June 26, 2007

A Book on On Baloch Sardari (Feudal) System

Books & Authors: REVIEW: Sardari symbolism By Dr Mansoor Akbar Kundi
June 24, 2007: Dawn

Baloch Qomiat: Khaniat o Sardariat
By Hakim Baloch
Goshae Adab, Quetta

The book under review is a brilliant effort to describe the past and present of the political, historical and socio-cultural history of Balochistan. An indigenous retired civil servant and scholar by choice on the different aspects of the province, the writer has come up with that hypothesis that during the last two hundred years, Balochistan has been deprived of its past glory, rights and resources. He tries to support this hypothesis throughout his book chapter by chapter and page by page.

Divided into around 40 choppy chapters, the book begins with the introductory chapter of the bloody scene of the death of Nawab Bugti whose 79 years of life writer describes ending in great despair for the people of Balochistan. The writer is very sensitive about the death of Nawab Bugti and talks about his life and works throughout the book. According to him, the military action against Nawab Bugti in the Bamboor Mountains in Kohlu Agency which resulted in his death of Nawab Khan Bugti can be regarded as a major incident in the history of Balochistan. The death of Nawab Bugti closed a chapter of courage, resistance and Sardari symbolism, with immediate impacts on the futore socio-cultural and political aspects of the province, particularly the institution of Sardari. His death serves as an example for nationalists and even non-nationalists in the pursuit of their interests. The book supports the argument that Balochistan has lagged far behind the other three provinces. Punjab is the leading province and enjoys the lion’s share of the country’s revenue and resources. NWFP, despite its politically grievances and economic problems, is comparatively a privileged province due to having an established educational and social structure and enjoying a sufficient share in the higher echelons of the military/bureaucratic and other organisational structure of society. It is also experiencing an increasing level of political maturity. Sindh may not appear to be deprived, but the fact is that it is below par administratively and economically with a distinct ethnic bifurcation between the rural and urban populations. Karachi, being its port city and the main port for the economic inflow into Pakistan, has international importance. Rural Sindh has produced three prime ministers and enjoys good standing under a representative system of government. Balochistan, however, has found no footing in the ever changing political scenario since the creation of Pakistan.

The author has shed light on the insurgency factors in Balochistan which are directly related to the Sardari factor but supported by commoners. Balochistan has experienced three insurgencies in 1948, 1958 and 1973. The first insurgency was led by Prince Karim, the younger brother of Khan of Kalat Ahmed Yar Khan. The second insurgency took place in 1958 after Nauroz Khan.

Nauroz Khan was a brave Baloch legendary fighter who resolved to organise guerrilla warfare but had little successful in his mission. He had forwarded three demands to the government before he started the insurgency. He demanded the release of the Khan of Kalat; restoration of the traditional rules; and exemption for his area from the land reforms that were in the offing. He was adamant on them until last, however, he agreed to surrender on May 15, 1959 accompanied by 163 companions.

The third insurgency occured in the Marri Bugti areas in 1973-75, mostly due to the troubled political situation after Z. A. Bhutto dissolved the Balochistan coalition government under Ataullah Mengal; and put all the leaders in jail on conspiracy charges. The Marri insurgency was the biggest and most severe of all. Three army divisions, including regular actions by the Special Groups Force, were involved in overcoming it. A majority of Marri tribesmen fled to Afghanistan and remained there until 1992.

The insurgency factor in Balochistan is largely due to the injustices and unevenness at the hands of the rulers, most of whom gained power through the back doors.

The writer describes the life and work of Baloch khans/sardars through the ages, particularly Ahmed Yar Khan, the last ruler of the Kalat confederation (1666 1876) about whom the author says that despite all his goodness he was not a competent ruler. It is true that Yar Khan intiated no development in the land or among the people. His state stretched from the shores of Mekran to Mastung but it had only one high school at Mastung. The citizenry of his state was absolutely parochial.

The Sardari factor in the Baloch/Brauhi belt is largely accountable for its underdevelopment, but the main criminal in this regard is the government itself. If the government had wanted to develop the provinces there would have been no resistance between 1947-58 and the building of roads on a war footing would have changed the fate of the province. There would have been no sardars or the parochial status that exists today.

The construction of roads has been a major requirement for Balochistan since independence, as it is essential for the overall development of its people. Balochistan is the largest of all provinces as it constitutes 347,056 sq km or 43.2 per cent of the total area of Pakistan. In terms of population it is smallest but has the highest growth rate. In 2003 the population of the province was 7,900,000 compared to 4,000,000 in 1981.

While the number has almost doubled, the density of the population is merely 12 persons per sq km as around 85 per cent of the population is scattered in rural areas. The rural areas have remained isolated and underdeveloped largely due to the lack of roads. Reference has been made to a number of studies to argue that the lack of roads is the major cause of underdevelopment.

At times the author betrays biases and prejudices that are not suitable for one writing on such a sensitive issue. The book also lacks an index and citations, but it is still worth reading and valuable for those doing research on Balochistan.

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