Re-visiting Baloch identity

October 28, 2014
Baloch The various narratives intricately built around the problem we refer to as ‘Balochistan: Pakistan’s other war’ need to be understood in light of our colonial past and this region’s history and geography. Contextual analysis of the current scenario is of utmost importance. How the British treated various ethnicities, and helped build sharper divides because of the discrimination practiced in strategic law enforcement have seeped into our political, social and economic reality today. For the British smooth governance with maximum resource extraction was the fundamental motive. The long run repercussions of the strategies used were of little value.
“Rule the Punjabis, intimidate the Sindhis, buy the Pashtun and honor the Baloch”
The formula the British used to deal with our four provinces was precise. Current stereotypes held by Pakistani people has been in harmony with their pre-colonial markers, which was in fact reflective of structural relationships existing a posteriori , taken account of reinforced and to a great extent exploited.
The backdrop to these relationships is enmeshed in the daily interface and interweaves of far western India and reflected in the essentialism that formed the crux of British policy in India. Spread over an area of 222,000 sq miles Balochistan historically served as a sanctuary for peoples displaced by successive waves of Afghan, Mongol and Mughal conquerors seeking the riches of Delhi. The unremitting flow of conquerors and warriors through the region intermittently combined and recombined territorial spaces into neighboring Persian, Afghan and Indian empires.  Provincial administrators stationed in outposts governed vast tracts via local leaders kept in check using the divide and conqueror stratagem. The 16th century saw the great ‘Pashtun Diaspora’ whose progeny lie in several Baloch tribes, a Baloch Diaspora around the same time saw mass migrations towards the south. While British law enforcement in this region was at best titular, circumstances and their policies’ exoskeletal essentialism contributed to the isolationism of the hamlets and minor chiefdoms in the region. Moreover recurrent relocation and westward movement added to regional instability and prevented the buttressing of local politics and spatial- temporal identities unifying the Baloch. Another policy that would later have far reaching corollaries would be the ethno-centric compartmentalization of the inhabitants of the frontier, allowing them to develop connections and affiliations across the border leading to networks reaching up to Central Asia.
An area suited to a pastoral semi-nomadic way of life with sporadic cultivation with irrigation. Thus polities were spread across a wide area of arid land, depending on one of the two or a little of the two means of livelihood, in a connected or more often than not, isolated space. Tribal structures incorporated a mix of highly factionalized elite who would extract tribute from their lesser in form of surplus agricultural produce. This relationship between the tribute takers and the peasants formed the basis of polity in the region and was fluid in allegiance as it depended not so much on political decisions as much as it did on territorial integration and disintegration.
The formation of tribes around the backdrop of pastoralism and scant agriculture made it more economically viable as it provided a measure of security and economic linkages that mere lineage and household units clearly cannot. Thus livelihood became dependant on the economic structure provided the tribe and cast loyalty and fealty into its fabric. Over lords who provided necessary security for irrigation systems and set ups evolved into an elite strong class who began ruling over the descent class who shared a constructed imagined genealogy and thus identity. This class formation formed a mesh of abstract classes of people with tributary affiliations situated at two antagonistic poles and yet providing the reason for each other’s existence.
Thus the seedling that the Baloch tribal nizaam rests on economic interlinkages and complex connections built around the concept of livelihood, security, tribute and a strong need to create a cohesive identity along the lines of lineage and kin relationships. Tribes with abstract class structures evolved into strong chiefdoms with greater need for security becoming more imperative than before when neighboring tribes hamlets would attack each other for access to irrigation canals and greater areas of pasture. This simple unit of tribe or hamlet forms the nucleus of Baloch identity and is an important area of study to understand the foundations of Baloch identity.
By Zoon Ahmad Khan

Balochistan: Who is behind the unrest

October 16, 2014

Who are the ‘American Friends of Baluchistan’? This is supposedly the name of a Washington DC based NGO (or at least that is what it calls itself). Whatever it is, it is certainly not what its name implies. All those associated with it or those sponsoring them are no friends of Baluchistan or Pakistan. These people are most certainly sponsored by the CIA because how else could they be Washington based and free to carry out subversive propaganda against the state of Pakistan. It is equally certain that the Indian agency RAW not only takes great interest in them but also actively supports them. The excuse that there is freedom of speech in the US simply does not cut it as the US would not want anyone to do to them from Pakistan what they are permitting to be done from Washington. What the US and India do not realize is the fact that such activities sponsored through dubious individuals almost always backfire with disastrous consequences.


Who is Masti Khan? You have probably never heard of him because he is of no importance or consequence. The only reason that he is even mentioned is to highlight the kind of people needed to do the dirty work. He is supposedly a ‘Baluch dissident’ granted asylum in the US not for being a dissident but because he has declared himself a gay person unable to live in his home country. He is right—the Baluch have no time for people who sell themselves to act against their own people. But Masti Khan is not alone. There are many like him working behind names like the BSF-Baluch Salvation Army or the BLA—Baluch Liberation Army and many others. They distort history to portray to give Baluchistan and its people an anti-Pakistan past—a patent lie easily proved by facts.

Such organizations, their leaders and those working for them within the country and abroad need to be exposed for the charlatans that they are. The people of Baluchistan are multi ethnic and the real Baluch accept this fact and are proud of it just as they are proud to be part of Pakistan. All they want is to be left alone in their land without external interference to create problems. The Masti Khans can be taken away by the US and India and anyone else interested in low life.

Indian think tanks and institutions welcome so called Baluch dissidents for discussions giving them visas so that RAW can work to recruit them or blackmail them into working against their land and its people. Indian actions are understandable given their designs against Pakistan but when the US or UK gives them asylum  while denying it to persecuted Hazaras of Baluchistan then there is something amiss and Pakistan needs to take notice of the blatant disregard of all norms. For too long has Pakistan reacted and remained on the defensive. It is time to unearth facts and present them to the world.  There are no ‘American Friends of Baluchistan or Sind”—not if they have Masti Khans doing their dirty work and undoing what USAID is doing.

Shahmir BizenjoBy Shahmir Bizenjo

Drowning in apathy

October 16, 2014

By Sarah Eleazar
AREA 14/8

The road along Sher Shah Dyke leading to areas of Muzafargarh that were most ravaged in this year’s Monsoon presents a fitting analogy of the present government. Its foundations swept away by the currents, the road appears to crumble under the weight of any vehicle that dares traverse it.

Pakistani army troops pull a boat carrying the local residents from a flooded area caused by heavy rains on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Heavy monsoon rains killed dozens of people across Pakistan as flash flood inundated villages, prompting authorities to send troops to evacuate residents and assist in the emergency, officials said. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Any one following reports of rehabilitation of flood-hit areas and victims on media can attest to the bombardment of government press releases claiming that the rehabilitation was swift and transparent. During a recent meeting with Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, the chief minister informed him that this was the first the process of paying the first instalment of compensation was completed within days instead of months. The government is always quick to respond to natural disasters. Of course since floods aren’t like the June 17 Model Town police operation, the government wants to be seen rebuilding whatever was damaged instead of taking the blame for the damage.

While the efforts led by the chief minister, his cabinet, the entire civil bureaucratic machinery of the Punjab and the Army were swift and “well managed”, they also appear to be somewhat selective. Local politician Jamshed Dasti tried to politicise the entire issue claiming that water was intentionally driven into his constituency to punish his people for voting for him. He was however, for the most part, ignored by the residents of those areas, probably because they had greater issues to worry about – like finding space in a relief camp.

Protective dykes and bunds along the river help Irrigation Department regulate and manage the water levels in a river. This year, Chenab River, from the very beginning, was a devastating flood waiting to happen. After the Trimmu Barrage and Athara Hazari suffered the collective ire of Jhelum and Chenab Rivers, the ever-swelling Chenab turned towards South Punjab.

According to the standard operating procedure during any flood, water is always diverted away from the city. Therefore in the case of upper Punjab, Athara Hazari was submerged to save Jhang City.

In the case of South Punjab, the dykes and bunds have been built in a more precarious fashion. The first breach was a 100 foot cut in Head Muhammadwala aimed at diverting and decreasing flow of water away from Multan city. This breach cut off road links with Kot Addu as flood water ravaged through. Once the administration realised that one cut just wouldn’t make the difference, it proceeded to breach the dyke further along. When the threat of inundation still did not pass, Sher Shah Dyke was breached and then Tilari stream in the Thatta Sial area. Instead of falling back into the river, the flood water then started flowing towards Muzafargarh.

The Pakistan Army then made arrangements to blow up Doaba Dyke on the Chenab in order to save Muzafargarh city. By this time, rescue efforts by the administration had fallen short and thousands of people were seen carrying their belongings or lugging cattle in a bid to escape the flood.

Over a hundred villages were submerged to prevent water from entering Multan city or Muzafargarh. The areas of Kabirwala, Multan Cant, Muzafargarh tehsil, Shujabad, Jalalpur Pir Wala and Alipur were among the hardest hit.

Hundreds of thousands of families from the suburbs of Multan, Shujabad and Jalalpur Pirwala were evacuated within a day after Chenab River started overflowing its banks.

What followed was a climate refugee crisis in south Punjab, the magnitude of which the government was simply not prepared for. Tent cities propped up in the aftermath, lining all the major roads and the Muzafargh Bypass.

From medium-sized landowners to peasants tilling the fields, all residents of areas that were inundated in the floods were consigned to tents clutching the dearest possessions they had saved from the deluge that wrecked their homes.

Food rations were announced, bedding and clothing provided for, the government started making arrangements to provide them financial compensation for all they had lost. Slowly the flood victims were phased out of the spotlight. So where did they go?

A cursory look at the relief camps set up along the Sher Shah Dyke and Shujabad areas makes one thank their lucky stars for a roof over their head. The sight of a toddler running barefoot across the Muzafargarh Bypass, which mostly caters to heavyweight vehicles travelling at high speeds, is enough to give any driver a mini heart attack. But such is the case in these relief camps. With hundreds of thousands people stranded in tents, there is no one you can blame for children running amok on dangerous roads. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited these relief camps and congratulated the district administration for taking such prompt measures to provide these people “succour”.

But it is the relief camps along the branch roads of the bypass, where the chief minister doesn’t tread and neither does the district administration, where one finds the dregs of humanity that is indeed ailing.

Surrounded by swamps of stagnant water covered in algae and a decaying odour are thousands of tents where more flood victims live. A social worker who has been visiting camps set up on these branch roads said the first time they visited the area they took lots of food. When they arrived at the camps they were horrified to see the people begging for a drop of water to drink. The air around the tents is a green haze of stench as no sanitation or drainage arrangements have been made. What’s more dangerous is the amount of mosquitoes in the area, creating a massive health hazard.

There is real despondency down south, the social worker lamented. And nowhere is it worse than the flood relief camps that have “escaped” the government’s attention. The scope of relief does not just end with a televised rescue operation, it needs sincere commitment. The government must take immediate notice of the conditions reported in these relief camps. There is only so much apathy this nation can suffer.

We wonder how he does it

October 3, 2014

By Enum Naseer
Area 14/8

Much was achieved in over a month’s time in Pakistan: the khakis’ resolve to stay in the barracks was tested, the ruling government received a heady dosage of sobriety after distasteful exploitation of state machinery and the social media’s favorite Khan won a life-long battle against claustrophobia. Whether we like it or not, Mr. Khan has moved things. The mass awakening of political consciousness is mostly, if not entirely his doing. With his seemingly repetitive speeches about life as a young Pakistani in the land of the Gora Sahib completely enamored by the Westminster style of democracy, Imran Khan has captured the attention of many a yuppie. People gather around the campfire every night, share stories, indulge in a bit of song and dance and vow to stay put till the leadership be shamed into resigning from public office.

Imran Khan Burn his Utlity Bills

Pretentious political prognosticators warned Mr. Khan from the very beginning: get out with what you can while you still can. Today, it is heart-wrenching to watch him become increasingly adamant on fading into irrelevance once again. The problem isn’t with his ability to attract a crowd and feed it his version of the truth (read: anecdotes)—at sixty-two Khan still has it: a boyish grin, an athletic build and a jaunty air. Compare him with Sharif: who is past his prime, plump and looks nervous whenever he’s put in the spotlight. Now think about Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy—can we spot some similarities? We have reason to believe that Khan’s personal charisma and sex appeal may go a long way in shaping Pakistan’s political future—which is good, for him and for his party. It may in fact even be correct to say that in the not-so-distant future, ceteris paribus, the PTI will be able to benefit from the coming of age of a significant proportion of his support base unless, of course, it is misled by faux constitutionalism.

Baaghi Javed Hashmi

That post Z.A.Bhutto, once again there is a leader who claims to be from ‘among’ the masses and rejects the ‘status quo’ has infused a new hope among the people of Pakistan. What bigger sacrifice can the proletariat dream of than one where the status quo rebels against itself and begs that it be dragged to the guillotine? Mr. Khan, you have truly won hearts. We are dreaming again, of better, happier days ahead after the bloody revolution rids the country of its filth. You have the media’s attention still fixed on you while the de facto Prime Minister struggles to save face and make an impression on international forums; your ideas have brought the ‘liberals’ and our disgruntled brothers with beards together dancing to the tune of azaadi without revealing your secret plan of action. Well played, skipper… well played. (Slow clap)

Let there be darkness for light is too blinding

October 2, 2014

Hope exists in two situations only, when you can see things progressing in the right direction or when you don’t have clue of whats happening and you hope for a miracle to happen.

What we are seeing happening around us all over the world, well lets not speak of the world as we Pakistanis are doing everything possible to ensure our global isolation; What we see happening in Pakistan is clearly not something that can give much hope, even maintaining a status quo would be asking for too much.

So why do I see so much hopelessness? Some people call me a pessimist while others think I don’t have faith in the Divine intervention… I think I am a realist, nothing more and nothing less. For me to base my hopes on unseeable is nothing more than day dreaming. Yes I too enjoy the pleasures of day dreaming and thanks to excessive load shedding I get a lot of time to day dream. But dreams should not be confused with hopefulness. Dreams are… well, just dreams.

I read a lot, its part of my job description to be informed. I get reports, articles, analyses from ordinary people, organizations, analysts, journalists and many other sources. I try to read as many of these incoming information packets as I can… its been a long time since I have read something that would indicate true progress taking place or even a long term vision that things would start getting better. How will things get better if we don’t realize the actual problem. Pakistan is a country which has a huge potential to become a successful nation and productive contributor on a global level. The potential is there… but its not a super state, Pakistan too is dependent on the laws of nature, economy and everything else that affect all other countries.

So if someone asks me what is the biggest danger to Pakistan’s existence, I would not point outwards to an external threat, I would not point to current terrorist issue, I would not point towards our economy or our energy crisis. I would only point my trembling finger at one single issue that is the cause of all other issues… population explosion! Pakistan has not had a real population census for years now but as per World Bank and United States Census Bureau we crossed 182 million mark back in 2013 and as per Pakistan Bureau of Statistics we have crossed 185 million but according to some statistics based on high level calculations and trends (which I am incapable of comprehending) we are now a nation of almost 198 million people with 18 years to 50 years population being an over 55% chunk of our total population. This means that over 108 million people should be actively employed and contributing to the national economy. This also means all of these people will be creating many many more Pakistanis in the coming years. By 2025, our population will easily cross 250-275 million mark.

So many people… all in need of food, health care, education, shelter, jobs. But from where and by whom? Governments in Pakistan have repeatedly failed to address most of the critical issues and population control is definitely one of them. Pakistanis on their own it seems are incapable of understanding the basic principles of demand and supply. Our belief and dependency on the Divine is stronger than our common sense. Our delusions about ourselves are of supernatural proportions. We can see our country going into a nosedive, we can see the quality of people deteriorating, we can see food shortages, water shortages, energy shortages, failing health care, failing education system, failing law and order… in short failing governance but we can’t see the population bomb exploding in our faces!

But how can a country exploding with uneducated and technically untrained population be governed? It does not matter if this country ends up in the hands of the military dictatorship or the civilian democratic government, bringing this country under control and back on track will be a herculean task. In fact it will take decades to just repair the damages already done. Until the people realize how massive the population growth problem is and take control of this issue, they will not be able to get out of this mess. Illiteracy which is there because of over population, keeps the masses from understanding this vicious cycle in which we are all trapped. Since religion plays a massive role in our society and culture, State must use it to reach out to the people and make them understand why quality of people is more important than the quantity. If people understand that they only produce that number of children for whom they can provide good education, good nutrition and proper shelter, half of our country’s problems would be taken care of. But this is easier said than done. A major part of our population who live below the poverty line produce children not because they love children and want to enjoy their childhood, these children are brought into this world as earning machines from ages as young as 3 years. Babies are rented out as roadside begging accessories.

Without strict state laws on child education, health-care and protection backed by religious scholars, this problem would be almost impossible to handle and if population growth is not brought under control then all other issues that we face today and which are getting worse every passing day would reach a point of no return. So far we see no significant effort being taken by the government in this regard. Try to look around as  you go out and see the number of young children who would be looking for jobs in the coming 5 to 10 years. They will be getting married, having children, those children would need schools, professional training, health-care, energy and resources…

The more I think about the future of my lovely country and search for hope, the more I feel that… let there be darkness for light is too blinding!


PTCL fire and the domino effect

October 1, 2014

By Area 14/8

The unfortunate conflagration at the PTCL’s cyber centre on Egerton Road on Sunday has effectively brought routine life in the provincial capital to a standstill. From the blue-collar employee who had to wire money back home for Eidul Azha to the government employees at the civil secretariat who put off work on matters of extreme urgency (flood relief, for example) – the heat was felt by all.

What emerges from this incident a sorry tale of unpreparedness, inefficiency and an absolute refusal to learn from past mistakes. The fire in the Lahore Development Authority building last year that claimed several lives should have been the cautionary tale for all government departments to take emergent fire-safety measures. Rescue-1122 officials are yet to ascertain the cause behind the fire because of the heat emanating from the building, but certain matters stand clear – there were no precautionary measures taken.

There is nothing the government can say or do to stem the myriad of conspiracy theories that erupted after the fire. Some alluding to the Model Town police operation claimed that there were records of certain telephone calls the government wanted destroyed. Of course that cannot be the case because the phone records in question were supplied to the judicial commission and joint investigation team looking into the matter around two months ago. Others said it was an attempt to sabotage the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf rally planned for the same day – but of course no one can reason with that kind of an argument.

If the government is the saboteur in this case, its actions have cost it immensely. Several banks have had to purchase alternate internet connections urgently because their services shut down. All help lines were down, leaving the citizens feeling quite helpless.

On Tuesday, a four-year-old fell in a drain while trying to retrieve the ball he was playing with. The child’s family tried to contact Rescue-1122 but couldn’t and finally had to run to the nearest police station looking for help. By that time, it was too late.

But who will pay the recompense for all the losses – of life and livelihood – incurred in the fire and its aftermath? The average citizen of course. The lack of accountability and sense of responsibility in the matter allows the government administration to get away with taking absolutely no measures to protect and preserve.

The minimum requirement for fire control and prevention are smoke detectors, sprinklers, CO2 extinguishers, fire doors, fire exits and high pressure hydrants supplied by an overhead water tanks. The government needs to investigate why these implements were not present at the scene of the accident. Someone needs to take the fall for this and it can’t be the average citizens – they are suffering government incompetency anyway.

Khan, The Defiant Catalyst

October 1, 2014

By Halima Islam

With Imran’s ‘jalsa’ gathering zealous momentum in the provincial capital, Lahore this Sunday, one cannot entirely turn a blind eye towards his achievements. History repeats itself with yet another mass movement against a government that has fallen short in meeting expectations of the masses. Although many critics have vocally portrayed Khan to be stubborn with his antics upon paralyzing the capital, admiration upon gathering the masses towards a unified cause has aided in hailing Khan as heroic.

Khan, the defiant catalyst

Even though the international Media has limited coverage on Imran’s movements, the defiant Khan, with almost a forty day sit in has successfully rallied support amongst Pakistanis internationally. Right now, the PM is perceived as a weakened leader at home and even though, like many a times before, he chooses to take visits to the US, ignoring the situation on his home turf, he isn’t receiving the same welcome his counterpart, Modi has gotten. The slogan: ‘Go Nawaz, Go!’ was repeatedly called out in New York amongst Pakistani Taxi drivers, as the PM visits the US for the UN session. One cannot help but question: Have Khan’s catalytic efforts channelized in cultivating mass conversions towards a change in mindset amongst the people, not only at home, but abroad too?

Critics’ evaluated political opportunism to have stemmed from Imran’s sit ins but a movement that many rendered as fizzling out in a matter of time has not been able to subside. On the other hand it has portrayed the ruling government as an incompetent one. Since the dharnas have commenced, the PM’s reputation has suffered a blow at large. Being in his third term in office, he still gives off the impression of being clueless and has on many occasions used his old-fashioned intimidating tactics which, as shown on media channels, are increasingly failing.

 A newly rooted fervor has arisen amongst the populous masses as well. Many have started to denounce the ‘VIP-ist’ culture as seen by the flight incident in which Rehman Malik was refused to board a flight in which he flamboyantly walked into two hours later. Khan has then become attractive in the eyes of the people as he flaunts his humble attitude through acts such as giving up his own comfort to be with his people. Again, a course of action that draws conversions towards his party. Also, the media has come to Imran’s help by covering these rallies and subsequently played a vital role in the increase of numbers. However much is at stake for Khan’s party and its popularity as of now.

One can question Imran’s motives and where to go from here. He has been successful in gathering large crowds from all factions onto the streets to cheer for change but will soon enough have to tread carefully. Building up hopes and expectations without a clear agenda of where to go from here and how to deliver can not only choke PTI, but lead to a low morale within his followers.


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