The establishment and its intellectuals’ priority has never been the rights of the Baloch and Sindhis
The envisaged Gwadar-Khunjrab-Kashgar railway and oil pipeline, for which a feasibility report was completed by Chinese engineers before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s 2010 visit to Pakistan, bodes evil for the Baloch people’s rights. This is but a part of the larger strategy aimed at ensuring that Balochistan becomes the Tibet and Xinjiang of Pakistan. Masood Khan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to China, had then stated, “We support China’s policy on Tibet, Xinjiang and human rights.” China-Pakistan relations are based on mutual support for human rights violations.
This is amply proved by the fact that during the 23rd regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s general debate in Geneva on June 7, 2013, when Balochistan’s representative to the UN Mehran Marri spoke about Pakistan’s continuing human rights abuses and recent farcical elections in Balochistan, the Pakistani delegate objected, and was supported by the Chinese and Cuban delegates. However, much to their chagrin, the US and UK representatives taking strong exception to their objections, supported Marri and called on the session chair to allow him to complete his statement and be allowed on record. Ironically, the Cuban representative said it was unacceptable for an NGO, conveniently forgetting that they too were once an NGO (pun intended), to attack the territorial integrity and independence of a sovereign state.
The continuing Afghan influx has already changed the demographic balance in parts of Balochistan. This proposed railway will help Pakistan usher in engineered demographic changes to turn the Baloch into a minority in their own land. The recently installed extremely pliable government in Quetta — whose titular chief minister cannot even name a cabinet without Nawaz Sharif’s consent — fully supports these sham mega-projects to bring about required demographic changes. The systematic engineered demographic changes combined with the brutal killings of Baloch activists and ordinary people suspected of sympathies with the Sarmachars (insurgents) are the two-pronged attacks that the Pakistani establishment has unleashed on the Baloch people. The demography issue is a life and death issue as the Baloch people’s destiny hinges on it and the resistance they can muster.
The Pashtuns too are suffering because of the harebrained dreams of strategic depth, which the deep state refuses to abandon in the hope of becoming the arbiter of Afghanistan’s fate and the hope to keep India on the back foot with its non-state actors. This ludicrous policy also sustains sectarian terror.
Sindhis have had the worst of both worlds and are rapidly turning into a minority in Sindh. Once again demands for shifting Biharis there are being made. This does not mean that they have not been coming in slowly, steadily and surreptitiously; where even mechanics can get blue passports at a price, getting an NIC is not a big deal. Thousands of Afghans refugees are bona fide citizens of Sindh; an Afghan colony is slowly taking shape near Bhit Shah and may well become a Sohrab Goth.
The establishment and its intellectuals’ priority has never been the rights of the Baloch and Sindhis. Mr Niaz Mutaza in his piece, “Denied citizenship” in a national daily (June 10, 2013), lamenting the statelessness of Biharis says, “Where there is a clash between right and wrong, passing judgment is easy. However, in real life one is often faced with the dilemma of choosing sides in a clash between two rights. The right of Biharis to come to Pakistan, unfortunately, clashes with the right of Sindhis to retain their numerical majority in their ancestral land. Which right should take precedence? For me, at least, the immediacy of Bihari suffering takes precedence over a demographic eventuality down the decades, which may not even ever occur given the small numbers of Biharis involved and the usually higher fertility rates of rural populations.” Regrettably, only the fertility rates of Sindhis are remembered.
The Biharis’ plight is worthy of compassion but certainly not at the cost of the rights of Sindhis. The massive influx of Biharis will worsen the already skewed demographic picture in Sindh, put Sindhi rights permanently in jeopardy and increase the existing friction. Choosing between what he calls two rights may be easy for the establishment because Biharis will not settle in Punjab and, moreover, the Urdu-speaking population in Sindh will be shored up and easily checkmate future moves for the rights of Sindhis.
The past track record leaves no room for optimism. Qazi Isa Daudpota in a letter to a national weekly (October 19-25, 2012) quoting the PILDAT report ‘Ethnic conflict in Sindh’ by Mr Muhammad Feyyaz wrote: “In rural Sindh another major source of grievance emerged with the controversial allotments to military and civil bureaucrats of the lands brought under cultivation by the Sukkur, Guddu and Ghulam Mohammad Barrages. The abstraction of the centre dominated by Punjabis was now literally brought home to Sindhis in the form of Punjabi landholders who were occupying a substantial portion of the choicest land in Sindh. Out of the 1.48 million acres of land made cultivable by the Ghulam Mohammad Barrage, 0.87 million acres were allocated to defence personnel, tribesmen of Quetta and the Frontier, and settlers from East Pakistan. Of the 0.64 million acres of the Guddu Barrage land, 0.32 million acres were allocated to defence personnel, civil bureaucrats and families displaced by the construction of the new capital, Islamabad, and the Tarbela and Mangla dams. Of the 0.28 million acres of Sukkur Barrage land, 0.13 million acres were given to army personnel. In most instances ‘defence personnel’ were synonymous with Punjabis.” He concluded, “Simple arithmetic shows that of the 2.4 million acres of irrigated land, 55 percent (i.e. 1.32 million acres) went to non-Sindhis.”
The establishment that imposes such injustices on the Baloch and Sindhis denies them their inherent rights and ensures that they remain eternally disadvantaged. All examples of ‘simple arithmetic’ as imposed by the establishment prove that the rights of Sindhis and Baloch who were overtaken by historical accidents in 1947 and 1948 matter not a whit to it. Undoubtedly, the establishment unequivocally thinks it would be better off if these two were either oppressed into submission by military, political and economic means or outnumbered by planted ethnic groups who, being indebted to it, would be completely submissive. The establishment’s blatantly anti-indigenous attitudes smack of not only a colonial propensity but also of brazen and pernicious racism. The regular use of this pernicious ‘simple arithmetic’ rule to the lives of the Baloch and Sindhis forces them to find solutions to the most complicated problems of their liberty and rights through other means.
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