Monday, May 21, 2012

Curse of Balochistan


The Balochs have weathered the worst human rights abuses, like denial of water and food, denial of medicine, persecution, and brutal crackdowns by successive governments. They are segregated by the provinces with larger population, who gladly take the natural treasures like the gas from Balochistan, but deny the Balochs their very own treasures, God bestowed upon them. However, the ordinary Balochs remain blissfully oblivious of the curse that never allowed them to develop awareness to realize that they have been taken advantage of for last several centuries.   

Consider; your richest neighbors living the largest house owning the poorest of poor as their servants cum slaves. At the first sight they shoot at any neighbor who dares to pass by their yard. When displeased, they exile their servants. They make their slaves walk on hot coals to prove their innocence. They hold hostages in their makeshift jails. They assassinate people in their neighborhood to establish their dominance and instill fear. They mow down their own juveniles for suspecting them to be neighbor’s spies. Fearing their servants may develop independent thinking; Nawabs don’t allow them to receive even the primary education. They maintain strangle over their servants by concocting terrifying stories about their neighbors, so they don’t develop meaningful friendships with their neighbors. Just to spite their neighbors, they blowup their own gas mains. But most interestingly, when the price is right, they sell their own. If you think we went over the characteristics of a Los Angeles Gang, or New Jersey Italian Mafia, you are mistaken. These are common traits of Balochi Nawabs.  
 
Webster Dictionary describes Nawab as: “a provincial governor of the Mogul empire in India, or a person of great wealth or prominence.” But if you would see one in his element, you may take him for nobility from the dark ages. You can count a Nawab to be a male, so never fret over the protocol of addressing a female Nawab/Sardar. Their followers literally live and die at their whims. While Nawabs send their offspring to prestigious institutions like Oxford, their followers live in destitute and abstract poverty and never get to see a school.  
 
On 1 May 1972, the day the martial law was lifted; Sardar Ataullah Mengal was made the first chief minister of the Balochistan. He pushed through many meaningful initiatives, like setting up Balochistan's first university, medical college, board of secondary education, and the first industrial city in Hub. After the dissolution of the ‘One Unit’, the employees in the federating provinces were supposed to return to their province of origin. Since most of the police officers were from Punjab or were Punjabis, Sardar Mengal moved a resolution in the Balochistan Assembly to do away with the domicile category and suggested that those who had spent several generations in the province should be treated as locals. At that time the Punjabis were welcome in Balochistan, because of their expertise. Strangely, now they are killed by the Balochs for their expertise. Perhaps, a case of hypocrisy?  
 
During time, the Nawabs developed serious differences with each other, resulting in Sardar Mengal going into exile in the United Kingdom. This is when he patronized Soviet and Afghan intelligence agencies. 
 
An Oxford-educated eccentric man, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti also known as the ‘Gas Man’ owned thousands strong and heavily armed private militia; allegedly also heavily involved in terrorist activities, gross human rights violations, and mafia like activities like kidnappings, extortion and murders. Bugti had little to no regard for life. He boasted of committing his first murder at an impressionable age of twelve. To avenge his son’s murder he had several men assassinated from the Kalpar tribe.  
 
On February 14, 1973, Nawab Bugti single handedly brought down Sardar Mengal’s government and convinced the then Pakistani Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to send in the military to crackdown on his rival clans. In exchange for informing the Federal government about the London Plan, Nawab Bugti conspired with Bhutto to become the governor of Balochistan. Mengal and other Nawabs, like Ghaus Bux Bizenjo and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri were arrested and thrown in jail for conspiring and receiving arms shipment from Iraq to dismember Pakistan. Bhutto used the air force to suppress the insurgency in Balochistan. Ironically, in 1979, it was the Army General Zia-ul-Haq who released the Nawabs.  
 
On August 26, 2006, Bugti died in a cave collapse. Apparently the location of his hideout was compromised by embittered Marris who never forgot how Nawab Bugti stabbed them in the back in early 1970s. Bugti went through several cycles of running insurgencies to blackmail the government, only to end the insurgencies in return for heading the same government. His tribesmen remember him with mixed emotions. Some 10,000 Bugti tribesmen whom he exiled to Punjab after a bloody crackdown remember him not so kindly. Similarly families of thousands who simply perished in Bugti’s private jails and those who were forced to walk on the red hot coals to prove their innocence still harbor extreme hate and contempt, not only for Bugti, but for the whole Nawabi system.  
 
Another Nawab, also a nationalist, separatist and a Marxist, Nawab Khair Baksh Marri also colluded with the Soviet and Afghan intelligence against Pakistan. Soon after the Communist invaded Afghanistan, Nawab Marri migrated to Kabul. In 1990, the then Chief Minister Mir Jamali of Balochistan tried to bring Nawab Marri and his men back from Afghanistan, which became yet another dispute with the government. His son, Balach Marri organized and headed an internationally recognized terrorist organization, the ‘Balochistan Liberation Army’ (BLA). This fascist/terrorist organization targets civilians, foreign nationals, military personnel, civilian infrastructure, markets and most specifically ethnic Punjabis. 
 
Both Mengals and Marris provided KGB and KHAD intelligence against the activities of the CIA and the ISI that were supporting the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet. In return for their services the Nawabs received financial and logistics support from the Communists. Americans never forgot Nawabs’ alliance and support for its archenemy, the Soviet Union. That is why Americans were least bothered when in 2006, Ataullah Mengal’s son, Sardar Akhtar Mengal was thrown in jail by General Musharraf. Recently, his grandson Noordin Mengal (a British passport holder) was deported by the Americans, after designating him ‘inadmissible’. 
 
However, unlike their Nawabs and Sardars, the ordinary Balochs are good hearted people known for pride, bravery, and loyalty. Sadly, for generations, most of them have lived lives of only a step higher than bonded slaves. Their legendry loyalty to their Nawabs/Sardars has kept them oblivious of fact that God has created all humans equally. Just like their Nawab’s offspring they also have every right to receive at least basic education, own property, speak freely, treated as equals to Nawabs, and most importantly, demand for their emancipation from hundreds of years of virtual slavery.   
 
Regrettably, even in this day and age of mass information, an overwhelming majority of ordinary Balochs remain illiterate, deeply impoverished, and enslaved to their Nawabs’ whims. Not that the government has done their share of lifting these destitute souls out of dark depths of illiteracy, hopelessness, and poverty, the Nawabs haven’t fared any better either. At one or other time, literally every major Balochi Nawab/Sardar family had been at the helms of government that they dutifully demonize now. While their personal wealth grew even larger during the heydays of their rule, their tribesmen remain illiterate and dirt-poor. And still, if you ask the ordinary Balochs, who are they; not of their fault, they will tell you, they are soldiers of their Nawab first, they are a Mengal or a Bugti or a Marri second, then they are Balochs, and lastly the Muslims. This is what the centuries of curse of Nawabs have turned the ordinary Balochs into, walking-talking virtual-slaves who consider giving the ultimate sacrifice for their Nawabs, the most coveted honor. 

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