Comparing Menagals or Maris with Sheikh Mujibur Rehman is a crude choice.
None of Sardars enjoys the charisma the legend of East Pakistan carried. Balochistan is certainly no East Pakistan. And drawing parallel is mere sensationalising.
Sardar Akhter Mengal submitted his six points on Balochistan to the Supreme Court. He was just short of calling him Sheikh Mujibur Rehman of Balochistan. The most popular leader of East Pakistan had also presented his six-points which many believed became the basis of the country’s dismemberment when not taken seriously.
In strategic terms geography plays the most important role. Aren’t the two great occasions guaranteed American sovereignty during the peak of colonisation?
Pakistan lost East Pakistan primarily because the flawed policies of the establishment, dishonesty of the ruling elite and over a 1000 miles distance with a hostile enemy blocking the direct access. Secondly, a common language fuelled Bengali nationalism.
Is there anything called Baloch nationalism? And if it does exist, whether it can generate a same amount of 1971-like spark and velocity?
Balochistan is critical to the future of Pakistan, no doubt about it. Yet the so-called protracted conflict in the country’s largest province lacks some most important factors to turn into a civil war that may cause dismemberment
What would happen?
Would the United Nations intervene? Who controls the UN? Is the United States, eager to leave Afghanistan, interested in venturing into Balochistan? Would the international community squeeze Pakistan to that extent? How would the bordering Iran and Afghanistan react? The territory claims are not worth converting a friendly neighbour into an antagonist.
There is one dangerous similarity. The people of East Pakistan had blamed ruling Punjabi elite of usurping their rights. A similar sense is prevailing in Balochistan. Meanwhile, the establishment plays dirty tricks.
A colleague hailing from Hazara community of Balochistan left his hometown in Quetta few years ago to live without fear. He says the intelligence agencies are operating merciless assassins to silence the opposition.
“They ask us to publicly denounce the Baloch nationalists who are armed. We are between devil and the deep sea. If we denounce them, we are dead. And if we don’t we are dead too. What do we do,” he questions.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry recently directed the disbanding of all death squads (if there is any) of the security forces and agencies.
The chief justice comes from Quetta and can supposedly understand the issues better than the outsiders.
So far the Baloch ruling elite disappointed the people of the most backward province. Amelioration is a concept they were never comfortable with. Roads, schools and hospitals would have diminished their authority.
The Sardars have built private militias. They are timid of each other’s presence. They are the warlords in peace time. The security forces in the province are icing on the poisonous cake.
And where are the political parties? They talk about extending their support base in lawless tribal areas, whereas they have not yet established a foothold in relatively stable Balochistan.
Ghulam Ahmed Bilour owes an apology to colleague Mian Iftikhar Hussain.
Both come from the Awami National Party that is proud of inheriting Bacha Khan’s ideology.
As KPK information minister Hussain fights on many fronts. He is the face of provincial government and a priority target of militants. His sacrifices are beyond doubt. Last year, suspected militants killed his only son.
Bilour also owes an apology to his younger brother, another KPK minister, who has so far survived two attempts on his life.
Where family members, friends and supporters face dire threats from Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda, Bilour requested the same forces to kill a blasphemer.
After his bizarre announcement of $ 1 million bounty to anyone who assassinates Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, Taliban Shura removed Ghulam Bilour’s name from the hit-list. He is no more member of that privileged club.
As minister he has headed Pakistan Railways to insolvency, but holds his predecessors responsible for the mess. Now his abrupt departure from ANP’s philosophy of non-violence raises critical questions. Would he be expelled or admonished or spared?
PS: Election Commission’s decision of declaring, at least 10 percent of, women’s vote mandatory in the elections must have agonized the political elders of Kohistan district.