Bumpy road to Kalat
What is the solution? Has the situation reached a point of no return? While Baloch young boys and girls loath the idea of a solution within Pakistan, senior politicians still talk of political rights and ownership of their resources within the federation
By Adnan Adil
THE NEWS ON SUNDAY
The road from Quetta to Kalat is broken and bumpy, but after a thorough shake-up it takes you to the historical town, a hub of Baloch nationalist movement that was the capital of a semi-autonomous princely state under the British period.
Along the way, graffiti on the walls for Balochistan’s independence, salutation to Baloch leaders killed fighting for independence and abusive slogans against Pakistan and Punjab just give a glimpse of what is actually cooking up in Balochistan and hidden from the eyes of the rest of the country.
Kalat is one main centre of Hindu population in Balochistan. One thousand Hindus have lived there for centuries. They are not very expressive of what is happening to them, but once assured of confidentiality tell their complaints. One common complaint is that young Hindu men are ignored in government jobs. There are only two schools for Hindu community in Kalat city.
The Hindu elders are nostalgic about good old days when it was a city of peace and love. At the time of Partition, Hindu-Muslim riots did not take place in Balochistan. Hindus were free to go everywhere and they used to enjoy picnics in mountains. Local Muslims used to welcome them. Now the situation is quite bad. Thefts and murder are a routine. Violence has become common and widespread. There is lot of population pressure which requires more space for members of Hindu community to build new houses, but out of fear they are not ready to go out in the suburbs and build a new locality.
Another complaint is that there is no writ of the government. The government does nothing for them. A young child of Hindu community was abducted for ransom in the presence of police. A few years ago, a young man of the community was murdered, but police has not yet arrested the accused. The Hindu traders pay extortion money. They are threatened to pay extortion money or face bomb blasts at their shops.
Hindus complain that they do not have access to any high-ranking government officials or public officials. They complain that chief minister and governor of the province do not give them time to present their complaints. Five years have passed but district minority committee has not met. They say they are treated as second-class citizens.
Kalat’s minority community also seems to be unhappy about the joint electorate system. “If we do not vote a candidate in general election, he becomes our enemy.” There is no elected representative of Hindu community in the National Assembly from Balochistan who can raise Hindus’ voice. There are four seats for minorities and all of them get filled from Sindh where Hindus are in a large number. Hindus of Kalat want their candidates to be elected exclusively by the votes of Hindus alone so that they can be answerable to them.
The resentment and anger among Muslims is much more severe than the tongue-in-cheek complaints of the Hindu community. “Gen Musharraf is responsible for fomenting trouble in Balochistan,” says Prince Mohyuddin of Khan of Kalat family. In his sprawling and historical but quite simple fort in Kalat, one is shown the rooms where the Quaid-e-Azam and his sister Fatima Jinnah had stayed before Pakistan came into existence. Prince Mohyuddin says young Baloch boys think Gen Pervez Musharraf was a good man for the Baloch cause as he woke them up by first putting Nawab Khair Bakhsh Mari into jail and then killing Nawab Akbar Bugti.
Prince Mohyuddin says presently there are two forces in Balochistan: resistance-fighters (militants) who rule at night and security agencies that rule in the day. He says Baloch are mentally no more a part of Pakistan. He says Baloch issue has been internationalised and this is likely to remain so for some time. In his view, at the moment the situation has gone out of the hands of Baloch politicians.
The prince of Kalat appears to be polite with gestures that he is ready to work within the framework of Pakistan, but young men of Kalat are quite blunt and aggressive. Names of most people interviewed have been withheld for their safety. A young boy belonging to Baloch Republican Party-Brahmdagh group, says it would be good for Pakistanis if they grant Baloch independence otherwise to gain it they are ready to die. “Those fighting in mountains are my brothers and my life is not precious than that of Nawab Akbar Bugti or Ballach Mari; I can sacrifice it for independence.”
Young Baloch resent the role of security agencies in Balochistan and claim that they pick up people, torture them and kill them. “They picked up a man and threw his body which had the marks of torture and inscribed on it with a sharp-edged weapon, Pakistan Zindabad.”
A local trader seems a little moderate. He recounts a long list of grievances against the government. “There is no writ of the government. Police do not take action on quarrels among people and thefts. In some case, if police takes action, courts release the accused.” He says there is shortage of patrol in Kalat and other basic requirements. “Kalat-Quetta road is in shambles for the last four years. We do not have maternity homes. Our women observe strict seclusion from men, but circumstances force them to give birth to children in front of strangers on the way to hospitals in Quetta. It hurts our honour.”
A relatively moderate political activist belonging to BNP complains law and order situation in the city is very bad. He says he cannot safely go to his home in suburb, 15 kilometres away from Kalat city. ” Kalat Police has strength of 1000 policemen, but the day a Hindu boy was abducted, there was only one policeman present in the police station. Police could not recover the abducted man. People themselves got him recovered. The CPLC Karachi could not identify the car that was used in the abduction.”
After recounting the grievances, he says, although our young men want independence, but there are many people who want to be a part of Pakistan. In his opinion, if political settlement does not take place soon, the moderate people will also join forces with those demanding for independence.
A local journalist and government employee says Balochistan issue cannot be resolved through chatter but concrete actions to bring Baloch at par with the rest of the country. “We have been kept backward and you can gauge this by one small indicator that there is not a single public park in Kalat or in entire Balochistan.”
There is no girls’ middle school in 12 out of 18 union councils of Kalat, what to speak of a high school for girls. There is only one girls’ high school in the district and that too was established before 1947. This school does not have a single science teacher. There is not a single maternity home in Kalat district.
Baloch activists in Kalat are quite candid about admitting targeted killings being carried out by Baloch nationalists. A political worker says: “People are carrying out targeted killings of settlers because they belong to the community which is committing excesses on Baloch people.” A BSO member says: “In return of the excesses do you expect us to garland you with flowers? It is right to carry out targeted killings in response.” He is quite blunt in abusing Punjabis who in his view have usurped the rights of Baloch people and have forced them to carry out targeted killings.
One bitter complaint is that intelligence agencies are abducting Baloch activists who go missing. For example, they cite the case of one Abdul Mujeeb Baloch son of Abdul Majeed Baloch, who was a unit member of Baloch Students’ Organisation (BSO) Azad in Balochistan University, Quetta and a student of MA in Public Administration. On his way to meeting with the vice-chancellor along with his two colleagues and a professor, he was picked up along with a colleague. The colleague, Abdul Qadir, was released after 25 days. He told us that a federal intelligence agency had abducted and blindfolded them so he did not know where he was detained.
One after another Baloch activists get up and pay tribute to Baloch leaders whom they call martyrs. They consider Balochistan’s minerals are providing a rich resource to run Pakistan, and in return, Pakistan has not given them anything. So, they will not rest until total independence.
What is the solution? Has the situation reached a point of no return? While Baloch young boys and girls loath the idea of a solution within Pakistan, senior politicians still talk of political rights and ownership of their resources within the federation. Prince Mohyuddin was part of Gen Ziaul Haq’s cabinet and had worked to diffuse volatile situation at that time. In his view, in this crisis, veteran politician, Sardar Ataullah Mengal alone has the capacity to bring along both Pushtoons and Balochs and may provide a political solution.
He also suggests that an option is to hand over the province to his political organisation for three years with the following pre-conditions: (a) Militia be taken out of the province though Army may stay here; (b) no more Cantonments be built in the province; (c) all political prisoners be released; and (d) Politicians and bureaucracy from outside not to be part of the provincial administration as outside bureaucracy is too heavy-handed.
Two years in office, the Zardari-Gillani government is making tall claims of bringing some relief for Balochistan, but no measure has been taken so far as the situation is worsening by the day. While the broken and bumpy road from Quetta to Kalat does end up somewhere, it seems the road to and from Islamabad leads to nowhere.