Suppose one were to break a rule of a lifetime and take Rehman Malik seriously when he announced his intention of granting amnesty to Baloch nationalist leaders and went so far as saying that he will personally receive them on arrival. It is hard to miss the condescension and arrogance of the statement since it evidently fails to recognise the very basics of the conflict and treat this as a petty quarrel which can be muffled with assurances to a few individuals and attempts to rectify it with what comes across as some cheap pillow talk. More significantly, there is a clear implication in the statement which I am not sure Mr Malik completely grasps. To guarantee the end of violence and hostilities in future, has embedded in it the assumption that the guarantor would perhaps have a semblance of control over them. So, Rehman Malik has with one statement, used as a desperate measure, has attempted to take the blood and the guilt of decades of murder upon his hands. Hence, Rehman Malik cannot be taken seriously in this case, even if one does not mention Nauroz Khan Zehri.
‘Security establishment’ is becoming too hazy a term to ascribe direct culpability. It has become an oblique way of saying that the Pakistan armed forces and their subordinate agencies are using intense, non-stop and lethal violence upon the Baloch. Remaining on imprecise terms, ‘missing person’ is a case in point. It is a seemingly innocuous term summoning to mind the image of somebody absent from dinner or someone forgetting to pick someone up. Quite to the contrary, somebody did pick them up with the intention of torture and probably murder; it is abduction or kidnapping at the very least.
The apology and the assurance will have to come from the Army Chief, the DG ISI and the IG FC. And for it to mean anything, those kidnapped have to return or be legally tried in civilian courts and for those murdered, individual apologies should be made and resignations tendered. Remember, murder is not always forgiven, but if you wish to make an effort, extend the Baloch the courtesy of making a decent one. It will still remain the prerogative of the Baloch. The proposal for an All Parties Conference (APC) is nonsensical and diversionary on the face of it – there are only two parties to this conflict, the Pakistan armed forces and the Baloch, those with no stake in the matter should not be allowed to use this exercise as a propaganda tool.
The recent academic discussion on the Balochistan question and bleak alternatives has one distressing omission. It takes as a given, the starting point that Pakistan is a nation state and hence applying the principles and nuances relevant to a nation state. This is how deeply entrenched, the influence of the single, official narrative of the ideology of Pakistan is. Also indicative of our irrational fear that if we revisit or I dare say discard the official version starting from the two-nation theory, all hell will break lose. I think it is worth a try now in the case of Balochistan, to quote Bob Dylan, “when you have got nothing, you have got nothing to lose”. We have reached the point of nothing to lose in Balochistan, except Balochistan itself.
The efforts to intensify patriotism and a monolith identity have also surged. To my mind at least, there is no doubt that the Difa-i-Pakistan Council is backed by our establishment, primarily the military and been given the task of spewing anti-American and anti-Indian sentiment to solidify national unity, etc. The DPC is like an army of clones of that clown, Zaid Hamid. Not a word from them, on the murder of Baloch or the systematic killing of the Shia in Kurram. Even if bad faith is ruled out, admittedly hard to do here, yet they find it difficult to contemplate that there may be principles of humanity beyond the imperative of a country being forced to stay together and the fact that entire world might not have the time or the inclination of conspiring against us. I do not know if and to what extent is there foreign intervention in Balochistan, however I am clear on the point that deprivation, strangulation and murder by our patriotic army has lead us to this situation.
The DPC and their likes are very vociferously imploring Pakistanis to take up arms and go die fighting America, India, Nato and Israel, etc. The tone from many in public discourse is becoming agitated, almost threatening that force will grudgingly have to be used if the Baloch do not forgive us. The casual manner in which they talk about our soldiers going to war, for obviously unjust causes to commit murder in one or to certain death in the other is repulsive, primarily because it is disrespectful of their sacrifice in our real war against religious fanaticism. Balochistan cannot be kept glued together by the use of violence; we have already tried that and still are. To put it vaguely, a new social contract will have to be devised, if it is not too late already. To mention Bangladesh, at any length here would be a cliché.
While talking about patriotism, death and armchair zealots of the DPC, to end on an elevated note, Wilfred Owen, a soldier and perhaps the greatest war poet should be referred to. He ends his greatest work Dulce et Decorum est with:
“If in some smothering dreams you too could pace/ Behind the wagon that we flung him in, / And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,/ His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; /If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,/ Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, / My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory,/ The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est / Pro patria mori. (It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country)”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2012.