Wednesday, 14 June 2017

QK Archives: Habib Jalib Baloch

Originally published by Daily Times July 2010
COMMENT:Knight, not pawn: Habib Jalib Baloch —Dr Mohammad Taqi

More striking than Habib Jalib's flowing long hair was his political maturity that was certainly beyond his years. This transition from a student politician to a statesman is rather rare in our part of the world

“Aiy haak ki may nagrin qawm e jis o gor int,

Aiy haak a pa maa taah e jatag shaklein zinday” — Mir Gul Khan Nasir.

“This soil has been our home, after death it has been our grave,

So, for evermore, I am this soil’s slave.”

In the parlance of nationalist movements in Pakistan, the motherland (watan) has often been described as the place where one’s home and grave are (kor and gor, respectively in Pashto, for example). The Baloch revolutionary poet Gul Khan Nasir’s above verse, however, took the concept to a new height. And in his death, on July 15, 2010, Comrade Habib Jalib Baloch immortalised the verse, the concept and the struggle that is befitting of this ideal.

In their February 2000 monograph titled ‘Knights, not Pawns: Ethno-Nationalism and Regional Dynamics in Post-Colonial Balochistan’, Paul Titus and Nina Swidler note that, “In the pivotal years of 1947 and 1948, the Muslim League was able to outmanoeuvre and suppress these ambitious young (nationalist) movements, but they did not die. In subsequent decades, Baloch and Pashtun nationalism became key elements in the political discourse and the equation of power in Balochistan, and they remain so today.”

These movements did not die simply because they have had in their ranks revolutionary dervishes like Ajmal Khattak and Habib Jalib Baloch. These knights have overshadowed almost all pawns that the Pakistani establishment has produced and used to derail the nationalist movements. Their shining armour has been nothing but dedication to their cause and its adornments are their intellect, humility and contact with their people. A sense of pride in their self-chosen, dignified poverty and shunning material incentives is the Teflon that kept every blemish away from their armour and person.

63 years, four martial laws and six major military operations later, the Baloch struggle for autonomy, self-governance and the right to self-determination continues while the fringes of the movement now demand outright independence from the downright knaves of the establishment. It is highly unlikely that silencing a voice of reason like Jalib Baloch will succeed in gagging the demand for rights. In the poem quoted above, Gul Khan Nasir goes on to express the resolve of his people:

“Dastanai bebanday ta ke chammani bebanday,

Kohani zirab a che pa aram a na nenday.”

“Tie our hands behind our backs or blindfold our eyes,

our seething furious mountains will always make us rise.”

By physically eliminating the moderate leaders, the oppressors of Balochistan stoke the fury of mainstream individuals. We keep hearing the ‘foreign hand’ being involved in Balochistan and how the ‘evil’ nationalist chieftains seek and get help from India or Afghanistan. Selig Harrison, however, noted decades ago: “In contrast to [Khair Bakhsh] Marri who is uneasy and ambivalent about seeking Soviet or other foreign help for an independence struggle, [Ghaus Bakhsh] Bizenjo stated that ‘in a crisis, naturally we will seek help from somewhere, and if we get it, we will accept it. When a nationality is fighting for survival, what do you expect?’”

One should bear in mind that Marri was considered the hardliner and the late Bizenjo was considered the perennial moderate. In fact, so great was Bizenjo’s penchant for talks that instead of Baba-e-Balochistan (father of the Baloch nation), his detractors called him ‘Baba-e-muzakraat’ (negotiation). Jalib Baloch belonged to the same league of towering intellectuals of a moderate political persuasion of the likes of Bizenjo. While Jalib remained committed to the political process, his assassination might push those with similar views to the fringes.

I had an opportunity to briefly interact with Jalib Baloch during the lawyers’ movement. We shared a good laugh at an APDM rally in Islamabad when I asked if Nur Muhammad Tarakai’s sartorial preferences had inspired him to don the long black overcoat. As most obituaries have pointed out, he indeed was a humble, soft-spoken and unassuming man who appeared younger than his age. However, more striking than his flowing long hair was his political maturity that was certainly beyond his years. This transition from a student politician to a statesman is rather rare in our part of the world. In this, he ranked right up there with the greats of the past like Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and contemporaries like my good friend Afrasiab Khattak of the ANP.

One can argue about Jalib’s political views and what he perceived as the correct means to achieve the rightful place for the Baloch people in the political economy of Pakistan and the region. However, what he would not have wanted is the bickering that has apparently broken out between various Baloch political and resistance groups.

The obscure group, Baloch Musallah Defai Tanzeem might have accepted the responsibility for Jalib Baloch’s murder but history points its finger towards forces that have been implicated in the systematic killings of their political and intellectual opponents from Hassan Nasir, Zahir Rehan, Shahidullah Kaiser, Mir Lawang Khan, Asadullah Mengal, Nazir Abbasi, Ayaz Sammo, Munir Baloch and Maula Bux Dasti to Abdus Samad Khan, ZA Bhutto, Dr Najibullah, Nawab Bugti and Benazir Bhutto.

Once Sardar Ataullah Mengal said, “That man [late Bizenjo sahib] cannot live without politics. I can do without it, but he has to have it all the time or he will perish.” I would plead with Sardar sahib, Nawab Marri and other senior Baloch elders and leaders that without their taking up an active role in politics to help banish the factionalism among the Baloch, the chances of everyone perishing together are very real. The state apparatus is going full steam ahead with its colonisation of Balochistan while the civilian government stands by. Without a swift agreement on a minimum common programme, the Baloch may not survive this wave of oppression. No armed resistance can succeed without a robust political leadership.

S T Coleridge once wrote:

“The knight’s bones are dust,

And his good sword rust,

His soul is with the saints, I trust.”

I have no doubt that Habib Jalib Baloch’s soul is with the saints but it is up to the Baloch leaders to protect his life’s work from tarnish and rust. Knights must not become pawns.

The writer teaches and practices Medicine at the University of Florida and contributes to the think-tanks and Aryana Institute. He can be reached at
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