Baloch nationalism gone wrong

Published on Thursday May 20, 2010

The recent meeting between Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and seasoned Baloch leader Sardar Attaullah Mengal was a breakthrough in government efforts to reconcile with disillusioned Balochis. Ever since coming into power, the PPP government has failed to resolve the Balochistan conflict due to the unwillingness of the Marri, Mengal and Bugti tribal chiefs – who account for the bulk of the insurgencies and the disillusioned population in the gas-rich province – to negotiate. The political scene has worsened after the intensification of target killings, previously confined to policemen. The killing of a university professor has unveiled a more radical face of the Baloch insurgency.

Mengal’s meeting with the prime minister took place at a time when Baloch society is internally polarised: Moderates, such as the Balochistan National Party (BNP) believe in parliamentary struggle within the federation of Pakistan but with maximum autonomy and ownership of natural resources granted to the province(s). The second segment is unwilling to settle for anything less than the independence and backs violence to achieve these goals.

A meeting that was intended to seek the assistance of a respected Baloch leader in order to reconcile with the disgruntled people of Balochistan has expectedly backfired. The Gilani-Mengal summit has initiated what seems to be an internal quarrel between the Mengals, who lead the biggest nationalist political party, and the Marris, who presumably head the armed struggle.

Such sharp differences have not been seen in the past 30 years in the political history of Balochistan among the nationalists themselves. Both groups have chosen local Urdu newspapers as a platform to complain of the “other’s ‘disservices to the Baloch cause”. They have resorted to making personal attacks on each other’s leadership in a series of statements published on a daily basis in local newspapers. In a tribal set-up like that of Balochistan, attacks on tribal elders is an extraordinarily dangerous phenomenon which could trigger feuds.

First it is was the Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Marri, an organisation of the Marris, which criticised Sardar Mengal’s meeting with the prime minister by terming it as a sell-out of the Baloch case. In response, the BNP castigated the Marris for not being concerned about the rights of the Baloch people but only that of the Marris. The differences between the two tribes clearly demonstrate the flaws of the Baloch nationalist movement and have pushed the movement by several decades back. A movement that had gained overwhelming sympathy across the country, and even internationally in the wake of the killing of Nawab Bugti, is now losing support due to target killings of teachers.

“These differences sadly remind us that the Baloch nationalist movement has not fully matured yet. Most Balochis still prefer to identify themselves on tribal lines,” points out one veteran Pashtun nationalist leader. “It is not as if there are no differences among the Pashtun nationalists. The difference is we do not harm each other physically irrespective of the level of political differences. In the case of Baloch nationalists… a verbal argument may lead to deadly clashes among tribes.”

If the Baloch leadership does not immediately overcome the new phase of differences, they will not only fail to collectively fight for the rights of the impoverished Baloch people but their differences could give birth to a deadly tribal civil war in the country’s largest province.

Read the article on Express Tribune site

2 Responses to “Baloch nationalism gone wrong”
  1. Sobdaar Baloch says:

    Thank you Waja Siraj for sharing this piece.

    I strongly disagree with many points in this piece. First of all, the government/state has issues with armed struggle. They fear it more than anything and want to do something to dissipate the insurgents. And BNP-M has no or marginal control over the armed wing so equaling Mengals with Marris is not the best thing to do.(Although Mengals wrongfully believe that they are more powerful). It may help the govt to make tall claims like they did in case of Balochistan package but everyone knows the powers of PPP to implement any meaningful policy in Balochistan.
    So this meeting is like a fad and will prove so due to lack of capacity on both sides i.e Federal Govt and Mengals.

    Secondly, in a political situation like the one that prevails in Balochistan, any concession from a Nationalist group will receive strong public criticism(it is the arrogance of Mengals that they don’t realize this) so this criticism is justified. It has happened in the past in Baloch movement and in others movements. For instance, when during the Black rights movement, Martin Luther Jr. made the famous speech ” I have a dream”, the next day, Malcolm X, a radical Black leader replied in a public speech in following words:

    “When King was having his dreams, the Black people were having nightmares”

    So it is a common thing between parties that are separated by evolutionary and revolutionary approaches.

    I disagree with the Pakhtoon leader’s comments for two main reasons :

    1. The polarization between Pakhtoon groups has never been so intense as Baloch
    (Freedom Vs Autonomy)

    2. Secondly, it is more of political difference than tribal even Mengals have been criticized by other groups for their leniency. They retaliated because they think they are a party whereas Marri ittehad is a tribal organization(so the consequences are there) so it is not tribal immaturity but strong political differences.

    Now the wrong line comes when we see personal attacks. This is where the two groups went wrong. Rather than focusing on the political issue, they made the “Ad hominem” (personal attack) fallacy.
    This is the most dangerous thing to do. This is not tolerated in the ethics of political theory. This should be avoided by both groups.

    Mengals have a compromising nature and they will do so without consulting any other Baloch group(Remember the past decisions) which is very dangerous. More importantly, the Mengals are not famous for lasting resistance but for pressure politics. Hence they may aim at improving the situation with few compromises but the Pro-Freedom people will not do so. Hence a conflict between Mengals and militant groups is predicted in coming years.
    Dr. Allah Nazar recently termed the slogan of “right of self determination” as a vague one. BNP philosophy has been frequently criticized by more radical groups and a clash is predicted but between Mengals and Pro-Freedom groups(Not just Marris)

    Now Which side has more public support and the ability mobilize masses in support of its ideology remains the important question for future. We leave this to Baloch masses to decide.

  2. Malik says:

    Any movement for rights should not create the violence to the extent that it ceases and debars the capability of society at large to live with peace and that violates the ethics of conflicts. No society can tolerate the killings of their companions, neighbours, teachers or acquaintances being killed around them. This trends inflicts the irrepairable damage to the movement by losing their support in masses. Let me illustrate the Swat valley exapmle where masses expresses their hatreds towards religous based and their own supported movement when it inflicted extreme violence.

    Killing of non-native population on ethnic basis, bold attacks on forces without having a infrastructure and great mass support to combat government full-fledge counter action support is a suicidal move. Such claims as being made by violent elements have ever invoked even a 10000 populous demonstration??? No! freedom movements have history of demonstrations in millions of head counts. Are baluch resistence groups more organised than Tamul Tigers Sri Lanka or taliban in Pakistan???

    Pashtun and sindhies who had their grievances with federation have finally wowed for Pakistan. Pashtuns have been seperated expoliting the situation created by taliban.But they proudly opt for Pakistan. sindies now recognises themselves as Pakistani as proudly as Punjabies do. There remains certain sects of baloch people only who are availing their turn towards developing the maturity after enjoying the illusionary doctorine of freedom.

    Being a punjabi settler in Balochistan having lot of baloch freinds I never see people sympathising with these groups who kills their innocent friends, neighbours and colleagues.

    One question these groups should ask to themselves that whether it’s serviving a cause for their rights or simply satisfying their ethnic grudge when they kill a punjabi. And how they will justify these killings to international community when presenting their case to them.

    If and suppose freedom is your ultimate goal then dont be in hurry. Expediting the kiilings of innocents and foreces will lead u nowhere unltill the you dont harvest the ground for mass support. Dont opt the last resort as the first and only tool, i can just advise.

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