got the potential to grow into a major insurgency keeping in view the continuing armed attacks on the main natural gas installations in Sui despite the use of the Army by General Pervez Musharraf.

Maali's enlightened book about the nation of Pakistan, presents a comprehensive look at the history of Pakistan besides doing an in-depth analysis of democracy versus military dictatorship. The writer has very strong beliefs concerning democracy and its benefits as opposed to military rule and its detrimental effects on a developing nation and maintains that even if a million lives are sacrificed for democracy, it is not a bad bargain.

The very first chapter of the book -- Balochistan of A.D. 2006 – which is very much relevant in the present day scenario is being reproduced here which should be an eye-opener for Pakistan’s fourth military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, who is repeating the mistakes of 1971 that had resulted in the dismemberment of East Pakistan.

“From Pasni to Guardher (Gwadar) is a duty-free international port, as Hong Kong in the Far East. It is a thriving business port. It has become the busiest business and trading center in the Near Middle East. Construction on an unprecedented scale is going on. Everywhere you see tall buildings touching the sky and many more are being built every now and then. It has become a center of learning as well. Big universities and colleges are going up. Quetta University is built entirely on the American standard. The vice-chancellor of the university is an American-born Baluchi scholar. Nearly 60 percent of the professors have been attracted from foreign universities. The dean of the Faculty of Science is a British scientist who is a Nobel Prize winner. Attached to the university is an ultramodern hospital, which provides excellent training opportunities for the medical students. In such a short history of this country, three big universities manned by the finest and most learned professors and scholars have been opened. This has filled the void that had been felt in the region for a long time, since the closure of the American University of the Beirut. Free and compulsory education have really turned the country around. In order to keep abreast with the developing countries of the world, Balochistan is investing heavily in research and development.

"The Baluchi leaders have encouraged Japanese industrialists to establish their overseas plants here. The Japanese also see the benefit of easy access to other Middle Eastern and European markets. The new Russian market is another untapped lucrative field. The Japanese are competing with Germany to set up refinery and petrochemical plants to process most of their petroleum product. There are massive developments going on in every field. The Northern Makran regions, which have rich mineral deposits, are flourishing. With the help of the European community, they have set up a big iron and steel plant. When completed, it will be the biggest of its kind in the region. The fast industrial development going on is reminiscent of the Japanese industrialization in 1865. The fast-growing development has attracted skilled workers from all over the world. The Koreans and Taiwanese workers and engineers are as skilled as any German or European, but half as expensive; that makes them very beneficial to Balochistan. Balochistan’s shortcoming is a small population, but it is attracting skilled workers from Bangladesh, Egypt, and Turkey. Somehow the Baluchis do not feel comfortable with the cheap labor from her next-door neighbor, Pakistan.

"Maybe the maltreatment the Baluchis received in the federation with Pakistan is still fresh in their memories and they do not want to take any chances. A certain kind of tunnel vision existed then which really destroyed the very basis on which Pakistan was made. Balochistan was kicked around during the British raj in India, and it was not much different even after joining Pakistan. This happened not only with Balochistan but also with Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), which was the biggest province population-wise, yet denied its rightful due. The Punjabi bureaucracy which was in control since the birth of Pakistan, failed to understand the configuration of the people of other parts of Pakistan then. They failed to understand the hopes, aspirations, and needs of not only East Pakistan but also of other smaller provinces like Sind and Balochistan. They also refused to regard the various ethnic groups living in major cosmopolitan areas.

"Today, one can only laugh at their stupidity. About thirty years ago, Pakistan was on the march. She drew parallel to India, eight times bigger than herself, and had all the components in place to claim the leadership of the Muslim world. She had proposed a military alliance with the Middle East and other Muslim countries of the world. She was well on the way to becoming a power to be reckoned with; but alas the internal intrigues not only buried her aspirations, but could not even keep the country intact. There were a lot of Bacha Sukkas around then in Pakistan, who destabilized the country in the name of Sharia and Nizam-e-Mustafa. [This was a system of government as it was during the prophet’s time, with strict adherence to religious laws.] But once the government was changed by coups, of course they did nothing of the sort. When the village idiots started calling themselves Muslim clergymen and using the mosques and religious places for the propagation of their clandestine designs, and their greed for the worldly possessions overtook the desire for piety, then the nation lost the sense of right and wrong.

"It is remarkable how the new Baluchis (I call them New Baluchis; it has a ring of new vitality and identity to it) have solved the centuries old dogma of Muslim clergymen and the exploitation of the people in the name of religion. What they have done is that they have established a high-powered religious board. All religious sects and their respective ulemas (scholars), Mujtahids [Islamic jurisprudents who can interpret Islamic laws to relevant cases; they are regarded as scholars of Shia Muslims], and the Islamic scholars are members of the board. There is a grand mufti who is in charge of the board. In the matter of religion, this board is the final authority in the land. They are a fully autonomous body in their working. No person outside of the board is allowed to issue any statement in the name of religion; that is the job of the board. They have their own budget and they genuinely use their power and the authority for the propagation of religion and faith and not as a destabilizing factor as happened in Pakistan. It is the job of the board to open and enlist new learning centers, and propagate and encourage the publication of religious materials dealing mainly with the Quran and Sunnah [tradition of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)]. There are two recognized Sharias: (a) Shara-e-Hanfia [Islamic jurisprudence for Sunni (sect) Muslims] and (b) Shara-e-Jafria [Islamic jurisprudence for Shia (sect) Muslims]; both respected authorities in their own right. Any person found fanning hatred or mischief in the name of religion is likely to be charged with treason.

"Another thing they have enacted is that no mosques or imam baras shall be used for any political commentary in favor or against the government. There is freedom of speech in the land but it does not allow the desecration of the religious places as they used to do in Pakistan. First of all, nobody is allowed to make a sporadic remark in the matter of religion; that is the job of the Religious Board, which is fully empowered to use their rights whenever they deem fit. Secondly, if any ulema, maulana, or imam of any masjid or imam baras has to make a political speech or wants to give his opinion, he is fully entitled to do so but not in the masjid, not in the Juma Khutba. For that purpose, they have to use the outside facilities. There is no restriction for holding a meeting to air out grievances or give opinions in the matters of national interest, or any issue, as long as it does not have a religious connotation because that is the job of the board. What the government has done is to free the mosques and religious places from the unscrupulous mullahs, who used to desecrate such places in Friday Khutbas. The namazis were subjected to listening to abuse and rhetoric of a political nature, and personal remarks and character assassination of any person the mullah did not happen to like. That was a most abhorrent act of mischief the mullahs used to do in Pakistan.

"For political stability in the nation, it was decreed that no street agitation of any kind is allowed. If there is any grievance, there is an independent judiciary to handle any matters of law or injustice. On the other hand, there is the Religious Board which is quite competent to handle matters of religion or any opinion or fatwa (religious decree) in that matter. And there is freedom of speech in lecture halls or meeting places. The people’s representative can give their concern to the proper authorities for redressing certain issues, but nobody is authorized to roam around and cause civil disturbances in the name of certain grievances or mistakes of any government personnel or bureaucrat or even minister for that matter. There is an independent judiciary in the country. In the Supreme Court, there are nine justices. Grand mufti (like chief justice) of the Religious Board and another religious scholar as his aide are two of the nine justices. The rest of the justices are people of impeccable character. Any person firing hatred or propaganda against the judiciary of the country is likely to be charged with treason. The head of the state is not allowed to dismiss, fire, or compulsorily retire a judge or justice. They can retire by reason of natural causes only.

"About thirty years ago, if the Jamm’iat and their lackeys had not derailed Pakistan, that country would have achieved social justice for her people, as well as being a leading example to the underdeveloped third world countries. One of the leaders of Pakistan had then expounded the myth behind the poverty and miseries of the underdeveloped countries. He said that as the population of the world increased and its supply of grain decreased the price of the earth-produced product was kept low, whereas, the cost of manufactured goods continues to increase. That leader said that the price mechanism was not an accident, rather it was a design to keep the raw material and grain-producing countries poor in perpetuity. Since the western countries produced and controlled the supply of manufactured goods, the price mechanism was always to their advantage.

"We all know that oil is the backbone of industry and nearly all the industrial countries are dependent on oil, which they do not have. Yet somehow, they used to control the price of oil. Consider that in 1970 the cost of a barrel of Middle East oil was pegged around $2.73 after it reached the shores of the United States of America, whereas a barrel of oil produced in Texas was $7.00. Food products, tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar, and many more items, and also some basic metals like zinc, copper, aluminum (not forgetting oil, of course) all came from the underdeveloped countries and were denied the rightful market price because the Western countries controlled the mechanism to fix those prices and always fixed them in favor of the Western countries.

"On the other hand if an underdeveloped country wanted to industrialize, there again it was dependent on one of the major industrial countries because the cost was so exorbitant that it was beyond the scope and capacity of a poor country. And if one of them did industrialize somehow, then it would be in need of spare parts in perpetuity; and there again, the factor of cost and price mechanism would leave that country far behind in the race. The price of the raw material produced by underdeveloped countries was always on the decline (against all logic of demand and supply theory), whereas the cost of those goods imported from the industrialized countries was skyrocketing. In the end the underdeveloped countries were not getting their rightful due for their goods but were faced with paying ever-escalating prices for their imports. They suffered from double jeopardy. These kinds of warnings were coming from Pakistan in mid-1970s, giving an awareness to the underdeveloped world. If Pakistan has pursued that course, it would have revolutionized most of the countries exporting raw materials. A new order of the world would have been designed which would have been fair to producing and consuming countries alike.

"In the later part of the twentieth century it had become apparent that the poor African countries, countries in the Far East, India, and Pakistan were locked in some kind of arms race in which only the Western nations-namely the United States of America-were the sure winners by supplying the arms to both parties in a conflict. If they supplied the rocket to one faction, they would supply the anti-rocket to the other faction. The underdeveloped countries were pushed into this kind of morass from which they could not get out. While all these dehumanizing practices were going on, they were sliding farther and farther behind in the race. It is ironic to note that while there was less and less grain to feed the hungry world, the prices of food staples did not keep pace. They kept dipping lower and lower. On the other hand, the bullets and guns (a genocidal means nobody needed in the first place) kept going up and up in price and yet the demand did not diminish.

"When the light was extinguished in Pakistan, Balochistan was not prepared to go through that morass again. They chalked their own destiny, and today they are taking their country to an era of prosperity. Today roads and highways have interwoven every corner of the country. Industry has been diversified in the country. High tech has hastened the pace of development. The most phenomenal aspect is that this country discovered (or the thing sprouted seed which must have been sown in the past) an abundance of wealth and not only that but it was fortunate to have the leadership who went to work right away to develop their country. Balochistan also enjoys friendly relations with the enclave Liaqatabad (old Karachi and Hyderabad). She also enjoys very good relations with Afghanistan and Iran. The Baluchi tribes are respected and awed for their newly acquired wealth and power. But her neighbor, Pakistan, still has not grasped the fact that Balochistan is no longer part of that country, which was carved out of India as a homeland for the Muslims of India. It soon fell into intrigues, palace coups, and military takeover, one after another, which killed the aspirations on which she achieved her independence. Punjab, which did not play any important role in the making of Pakistan, surely played the leading role in destroying Pakistan.

"Today is the centenary of the Muslim League, the party, which negotiated the independence of Pakistan and, having achieved it in August 1947, could not keep it together. Pakistan, toward which the Muslims of India used to look with awe and strength, and drew comfort by Pakistan’s being there on the map, some of them migrated to with hopes and vision, soon eclipsed”.


No comments: