We are delighted to present Gull Awar Khan's interview with Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur. The interview was conducted in March 2013. At the time Gull Awar Khan was a research fellow at Westmister University and work towards a Phd, titled, Nationalism, Federalism and Separatism: The Case of Balochistan in Pakistan. The interview was audio-recorded and below we present the transcript.
(GAK): Mir Sahib, briefly introduce yourself.
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur (MMAT): I am Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur. I live here in Hyderabad Sindh. Actually we Talpurs came here in Sindh from Balochistan some 350 years ago. They have also ruled over Sindh for 60 years from 1783 to 1843 till the battle of Miani when the British defeated the Talpurs and the Baloch here. But the influence of Talpurs still remains in Sindh. They have very good and old relations with the people here. Other dynasties who ruled in Sindh or other areas, their people are no more, because perhaps the Talpurs served the people, that is why they still remain here.
And my father’s politics was against the British. He was in Khaksaar Tehreek and (All India) Congress. After that he remained in politics here, mostly in opposition but for a short period of time he was the Defense Minister in (General) Zia’s regime.
From 1971 to 1991 I was with the Baloch especially with the Marri tribe. I lived in Marri area and then in Afghanistan for 13 years as a refugee. I came back in 1991. After coming back I lived a quiet life as I, by nature, live a quiet life.
I write whenever I found an opportunity to write. Previously I wrote for Post which used to be issued from Lahore. Then I wrote few articles for Dawn. But since my friend and fellow traveler Rashed Rehman became editor in chief of Daily Times I began writing for Daily Times. I still write for Daily Times. That’s the avocation I generally have.
GAK: Mir Sahib, could you say something about Baloch, who are they?
MMAT: Baloch is a nation in its own right. Baloch history is disputed, where they have come from, their origin. There are quite a few things which are not settled yet. For example the Arabs say that the Baloch are Arab, i.e. they claim that. The point is that because they have their own language, their own history, their own culture, they are a nation by themselves. Baloch is a nation itself.
People usually don’t understand this. They mix it up as they say Balochi is a part of Farsi or Dari, something like that. But in fact Balochi, Dari, Kurdi and Farsi are of the same stock, Indo-European language stock. It is by itself a language. It is not an off-shoot of something but a language in itself.
And Baloch is a nation. It assumed the status of a nation, political status as a nation, as culturally it has always been a nation and it will remain as such but politically it became a nation under Naseer Khan Noori and also Dost Mohammad Khan in Irani Balochistan.
Baloch is divided at present into many areas. Some parts of it are occupied as Balochistan in Pakistan, a part of it is in Punjab is occupied as Punjab. I think the population of Baloch in Sindh is quite a lot. It is not in a minority as such here in Sindh as well.
So, Baloch is a nation culturally, historically and geographically as well. They live on their own contiguous geographical area. It starts from Sindh and it goes all the way up till the parts in Iran, Afghanistan also has a large Baloch population. So, Baloch historically, culturally and geographically they are a nation.
GAK: Mir Sahib, then the theorists say that the nations are formed, states are formed, and when it comes to the federation, where these lingual, ethnic, national groups come together and make a contract and then a federation is formed with consent, Pakistan is also a federation since the 1947. So, what is your opinion on this how it is formed or what consent?
MMAT: In fact no. The Baloch did no consent at all to be in this federation. Because, on 4th August 1947 there was a Standstill Agreement between the British, Pakistan and Khan Kalat; the Standstill Agreement which stated the status quo will be maintained. Since, the agreement between the British and Kalat, I think, in 1876, under that treaty Kalat had special status and Standstill Agreement accepted that and Pakistan was a signatory to it. Then on 11th August 1947 Kalat was declared independent. Although it was on the 15th that it was officially announced but it was first announced on 11th and All India Radio too reported it. And Y. B. Fell, the Foreign Minister of Kalat and I think he was the Prime Minister as well, in his book says that independence of Kalat, it was Balochistan, was announced on 11th August.
And as far as federation is concerned, federation needs to have consent. And federation has to admit and accept the rights of the federating units. But here that has never happened. It was never conceived as such by the persons who got to rule Pakistan. They never wanted it. If they had wanted a federation, they would have never said that, Jinnah would have never said in Dhaka in March 1948 that it is Urdu and Urdu alone will be the language of this region, of this new entity. It never accepted the federating units as units. It wanted the imposition of its own ideology.
For example they always emphasize that because of Islam and being of the same religion as being Muslims we are a same nation. But as Ghaus Bakhsh Bizanjo in his December 1947 speech in the Lower House of Balochistan said that, ‘if it is so that the Muslims are a nation then why not make Afghanistan, Arabs and all others a single nation.’ So, it was on the false premises; religion being a determinant of a nation. Pakistan tried to impose their own ideology, their own establishment’s rule over all other units which included Sindh, Frontier (NWFP) and Balochistan. Punjab never resisted it as they knew that they would always dominate it. And Bengalis, they too suffered because Pakistan never envisaged a federating state. It was always a unity state, it is still not a federation.
For example, although, the present set up in Balochistan, the assemblies, the government and all that they are very submissive and at the beck and call of the Pakistani state. But they too weren’t consulted while Gwadar was being handed over to China. So, it has never been a federation and it will never be a federation. It is just… here, might is the right. All those who have power do whatever they want. And as you see Punjab has got the army. And sadly, the Frontier Corps (FC) is all Pashtun. They don’t sort of subscribe to the federation. They don’t subscribe to the view of a federation. Pakistan can never be a federation. Because mostly Punjab… Mostly because of Punjab, they wouldn’t accept it. They haven’t ever accepted it. They will not accept it.
GAK: Then Mir Sahib, what advantages and disadvantages does the Pakistani federal structure have for the Baloch?
MMAT: Definitely, I don’t think there is any advantages, ANY advantage for the Baloch. There has never been any advantage for the Baloch in this federation. Because, for example, when Kalat was forcibly annexed to Pakistan on 27th March 1948, then too they didn’t get their rights. Then in 1955 the One Unit was announced. That wasn’t anything else but an attempt to deprive even the Bengalis of their majority rights. Because, West Pakistan was something inconceivable; it was not an entity as such. Because, federating units were there. Even if one goes back to the Pakistan resolution which envisaged independent states forming a federation. But never a One Unit as such they wanted. And that has been the bane of this country. Because, initially minus Balochistan, minus Kalat, because, they didn’t want to see it as an independent state.
There was a lot of goodwill for Pakistan in the initial stages up here in Sindh. The people here welcomed the refugees with an open heart and open arms and gave them places over here. It was their goodwill. They really wanted this thing to happen. They saw dreams over here but those dreams were shattered very soon; as soon as Jinnah said that it is only Urdu that will be the language, and Liaqat Ali and others put forward the Objectives Resolution. They started giving lands over here and rights over here to the Mohajirs (Indian refugees) who came here and claimed properties over here. So the people understood that.
In Balochistan they’ve never been because, it was not only in 1948 that there was an army action because Agha Abdul Karim went off and struggled in Afghanistan and all other Baloch who were struggling. Most of the Baloch leadership, during that period was also, like Mir Gul Khan Naseer, Khair Bakhsh Khan and others were either kept in exile in Sindh or kept in jail here in Hyderabad. Sher Mohammad Marri was in jail, Atta-ullah Mengal was in jail. And in 1958 when the Martial Law was imposed, they imposed the Martial Law on the excuse of accusing Khan Kalat trying to separate from Pakistan with an agreement and collaborating with Afghanistan. Martial Law was imposed on that excuse; that the Khan of Kalat wanted to break up Pakistan. Khan Kalat was imprisoned; the Miree (Kalat City) was attacked and looted.
It was then that Nawab Nauroz Khan and others who fought alongside him. And you know what happened in consequence of that. Nawab Nauroz Khan was incarcerated as well as his sons. I think his two sons and other friends were incarcerated, some in Hyderabad and some in Sukkur Jail. On 15th July (1960), after summary trials, they were hanged. Four of them in Sukkur and three of them in Hyderabad Jail.
So, Pakistan’s federation, I insist that it has never been a federation. That is my basic argument that it has never been a federation. Even if, supposedly, just for the argument’s sake, you accept it, it has never helped the federating units except for those who the ruling elite wanted to benefit. The federation has never existed over here. I don’t suppose it will ever come over here.
And Baloch have always been at a disadvantage in this entire history since 27th March 1948, 65 years since that.
GAK: Mir Sahib, as we are talking about the federation, what are the major problems and grievances of Baloch as they are within the federation? What do Baloch want?
MMAT: I think, for a long time, Baloch want independence. Because, you should understand that the Baloch, people like Nawab Khair Bakhsh Khan or Sher Mohammad Khan always talked about independence only. They always demanded that. And I think Baloch still want the same. All the movements like in 1948 of Agha Abdul Karim, in 1958 Nawab Nauroz Khan’s, then from 1962 to 1969 Sher Mohammad Khan and Ali Mohammad Mengal’s. Their attitude had gradually hardened by time. Those who perhaps didn’t want independence of Balochistan from Pakistan before, but due to the attitude of Pakistan were compelled to demand independence.
Among the leaders, few always had the same position that Balochistan should be independent. For example, Khair Bakhsh Khan, initially perhaps Ghaus Bakhsh Bizanjo was also into this but he slowly changed his standpoint. Atta-ullah who does not seem to view it the way he used to. But to the level that the movement of Baloch is going on in Balochistan, the resistance against Pakistan, they don’t agree to anything short of independence. They only want independence.
And as you see that since 2005 the Baloch movement has emerged with such intensity once again. Thousands of people are missing, and within last three years more than 700 dead bodies have been dumped here, of those who were abducted by the government. Even the Supreme Court itself acknowledges that the intelligence agencies and FC are involved in it. I think in Balochistan there are very few families left whose friends, relatives or someone they knew are not either disappeared or killed. So, I think Baloch are not ready to talk about anything short of independence.
GAK: Mir Sahib, as you said all Baloch leaders wanted an independence Balochistan from the beginning. But if we go into history, in 1960s Khair Bakhsh was part of parliament, in 70s Sardar Atta-ullah Mengal became the Chief Minister, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizanjo was Governor. So, in this perspective could you provide us with some facts?
MMAT: Sir, actually in that period of time consciousness and awakening in Baloch nation was not at this level. With today’s tools, such as social media, (mass) media and technology, the way it is used to deliver your views to the people and the way people respond to them were not present at that time. You may understand that when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto sent in the army in Balochistan, in Marri area, the Marri area and Sibbi are next to each other, they border. And the situation was as such that the war that was being waged in Marri areas, its news couldn’t reach Sibbi. Today, anything happens anywhere right now, it reaches across the world instantly. Then the tools, that which favored them, were very limited.
So unwillingly, under this presumption that if nothing more, than in this way some relief may be given to the Baloch, they were also in the parliament and Atta-ullah came into power but you saw they were not tolerated for more than nine or ten months. They were not tolerated more than that. And they dismissed them with dozens of allegations against them including the Iraqi-Arms-Find. The Iraqi man himself was a SAWAK agent who brought (the weapons) in here. And when the arms reached in Karachi first, they (the Government) knew about it. Rafi Raza was a minister then and a very close confidante of Bhutto, he told us about it. When they reached Karachi, they knew about it and they facilitated the transport to the Iraqi consulate in Islamabad. And they went in there with a media show and then accused the nationalists for it.
So, different times need different forms of struggle. And it was a continuation. Khair Bakhsh has been uncompromising, on his stand, he has been uncompromising. He always stood by that. Rest of all others wavered and reverted to this and that. I think Khair Bakhsh Khan remained and still is on that same (stance).
GAK: Again the question will be about the same that many Baloch nationalists were in confrontation with the Pakistani federation in 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and then the present one. So, in your opinion this conflict is a continuation or they had different objectives?
MMAT: I think it is a continuation of the same. Suppose if Agha Abdul Karim hadn’t fought then the war of Nauroz Khan wouldn’t have happened. If Nauroz Khan hadn’t fought then Sher Mohammad Khan perhaps wouldn’t have fought. And if Sher Mohammad hadn’t fought, 1973’s conflict wouldn’t have occurred. But one thing is clear that each of the struggles had been on a qualitatively higher stage. It has raised itself and become more important and even more widespread. I mean in 1948 when Agha Abdul Karim rose up, they were only two to three hundred people. When Nauroz Khan fought, they were few thousands. Then Sher Mohammad Khan, Atta-ullah Khan and Ali Mohammad Mengal fought, it was much more than that. And when the 1973 insurgency took place, it was again more intense, more widespread, to too many areas, including Makran, Mengal areas, Marri areas and Bolan i.e. it was more widespread.
And now the situation is as such that even in Quetta no one recites their anthem in schools.
GAK: Mir Sahib, human beings live together, federations and countries are formed and broken up, problems arise, and every problem has a solution. So, in your view, is there any solution for the Baloch problem? Can it be solved within the Pakistani federation or without it?
MMAT: I can answer this from my side only. Whereas, I have been a part of Baloch movement and still am. Recently there was Karachi Literary Festival where Mohammad Hanif Sahib’s book was launched, in it I said in my introduction that today’s situation is such that I should have been in the mountains, but being aged I am not there and I quoted Chairman Mao that: “War is continuation of politics by other means.” So, in my view writing is continuation of war by other means. I still continue fighting. I think the losses that Baloch had suffered, the excessive victimization of Baloch for the last 65 years, those who side with Pakistan, people like Raisani, Dr. Malik or Dr. Hai, you know them all, those who do the federation politics, they only want that they should get the crumbs. I mean anything that falls from federation’s table they should have it. But I think rest of the Baloch can’t even imagine that Balochistan would remain in the federation.
As you know I live in Sindh. The people of Marri tribe whom I taught in Afghanistan, I was related to them, I was part of them and they were part of me, 16 of them were abducted and their dead bodies dumped. What would I think about Pakistan? The connection I had with them that they were just my students, how about the people who are suffering from atrocities. It is not so that there has been a ceasefire. There has never been a ceasefire.
Yesterday on Twitter Hamid Mir tweeted on Khuzdar that the three young boys he interviewed were disappeared. And this is happening every day that people are disappeared. Ten twelve people that I personally know are still missing. There was a man named Naari Keehar, he is missing. My student Dr. Akbar Marri, whose salaries etc. were given to his family on the order of Supreme Court, he is also missing. There is someone in Hub I know, a 17 years old boy whose ID card (NIC) is not issued yet, went to the court for his brother’s hearing. His brother was disappeared first then they showed him in jail with allegations. He went for his brother’s hearing, while returning from the court; he was abducted near Saakuran Police Station in Hub. His whereabouts are still unknown. It happened last year.
So, under such circumstances what would you expect of people that they will agree to remain with Pakistan? I think it is expecting too much of them. That despite under such circumstances and all the atrocities, you would expect of people that they would still remain with Pakistan? As Mohammad Hanif said in his interview that, “it is like you pull peoples’ nails off in the night and expect them to chant slogans of ‘Long Live Pakistan’ in the morning.” This can never happen.
GAK: Mir Sahib, let us go back into history again. We saw that from 1977 up to 2000, it is a period when this discontinued to some extent but doesn’t happen at all. After 1977 during the Zia regime a political process begins till the coming of Musharraf. Was this calm an accommodation to join the federation or something else?
MMAT: In my opinion, no. People say so that it was an accommodation but you think that we 13 to 14 thousand Baloch who stayed back in Afghanistan, why they stayed back? Khair Bakhsh Khan, Sher Mohammad Khan, Mir Hazar Khan Ramkani, and lesser workers like us, they stayed in Afghanistan up till 1991 and 1992 as long as Najeeb’s government was not ousted. Were they supporting the federation? I think they weren’t. You may say that it was for conserving of forces. If they had completely compromised with federation – because in 1977 when amnesty was announced by Zia, those who wanted to compromise, those who wanted to remain with the federation, for example: Mehrullah Mengal, Aslam Gichki, Lal Bakhsh Rind, and Bizanjo’s people, who were there, they all came back.
Khair Bakhsh Khan hadn’t come to Afghanistan yet, but Mir Hazar Khan was there, and we the political people who were there, they decided that we don’t accept this amnesty because we will achieve nothing by this amnesty. And nothing was achieved. Yes, those who came back may have got some jobs, some contracts. There was a calm but to say that all had gone to sleep. People hadn’t gone to sleep. Because, the presence of that many Baloch staying back in Afghanistan, and ignoring and rejecting their amnesty is a solid argument that this thing was not finished. Although people say it was finished.
GAK: Then sir, as you mentioned about the parliamentarians, National Party, BNP-Awami and BNP-Mengal, and those forces which were in Afghanistan, some of them are still in the mountains, if we see it in this perspective, we don’t see any difference in Baloch nationalism, whether it is in two forms or something different?
MMAT: Baloch nationalism is definitely different because there are two behaviors. There are types of nationalists who use the name of Baloch and acquire government and contracts from the federation and seek benefits for themselves. This is one form of nationalism, the corrupt form of nationalism, exploiting the name of nationalism. They all talk. Dr. Malik also talks about people, so does Dr. Hai and Akhtar Mengal. But they have very limited aim as such in which people have no role. They have their role but not people’s. They are not with the federation for the welfare of people but for the well being of themselves.
On the other side are people like Dr. Allah Nazar, Brahmdagh’s people or Khair Bakhsh’s people. Whether you call them Khair Bakhsh’s people, by Khair Bakhsh Khan I mean his follower who think this is the right path. That is the brand of nationalism which really matters for Balochistan today.
You can guess as I say to the people that if Agha Karim hadn’t taken up arms in 1948 then Nauroz Khan would’ve not picked up arm. I mean the series of taking up arms. So, you can’t imagine what kind of aggression Balochistan would have faced. I mean the demographic changes. This is the fear that prevents people going in there. Otherwise, all of the Biharis, the extra population of Punjab, and the Urdu speaking people here, would have occupied Balochistan. This was only the fear that they will not tolerate us there. Otherwise, it would have caused demographic changes at a grand scale. And how many Baloch are there? Only in Balochistan the population of Baloch is five million. Ten, twelve million people would have gone there. Demographically they would have been finished. As they are making such attempts in Gwadar or they have created an industrial area in Hub.
So, definitely there are two brands of nationalism. One is the opportunist nationalism that remains with federation for its own benefits. And the other which is the true form of nationalism. You may say this nationalism is like: those who want be well-fed slaves and the others who want to remain hungry but free. Definitely there are two trends of nationalism in Balochistan today.
GAK: Mir Sahib, it has been said that Pakistani state is in complete denial and it is of the opinion that few Baloch sardars or tribal chiefs are responsible for the Baloch problem otherwise there is no Baloch problem. It has been created by Baloch sardars.
MMAT: That is the official narrative. I think at present 99% of sardars in Balochistan are with the government. For example Raisani, Shahwani and rest of all sardars are with the federation. Now, why there hasn’t been any development in their areas? They mostly blame three sardars. Akbar joined at the end. Akbar allowed the Sui gas extraction and everything else.
They blame Atta-ullah, Khair Bakhsh and Akbar that these three sardars don’t submit. Akbar used to submit. He became the governor as well in 1973. But Atta-ullah is also not among the ‘miscreant’ sardars anymore. So, what is the reason there haven’t been any progress? There are no sardars in Makran, there hasn’t been any kind of progress there. Leave that too aside. The poverty in Rahim Yar Khan or the poverty in Karachi’s slum areas or poverty in Hyderabad and in rural areas of Sindh, are Baloch sardars responsible for all that too? They make lame excuses. I mean faulty carpenter always blames his tools. When they can’t find any excuse to hide their follies, incompetence and corruption, they blame Baloch sardars. Should the Baloch sardars really be held responsible for the poverty in Sindh and Karachi too?
And even those sardars who are with the government, their situation is pathetic; Nawab Nausherwani of Kharan has filed a writ in Balochistan High Court that the Pakistani government has allowed Sheikh of Dubai Zaid Bin Nahyan to hunt Houbara bustards in Washuk and Kharan. Whenever they come for the hunt, their personnel set up posts, the farmers there can’t go to their farms, can’t use their water streams. They are doing this to those sardars who in 1948, the Nawab of Kharan and Makran, were among the first to sign the Instrument of Accession with Pakistan. It was then on that basis that Jinnah forced Ahmad Yar Khan to sign. So, they are doing this to those who have served them. They are forced to file a writ in Balochistan High Court that these Arabs come here; they don’t allow us live here. They do whatever they want and we are helpless. Is this also the fault of sardars?
If you look at the map, Pakistan has issued 30 permits to Arab rulers, in how vast areas of Balochistan they hunt. Should this also be added to the Baloch sardars’ sins? The easiest way is to shift the blame. Actually this official narrative has been very effective to the extent that people really believe that all that is wrong in Balochistan is due to Baloch sardars. This is the official narrative. They have printed all the text books, they have taught the children whatever they’ve learnt for the last 65 years. They had the radio, they had the television, they had everything and still they have it all.
The alternate view is rarely presented. How many people read me? I, who makes hue and cry, how many, would read me? 2000, 4000, 5000, 10000. I think I am exaggerating, this is too much. Because, it goes on internet, how many people would read it there and how much it is spread. But their narrative is consistently going on that this is sardars’ fault. Sardars have created these problems and we are clean and innocent.
GAK: Sir, if we look at the developed areas in the rest of Pakistan, if Balochistan territorially would have been developed with roads, hospitals, colleges etc. so then Baloch would have been still there where they are today or something would have been changed? If they would have implemented the 1940 Resolution in which it was said that except for four things with the center rest will be given to the units.
MMAT: Actually it is a hypothetical question, “If it had been so?” In fact they never wanted to do it. I mean they already never had the intention to do so. If they had intended so they would have done it. They would have done something. If you look at the Human Development Index, the most backwards districts in Pakistan are in Balochistan. Leave Quetta aside, because, it is the garrison city. As they have created the Benazir Income Support Scheme to give money, according to their survey, and they are not unbiased, they are biased; even they say that 66% families should be given this support. I am of the opinion that they are underestimating it.
You see, in the last 65 years, there hasn’t been war in all the areas. For example, in Makran there wasn’t any war before this. Those who are fighting in Turbat or Mand and rest of the areas, it wasn’t there then. What they have done there? They never wanted to do it. They had planned to build universities etc. As Hamid Mir was presenting in his program. They have censored it. The Hamid Mir program which ran day before yesterday, here at least in Hyderabad, the cable was giving NO SIGNAL. During the advertisement the Geo TV Channel was fine but whenever they started talking there was NO SIGNAL. The boys said that fear prevails around here. Teacher said generators don’t work, we don’t have electricity. This is the situation of the area where Raisanis live.
GAK: So, Mir Sahib, on one hand there is Baloch nationalism and on the other Pakistani federation, there is mistrust, (MMAT: Definitely, there is an unbridgeable gap of mistrust.) so, how do you see the future of Baloch nationalism and future of Pakistan? Let me put the question in a different way: federation is strong, it has an army and everything, and the Baloch are divided, so under these circumstances how do you the see the future of Baloch nationalism and Pakistani federation?
MMAT: Sir, now the element of religion in the federation has been introduced. And the religious extremism that is being manifested, in any way, it cannot be conducive to strengthen it. Because of the many power centers that they themselves have created; there are too many power centers. For example, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, MQM (Mohajir/Muttahida Qaomi Movement) or rest of all that are there, all these power centers that they have created, if in any region, home or country, calling this a country is unfair because a country has certain qualifications, but in case if we could call it a country or a state, with the existence of so many power centers, which has so many centrifugal forces to break it apart then I think it would be very difficult for it to survive.
And Baloch nationalism is also a part of it. I mean their struggle here. And to Baloch nationalism you may say that it is a developing force. Many people are joining in, taking part. As you have seen that since 2005 it hasn’t declined but grown.
For example, the rally that Baloch National Front has organized in Karachi on 10th February, in which I think they carried a 15 to 20 meters long flag of Balochistan and with placards with simple slogans that, ‘We Want Freedom.’ And the most important thing is that there was a huge participation of Baloch women in that rally. You may say that the nature of Baloch nationalism has changed that people in Karachi, regardless of the consequences they may face, talk about freedom, organize freedom rally, and carry such a huge flag with them. I think Baloch nationalism is gradually growing. If nothing else then it is going to be a long war of attrition, as they say.
There is another element that Balochistan is now isn’t confined to this region alone. Now the foreign countries also understand it. They observe it. They talk about it. I don’t give much importance to Rohrabacher’s (US senator) speeches but anyhow these are part of it. Or the UNPO’s (Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization) conference convened in London recently. So these all are part of it and signs of Baloch national movement’s growth.
GAK: Mir Sahib, you used a word, I am not talking about the word but generally, as the Kashmiris also say, “We Want Freedom”, “Free Balochistan”, what freedom? Control over resources? Control over the coast? Controlling their own affairs while living on their own land? Or by “Freedom” they mean a completely sovereign country?
MMAT: I think now they want an independent sovereign country.
GAK: So, Mir Sahib, in this perspective, on one side there is Iran, Sistan-wa-Balochistan’s area, on one side Afghanistan’s Hilmand Namroz area, and then Baloch themselves, as you said you are living here for the last three hundred years, there are too many other Baloch in Sindh, also in Punjab, in Frontier (NWFP) too, so Baloch would be more divided if an independent Balochistan is formed. Then two states are they (Iran and Afghanistan), third would be this one, if Balochistan becomes independent, it would be a hostile country, so how the Baloch state will survive among all these? How do you see its future?
MMAT: In fact this question was also raised by Atta-ullah Mengal. You may remember? (GAK: Yes, I do.) He said that, “They talk about independence of Balochistan, if it becomes independent then whether they will be able to maintain it or not.” In my erroneous opinion that, “we will cross the bridge when we come to the bridge.” When we reach the bridge then we will think about crossing it. We haven’t reached the bridge yet we are creating mental blocks already. Creating obstacles that this might happen or that might happen.
You may imagine that Dubai, in 1971 when Britain let it go out of its protectorate, what do you think Dubai looked like? In Dubai they used Indian currency. And there were sand dunes and very few small buildings around. Today, Dubai is an international city and the Emirates play a crucial role in world economy. Iran didn’t want all this to be. It said that these areas are mine. You may not be old enough but Iran didn’t agree on it and insisted that these are my parts. Iran also felt threatened.
And I think Baloch are marching towards the same. If Balochistan becomes independent then don’t you think that, with such vast resources, people of Balochistan won’t be able to maintain themselves? I think they will and will progress, and they will protect themselves. I don’t deny the fact that the Raisanis and many other such people who oppose it. For example, Shafiq Mengal or Naseer Mengal people who have formed death squads against them. But in my view there are so many Baloch who are sitting on the fence, and are observing and they will come to this side instead of going to their side.
GAK: Mir Sahib, this thing began in 1948, and people say that 18th Amendment (of Pakistani constitution) is also a step, to soothe the Baloch and remove their grievances. So, do you think Baloch may consider that the 18th amendment is a remedy to their grievances or not?
MMAT: It is not only the 18th Amendment; there is also the NFC (National Finance Commission) Award. The one that Gilani (Pakistani premier) signed with such a grandeur on a ship in Gwadar. As I said earlier that Gwadar port was handed over to China, so does this satisfy the Baloch that they have got it or it is still with those who previously had it? The situation remains the same. These are all just fancy talks.
The 18th Amendment or Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan Package, or NFC Award, or Zardari’s apology to the Baloch; so, these are all just fancy talks, nothing more than that. You know the ground reality as you have been to Quetta; you know what the situation is in Quetta. You understand it. You have seen it with your own eyes as I have only passed through Quetta once or twice but haven’t stayed there. So, the situation in Quetta is like that there is terror and fear. Or as the students in Hamid Mir’s program said we are afraid and harassed, how could we get any education like this? This is Raisani’s turf Mastung I am talking about.
In Balochistan there are thousands of check posts of FC, Coast Guards, Levies and Army spread all across Balochistan. It is a siege. They all do talk about 18th Amendment, NFC Award and Aghaz-e-Huqooq but Balochistan is under siege. And the people who are under siege, what would think about NFC, 18th Amendment, or all that fancy talks by Pakistani rulers or their representatives? All these are meaningless to them.
GAK: In a different angle, according to research on Balochistan, people say that Baloch nationalism is a reaction to Pakistan’s undemocratic behavior and the socio economic injustices to Balochistan. And some Baloch nationalists say that Pakistan needs Baloch land and resources not the Baloch. So, what is your take on it?
MMAT: No. I don’t think so. Baloch nationalism is not in reaction to it but Baloch was independent and Baloch considered itself independent. All those treaties, Standstill Agreement etc, that wasn’t a reaction because, it was before the creation of Pakistan. They considered themselves an independent state and country. So, it is not as a reaction to it. Today’s nationalism is the continuation of that nationalism. It is Naseer Khan Noori’s nationalism or Dost Mohammad’s (last ruler of Western/Iranian Balochistan). Or Baloch sardars’ own. For example, the Marri sardar considered the Beglar Baigi, the Khan of Kalat, as their suzerain but he was the ruler of his area. Bugtis were rulers in their area. So, this is the continuation of that nationalism. But that nationalism is now crystallized from Marri, Bugti, Bangulzai and others to Baloch nationalism. It has become Baloch nationalism from tribalism.
The Marris opposed the British. They fought four to five battles with them. The last battle was in 1917. They fought them even before 1843. The battles of Saartaaf and Nafusk. Bugtis fought, Brahvi tribes also fought. In my opinion it is not a reaction to Pakistani oppression. Definitely, that too has come into play after Pakistan came into being but Baloch nationalism is too old.
And what was the other question?
GAK: Baloch nationalist say that Pakistan needs Baloch land and resources not the Baloch.
MMAT: Yes. No one can deny this. Look at it this way; let me take you back to 1971. Take Bengal’s example for instance. Those who cry about Bengal till today, have you ever heard any Pakistani intellectual saying that hundreds of thousands of people were violated, hundreds of thousands of people were killed, millions of peoples’ lives were disrupted. They don’t talk about it. They just say, “We lost Bangladesh.” They see it as a real estate. They never saw Bangladeshis as human beings or as Bengali nation; they just see it as a piece of land to this day. They saw it so and still they see it like that.
This is how they see it here. If it wasn’t so… The principle that the Britain went in and occupied Australia which is called terra nullius meaning ‘uninhibited land’. I mean the British said that this is an uninhibited territory; this principle or terra nullius doctrine ignores people. That people mean nothing, we just need the land. If it wasn’t so, then how could they permit Arab rulers to come to Washuk and Kharan and set up camps like that and don’t allow people even to walk around?
The most important thing is that all the resources that they have developed, for example Gwadar, for whom they’ve done all that? Whose welfare they’ve strived for? They’ve done all that for themselves. Or the big naval base they’ve built in Ormara? Or the new naval base they are building in Khor Kalmat near Khor Miyani? Imagine why Baloch nationalists would set naval boats on fire in 2007 or 08 in Gwadar. Because, the navy people had broken the boats of Baloch because they have set timing wherever the navy is present, they have set timing that from this time to that time the fishermen can fish and rest of the time it is restricted. Are they present there to secure Baloch rights or to serve their own interests?
When the gas from Sui reached Quetta? (GAK: In the 80s I think.) Someone congratulated me then that gas has reached Quetta. I said to him that we are not demanding the right to burn it but we say that it is ours and it must be used as we wish.
The reason they love Balochistan is: first it is a vast area to maintain their colonialism, with its resources they want to facilitate their own people and it is nothing more than that. There is no contradiction that the examples I just gave: When gas reached Quetta, how the naval bases have restricted people there, or even today in 2013 the rulers of Dubai come in Washuk and Kharan do all that.
The other important thing is that they built Mirani Dam because they were leasing the land to the Saudis. You may not remember that two years ago Aslam Bhootani filed a petition in Balochistan High Court that the federation should be stopped from selling 70,000 hectares of land to Arab Sheikhs in Lasbela. Which airbase it was that the UAE lent to the Americans for drone operations? (GAK: Shamsi Airbase or something.) Not the Jacobabad’s, it was in Kharan Balochistan near (the Afghan border). It was built for their hunting activities. So, I think they need the land they have got nothing to do with the people.
GAK: So, Mir Sahib, when we see the conflicts around the world, such as Quebec, Catalonia, (MMAT: Basque’s, Corsica’s.) In today’s world, like they are thinking to create a federal form of government for Afghanistan. We hear the same about Iraq. So, what do you think how the Baloch issue could be absorbed in a federation? Just like the European Union where many countries are getting together again. They are nations and countries but getting together. So, what do think how Baloch would like to be a part of the federation?
MMAT: Sir, actually, as they say in Urdu that you can’t clap with one hand. It needs a great understanding and sagacity from both sides. You know till 1945 France and Germany were at each others’ throats. France was occupied by Germany or the hostilities between Germany and Britain during World War I, World War II or before that the hostilities between them over the African colonies. How all these thing ended? Only when both sides realized that our differences will not take us anywhere. If we want to live and progress then we need to solve it mutually. Now France doesn’t say that I am the ruler here or the Germany says I am the ruler, they are brothers now. It was only possible when they realized that they are brothers.
And here, General Kayani made a statement sometimes ago, and I wrote an article about it, that there are some Baloch who haven’t seen a rupees ten note. I said what world you live in mister? You take a patronizing attitude that they are animals and we are going to make them humans. When will they become humans? ‘When we will show them rupees ten note then they will become humans’. All their attitude is arrogance; arrogance based on power. I mean they are proud of their power. ‘We have the army, we are brave, and we are the martial races’; as the British made them martial races.
Since the day one they have never wanted to change their attitude. If they had wanted it to be they would have tolerated independence of Balochistan… Khan Kalat had a very special friendship with Jinnah. Perhaps very few people supported Jinnah as much as Khan Kalat did. And Jinnah was his lawyer. Had they wanted to create a federation then, they could have done it. To this date they don’t want to.
GAK: Sir, if we look at the international politics or the geo-strategic location of Balochistan, as it is said that Kalat’s annexation was by force, if we look at it in this perspective the international powers then, that were leaving, perhaps they too didn’t want Balochistan to be independent and be under Russian influence, their access to warm waters. What is your take on this?
MMAT: I think there is a huge difference between the political consciousness of 1947 and today’s political consciousness. It has gone a long way. The world powers of that time were not so much interested in it. It is my opinion. In stark contrast of that today they are interested in Balochistan much more than they were interested then.
And there is another aspect to that interest today. They are observing that if fundamentalism prevails in Balochistan too, the way in the rest of Pakistan fundamentalism is on the rise. And if it prevail in Balochistan too then for them and everyone else, it could prove to be a big threat to the world peace and the regional peace. Therefore, the Baloch nationalist force is a secular force. Its ideology is based upon secular principles. And I think they prefer secularism. If it wasn’t so then the death squads which are formed by Shafiq Mengal and Siraj Raisani, these death squads are formed on the basis of Islam. The UNPO convened the Baloch conference in London and the Tanzeem-e-Nafaz-e-Amn Balochistan’s (TNAB) spokesperson Ghazi Baloch issued a threat in the press that we will kill and consign to hell whosoever participated in it.
So, I think the world today sees Balochistan with a different angle. Especially with regards to fundamentalism in Pakistan and this region, it has a huge relevance today. I have written in my articles that today’s world powers do not fear that the nuclear arms will fall into the wrong hands, because they know that they are already in the wrong hands. Because, all the activities of fundamentalism here, it is not separate from the Pakistani state and the Pakistani army. At least they all understand that. These were their strategic assets which they used in Kashmir, in Afghanistan, and still being used in Afghanistan.
Anyway, world look at Balochistan issue in an entirely different way then they saw it in 1947. I think the attitude of world powers then, they were indifferent. In 1947 and 1948 world powers were indifferent. They were not involved in their decision that it would become under Russian influence. It was closer to them as on one side there was Pakistan and on the other Iran, and on another side there was the sea. It was a monarchy of Khan Kalat. Here the Khan was with a status of a king. How could they be threatened by him that he would radically change and go on Russian side? So, they were indifferent then but they are not indifferent today.
GAK: Sir, at the end if there is anything that you would like to add? If there is anything that is left behind?
MMAT: Sir, I think in your research you should emphasize on the importance, as I have tried my best to elaborate frankly, of Baloch view to be presented in a proper manner. So the people know that what Baloch want; because the Baloch narrative has never been properly represented. The irony is that in the local press friends do write about it but rarely does it reach the international press.
And I write with the intention the Baloch point of view is presented to the people so they would understand it. At least they should know that what the problem is. So, it is your duty too that you should try to present it in this way. And we’ll keep in touch in future as well.
GAK: Insha-Allah. Thank you very much.
MMAT: May Allah keep you safe and sound.