Saturday, 20 August 2016

Iftikhar Gilani of Kohat: The gentle dove


QK archives circa 1999
Gilani contested the 2002 as an independent and lost by a huge margin to the MMA alliance. His one brother served as Provincial Minister under Pervaiz Musharraf and other served as a member of the Military run national reconstruction bureau.Gilani was to later briefly join Imran Khans Tehrik-E-insaf only to leave shortly afterwards.

I would not be quite honest if I claimed to have understood Iftikhar Gillani after interviewing him. It is not that simple. Iftikhar is a very private person whose emotions, reactions and responses are all under tight control. He seemed aware of every word he uttered, giving away only what he wanted to. Denying this, he says that being deliberate in thought and speech is an inherent trait. He became aware of it only after joining public life.

The eldest child of Pir Syed Amir Hussain Gillani, he says he was made to believe he was the cat's whiskers and had no reason to believe otherwise until he was about fifteen years old. Matriculating in 1954, and following a one year stint at Islamia College, Peshawar, Iftikhar joined Forman Christian College, Lahore, in 1956. This was his first visit to Lahore, and he suffered a sort of cultural shock. Finding his classmates to be polished, sophisticated and worldly wise, he kept a low profile until he had learned their ways. Within a year he had learned enough to be elected the President of the College Union. Learning to play Tennis, he went on to win the Trophy for his college. Until then, the Government College Lahore, had been the undisputed champions for almost ten years. This is Iftikhar's style. He is too sure of himself, too quietly confident, to be overawed by anyone.

Iftikhar has become well-known for being soft spoken in these days of loud, brash politics. His greatest asset though, is his self-control, this has allowed him to be whom he wants to be; another is his vaunting ambition! Honest enough to recognize his own shortcomings, Iftikhar is not above learning from others. Although he admits to admiring some people, he says he has never been overawed by them.

Amusedly, Iftikhar recounted an incident that took place on 14, August 1947. His mother had found him, face against the wall, crying inconsolably.

"Why are you crying?" she asked wondering why he did not join the general jubilation; afraid someone had hurt her precious first-born.

"Quaid-e-Azam has made Pakistan. There is nothing left for me to achieve!" answered her ambitious seven year old. Iftikhar's mother was a wise woman, she pacified her child without mocking him, encouraging him to dream other dreams of greatness.

Syed Iftikhar Hussain Gillani says he had never felt restricted by his Junglekhel background, (a Kohat suburb) where he was born on 18th. July 1940. He always knew, with a quiet certainty, that his future lay beyond. Very early in life Iftikhar had decided that great things were in store for him, and he bitterly fought any restraint in his journey to meet destiny.

Admitting that he is not a very physically active person, Iftikhar says he prefers cerebral stimulation. I do not know whether he will agree with me, but I have a serious suspicion that Iftikhar is not the kind of man who will forgive or forget a slight. An injury he may ignore. Although he projects the air of a relaxed, easy-going democrat; I suspect he is also a demanding, controlled and ambitious man. I also got the impression that he despises people who do not have a similar self-control and implacable will power.

Glorifying respect and obedience to elders, he told of when his father visited his office while he was an advisor to the N.W.F.P Governor. Seeing him rushing to touch his father's feet in obeisance amazed the others present at the time.

Yet, the very same obedient son married a girl of his own choice, in the teeth of his family's opposition. Since that fateful day in 1959, when Iftikhar first saw Nusrat, until 1964 when they were finally married, he did not doubt for a moment that he would not marry her. He said he had made up his mind and that was that! Warm, impulsive Nusrat, with her bubbling sense of humour and her transparent sincerity was a perfect foil for the complex Iftikhar. Her breath-taking beauty was an added attraction.

After studying law at the Punjab University from 1959-61, Iftikhar was apprenticed to Latif Khan, a criminal lawyer of Peshawar. Then, instead of setting up as a lawyer, Iftikhar went back to Kohat and started a construction business. He admits that he was not cut out for business and lost quite a lot of money. Finally his father decided he might make a better lawyer, and in 1967 Iftikhar moved to Peshawar to practice the Law.

Then came the 1970 elections. Although Iftikhar was attracted by the Pakistan People's Party pro-people programme, the general consensus in his family was that he should contest for the Provincial Assembly as an independent candidate. Losing his first election he joined the PPP in 1971. In 1975 Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao was assassinated. The N.W.F.P Government was dissolved and Iftikhar was appointed Advisor to the Governor.

I asked whether he was in contact with any of his childhood friends from Government High School No:2, Kohat. Iftikhar replied that, moving in different social circles they do not meet on a very regular basis. Yet, when they do meet, within minutes, the barricades built by time and social status are swept aside. During his elections, he depends on their help and support, which they have never been niggardly in giving.

Although Iftikhar professes to be a proponent of Women's Rights, as Law Minister in the first Benazir Government he never framed any laws that would protect, safeguard or further the cause of women in Pakistan. I asked him about this. Iftikhar says he did not believe laws could change attitudes. I was a little taken aback by the answer, but then, Iftikhar is a complex bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions.

Answering a question about his resignation from the PPP and joining Nawaz Shareef's Muslim League, Iftikhar said he disagreed with Ms.Bhutto's political expediency in joining hands with Ghulam Ishaq Khan. It is Iftikhar's considered opinion that Ghulam Ishaq Khan was the worst thing that happened to Pakistani politics. `A glorified bureaucrat with no imagination or breadth of vision,' is how he describes GIK. After having his say, Iftikhar hastens to add that he has nothing personal against GIK. The criticism only applies to his style of retrogressive governance as a President.

When asked whether he found any difference between the ideologies of the Muslim League and the Peoples Party, Iftikhar had to admit that there really was very little difference. I noticed more than a hint of nostalgia as he spoke of the camaraderie that existed in the Pakistan People's Party. The top brass met frequently, and Ms. Bhutto, while visiting his house would pull up her feet, chatting easily with the whole family. Iftikhar was full of praise for Mohtrama Benazir as a person. He says that during his long association with the PPP, BB and he were very tolerant of each other. There was never any animosity, bitterness nor acrimony, inspite of their many shouting matches when they did not see eye to eye. Disagreeing with BB's impatience with the democratic process, Iftikhar finally parted ways with the PPP in 1993. He believes that in her haste to enter the corridors of power, Mohtrama Benazir sacrificed the very principles that were at the heart of the PPP's struggle for democracy. This, for Iftikhar, is a cardinal sin.

Another ticklish question that Iftikhar deflected in his own inimicable fashion, was about his position on the Kalabagh Dam. Instead of giving me a direct answer he told me a story about when, as Law Minister, he had gone to Saudi Arabia. Showing him rows upon rows of apartment buildings in Ryadh, empty because of a fatwa against living so high above the ground, a Court Minister explained that instead of forcing his fiat, the King had decided to wait until there was consensus of opinion about inhabiting them. Firmly believing in the relativity of perception, Iftikhar believes that nothing is intrinsically either good or bad. Since good governance lies in collective wisdom, decisions should be made keeping in mind the wishes of the people.

It is very difficult to put a finger on what makes Iftikhar Gillani tick. Although a politician, he savours solitude; spending many days alone in his lovely Nathiagali house. Although a family man to the core, he maintains an indefinable distance with his children, Rabia, Aamir and Maliha. As a parent, he is not given to overt expressions of love, and there is no question of a quick hug or a kiss; yet, they dote on him.

It may sound like a strange thing to say, but I found a certain arrogance in his humility; and some contradictions in his self-concept. He prefers to be known as a tolerant man; yet, it is difficult to believe that for one so very particular of what he says and does; for one who is so very intolerant of his own shortcomings; he could be very tolerant of another's weaknesses. A perfectionist, he demands the very best from everyone else.

Long ago, Iftikhar pulled himself up by the bootstraps, vowing to be equal to all men, and never having to look up to another person. When all is said and done, I do believe he has succeeded. Today, Syed Iftikhar Hussain Gillani is considered a statesman among politicians, a thorough gentleman and an uncompromising democrat.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Qalandar Momand profile 2001

Author: Qalandar Momand - Empathizing with the poor

By Nuzhat Rahman

Qalandar Momand is a very versatile personality in modern Pushto
literature. He writes both prose and poetry. He is a critic, a journalist,
a researcher, a teacher and a position holder in the Public Service
Commission's examination. But he has remained behind the bars most of the
time for his 'leftist views'. A very upright and straight forward man, he
holds his integrity supreme. In the process, he says, he exemplifies what
Iqbal says in this verse:

ham ne Iqbal ka kaha mana
aur faqon ke hathon marte rahe
jhukne walon ne rifaten dekhin
ham khudi ko buland karte rahe

(I followed Iqbal's directions and was trampled by starvation. Those who
submitted, lived in luxury while I kept upholding my ego.)

Best known as a poet, he is an excellent short story writer as well.
Critics agree that his short story 'Gajare' is the best in Pushto
language. The consensus is that whosoever might have written the first
Pushto short story, it is Qalandar Momand who has taken it to its zenith.
His largest contribution to Pushto literature is the compilation of the
Pushto dictionary Daryab. He worked on this project, sponsored by the
Department of Education NWFP, from 1983 to 1993 and this invaluable work
has earned him an esteemed place in Pushto literature.

Momand does not write now as his eyesight has been failing. "I have not
written any book since 1990, though I have penned a few articles and
critical pieces in the last ten years. When I receive some reading
material I ask my children to read it out to me. I listen and sometimes
when I feel inspired to write I dictate short critical appreciation notes.
My other and only hobby these days is attending weekly meetings of an
organization of new writers 'Da samio likunko maraka'. I feel very happy
and contented in guiding the new upcoming writers," he says.

How does he feel about the modern Pushto ghazal as compared to classical
ghazal? "In my opinion modern ghazals are better than the old ones,
because when Hamza Shinwari started writing ghazals in the 1940s, he did
not have any school or pattern to follow in Pushto, whereas the modern
poets have Hamza's and his contemporaries' works to learn and follow. That
has made modern ghazals mature and complete."

How would he describe the present socio-political milieu in the country
for promoting literature? "Political conditions in this country were never
encouraging for writers be they in creative literature or journalism.
Those in power cannot digest the truth or be tolerant. Look how Faiz
suffered. He was deprived even of his job and forced to live in exile.

I secured first position in the Public Service Commission examination and
I was made jobless several times. What I did achieve was imprisonment,
imprisonment and more imprisonment for several years in different cities
of Pakistan, because I had the courage to speak up my mind and to reflect
my views through my writings, which were not in conformity with those of
the rulers. In my opinion expressing one's self truly and honestly is the
right and duty of a writer. If he or she cannot do that, it is better to
keep silent. Hypocrisy and distorted opinions do not win respect for a

"Besides, reading habits in our country are very poor. Few people read
books and this results in low print-runs. Have you seen the notice on a
very famous old bookshop and publishing company in Peshawar? It reads that
they are bowing out of the publishing business. Most of our governments
have done nothing to improve the situation. The literacy rate is low and
there is no official patronage of the book trade. The writers and
publishers who are still struggling to survive in these adverse
circumstances are working against heavy odds, specially the writers and
publishers of languages other than English and Urdu."

Twentieth century Pushto poetry has reflected colonialism, communism and
progressive thinking at the same time? Why this combination of diverse
views? "I do not agree with this combination being in Pushto poetry. The
best Pushto poetry started in the fourth quarter of the twentieth century
and the elements you are talking about came in later. But in my opinion in
any language communism is always present with nationalism and not
colonialism. Nehru was a nationalist leader and Allama Iqbal used to say
about him that Nehru has been born between Moscow and Banaras."

These days most of our young poets are producing collection after
collection of poems most of which are quite dull. As a critic what does he
have to say? Are the preface writers right in praising the book so
profusely? "Anybody's preface or introduction cannot make somebody a poet
or a good writer. If that were true then every poet would have been
excellent. Any poet's worth is determined by the verdict of the majority
of his/her readers and critics. Whoever passes this test will survive and
the rest will not be known even for a short period."

Does he not think that criticism is not very common in Pushto literature
as it is in Urdu? "Yes you are right, it is because the Pashtoons are very
self-centred and self-righteous people and for some 'valid' reasons very
few dare to criticise a Pashtoon. Lately there have been a few writers who
realize that literary criticism is essential for the improvement of a
writer. Hence they are now trying to swallow this bitter pill."

Faiz, Ahmad Nadim Qasmi, Khushhal Khan Khattak and Ajmal Khattak are
Qalandar Momand's favourite writers. He owns a three-room house, and one
of the rooms is full of his personal books, mostly on politics and from
the pre-Partition years. Any message for the readers? "Yes convey my
goodwill to them. Here is also a word for new writers in any language:
'always write the truth after thorough research and conscientiously, write
about the realities of life in Pakistan'."

Qalandar Momand belongs to an educated middle class family. From his early
college days at the Islamia College Peshawar during the late 1940s, he was
very involved in politics. He was strongly influenced by Bacha Khan and
later became an active member of the ANP, which made him persona non grata
for the establishment. Qalandar Momand's works have a strong leftist
orientation. He has taken up themes such as the exploitation of the poor
by the rich and the unfulfilled lives of the masses because of the unequal
distribution of wealth.

His best short story 'Gajare' revolves around the same theme. It is the
story of a young girl, who wishes to wear gajare (fresh flower bracelets)
but her poor father cannot fulfil her simple wish. Later her father is
arrested for a crime he has not committed and while the police is leading
him away handcuffed, the daughter says she wants the same gajare as he was
wearing but not made of iron but of flowers and with no chains attached.

Though he is one of the best ghazal writer in modern Pushto and ghazals
usually are used to express the sentiment of love. But Qalandar Momand's
ghazals convey his bitterness about life. He says, 'I cannot change my
luck which is predetermined. I have a fire raging in my heart and I have a
ghazal to offer.' In another ghazal he writes, "If the garden can be
freshened up with my blood then let every thorn be stuck in my heart. No
matter how many thorns you put between me and the flower, I do not care as
I do not put my feet on them. I put my heart on them."

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Analysis of Battle of Saragarhi : The lies we are told

Author: Khan Barmazid


1-  Sikhs and other Indians have made a claim, that "Ten Thousands or 14,000" Afghans attacked the Saragarhi post where 21 Soldiers were stationed from 36th Regiment. Perhaps its based on some estimate by British author, but British military reports of 1897-98 have never made such claim. The fact is , the numbers of Pashtun attackers on Saragarhi fort can never be determined and any estimation by British, e.g 'Pathans as numerous as ants and locusts", should be taken with a pinch of salt, this is sparsely populated region . Sikhs,  and other Indians,  are running the titles "21 vs 10000" or 21 vs 14,000" , "Sparta style last stand" on their numerous websites . Numerous books by Sardarjis have also the same stories. (Some of their sites and books are even claiming it to be 20,000 vs 21). British reports on the assessment of fighting strength of Afridi and other tribes were never reliable nor believable. For example in one report they assessed the fighting strength of the Afridis to be 227,000 while the total population of Khyber agency in 1981 census was 284,256. 

2- The only known and confirmed fact is, that small garrison in the fort was killed to the last man and the fort was leveled to the ground. Afridis and Orakzais had no artillery and were actually at serious disadvantage. Sikhs were firing at them from the high ground. It did not take long for  tribesmen to overrun the Saragarhi fort. British claims that Saragarhi fort was reduced in seven and a half hour.

3- Why Sikhs did not surrender? Sikh soldiers are mentioned in British reports to be torturing and mutilating the Pashtun captives so Pashtuns would not take Sikhs as prisoners. Sikh soldiers at Saragarhi post knew very well that they have no option of surrendering or negotiating with besiegers , so they fought desperately to the last man , while waiting for the arrival of reinforcements. Woosnam Milles has remarked ,"When these two (Sikhs and Pathans) meet , there is no quarter asked and none given".

4- Sikhs claim that more than 600 Afghans were killed but British documents have never reported such casualties of Afghans. British sources say that Rabia Khel clan of Orakzais , who had remained loyal to the British Government, disclosed to General Lockhart that one eighty to 200 tribesmen were killed in the entire affair of Saragarhi. While this is one-sided and unreliable claim and can be dismissed. Yet it is believable. As mentioned earlier, Afridis and Orakzais were at serious disadvantage and did not possess any artillery, and were climbing the hill while facing the firing from the height. Pashtun tribesmen also suffered heavy casualties from the artillery of the Fort Cavagnari . So if Sikh soldiers from the heights with artillery,  inflicted heavy casualties on the Pashtuns, its not so surprising. Judging from the Photographs, there were no proper covers for the tribesmen to take and they had assaulted the fort in broad day light (from nine o clock in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon). In fact, few years earlier, in 1891, Orakzais are said to have lost 200 men due to fire from British artillery at Saragarhi post, when the former attempted to take it.

4- Sikhs , as well as other Indians (who copy such stuff from their sites), are telling a big lie that "the Battle at Saragarhi is one of eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO". To make the lie believable, they have included "Battle of Thermopylae" in the list of eight stories of collective bravery. UNESCO has never published such stories with such title. Thats why only two entries in this false list are known, people can not (and wont) find the names of other six battles despite of extensive search on web and on books. Britain's parliamentary standing ovation , in response to narration of Saragarhi story, is also a lie and fabrication. It is also a lie that this battle is taught to school children in France.

5- Sikh story tellers have not bothered with the accuracy about the location of Saragarhi village. Some assign it to be in Tirah of Khyber and Orakzai agencies , some even says its in Waziristan. Its actually in Hangu district ( once part of Kohat district ) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is held by the Babi Khel, a section of the Rabia Khel Orakzais.

6- Lastly in the so called "heroic stand of all times",  these Sikhs were nothing more than fodder and fuel for ambitions of British imperialism and the ones painted as villains in this story, the Afridis and Orakzais, were fighting and dying for the freedom of their lands from the foreign occupation.

Book references

1History of the Pathans, Volume-IV, by Haroon Rashid
2-  The Pathan Revolt in North West India by H.Woosnam Mills
3-  Imperial Gazetteer of India, Volume-20, provincial series
4-  A Concise History of Afghanistan in 25 Volumes
5-  War in Afghanistan By Kevin James Baker

Ruins of Saragarhi fort, after destruction on 12th September 1897

British Monument commemorating Sikh stand-off in Hangu. The fort served as a signalling station between Fort Lockhart on the eastern edge and Fort Cavagnari (or Gulistan Fort) on the west.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

QK archives: Recognising Pakistan

QK archives: Interview Nawab Akbar Bugti

"Choolas went cold for a few hours in the holy land of Punjab and the heavens shook"

- Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti

Source Newsline February 2003.

By Shahzada Zulfiqar

Q: There is an impression in some quarters that the Bugtis damaged the main gas supply line to the Punjab. What is your opinion?

A: The gas pipeline exploded outside Balochistan, in the Mazari area, situated in Rajanpur in the Punjab province. Scores of gas wells and installations are situated within the Bugti area and a number of pipelines run from different gas fields to the main Sui plant. To date, no explosion has ever taken place in the Bugti area. I have said before that the Bugtis consider these installations their gao matta, (holy cow) that gives them milk, so how can one destroy the very thing he draws food and sustenance from.

Q: Have you been contacted by Islamabad or the Balochistan government to seek your cooperation regarding the disruption of gas supply?

A: No, nobody contacted me.

Q: People got the impression that the explosions were related to your grievances against the government from interviews you've given recently.

A: I don't know how they got this impression. I did stress that we have been deprived for long and continue to be deprived, but this was a general statement.

It has nothing to do with our grievances. We have been struggling for the past 50 years for our rights and for this purpose we have suffered hunger, hardships and imprisonment. Because of our struggle and privations we have become more hardy as a people, and we will face any eventuality to stand for our rights.

Q: Tell us about the history of the Bugti-Mazari dispute.

A: We have traditionally been friends with the Mazaris, but sometimes differences occur that lead to conflict. The sub-clans of the Mazari-Bugti tribes have been engaged in clashes for years. Some years ago, the tension subsided when the two clans sat together and settled their differences. But two sub-clans belonging to these tribes, the Keerd and the Shambani continue to be involved in a dispute.

Q: There is an impression that the Mazari tribesmen and gas companies are engaged in a dispute over jobs and the recent explosions are a result of that row.

A: I have no idea and can't say anything in this regard.

Q: Has there been any attempt to bring about a reconciliation with the Mazaris?

A: No such move has been initiated yet. The whole of Dera Bugti agency remained without water and power for almost two weeks as power wires around 250 poles were pulled down. Nobody talks about the plight of the Bugtis, but choolas went cold for a few hours in the holy land of Punjab and the heavens shook.

The people of the Bugti area, living within a one kilometer radius of the gas plants, still burn dung cakes to cook their food. These people see that they have no power and gas and their gas is being pumped outside their province, while they are deprived. The gas companies make promises, but never implement them, so no one believes them.

Q: Who are the people behind the gas supply line explosions?

A: Perhaps the angels, as nobody has seen them.

Q: Prime Minister Jamali and Chief Minister Jam Yousaf gave certain assurances to the people of Dera Bugti, but they were not implemented?

A: This question should be put to Mr. Jamali and Jam Yousaf, because it is related to them. It is not new for the local people, as they have been receiving such assurances over the years. Agreements are made with one hand and discarded with the other.

Q: Some people say that the Bugtis extort bhatta from the gas companies, besides receiving royalty on gas.

A: Bhatta khori is not our practice, rather it is that of the people of Islamabad and Lahore. We always stood for our genuine rights and never thought of bhatta. And if it is true, then the government must have the relevant record or documents and they should be published in the press. Not a single penny has been given to the Bugtis in terms of royalty since the companies started exploration for gas. We have never demanded any royalty because we are the owners of this wealth. Moreover, it is not a question of royalty, but the main dispute is over rights. We say that gas is the national wealth of the Baloch, and for years it has been forcibly taken out for the use of others, without sharing anything with the Baloch people.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

QK archives: Interview Sherbaz Mazari

If Bugti is victimised, he will become a hero for the whole of Balochistan"

- Sardar Sherbaz Khan Mazari
Published February 2003

By Massoud Ansari

Q: What is the root cause of the tussle between the Bugtis and Mazaris?

A: The crisis started a couple of years ago. A Turkish company was constructing a road from Kashmore up to Dera Ghazi Khan, and bajri for construction was being taken from an area both the Bugtis and Mazaris claimed as their own. This is where the tussle began.

Another bone of contention is the Arab Shaikhs who come every year to hunt the houbara bustard. In certain areas they visit, the Mazari Sardars feel that it is their territory, while the Bugti Sardars feel that it is theirs. This adds to the bad blood. The demarcation of our boundaries was done during the British period and it is not fair to blame each other.

Another serious problem is that Hindus are being picked up from Kashmore for ransom. Kashmore is a part of Sindh, but our tribe spreads into this area and the Ubaro side in Sindh. So it is a moral duty for us to look after the interests of the minorities. The Mazaris hold the Bugtis responsible for the kidnapping of Hindus in Kashmore, although Nawab Bugti insists that outlaws have carried out these acts.

There are outlaws operating in the Mazari and Bugti areas. When they kidnap or even commit rape or take away cattle or shoot people to death, they say the Bugtis have done it or the Mazaris have done it. A lot of misunderstanding has been created on both sides.

A local wadera, Ghulam Hussain, who belongs to the Esani tribes of the Mazaris, was recently killed by an exploding landmine. The tribe held the Bugtis responsible for his death, so they went and hit back. In this way the situation went from bad to worse.

My information on recent developments is that the Mazaris cut the water pipeline to the Bugti area and the Bugtis may have retaliated after that. These are speculations, mind you, but I am sure the Mazaris were not responsible for the gas pipeline blast.

Q: Is it possible for a tribesman to commit a crime without the backing or support of the Sardar?

A: A man from one tribe who becomes an outlaw may seek asylum in another tribe, and act as if he is one of them, and thus the tribe may be blamed for his actions, even if he is not acting with the permission of the Sardar.

Q: Who do you think is calling the shots at the moment? Do you hold Akbar Bugti responsible for the present mess?

A: I don't know whether these are Nawab Bugti's orders or people are taking action on their own, since there are quite a few disgruntled elements floating around. Disgruntled elements amongst the Bugtis may be deliberately tarnishising Akbar Bugti's image to provoke the government into taking action against him.

Q: If disgruntled elements within the Bugti tribe are responsible, how are the Mazaris involved?

A: There is a blood feud going on. The recent abductions from the Mazari areas have caused a lot of hatred and the Mazaris feel they have to retaliate in some way. They feel inadequate because the Bugtis are very well-armed. They have long range weapons, while our people have, at the most, Kalashnikovs or rocket launchers. There is a distance of twenty to fifty miles between the Bugti area and the Mazari areas. The shells of the Bugtis land in the Mazari areas, but the Mazaris cannot reach them.

The main problem for the Bugtis is that they feel they are not being given adequate compensation for gas found in the Bugti area. I have heard that they are paid just nine rupees per square yard.

Q: Don't you think that the royalty should go to the country or to the province and not to an individual or tribe? What if tomorrow we say revenues from Karachi port should be given to the residents of Clifton, would that be a fair demand?

A: You must see that the situation in Karachi and the Bugti area or other tribal areas is different. For example, the tribal areas of the Frontier or FATA don't even pay their WAPDA bills. Nawab Bugti has not said that the revenues should be given to him, though there are allegations on that account.

Q: Do you think the Sardars are really fighting for the betterment of their people or, for that matter, for schools, roads or hospitals?

A: I'm anti-Sardar myself, but I think they are being maligned to some extent. Akbar Khan Bugti is the kind of person who has some commitment to his tribe. What the Bugtis want is that the government should apportion a certain amount of this revenue and see that the money is spent properly on hospitals, colleges, on electricity or for the development of the area. Job opportunities are the most important thing and the local people should be accommodated. In the hills, there is always a drought, there is hunger and people do want jobs. They question why jobs in their area are given to someone from Punjab or elsewhere.

Q: Don't you think the Sardars are running a state within a state? They have even kidnapped workers to extort money from their companies.

A: Those responsible for any kidnapping should be taken to task. They should be fined heavily [in order] to discourage them. And the chief should also show a sense of responsibility. In our culture, the Sardar is not a Wadera or Chaudhry or Khan that he can order people around. He is one amongst elected persons, so his main responsibility is to look after the interests of the people, whether they are Hindus or Muslims or anyone else.

Q: If a fact-finding committee holds a senior Bugti or Mazari tribal chief responsible for the gas pipeline sabotage, how difficult would it be to arrest them?

A: Sardar Bugti was arrested during Ayub Khan's days and Bhutto arrested Sardar Khair Bakhsh Marri, a very powerful tribal chief. If the government is determined to take action and if they have adequate proof, they can arrest anyone.

Q: So you think it is a simple matter to arrest Nawab Bugti.

A: It's not that easy, I have to be quite honest with you. But there must be charges that can be proved. If Bugti is victimised, he will become a greater hero, not only in the Bugti area but for the whole of Balochistan.

When Ayub Khan arrested the Khan of Kalat in 1958, trying to find a pretext to impose Martial Law, and when he was kept in Lahore and other chiefs were also arrested, they became heroes and people took to the hills and fought for them. So let's try and maintain a balance.

If the military government takes action against Bugti, which seems likely, they will make a hero out of him. He is an old man of 74 . I think he would not want anything better than to say, all right, better go to jail and die with honour.

If there is proof enough, that is a different case. Khair Bakhsh was charged with the murder of a chief justice of High Court and kept in prison. So don't think they can get away with anything because they are Sardars.

Q: Do you think that the senior Bugti has made a fortune out of this royalty business?

A: This is what one hears but there is no proof. Those who live in the cities are very quick to criticise others, but the life of the Sardar is very simple and they do spend on their tribespeople. If you go there, you can see five to seven hundred people being fed every day.

Q: So you reckon feeding them a meal every day is enough to change their lot?

A: I think that can only be changed by providing access to education. Once they are educated, their horizons will widen and only then will change come.

Q: What do you think should be done to solve this problem?

A: They should send people to talk to them. I'm ready to do it, not for any personal gain. I'd do it because I feel for the people and I belong to them.

Q: Does the land the gas fields stand on belong to different people or to Sardar Bugti himself?

A: Gas was first discovered in 1952 by Michael Conton in the tribal area of Sui. Actually they were exploring for oil, instead they discovered gas. Afterwards, they started setting up their resthouses - and the lifestyle these company people enjoy, clubs and other things. It makes the contrast more stark and the people feel that they are exploiting our areas and getting all the oil and gas and we are not getting enough. That kind of feeling was worked up by certain individuals, saying, "Look, they are being unfair to us."

Q: So is it actually state land or does it belong to individuals or the tribal chief himself?

A: Look, in tribal society the tribal chief owns the tribal area.

Q: Do they have any documents to prove the lands belong to them?

A: There is no such thing as papers or record, but it is theirs. The British government and now the Pakistan government accepted it as such. Had they not accepted it, it would have been different. The agreement was signed by the Pakistan Petroleum Company and the chief of the Bugti tribe. It may be some other company those days. It was first signed in 1952 and they are getting the amount they got in 1952.

Q: So the Sardar was supposed to get this money from the royalty?

A: Not all of it goes to his personal kitty. He is supposed to get all this money and he has certain commitments to put up colleges, schools and hospitals etc.

Q: Isn't it unfair to give the royalty to a tribal head? They can get compensation for the land, but why royalty?

A: The sad thing is that it was done initially so the precedent has been created. I think now a change can come and I'm sure Nawab Bugti is broadminded and he can understand this. I have heard him say that the province of Balochistan has the right to this royalty, he didn't say that it should be given to him.

Q: But don't you think he has been collecting the money?

A: He may be getting some of that money.

Q: But isn't it possible for the Sardars to ask their people to stop the sabotage?

A: I agree with you and they should.

Q: But I'm saying, can't they do it?

A: Yes, they can.

Q: So you agree that the Sardars have a say and can always ask the people to hold their guns. If they are not doing it, don't you think it is proof of their involvement in the crisis?

A: Sadly, my brother, Mir Balkh Sher, lives in Lahore. I wish he could come back. He has a son, Riaz, who looks after the affairs of the tribe. Nawab Bugti may think that he is a junior and why should I talk to him.

Q: How long do you think this deadlock will continue?

A: It depends on government policy. Six months ago, in June or July, there was a very tense situation in Dera Bugti. The army had surrounded the area, knowing Nawab Bugti's nature, they did it. Bugti decided to fight back and said, so what, come and kill me, and I'll take a few with me. The government's intention was actually to deal with it firmly, but they only provoked him more and that is why he prepared the people.

Let me tell you one thing, the people are very loyal to him. Not loyal to him as a person, but they feel that if something happens to the Sardar, their honour is at stake. They feel that people would laugh at them if the military comes and takes him away.

Q: You mean that he is powerful enough to defy the state and the army?

A: Army, you know what the army is. Even the governors or the chief ministers don't matter. It is only the Corps Commanders who matter. How can you defy them?

Q: With a Baloch prime minister, will the government take on the Baloch Sardars?

A: Does Zafarullah Jamali have authority to take action or not to take action against anyone? Please, sir. It is a one-man show by General Pervez Musharraf.

Monday, 1 August 2016

QK archive: The Frontier Post and the blasphemy incident

QK note: Munawwar Mohsin was released from prison in November 2004.
For more on the story

The story of an addict convict
Faiz Ullah Jan
Published circa 2002

A young Bengali, leaving behind a promising future and his family in Bangladesh, set out for Pakistan by crossing into India. Reached Iran from where he entered Balochistan and ultimately settled in Islamabad. Betrothed to an educated young lady for years, Munawwar Mohsin could not marry her. Dejected, he started puffing heroin while working in different newspapers in the federal capital.

It was perhaps the easy availability of heroin that pulled him to Peshawar where he finally ended up in prison to serve a life-term and pay a fine of Rs50,000: for being heroin addict? No! For attempting to smuggle heroin? Again No! Munawwar was sentenced by the sessions court under blasphemy law for having published a sacrilegious letter in The Frontier Post.

Munawwar was a well-groomed—but disgruntled—lad who would often quote English classics and dialogues from famed Hollywood movies with an impeccable pronunciation. Not having any contact with his parents or brothers, he was a rootless youngman taking shelter in chasing the dragon.

Knowing full-well that he has fallen foul with the society because of his addiction, Munawwar would promise his friends in The Frontier Post not to puff heroin ever again once he is helped detoxificated. His friends at the news desk once took him to a private detoxification center and got him admitted there. Having being cured he very happily gathered congrats from friends.

He once again looked a promising journalist, and even started talking of developing his own family by marrying if none else than an Afghan refugee woman. Then came another calamity: The Frontier Post stopped paying its employees because of ‘financial crisis’. It hit Munawwar more than any other person. He already had no one to bank on; neither had he any other source of income, no home and no hearth. He would stay one night here, another night there after he was driven out by the F.P. from its hostel.

But it was sheer irony of fate or something else that Munawwar and F.P. could not part ways for ever. Munawwar had no other place to go while the paper had a skeleton staff working without pay. While those who could afford another job [or could not afford to work without pay anymore] left the paper. But still there were people like Munawwar working with the paper—some in the hope that one day they might get their salary backlog, while others had so far no other place to go.

These were the worst days in The Frontier Post. The management could not exercise authority for the obvious reason and the workers worked at their own will. There was no central authority and no one could hold others accountable for the simple reason that no one could insure their salary. This situation brought Munawwar back to The Frontier Post when he had already relapsed.

Munawwar, by now a chronic heroin addict, started editing the all important editorial pages of F.P. because it was short of staff in every section. Since the paper by now had always been experiencing a dearth of written material—whether it was news, views or letters—whatever the staff could lay hands on they would publish. And this audacity in handling this sensitive profession in a casual manner paid Munawwar, and paid him dearly.

Munawwar was one of the first persons, including news editor, to have been arrested by the police soon after the publication of the blasphemous letter on January 29, 2001 purported to have been sent by an American Jew via e-mail. The rest of the people were released on bail after a judicial tribunal completed its enquiry. Being the main ‘culprit’ after having confessed Munawwar has been behind bars since then.

Finally came the day when the sessions court gave its verdict: sentencing Munawwar to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs50,000. A doctor of the Mental Hospital, Peshawar, testified before a judicial inquiry tribunal that a few days before the publication of the blasphemous letter Munawwar had escaped from the hospital and that the newspaper management had been informed about it. The letter by Bin DZac was no doubt blasphemous by all means. But was Munawwar mentally sound enough to handle such an important page single-handedly can be contested.