Monday, August 28, 2006

One way to spell trouble. . .

Until recently, not much was known about the historical roots of the Baloch "problem" outside of Pakistan, although Baloch activists had long attempted to draw attention to the 1970s rebellion, and the Pakistani military's brutal suppression of the leftist guerilla movement there (replete with napalm bombs and other weapons readily supplied by the USA, eager to forestall real or imagined Communists everywhere).  That began to change when Baloch fighters took up arms a year or two ago, ostensibly to protest their province's longstanding marginalization -- both economic and political -- within Pakistan.  The government's reaction (heavy handed, and overwhelmingly military) demonstrates that it has learned nothing from India's own misadventures in Kashmir and elsewhere.  The result is a full-blown movement, though to what end -- secession? autonomy? -- remains unclear, at least to me.

Over the weekend, in an action that may politely be called "dumb", the Pakistani military killed Nawab Aftab Bugti, according to many accounts the guiding light of Baloch nationalism.  The result was more violence, and the unshakable feeling that the movement now has its martyr par excellence.  The Pakistani news media is not amused (and is right on not to be so, in my view).

The official Indian reaction: smug.  The Pakistani government reacted angrily (scroll down here and here); I mean blatant interference in the affairs of a sub-continental neighbor?  How shocking!

. . . though perhaps Musharraf and co. need to speak to some within the PML(Q) first.

If you haven't been paying attention to this area, you'd be well-advised to start.

UPDATED August 29, 2006: Where is Bugti's body?  More violence in Quetta, and a rather humdrum editorial in Dawn, which nevertheless ended on just the right note:

The government must abandon the attitude of arrogance and impatience that led to the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti and adopt a more patient and conciliatory approach in dealing with the highly sensitive Balochistan situation. As in Waziristan, so also in Balochistan, it is politics, not force, that must be put in command.

From my own experience, sadly, whether Waziristan or Balochistan, far too many have internalized the Raj-era stereotype of the "feudal", the "tribal", as one who is resistant only secondarily to the state, and principally to modernity itself, and to its rationalizing discourses.  So total is this resistance imagined to be that this pre-modern "other" is deemed insensible to anything except the language of force.  It shouldn't surprise us if "they" have come to the same conclusion about "us".


Beau Peep said...

From an Indian's viewpoint I would like to say that it is such a shame that India decided to voice its concerns on the Balochistan issue.

Raza Rumi said...

I just stumbled on this interesting blog - quite a refreshing break. I also read Beau Peep's piece. Since I cannot leave a comment there (as I am not a 'blogger') I am taking the liberty of commenting here 'at source'.

I fully agree with beau peep's comment. His post received some strong comments. However, Free mind's critique of Cocaine's comment became a little personal. But I respect his point of view even if I don't agree with him.

Anyone who claims to know Pakistan affairs well recognizes that Bugti's killing has generated a political turmoil but by no means has it created a situation where Pakistan is on fire. The strike[s] referred to in the comments remain limited to Quetta and parts of Sindh and never acquired a country wide flavour.

I beau peep's post and comments made a very sensible point: if India needs to gain international prominence then it must rise above petty politics. By commenting on Bugti's death it provides the hardliners/hawks in Pakistan to claim their position as unassailable; and also lends credence to Pakistan's charge of 'foreign interference' in Baluchistan.

And what we need is a workable peace....

thanks. RR