Monday, October 1, 2012

The Static Pendulum: From Dacca to Quetta


al-mulk yabqā ʹalā al-kufr wa lā yabqā ʹalā al-zulm
(a government may survive with unbelief but not with injustice)

On Thursday, Sept 27, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, estranged Baloch leader and president of the Balochistan National Party appeared before the Supreme Court in its suo moto hearing on the current situation in Balochistan and spelled out grievances of the Baloch people eloquently. Sardar Mengal outlined his six-point charter to the Court, which he likened to Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehan’s Six Points, to extricate the province and thereby the country out of the current morass. Before we analyze the relationship between the two Six Points and the road ahead, it would be helpful to briefly trace back and refresh the major Baloch conflicts and rebellions (see table 1).

2003-Present
Insurgency following Pakistan’s signing of Gwadar Port project in Beijing with China, start of its construction, and plan to build three new cantonments in the province.
1973-77
Insurgency following Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s executive dismissal of the nationalist provincial government of Balochistan.
1963-69
Sher Muhammad Marri led an insurgency of Marri, Bugti and Mengal tribes against the establishment of new military cantonments, which ended in a truce with the abolition of ‘one unit’ and the grant of provincial status to Balochistan.
1958-60
Mir Naurouz Khan, sardar of Zehri tribe, escaped to the mountains after the arrest of Khan of Kalat, led an insurgency which ended in a truce, his surrender and eventual hanging.
1958
Pakistan purchased Gwadar from the Emirate of Oman.
1948
Prince Abdul Kareem, younger brother of the Khan of Kalat, revolted against the decision of the Shahi Jirga of 1947 and the Khan of Kalat’s signing of the Instrument of Accession to Pakistan in March 1948, and escaped to Afghanistan, though he returned after few months.
1928-30
Persian invasion and occupation of the Western Balochistan (current Iranian Sistan). Ameer Dost Muhammad Baloch hanged in Tehran.
1918-19
The British crush Marri Insurgency.
1916
The British crush insurgency by Gumshadzai, Muhammadzai and Ismaeelzai tribes.
1907
Insurgency led by Bahram Khan Baranzahi and defeat of Persian/Qajar forces. Bahram Khan recognized as the King of Balochistan.
1896
Insurgency led by Sardar Hussein Narui Baloch, crushed by Anglo-Persian troops.
1880s
Insurgency in the Zhob valley, crushed by the British.
1871
Persian and British governments drew the “Goldsmith Line” which currently forms the international border between Iran and Pakistan.
1859-67
Khan of Kalat and the British fight several battles against the Marris and Bugtis.
1849
Persian/Qajar invasion and occupation of the Western Balochistan and the Baloch defeat.
1845-48
The Kachchi Insurgency of Marri and Bugti tribes against the British.
1843
Baloch lose the Battle of Meanee against the British East India Company. Balochistan dismembered. British Balochistan created.
1840
Baloch (Marri tribe) win the Battle of Kehan against the British.
1839
Mir Mehrab, Khan of Kalat signed a Treaty with the British to provide passage and supplies to the British troops in the first Anglo-Afghan War. However, Mir Mehrab was later deposed and killed by the British. Kalat allowed the British government to station troops and rule with a British Resident under the Treaty of 1841. The British made Kalat a princely state by a subsequent Treaty in 1854.
late 18th C.
Baloch raids on southern Sindh and temporary occupation of southern Sindh.
1765
Mir Naseer, Khan of Kalat joined forces of the Afghan King Ahmad Shah Durrani in their victorious battle against Sikhs near Lahore.
1758
War between the Afghan King Ahmad Shah Durrani and Mir Naseer, Khan of Kalat, which ended in a truce and the ‘Treaty of Kalat’ between Qandhar and Kalat.
1704
Insurgency in Qandhar, suppressed by Ghilzai Pashtuns of Afghanistan.
1698-99
Insurgency against the Safavid Empire, suppressed by Gurgin Khan.
Table 1: A historical snapshot of major conflicts and insurgencies in Balochistan

Winston Churchill once said: “the longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.” Looking through this historical lens (table 1) at the outset is necessary because it provides a quick glimpse of the Baloch culture and tradition, their interactions with external actors (i.e. a conflict between intruders and natives, and within natives), and how they were successfully managed by the external actors, if so at times, in the recent history. Internally, three key traditions have shaped the Baloch way of life: (a.) recognition of Baloch honour and freedom, not subjugation and dependence, (b.) loyalty to no one but to himself and his people, (c.) a Zoroastrian outlook to relationships which may be ‘transactional,’ a belief in perpetual and protracted battles against forces deemed ‘evil’ by the Baloch people, and enmities once started would never easily subside. Externally, Colonel Sandeman’s governance model provides the best insight into how peace and goodwill was cultivated with the Baloch people, inter-alia, by: (a.) recognition of personal and tribal honour and freedom, (b.) feudal titles, privy purses, Levy system and privileges of tribal chiefs to collect revenue from tribesmen and servants, and (c.) policy of indirect rule and tribal alliances (i.e. a mix of political finesse and military force with no nurturing of democratic institutions or traditions). Cognisant of this, both Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan had speculated on the nature of political reforms required in Balochistan at their Sibbi Darbars of 1948 and 1949 respectively. In fact, in 1948, Jinnah established an interim “Governor-General’s Advisory Council” in Balochistan and entrusted it with the responsibility and power to examine future economic, social, political, educational and other administrative schemes before these were submitted to the Governor-General. Later, Liaquat Ali Khan constituted a “Reform Committee on Balochistan” in 1950 to recommend constitutional and administrative changes in Balochistan to bring it at par with other federating units. However, the subsequent story of reforms in Balochistan is a sad tale of missed opportunities and mismanaged or misdirected initiatives.

Balochistan is rich with natural resources including petroleum, natural gas, and significant deposits of coal, chromites, quartzites, sulphur, limestone, marble, iron ore, uranium, copper and gold. It has 95% of the asbestos in the world and the copper/gold deposits at Reko-Diq and Saindek mines are estimated to be among the largest in the world. Moreover, the deep water port built with Chinese assistance in Gwadar offers it a unique geostrategic advantage, as it lies at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, overlooks the Mumbai port and India’s west coast, competes with neighbouring Iran’s Chabahar port and is not far from Dubai either. The port offers the shortest route for Central Asian oil exports and for trade with Western China (the distance from Dubai to Shanghai (via Indian Ocean and Strait of Malacca) is 9,000 miles while from Dubai via Khunjerab (Pakistan) it is only 3,300 miles). The strategic competition around Gwadar deep sea port and its related access routes and energy and trade corridors linking Middle East, Central Asia and China is obvious and significant, as is the Iranian and Indian wariness, and the local Balochi mistrust towards the port largely due to a perceived non-inclusive approach of the Pakistani government in its development and implementation.

Fast Forward 2012 - and Pakistan finds itself in a similar predicament, as it was in the late 1960s following Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman’s demand for provincial autonomy and equitable sharing of resources under his Six Points manifesto (see table 2). First introduced on February 5, 1966 at a conference of all opposition parties convened by Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Mujib’s Six Points later became the manifesto of Awami League in 1970 and the rallying cry for the Bengali self-determination. Notwithstanding the controversy that the Six Points were not Mujib’s brainchild, as Nur-ul-Amin asserted that these were inspired by some foreign power or were advised by some civil servants from East Pakistan whereas a witness Rafiq-ul-Hassan alleged before the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission that Altaf Gauhar was the author of the draft Six Points at the behest of President Ayub Khan who wanted to scuttle the all parties Conference, the reality was/is that Mujib’s Six Points programme was a proposed constitutional solution of East Pakistan’s problems which needed a redressal on priority but with political acumen and without any self-interest. It was but political greed and incompetence that the political deadlock between the winning political parties in the East and the West, and the interim government, over the transfer of power following the 1970 elections could not be resolved amicably and the postponement of the National Assembly session triggered a chain of events that ended with the dismemberment of the country.

Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman’s Six Points
February 5, 1966
Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s Six Points
September 27, 2012
The Constitution should provide for a federation of Pakistan in its true sense on the basis of the Lahore Resolution, and a parliamentary form of government with supremacy of legislature directly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise.
All covert and overt military operations against the Baloch people should be ended immediately.
The federal government shall deal with only two subjects Defence and Foreign Affairs, and all other residuary subjects shall vest in the federating states.
All missing persons should be procured before a court of law.
Two separate but freely convertible currencies for two wings should be introduced, or if this is not feasible, there should be one currency for the whole country, but effective constitutional provisions should be introduced to stop the flight of capital from East to West Pakistan. Furthermore, a separate Banking Reserve should be established and separate fiscal and monetary policies be adopted for East Pakistan.
All proxy death squads operating under the supervision of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) should be disbanded.
The power of taxation and revenue collection shall vest in the federating unit and that the federal centre will have no such power. The federation will be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures. The consolidated federal fund shall come out of a levy of certain percent of all state taxes.
Baloch political parties should be allowed to function and resume their political activities without any interference from intelligence agencies.
There shall be two separate accounts for foreign exchange earnings in two wings. Earnings of East Pakistan shall be under the control of East Pakistan government and that of West Pakistan under the control of West Pakistan government. Foreign exchange requirement of the federal government shall be made by the two wings either equally or in a ratio to be fixed. Indigenous products shall move free of duty between the two wings. The constitution shall empower the unit governments to establish trade and commercial relations with, set up trade missions in and enter into agreement with foreign countries.
Persons responsible for inhuman torture, killing and dumping of dead bodies of the Baloch political leaders and activists should be brought to justice.
Federating units must be empowered to raise their own militia or paramilitary force freely for enhancing the regional and national defence effectively.
Measures should be taken for the rehabilitation of thousands of displaced Baloch living in appalling condition
Table 2: The Six-Point Charters – From Dacca to Quetta

It is said that history repeats itself because we refuse to learn the lessons from the past. Pakistan comes a full circle with Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s presentation of his six-point charter to the Supreme Court and the true political leadership need to stand up now and take critical decisions. There is nothing horrendous in Mengal’s recommendations and ignoring them is like escaping from reality, an inconvenient and bitter truth and so an act of self-denial. Regardless whether Mengal’s assertions are his brainchild or not, or whether these are true and substantiable or a false propaganda, the fact is that these reflect a deep and simmering sense of alienation, exploitation and oppression – akin to what the Bengalis complained. The difference being that, prima-facie, Mujib’s Six Points objected to political and economic exploitation and sought more political autonomy and equitable distribution of resources, whereas Mengal’s Six Points criticize physical oppression and tyranny and seek protection of fundamental rights of the citizens. It is tragic that the state seems to have made little administrative or intellectual progress in the past five decades and has rather morphed from a state where 22 families controlled over 66% of industrial capital, 79% of insurance and 80% of banking in 1968 (cf: Dr. Mahbub-ul-Haq, The London Times, March 22, 1973) to a state where a new class of robber-barons, cronyism, injustice and tyranny has become a hallmark now. As Dr. Mahbub-ul-Haq said, “the problem is not the 22 families, individually or collectively, but the system that created them, and it is time that Pakistan looked to the basic causes of its problems and not merely symptoms.”

A true patriot must scrutinize the actions of his government with utmost vigilance and must speak out whenever there is a breach of rightness; it is therefore a function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into the error. So when we examine Baloch relationship with the federation dispassionately, we find that over-centralization of federal decision-making, bureaucratic inertia, military rule, non-transparent and actual/perceived disproportionate sharing of wealth of natural resources, and an archaic tribal system and its allied injustices have gravely contributed to the political, social and economic alienation of Baloch peoples. Regretfully, there is a consistent trend of (a.) employing heavy-handed tactics, largely out of frustration and lack of clear strategy, against a grievance, transforming it into an Insurgency resultantly, and (b.) not addressing the underlying grievances of the people or reneging on the promises made. This can not be helpful in building trust and goodwill, and is also not sustainable in the age of social media when the flow of (dis/mis)information can not be really controlled or suppressed. It is becoming obvious that while the political elite is yet to put forward a dynamic constitutional dispensation for tribal areas and Balochistan in over six decades, military solutions to political problems would always be counterproductive especially when the law-enforcing agencies, police or military, also do not have adequate training, expertise or ability to conduct successful counterinsurgency operations.

According to de Tocqueville, the health of a democratic society is measured by the quality of functions performed by its private citizens. Regardless of the alleged role of external or non-state actors in fanning the insurgency, a nation based on justice and good can never accept injustice or oppression and should not allow for a situation to develop in the first instance for someone to put fuel on the fire. Two things are important here: (a.) an honest self-critique and recognition of internal policy failures and management blunders to make amends for the future, and (b.) to make public any tangible evidence of external support or incitement for the insurgency, which is otherwise essential for an insurgency to realize the goal of secession and become a nation-state, as was in the case of Mukti Bahini.

Actions are but by intentions and a government intending to good by an evil means becomes another evil. Mere functionalist pandering to symptoms would be a band-aid and the underlying disease needs to diagnosed and cured. Offering an amnesty or an apology but not addressing the underlying root causes of grievances and estrangement can not cure the malaise that is corroding the Pakistani body-politic. It is equally important that the incumbent government do not use the current situation in Balochistan or tribal areas as an excuse to delay the upcoming general elections or to engineer their outcomes. Sincere efforts are rather needed to involve and integrate the estranged groups into the political process. The following measures are proposed for a meaningful debate to chart out the way forward:

1. A ‘National Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ may be constituted including equal membership from the federating/administrative units and minorities to conduct public hearings through its subcommittees on human rights violations, rehabilitation, and amnesty, within a timeframe set out by the parliament or by the Supreme Court, so as to:
(i.) discover and reveal past wrongdoings by state, non-state, internal or external actors;
(ii.) resolve the past grievances and/or any ongoing or left-over conflict;
(iii.) build a civil-military harmony to drive the country forward on the road to progress;
The South African experience can well inform the creation, mandate, subcommittees and working of such a Commission.

2. A ‘Constitutional & Administrative Reforms Committee’ may be set up to improve on the work of the ‘Reform Committee on Balochistan’ tasked by Liaquat Ali Khan in 1950 and the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan in 2005, so as to accomplish the following within a stipulated timeframe and with measurable benchmarks:
(i.) assure “ethnic parity” and “provincial autonomy” to all federating units;
(ii.) devise processes to strengthen devolution of power to municipal/city governments and reach a political settlement to gradually phase out the colonial system of ‘indirect rule,’ replacing it fully with direct and representative form of government within a set timeframe;
(iii.) initiate measures to delimit and eventually phase out the Levy System and the Frontier Crimes Regulations within a set timeframe;
(iv.) abolish the sardari tradition of collecting private revenues from tribesmen, industries or corporations, and keeping of private prisons or militias;
(v.) revise the NFC award formula to give weightage to level of development and backwardness, and evolve an agreed formula for distribution and sharing of royalties or surcharges from natural resources and port earnings between federating units;
(vi.) launch confidence-building measures to mitigate the negative image and perception that outsiders were intruding to gain control of and/or exploit Baloch/tribal natural resources;
(vii.) evolve an “inclusive and participatory” approach to development planning and implementation (PSDP/ADP), involving the relevant provincial governments and peoples;
(viii.) foster a system of open “public consultations” on all draft policy instruments or initiatives at the department/ministry-levels before finalization by the department head/minister;
(ix.) set up a mechanism wherein all pre-submissions for federal cabinet regardless of the issue shall receive strategic assessment and input from all federal ministries, and likewise all PSDP/ADP pre-submissions shall receive strategic assessment and input from the relevant provincial government;
(x.) balance geographic distribution of socio-economic and infrastructure investments instead of focussing on resource-rich areas or large metropolitan cities or urban centres only;
(xi.) create opportunities for local employment, health and education, boost local economic development and raise the local standard of living;

‘A house divided against itself can not stand!’ The perception of internal colonialism, economic exploitation, ethnic disparity or oppression by the federation or a larger province must give way to ethnic parity, provincial autonomy, equitable distribution of national wealth, participatory development and collective decision-making!

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