Time to makes amends

Published: February 26, 2012
The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

Many superficial Pakistani nationalists will raise their eyebrows at the mere mention of Baloch, Sindhi or Punjabi national or ethnic identity. The reason is that we have been, for far too long, fed on the reading and writing of history that actually ignores histories, peoples and regions that constitute Pakistan today. Nationalism and identities are not either/or issues — meaning that one can be Pakistani as well as a Baloch. Identities have layers and are contextualised.

I don’t think nationalism at the level of the state has to be essentially in conflict with nationalism of people and ethnic groups that make up the state. Let us not miss the point that people and individuals have a right to define themselves the way they wish to, and others must accept their rights. The confusion about layered and contextualised nationalisms in Pakistan arises from religion: since we are all Muslims, we don’t need to think of anything else when it comes to defining who we are. This argument is too simplistic because it ignores the fact that being a Muslim doesn’t eliminate other facets of our identities, like ethnicity, region, caste, tribe and clan.

Let us examine Baloch nationalism in this context. We know Balochistan is diverse in terms of ethnic groups, but this diversity is not confined to Balochistan alone. So are Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Baloch ethnic nationalism is a natural thing, as it is, in the case of the Punjabis and others. Unfortunately, the dominant groups in the power structure have been uncomfortable with accepting multiple nationalisms, considering them conflictive with the idea of Pakistan.

The Baloch have a separate identity — and they have a history, language, culture, social system and above all, a land, Balochistan, of which they are rightly proud of. They cannot be deprived of any of these elements that defines their nationalism: a sense of identity, of belonging to a land and having a history.

As more and more mutilated dead bodies of Baloch youth engaged in armed confrontation with security forces turn up on roadsides in Balochistan, we need to reflect deeply about what has gone wrong. Pointing fingers on the integrity of the Baloch leaders or accusing foreign powers will not work because people know that the purpose is to deflect attention from the real issues confronting the people of the province. A good number of Baloch are angry, disappointed and alienated from the mainstream politics of Pakistan. They feel that the largest province and the dominant Pakistani elite groups have usurped their resources, manipulated their politics and have not accepted their rights on their resources.

The country’s fourth military regime — aided by the same dominant elites — turned its guns on the Baloch when the issues could be best settled through negotiations, bargain and politics of rights. The democratic government has done nothing in reaching out to the Baloch leaders that have taken up arms. In our own self-interest we need to do just that.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Osama Siddique
    Feb 27, 2012 - 1:02AM

    Very well said Rasul sahib. High time for deep collective reflection and expeditious action.


  • yousaf
    Feb 27, 2012 - 1:39AM

    @ Author–Besides the solution to Balochistan issue you gave in the last para of your article (which is what should have been done in the first place long ago) an intensive research on the history of the region for at least last 500 years should be made.The history of last 150 years should be given much greater emphases to enable us to understand what actually is wrong that has caused this sudden (though not so sudden) unrest among the locals of that province.While doing such research the fact should be kept in mind that a democratic set-up is making a study of a tribal social set-up.If/after facts are found and solutions formulated they then should be implemented in their true letter and spirit so that any further bloodshed and misconceptions may be stopped


  • aatif ehsan
    Feb 27, 2012 - 2:39AM

    “we are now all pakistanisnot balochis, pathans, sindhis, bengalis, punjabis and so on—and we should be proud to be known as pakistanis and nothing else”

    An abstract from Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s reply to Civic Address presented by Quetta Municipality on 15th June, 1948…The founder of the nation hated provincialism and layered nationality theories. Why are we inclined to camouflage provincialism with layered nationalism and contextualization? Balouchis are our brethren and we are all pakistanis.Pakistan is a body and an individual organ has no identity if segregated from body…Why don’t we get our concepts clear?


  • Mir Chakar Khan
    Feb 27, 2012 - 3:01AM

    Something for Pakistanis to consider. During 1947 would it be acceptable if the Hindus told them, here is some development package instead of your country. We need our freedom.


  • Nisar Hussain
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:22AM

    right, but who convey this phenomena to the rude establishment? and ignored peopleRecommend

  • Mirza
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:11AM

    Learned Professor we all know full well who has the real power in Pakistan and particularly in Baluchistan. All the hate against Pakistan has originated during more than three decades of totalitarian rule of generals not the three years of current govt. Unless the generals are reined in nothing can happen for the betterment of Baluchistan.


  • yousaf
    Feb 27, 2012 - 2:02PM

    @ Nisar Hussain–The tragedy here is that the ignored are not the ignorant ones and they if get united to understand each-others problems and rid themselves of the baseless prejudices among themselves by the forces with ulterior motives,we all will have a happy and prosperous life.The reason why I use the word IGNORANT is because we are not aware of the fact that we are sitting on the gateway to 70% of subterranean wealth of south and central Asia,causing the developed and developing countries (being power and material hungry) not to let us rest in peace,and they keep creating one trouble after the other.The day we understand this conspiracy being brewed against us to keep us destabilised–I hope–our personal misgivings will give way to better understanding of each other and will resolve the differences and misconceptions


  • Balochzada
    Feb 27, 2012 - 5:16PM

    Simple yet thought provoking analysis of much debated issues of multiple identities and baloch nationalism. It is time to take some bold steps by this “democratic” government to identify the real issue and come up with a feasible solution in consultation with representatives of baloch people. Only condemning the US Congress’ resolution won’t serve the purpose. We should move to take decisive steps.


  • Genius
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:57PM

    “‘The democratic government has done nothing in reaching out to the Baloch leaders that have taken up arms.”

    If there ever was democracy in thta part of the world, why would the Baloch people ever need
    to take up arms?
    The simple fact is that there is no democracy there or anywhere in the world. Anyone and everyone who thinks that democracy comes by going out to elect those who very normally will not and do not represent those who elected them, live in fool’s paradise certaily.
    Let us all accept the fact that Democracy simply does not exist anywhere. There are monumental evidence to support this statement everywhere in the world.
    Democracy does not exist in Britain, the USA, the EU or anywhere.
    Those people who want Democracy, will need to work for it.
    Charity begins at home. People will need to bring about the working of Democracy from their home localities. People will need to organise themselves. Organise themselves into a party of the people, by the people, for the people. If people do not come forward to work for it, they will continue to remain slaves of the slave takers.Recommend

  • Hafsa
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:46AM

    “‘Baloch, Sindhi or Punjabi national or ethnic identity”…did you forget Pashtun?
    @aatif ehsan: what a pity. We’ve disappointed Jinnah. But I think Mr Jinnah meant that we’d love each other so much & offer such sacrifices that the ‘other’ will feel like our brother.
    -What actually happened: We told the ‘other’ that since you are my brother, whats yours, is actually mine & so you should give it all to me.


  • Cynical
    Feb 28, 2012 - 4:05AM

    @Mir Chakar Khan

    A refreshingly new point of view and brilliantly articulated.
    Love to admire people who brings an alternate angle to the issues at hand.
    Hope to see you (mean, your comments) on other forums in future.


  • Asim
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:43PM

    I agree with Mir Chakar.
    Defining borders in the name of God is completely unacceptable, as is the case with Pakistan.
    Balochistan was a state long before Pakistan existed and Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhi did exist long before the term PAKISTANI was coined.

    As far as the current US bill is concerned, Pakistan should concentrate on the genuine problems of Baloch and Balochistan instead of crying and protesting against the bill.


  • mind control
    Feb 28, 2012 - 9:45PM

    @Rasul Bakhsh Rais

    If the Civilian Government makes any effort, will you ensure that the FC will not indulge in its ‘disappearance tricks’?

    The matter was before the SC not so long ago. What have the Lordships managed?


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