BY: WAJID SHAMSUL HASAN
London: It was an insightful evening and hair-raising too. Sitting face to face with firebrand and youthful Baloch Senator Sanuallah Zehri and moderate Mir Hasil Bizenjo and hearing their woeful and first hand narration of the sad plight of the Baloch people now facing a full-fledged army invasion would have led to flow of tears had not my eyes got dried and tired of them.
Though they were rightfully bitter and deeply hurt of the treatment meted out to their helpless people by the military rulers of Islamabad, like their seniors—Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo, Sardar Khair Bux Marri, Nawab Akbar Bugti, Sardar Raisani and the veteran but now dead Khan of Kalat who had shown faith in Pakistan voluntarily and under no duress especially when Pakistani military establishment lay totally castrated following the 1971 defeat—both Sanaullah Zehri and Mir Hasil Bizenjo did not seem to have given up hope in the future in the federation of Pakistan provided their masses were given a chance to live honourably with full benefits of the fruits of their own resources.
Thanks to Dr Naveed Anwar and his Baloch friends we were provided an opportunity to hear at length about the horrendous acts of state terrorism in Balochistan. The setting of the get-together was idyllic—floating restaurant on a barge at Temple Pier—tossing on the River Thames water—much like Pakistan trying to keep itself afloat despite the weighty albatross of a failed state hanging around its neck. Whatever we were told was material good enough for writers like Tom Clancy to pen a best-seller incorporating real-life intrigues, conspiracies, machinations and games of deception let loose by a power hungry mafia trampling upon the rights of an innocent, crestfallen and downtrodden Baloch people.
Though Islamabad under General Pervez Musharraf is leaving no stone unturned to repeat East Pakistan in Balochistan—including committing genocide against its people—I regretfully believe that the challenge in front of the Baloch masses is much bigger than the one at which the Bengali Pakistanis and their militants had made Islamabad’s drunkard generals run for their lives with trousers in their hands. The woeful tales of torture inflicted on the people by the military, rain of red-hot lava from gun-ship helicopters and fighter jets, kidnapping of the dissidents, journalists with an ever-increasing list of missing persons—have been adequately documented by the Amnesty International and Pakistan Human Rights Commission in their horrific reports of human rights violations by the military.
Sanalluh Zehri’s disclosure about the number of troops deployed by Islamabad is mind boggling. More than 35, 000 from the Frontier Corps backed by 12,000 men from the Coast Guards. Besides hundreds of ISI and other intelligence operatives unleashed like hounds in the nook and corner of the province. The sparsely populated province ( with a Baloch population of 4 million plus) has been heavily infested with military cantonments and army check posts. The fact that these check posts are being used as torture centres is rather appalling and reminds one of the treatment meted out to the innocent people captured by the Nazis during the days of their occupation in Europe. At every check post in Balochistan men, women and children travelling by buses, pick ups, cars etc are dragged out, butted and made to queue for hours, bodily checked and their vehicles searched thoroughly—all in a manner that could be described as noting but abject humiliation of the civilians by design, to terrorise them and to make them realise who is the ruler and what it could do to them if they raised their voice for justice and fair play. And their resistance, no doubt, is the catharsis of genuine resentment among the masses born out of gross exploitation by the “big brother” that has more than 70 per cent of representation in the armed forces, civil and judicial bureaucracy and that has grown to the habit of having the cake and eating it too. The joke is that Baloch regiment established by the British in recognition of the fighting qualities of the Baloch people, is Baloch in name only while in its totality it has more than 80 percent of its personnel from Punjab and rest from Frontier and other provinces.
The Balochistan scenario today is a gory picture of a people under the Praetorian heels being suppressed through military high-handedness. The Baloch leadership is absolutely right that the billions of rupees that have been spent on the five military operations to date from the day of Pakistan’s inception, if these were utilised in the development of natural resources, socio-economic development of the people, their education and healthcare—Balochistan by now would have become the most prosperous province of the federation, contributing a major chunk of its hitherto unexploited natural resources to the national exchequer, to be used in the development of other less endowed provinces with a view to sharing fruits of prosperity with the largest number of the people. Today the ironic situation is that gas produced in Balochistan is moving the wheels of 75 percent of industry in Punjab and rest of the country and also keeping the fire in the kitchens going while its own people are denied of its use.
When their attention was drawn to the perception created by Islamabad that certain foreign forces, 'resolute' in their anti-Pakistan agenda, are creating opportunities one after the other to paralyse Pakistan’s economy and give birth to a highly polarised polity with the sole idea of strengthening centrifugal tendencies and movements, Senator Sanaullah Zehri and Mir Hasil Bizenjo strongly reacted to it. They were absolutely right in putting it straight that if there were any direct beneficiaries of foreign support it were the Pakistani military rulers and not the Baloch people writhing under the oppressive jackboots.
Indeed, if General Musharraf today is getting away with worst possible human rights crimes against the people of Pakistan, denying them their democratic rights and indulging in massive “institutionalised corruption”, land grabbing, selling enormously precious and strategically vital productive industrial institutions such as Pakistan Steel Mills at throw prices causing loss of billions to the national exchequer—it is not because he is popular among the Pakistani masses but because of the American and Western support to him. By making Pakistan a front line state in the war against terrorism—much on the pattern of Ziaul Haq—he is the sole beneficiary of the foreign support on the grounds of expediency despite the fact that the US State Department in its latest report on the state of human rights situation in Pakistan has taken serious notice of the overall deterioration in the country particularly in Balochistan.
The Report-- by far the severest indictment of Musharraf regime that has emanated from Washington on the political situation in the strife-torn Balochistan—has many details giving the specifics of scores of civilians that have been done to death by the military besides of course stating it bluntly that despite being the biggest province of the Federation (occupying 40 per cent of the land mass) and providing it with the greatest amount of natural resources, the financial well-being of its sparse population is constantly going from bad to worse. The State Department enumerates the following problems as major human rights violations in Baluchistan (and in Pakistan generally) during 2005. The major problems being there persist
(1) restrictions on citizens' right to change their government,
(2) extrajudicial killings, torture and rape by government agencies,
(3) arbitrary arrest and lengthy pre-trial detention,
(4) violations of due process and privacy rights of citizens,
(5) lack of judicial independence and the tremendous powers of the Executive over the appointments,
(6) harassment and intimidation of possible opponents of the ruling regime
(7) arrest and intimidation of journalists,
(8) limits on freedom of association, religion and movement,
(9)imprisonment of political leaders,
(11) poor prison conditions,
(12) legal and societal discrimination against women,
(13) child abuse, trafficking in women and children and child prostitution,
(14) discrimination against persons with disabilities,
(15)indentured, bonded and child labour, and
(16) restriction on workers.
When a journalist colleague raised the question of Indian, Israeli, American, Russian and British involvement in Balochistan imbroglio besides of course the demand for an independent and greater Balochistan, I was reminded of the last days of Pakistan when Mujib had not yet raised the banner of Independent Bangladesh--an idea blueprinted by Altaf Gohar and underwritten by Ayub Khan. Later, General Yahya’s military junta took upon itself the task of seceding it since it was long sidelined by the military establishment supported by the West Pakistani bureaucracy as a basket case. As part of its plan ISI had even ordered en masse manufacturing of Bangladeshi flags. Some were even stitched in the small tailoring units in PECH Society in Karachi. Now I see our very own “invisible hands” behind the Greater Balochistan slogan. I also remember how the military establishment brought out of its hat the map of Jinnahpur—as the plan for an independent Muhajir state led by the MQM leader Altaf Hussain—to justify initiation of its military operation in Karachi to tame the rebellious Muhajir leader and his militant followers. It is rather ironic that now they have an absolutely successful marriage of convenience—much of course to the advantage of General Musharraf.
Notwithstanding the fact that Balochistan occupies a unique strategic position—sitting at the mouth of the Gulf—and without undermining the various foreign vested interests directly in conflict with it, it needs to be stressed that Islamabad’s military establishment—having its own overgrown parasitic interests cannot treat it—for reason of it being full of natural resources— as basket case like that of East Pakistan. Its being sparsely populated spread over 40 per cent of the Pakistani land mass is also to its disadvantage. And this needs to be assessed in the light of various so-called professional military responses. I have known military officers saying it loud and clear that Balochistan is not Bangladesh. It has such a small population that it can be tamed by giving it big dozes of military medicine—i.e. kill with skill.
Time is running out fast. Pakistan’s most populated province--the Punjab-- as the sole beneficiary of country's wealth—that has been keeping itself criminally silent—needs to be awakened. And one could not agree more with Sanaullah Zehri that the sole responsibility of saving Balochis from being Red Indianised falls on the shoulders of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto—being the national leader and Mian Nawaz Sharif from being Punjab. By resisting both land and air operations people of Balochistan have picked up the pieces of the history of democratic movement from the days of MRD in 1983 when Sindh and its people braved General Zia’s bayonet and the bullet to write their names in indelible imprint on the sands of time and glory. Senator Sanaullah believes by their blood and sacrifices Baloch people have put the trail on blaze for the two leaders to return home and cast the die for saving Pakistan by saving Balochistan. If God forbid anything happens to Balochistan, it will be Punjab that shall have to lose the most.
09 Questions to Pakistani rulers
President General Musharraf & his colleagues repeatedly sing the song that three Sardars were creating hindrances in development of Balochistan. If it is so, General must reply following questions:
01. Are "rivers of milk & honey" flowing in the rest of areas where the three Sardars have no influence in Balochistan?
02. The puppet Balochistan Govt. headed by CM Jam Mohammad Yousaf has financially been crippled since long. So much so, they do not have money to earmark for Annual Development Programme. Why?
03. The federal Govt. is not releasing Rs 15 billion to Balochistan being their gas royalty.
04. Why Balochistan govt. is running on "Over Draft" reaching to Rs 15 billions?
05. Parliamentary Committee's recommendations were not implemented even more than two years have passed?
06. Why Gen. Musharraf is not willing to include backwardness and revenue generation as major factors in NFC Award which is currently based on unjustified sole criteria of distribution on population which never exists in any country of the world. needless to mention that Punjab is only beneficiary of the un-justified formula.
07. If General Musharraf has so much pain for people of Balochistan, Sindh & NWFP, Why he is not granting provincial autonomy to the provinces as per constitution.
08. Recently, children, women and elders were killed in attacks made by helicopters fitted with Gunship. Were all victims terrorists including 12-boy who brutally killed by bombardment?
09. Will so-called mega projects in Balochistan would not turn "sons of soil" Baloch people into minority at their own land?