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“The windows of opportunities for peace were squandered through arrogance”

Analyst Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur talks about the state of insurgency in Balochistan and the government’s plans for peace

“The windows of opportunities for peace were squandered through arrogance”

The News on Sunday: What do you make of the government claims that hundreds of Baloch insurgents have surrendered arms on August 14? There were conflicting reports about the killing of Dr Allah Nazar Baloch. What is the state of insurgency like in Balochistan today?

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur: The government has always claimed that there are only a handful of misguided Baloch who resist progress at the behest of foreign hands. But since June, going by press reports, those surrendering number at least 800 so then why are the attacks still going on? The latest charade was on August 17, claiming that right hand men of Brahamdagh along with 23 others surrendered. These are ‘rent a crowd surrenders’, quite pointless.

The reports on Dr Allah Nazar Baloch simply indicate that away from the public eye there is a continued massive army operation in Awaran and he is being hunted because he symbolises the Baloch resistance. He is considered an obstacle to the CPEC but the government doesn’t realise that fish survive in the sea and the people of Balochistan are the sea for those who oppose the exploitation of resources and land grab under the flimsy garb of development.

The insurgency in Balochistan is definitely active and worrying enough for the government — apart from the forces already there including the Quetta cantonment and numerous naval bases — to announce that it would establish a Special Security Division (SSD) consisting of nine battalions of the army and six battalions of the civilian forces, and that it may extend Operation Zarb-e-Azb to Balochistan to protect Chinese personnel. The continued operation in Awaran speaks volumes about the Balochistan situation.

TNS: Last week Balochistan’s senior parliamentary leader, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, met the self-exiled Baloch leader, Khan of Kalat Agha Suleman Dawood Ahmedzai in London to urge him to come back and play his role in Balochistan. Do you think he can play any role in the near future?

MMAT: The important question here is as Stalin asked, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” The Khan of Kalat has no divisions and is no Pope either. He no longer enjoys the influence that his elders did so his return will not change the insurgency situation in Balochistan though he too may arrange the lucrative rent a crowd surrenders to prove that his return has triggered a change.

TNS: How does the provincial government of Dr Malik plan to deal with the situation? How is it different from Prime Minister’s Pur Amn Balochistan programme or from PPP’s Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan Package?

The Khan of Kalat no longer enjoys the influence that his elders did so his return will not change the insurgency situation in Balochistan.

MMAT: Dr. Malik’s provincial government has absolutely no plan to deal with the situation. It takes orders from Rawalpindi and Islamabad for general (pun intended) policy and the day to day government is subject to their wishes. Moreover Dr. Malik with his total 4000 votes election win doesn’t represent the Baloch people.

The PPP’s Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan Package was an absolute failure; it may have benefited some figures but not the people there. In February 2013, a 10-member special cabinet committee said that desired results were not achieved despite unprecedented allocation of funds.

The Pur Amn Balochistan programme of the two Shareefs isn’t a development programme but is a ‘pacification’ one, based solely on brute force to ensure security for the Chinese working on CPEC. It is in pursuance of this pacification plan that SSD formation became necessary in spite of the 50,000 plus FC already present there.

TNS: Some analysts think that the government should ideally open the door for negotiations with the estranged Baloch if it is serious about the CPEC and even the Iran Pakistan gas pipeline. Do you agree with this and is there still scope for negotiations?

MMAT: There were windows of opportunities for peace in the past but were squandered through arrogance and ignorance; the best among them was the 1972-73 Ataullah Mengal government. In September 2008, the Baloch militant groups unilaterally observed ceasefire but there was no response and in January 2009 they ended the ceasefire.

The people and the groups fighting no longer trust the government because of the frequent operations and continuing policy of systematic enforced disappearances. The trust deficit is too huge and moreover the establishment is totally intransigent because it believes, as it did in East Pakistan, that they are powerful enough to crush peoples’ aspirations in Balochistan.

TNS: What about the freedom for the media in that province?

MMAT: A workshop on ‘Media and Civil Society in Balochistan’ in Quetta in July 2012 disclosed that media there wasn’t free and journalists on professional duty often faced harassment and 22 journalists had been killed there in four years.

In February 2014, the Reporters Without Borders’ annual report said that of the seven reporters killed in Pakistan in 2013, four were from Balochistan. Last August Irshad Mastoi and trainee reporter Abdul Rasul were killed and like all previous killings these remain unsolved. A total of 32 journalists have been killed there.

In 2009, the FC laid siege to three newspaper offices in Quetta — Daily Asaap, Azadi and Balochistan Express. The FC personnel posted outside Asaap’s offices eventually forced it to stop publication.

Discussing Balochistan is not tolerated elsewhere too; a seminar “Unsilencing Balochistan” in LUMS where Mama Qadeer Baloch, Farzana Majeed and myself were to speak was arbitrarily cancelled by the intelligence agencies. Journalists and columnists outside Balochistan writing about Balochistan face pressures so Balochistan conditions can well be imagined. PTA blocks all Baloch websites while sectarian ones flourish.

TNS: What do you make of the government claims of other countries’ interference in the affairs of Balochistan?

MMAT: Since March 27, 1948, when Balochistan was forcibly annexed to Pakistan, the government has been imputing that there is foreign involvement. The intensity of these allegations is related to the insecurity that the establishment feels; recently there has been an orchestrated effort to blame foreign powers for all that is wrong in Balochistan, with special emphasis on RAW.

The insurgency and struggle in Balochistan is indigenous; there were no Indian Consulates in Kandahar when the Khan of Kalat Mehrab Khan fought the British on November 13, 1839 and when Marris defeated them at Sarat Aaf and Nafusk in 1840.

This government feels that by harping on this bogey of foreign hand they will be able to alienate all those who would feel sympathy towards the Baloch struggle. More importantly, this also provides them with justification for the unparalleled brutality that we witness in Balochistan in the form of missing persons and the abominable ‘kill and dump’ policy.

TNS: What do you suggest should be the future course of action for the government to bring peace and political stability to the province?

MMAT: With an establishment that has use of brute force as the cornerstone of its permanent policy towards dissent as one has seen in Balochistan since 1948 and saw in East Pakistan in 1971, one cannot expect it to heed suggestions for peace. It cannot be expected to respect the reservations that Baloch have because its policy is (mis)guided by the view that all Baloch who talk about their rights are foreign funded. I will not waste my time suggesting measures which will never even be considered, leave alone implemented.

8 comments

  • Mir sahib is not accurate when he claims Balochistan was forcibly annexed. Khan had only two options join with Pakistan or India per the agreement he signed with British like all other states. Khan himself never rejected joining Pakistan. I ask Mir Sahib to present one statement to that effect.
    The agreement Khan signed with British was unconditional. He was the sole decider and not some unelected bodies that were pulled out of hat by some Baloch.

    • Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

      Harry There was Stand Still Agreement of August 4th 1947 signed by Kalat, Britain and Pakistan which accepted Kalat Independence.

      • Accepting stand still agreement as a token of independence would be unique in the world with no precedent whatsoever. Standstill means things not be changed until the final decision, not independence. Final decision did rest with the Khan. He was supposed to decide which country Qalat would join, India or Pakistan and not a carte blanche.
        Also, Jinnah did try to meet Khan of Qalat in Feb 1948 and travelled to Balochistan. Khan agreed to come but never showed up. Jinnah could sense mischief coming. After reaching back to Karachi, he asked Khan to convey his decision. Khan on March 27 agreed to join Pakistan and Signed the document on April one. I have the document too. I can’t post it here and be glad to share it.
        Khan, in the document wrote that Qalat would keep everything except Defense and foreign affair. That was ridiculous as no princely state was given this right in the partition agreement. The clause was rejected as it was not legal in any sense.
        Khan was toying with Jinnah who was his advocate and Jinnah had a soft corner for the Khan. Jinnah could have easily taken care of it in 1947 but he didn’t force it. That was a mistake..
        The Army was only sent in after Khan’s younger brother marched towards Qalat from Afghanistan where he was staying with his Afghan wife before the partition. He had only 100 persons with him and did not bother to confront the army and went back.
        Interestingly, before the partition there was never a movement for Qalat independence and against the British. All was honky dory, but as as soon as Partition decision was on the Air, all Qalati become freedom lover. What an ironic twist of history. I guess Baloch loved the British more. Thank you.

  • Mohad Ali Jinah the lawyer of Khan insisted on points
    1 Kalat has agreements on 1876 with White Hall not with British India like other states
    2 With the end of paramoutacy pre 1876 position Kalat return
    3 all leased out areas will return to Kalat automatically.
    On 11 August 1947 in a meeting Jinnah, Khan Kalat and Mount Batton it was ageed that Kalat is not an Indian State and Pakistan recognise Kalat as an Indipendent State

  • So now we move the goal post to 1876. Anyway Look at this to show how devoid of facts the 1876 claim is.
    “The Viceroy to India, Lord Lytton, invited the Khan of Kalat to attend the imperial assemblage at Delhi in January 1877. A nationalist historian has argued that the British regarded the Khan of Kalat as independent because on this occasion he was not given a flag like the other princes. Moreover, the Viceroy received the Khan and the Sultan of Oman and also paid them return visits. None of these gestures was made to other princes, he argues, because they were not regarded as independent. ( Really a great way to to claim independence)

    in the late nineteenth century, when Afghanistan became pro-British. Sir J. Brown, who was the successor of Sandeman, Mir Mahmud II installed as the Khan of Kalat. The British also framed a new constitution for Kalat.

    In 1942 the Khan wrote to the Cripps Mission and forwarded the case of an independent Khanate of Baluchistan. In the same year, the Secretary of State for India informed the Viceroy about the British policy towards the Khanate, denying its status as an independent, sovereign, and a non-Indian state. The decision of the Government of India was conveyed to the Khan in June 1942. The British gave legal arguments, which were not contested by the Khan.”

    The issue was never the current Balochistan. It was only confined to the Qalat and did not include Pushtoon areas, the Area leased by Khan to British (Quetta, Nushki, Nasirabad and Bolan,) and Pakistan was a successor state. Did not include Kharan and Lasbela and not even the current Gwadar that was owned by Oman at that time.
    So we are talking about less than half of the current Balochistan.
    How the claim on whole current Balochistan can be made based on Qalat alone?
    So we have two parts here.
    One is Qalat which did not have suzerainty over the current area in 1947
    and the British Balochistan (Gwadar was later paid for by Pakistan).

  • There are many complaints of revisionist history in Pakistan. Some Baloch are writing their own revisionist history that has no supporting documents anywhere.

    • Foreign Policy Centre a European think tank in its report in 2006 “balochies of pakistan on margin of history” must be read and inayat ulla baloch “problems of greater balochitan” also.

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