Friday, 5 May 2017

QK archives: A page from the Baloch past

A Page From the Past ....
< The Following is an article written by Muhammad Ali Talpur ...who was an active participant in the Baluchi revolt of the 1970's .He recently returned to Pakistan after a ten year exile in Afghanistan ..this article is quoted ad verbatim , from Newsline Issue dated March 1998>

In keeping with the Pakistani tradition of camouflaging history a vital chunk of the country's past has been shrouded in mystery for over 20 years .This was the period of 1973-1977 , when the Baloch rose in revolt against a state that had relentlessly oppressed them for decades and Military Operations against the Baloch people were at their peak .As Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Arbab Jehanzeb , the corp. commander of Sindh and Baluchistan and subsequently MLA, Sindh during Zia's martial Law himself recently conceded, the army "responded forcefully" to the perceived threat from the Baloch struggle .

While this may be a huge understatement, it is nonetheless demonstrative of the fact that there is at least some acknowledgement of what happened in those years .They are also other signs of a desire to hearken to that era.Recently, the respected veteran Baloch Leader , Sardar Sherbaz Mazari mentioned the individuals who went missing in those days . Similarly the redoubtable Ardeshir Cowasjee, in a recent Column in Dawn , referred to those involved in the Baloch struggle whose fate remains unknown to this day .Among those mentioned are Asadullah Mengal , Ahmad ShahKurd and Dulip/Johnny Dass alias Dali .They were, in fact many other victims of the "dirty War" conducted in Baluchistan . As an active participant in the struggle for the rights of the Baloch people , I consider it my duty to bring to some light some aspects of the people during that period . Also, I apologise to those affected - the victims and their families - fr the delay in raising this conveniently forgotten chapter of our history .
The " Baloch Insurgency " as it has been termed , was the end product of a history of injustices , excesses and provocation's against the Baloch people by the centre , which ruled without consensus or consultation , and made decisions of the fate of the people totally arbitrarily. It began in April 1948 when the Khan of Kalat was arrested to force him to sign " The Instrument of Accession " to PAkistan . This prompted a fierce reaction from the Baloch people , who took up arms . In ensuing months , many excesses were committed by the authorities against the locals , as people were interned without trial and economic injustices reached their zenith . In 1958 the Khan was rearrested . At this Nawab Nauroz Khan led an agitation against the authorities provocative colonial attitude.In response, solemn promises were made by the govt. to meet the peoples demands, But instead Nawab Nauroz was arrested and seven people were executed in Hyderabad Jail .The Nawab died while incarcerated . The resistance movement led by Mir Sher Muhammad Marri was the continuing expression of Baloch resentment against Central Rule which did not involve the people in decision making regarding their lives and future.

Bhutto's ascendancy to power saw an increase in the regard for the will of the people .Urged on by the Shah of Iran who equally feared Baloch militancy , Bhutto began violating Baloch rights on the flimsy pretexts of imagined threats to National Sovereignty , and every underhand trick in the book was employed to undermine the legally elected Provincial Govt.1973 saw an intensification the effort to quash the will of the Baloch people in a manner similar to that used in Bangladesh a couple of years earlier .Marri agency , Jhalawan and other supposedly sensitive area's were blockaded to deny the population the basic necessities. The blockade which continued till the end of 1977 , was very effective and resulted in immeasurable suffering for the people .
The unwarranted excesses left the people no other option but to resist , and May 18th 1973 , saw an early Morning Ambush on a Sibi scouts patrol near Tandoori in which all eight members of the patrol party were killed .Within three days the army landed in Mawand . In his letter to the DAWN on July 13th , F. Lodhi says that while standing in for , the director of Military Operations at that time , he advised a political solutions of the problem , rather than a Military One , but Bhutto seemed hell bent on the latter .The Shah of Iran , meanwhile lent the government his support by providing helicopter gun ships to quell the Baloch militancy.
When policy f physical elimination is pursued without any consideration of due processes if law and justice , one can only term it as genocide .When numerous incidents of of unexplained and unrecorded disturbances disappearances take place and where reprisal killings and deaths of non combatants are commonplace , it can be safely assumed that there are not isolated lapses but a premeditated policy of physical elimination of the opposition .This is exactly what happened in Baluchistan .
I narrate only a few incidences from a small area of Marri Agency . Dulip /Johnny Dass or Dali as he was known , was a person of sterling qualities , compassionate and dedicated , whose only crime was that he helped the Baloch people resist the oppression unleashed on them. .He and Sher Ali Ramkani Marri were picked up near Belpat by the Army and never heard of again . Had they changed loyalties , they would have lived .They were not the only ones .Bahar Khan Lalwani , Shafi Muhammad Badni , Dost Muhammad Durkani and Allah Baksh Pirdadani were picked up at different times and places as were scores of others from all over Baluchistan and their fate too is unknown . After all these years all are presumed dead , but surely their families and friends have a right to know the circumstances in which they died and whether they were given a trial , leave alone a fair one . Killing captives without the due process of law is Murder under any circumstances and by all codes , and such incidents were commonplace all over Baluchistan. So all those who are guilty of this crime must be brought to book .

Reprisal killings were also frequently resorted to , indicating an organised policy in in the matter . Sher Muhammad Aaliani , an elder of the Aaliani clan ( a Marri sub clan ) a septuagenarian living in the vicinity of Kahan , was picked up after an ambush on an army patrol in that area .When his corpse was subsequently recovered m it bore marks of severe torture . Murad Khan Ramkani of Tadri suffered a similar fate .His only crime : belonging to the clan of a leader of the insurgency , Mir Hazar Khan Ramkani .Seven man , five of the Shaija clan , including Baazi and Qaiser Khan and two Kalwanis , were summarily executed by a firing squad after a skirmish with army partisans in the area of Dungan. All those killed had made peace , and vowed to quit the area when the army moved in .

In december '71 , an army patrol attacked Tadri , a Marri householding. When Tagav and his nephews , Karam and Jalamb Ramkani tried to stop the army and their collaborators from taking away their flock , they were killed .Their women who were also shot at , one was killed and two wounded . A young boy , Mangla , also sustained injuries . The wounded were treated by our friend Dali. In another instance , an old man , Vashdad Ramkani was killed when he struck an Army man who had abused him . In the Kalgary area , when a household was attacked by an army contingent , all the able bodied people fled , but a blind man , but a blind man , Jan Baig Ramkani who was left behind , died in the volley of fire unleashed upon the house . Pir Baksh Ramkani , a big flock owner , died defending his flock .Most of the victims were personally known to me .

Killing unarmed civilians and publicising the murders as " encounters " with " hostiles" were to frequent to be labelled as lapses . So many incidents cannot be dismissed as random actions . Torture as an instrument for extracting information and forcing a change of Loyalties was also used by the Army against the Baloch methodically and extensively . Without exception , all and sundry were subjected to it in it's gruesome variety: beatings , electric shock , deprivation of sleep and food , hanging by the hair , being forced to sleep on ice slabs, burning with cigarettes etc. . Many who survived the ordeal narrated their harrowing experiences , for example MNA Mir Ali Bakhsh Talpur , who was severely tortured merely on account of being a Baloch sympathizer .

Another tactic employed to break the resolve of the people was to deprive them of their main source of livelihood - their flocks . The nomadic Marri particularly , depend on their livestock . Their flocks were taken and sold for a pittance to traders from the Punjab .Furthermore , whenever stocks of wheat were discovered , they were destroyed . Even water bags , i.e. mashks , in which water is carried and stored , were cut up . the locals donkeys were commandeered by the army and it's partisans and used to transport goods for them .

As a result of these excesses , thousands of Baloch migrated to Afghanistan .the pain of repressed people is never erased from their psyche . Those who suffered due to the brutality by the army in the four year long war still deeply mistrust the centre and all it represents .The cost that such oppression extracts from the population is incomprehensible to people who have never experienced this kind of terror. And their is hardly a home in the Marri agency which did not suffer such excesses . But for them , the suffering still continues .

One corrupt coalition after another has ruled Baluchistan since 1973 . They have been more concerned with and strived for their own welfare rather than that of the people . At times the number of ministers has nearly equalled the strength of the house . The centre true to it's tradition , has not been helpful . All slogans of " provincial autonomy " are belied by the ground reality . The arbitrary dissolution of assemblies , horse trading , non local governors and rank corruption has increased the sense of alienation of the population at large .This is a dangerous tendency with ominous portents for the future .

Historically Baluchistan has remained a sensitive region because of it's strategic location , untapped natural reserves and the influx of migrants from neighbouring regions which constantly changes it's demography .It's proximity to Afghanistan and Iran , and a long sea coast combine to make it for intrigues by large powers .The very potent threat to national boundaries for a unification of Baloch's residing in Pakistan , Iran and Afghanistan , has left many rulers sleepless . With the Taliban in power in Afghanistan and their dreams of greater Afghanistan - which interestingly include parts of Sindh - Baluchistan has become a potential powder keg with a very short fuse .Erroneous moves could lead to an ethnic war between Baloch and Pashtuns in both countries .
A region as sensitive and potentially dangerous as this needs to be dealt within a sane equitable manner .The first of such steps is confidence building .The pain may not be erased , but at least it can be eased .A positive beginning could be made with an admission of past mistakes by the centre , and an apology to the Baloch people for past injustices . The affected people should be compensated - though no self respecting Baloch would ask compensation for those who were killed in the fighting .The province should get it's due share of water and development funds , and the income generated from within the Province should be utilized in the Province .The welfare of the people and the environment should be made a primary objective .Unless such measures are initiated soon , an adverse political situation could develop with dangerous consequences .People cannot be expected to remain quiet forever.
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