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COMMENT : An eye for an eye — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
The declared eye for an eye response against the Baloch is absolutely misleading because it signifies a justified response, while in fact the repression of the Baloch has always been without excuses
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali's response to the burning of the Ziarat Residency by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) in a nutshell was 'an eye for an eye', while the Lashkar-e-Jhangavi's (LeJ) criminal carnage in Quetta at Sardar Bahadur Khan University and Bolan Medical Complex were not considered grave enough to evoke an equally venomous response. I really was not surprised that so much more smoke was emitted by the media and social media than the actual conflagration at Ziarat; it was even termed Pakistan's 9/11. All this just proved that the plight of the Baloch who have been at the receiving end of state atrocities for decades will never evoke sympathy from people under the spell of the establishment-projected narrative, which squarely blames the Baloch for resisting injustices and consequently getting killed.
This selective outrage saw the unleashing of a barrage of verbal wrath and denunciations against the BLA and the Baloch. The condemners missed the point that repression and exploitation invite reprisals. Moreover, those condemning the Baloch and demanding extreme punitive measures against them refused to see or understand that during the past three years all those 700 plus Baloch activists and ordinary persons who were abducted by state agencies and their mercenary proxy 'death squads' were brutally tortured and then thrown somewhere in Balochistan or Karachi had not, I repeat had not, burnt their revered Residency. They were killed, and thousands of other Baloch were forcibly disappeared simply because they resented the economic, political, cultural and physical subjugation that the Pakistani establishment has imposed on them. The declared eye for an eye response against the Baloch is absolutely misleading because it signifies a justified response, while in fact the repression of the Baloch has always been without excuses.
The establishment employs the wolf's logic against the Baloch: try to find excuses and then crack down. The March 27, 1948 annexation came without excuses, as did the second assault on Kalat in October 1958. The struggle led by Nawab Nauroz Khan was a consequence of that unprovoked attack on Kalat and not vice versa. The seven martyrs of July 15, 1960 of that struggle, who were hanged in Sukkur and Hyderabad jails, symbolise the Baloch struggle against a callous and brutal enemy.
The Baloch resentment against injustices is considered as an affront and is downright objectionable to the establishment and they set about teaching lessons to those audacious enough to express it. I met Nawab Nauroz Khan Zarakzai on Eid day in 1962 when I accompanied my late uncle Mir Rasool Bakhsh Talpur to wish him, Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo and Ataullah Mengal, who were incarcerated too. There Bizenjo Sahib told us that the judge trying him for various anti-Pakistan activities added some more time to his sentence because his frowning on his arrest showed defiance. So even the expression of anger and displeasure when being illegally and unjustifiably arrested was an excuse to prolong a Baloch's sentence. I wonder what that Pakistani establishment judge had expected him to do, give a high-five?
The building for which the Pakistani politicians, intellectuals and people are demanding an eye for an eye was not exactly being revered as it is after the attack. Muhammad Ali Siddiqi, on June 16, 2013, in a national daily, after tracing the Residency's history, writes, "But of late, it had fallen victim to neglect, since hardly any Pakistani VIPs used Ziarat for vacation. Noreen Khalid, Professor at Karachi University's economics department, was sorry to see the building's condition on her visit to Ziarat on a study tour a fortnight ago. The trees which had lent beauty to the building had been felled on the provincial government's orders, the crockery inside the building had gathered dust and some furniture was in a shambles." An honoured thing would not have been left to rot; anyway, now it provides a handy excuse for launching more repressive measures against the Baloch people.
The burning of the Residency is being exploited for diverting attention from the sectarian and fundamentalist outfits in Balochistan because there is no action against them in spite of gruesome carnages and this exposes the establishment's support for their acts. The extremely callous attitude of the government towards the Baloch people stands exposed by the fact that the federal ministers considered it appropriate to visit the Residency but had no time for the 15 girl students and other victims of the LeJ carnage. The object of the interior minister's wrath is specifically BLA for he has not uttered a word against the LeJ, which operates freely in spite of thousands of Frontier Corps (FC)-maintained check posts in Balochistan. The simple reason is that the LeJ and its sympathisers are used against the Baloch nationalists and these recurrent carnages are the pound of flesh that the establishment is ready to pay to somehow control the rising tide of demands for freedom in Balochistan.
This is substantiated by Ayesha Siddiqa in her op-ed on June 19, 2013 in a national daily, "Fighting terrorism": "The state has played no part whatsoever in questioning or stopping the systematic growth of Deobandi and Salafi jihadi networks in Balochistan or even the rest of the country. Why are we so silent when we see the Salafi LeT/JuD network or the Deobandi SSP/LeJ/JeM network penetrate Balochistan and Sindh and gain ground in these territories?" While the establishment nurtures the pernicious fundamentalist groups in Balochistan, the media and intellectuals turn a blind eye. Now fundamentalists have a devoted mentor in Chaudhry Nisar to help their proliferation and strengthening.
Politicians and the media representing the establishment expressed outrage at Akram Shah, General Secretary of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), when he honestly expressed his sentiments that the Residency was a 'symbol of slavery' for Balochistan. Truth always bitter becomes bitterer if it rubs the establishment's narrative the wrong way.
The Residency may conjure positive imagery in the minds of people continually fed on the state's narrative, but why would any Baloch have any respect or love for it? Can anyone give a single argument of it having even remotely anything to do with Baloch culture or history? This building had absolutely nothing to do with the mental images that the Baloch have of their culture and history, and hence except for Dr Malik and company, not many tears were shed in Balochistan. For the Baloch this building was like the cap foisted on the people of Switzerland by Gessler to which all were made to bow until the day valiant William Tell came along.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at email@example.com