|Volume 5 Issue 12| December 2011|
On Lessons yet to be Learnt and an Apology Pending
AFNAN KHAN draws parallel lessons between the Pakistan army's atrocities against 1971 Bangladesh and present day Balochistan.
He said he would take aid from the devil if he had to but he would take revenge against the Pakistan army for the atrocities they had committed, including killing of his grandfather. Angry Brahumdagh Bugti was reacting on the assassination of his grandfather and former Balochistan Governor Nawab Akbar Bugti a few years back.
He is living in exile reportedly in Afghanistan after Bugti's killing and Pakistani security agencies claim that he has support from not only the Afghan government but Indian intelligence agencies. Nawab Akbar Bugti was reportedly killed on August 26, 2006 in almost the same manner the then military dictator Gen (r) Pervaiz Musharraf had promised to Baloch separatists -- that they wouldn't be able to know what hit them. He was declared a terrorist by the Musharraf regime after, according to rumours, his men tried to hit Musharraf's chopper with rocket- propelled grenades when he was visiting Balochistan a few months before Bugti's killing. Akbar Bugti, who had served as Governor and Chief Minister of his province as well as member of National Assembly and chief of Jamhoori Wattan Party, was declared a terrorist all of a sudden by Musharraf who the reports said got really mad over the attack on him. The Pakistan Army thought that they would eliminate insurgency from Balochistan within a day by killing Bugti and they did it, but the rest is history. The insurgency went to a crazy level thereafter and Pakistan saw a point of time where a large number of Balochs stopped calling themselves Pakistanis.
Hoisting the country's flag and even singing national anthem in schools became a crime for the separatists. Inter-provincial hatred escalated and killings of specifically Punjabis became common in the province.
If we look back in time to see what these Balochs were demanding that led to separatist movement and violence in the province, we can see that they were merely demanding respect and equal rights. It is a tragic reality that the residents of Pakistan's most resourceful and least populated province were living in the dark ages in the 21st century.
The Balochs, despite being less than the population of a single Pakistani city Karachi, were living without basic facilities such as access to proper health care, education, electricity, water and gas supply, despite being the key provider of many of these resources such as gas, coal, copper, gold and numerous other precious resources to the whole country and to the world.
It's a shame that Balochs were deprived of the facility of methane gas at their houses and the same gas was extracted by the government from Balochistan and supplied to the houses of Punjab and Sindh, thousands of kilometres away.
The Balochs were demanding a better future for their children but the government replied with bombs, killings, torture and abduction. There are shocking similarities between the Balochistan situation and what was going on in East Pakistan in the 1960s that led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
As a Pakistani, who was not even born until a decade after Bangladesh came into existence, I always wondered what would have been the circumstances that made Pakistanis (Bengalis) stand against their own army and government, leading to such a violent resistance, war and then split of the country into two. It always remained intriguing for me as a child like so many other Pakistanis -- what would have led to the citizens of a country to stand against it? I could not grasp the whole situation till I saw some things happening in Balochistan.
I would always think, why would somebody stand against his country and army merely because India, America or any Tom, Dick or Harry provoked him/her.
I would also think that money might be a motivation for individuals but I think no one would stand against their own country unless there was a strong reason. And that reason I find in today's Balochistan and yesterday's Bengal -- that an army was hell-bound to crush the citizens demanding hospitals, schools, infrastructure and respect.
The Balochs now claim that the army was involved in massive abduction of their sons and they were finding bullet-ridden bodies of these Balochs everywhere across the province. They also claim that some of them were being thrown out of their residential localities and the army was even abducting and raping their women.
They state that an ethnic cleansing of Balochs was going on in violation of international laws but the whole world was silent and even the civilian government of Pakistan People's Party was not doing anything to stop these atrocities.
That also answers the same question about Bangladesh. I can't forget the time when my friends from Bangladesh used to tell me about thousands of women across the country, who have now become mothers and grandmothers, living like ghosts among their relatives as they were raped by the same people who had taken oath to protect them and the men who they claimed were their Muslim brothers. Bengalis claim that the number of women who were raped by the soldiers of Pakistan army was actually above the official number of 250,000. All this was going on in Bengal during the 1960s and 1970s but media across the country was put under such curbs by the military generals that those who dared protest over these issues were put behind bars and publicly tortured too.
To add insult to injury, the media, at gunpoint, were forced to publish propaganda against the Bengalis who were becoming victims of their brutalities. This is also evident in today's Pakistan as, although there are no open curbs against media to report on Balochistan issues, journalists who try to write on these issues are individually targeted by 'unknown assailants'.
The establishment learnt different lessons from the Bengali experience and they managed to develop a parallel media and killed the progressive and liberal media of Pakistan to avoid such resistance during their future ventures. This embedded media helps the invisible hands, which according to my teacher IA Rehman are not invisible anymore, to maintain a cloud of fear upon the people of Pakistan and the same old song that the whole world was conspiring against Pakistan, and that their sufferings such as the country's economic disparity, are all caused by anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan forces.
These forces even mixed poison in our public textbooks and syllabus of seminaries to misguide the youths. Pakistani youths were also being taught vehemently about their Muslim identity and the threat they were facing from the world. These innocent Pakistanis are never told about the actual reasons of our decline such as the level of misconduct and corruption that was prevailing among the institutions. It was not only the politicians of Pakistan who are corrupt, rather, they are just pawns of a stronger establishment, which is building empires across the country. We have got an institution in Pakistan, thanks to Sikandar Mirza, that is flourishing in leaps and bounds and preventing any other institution from developing in the country.
It's a pity that the institution that was supposed to protect the country from internal and external threats is actually occupying public land everyday and building their own business empires including banks, construction companies, housing colonies, transport companies and more.
People say that the time is coming in Pakistan when the army will literally own the majority of businesses with the civilians hardly involved. I am sure that they will write in textbooks about the Balochs in the same way that they wrote about Sheikh Mujib -- as a traitor -- when his actual sin was to demand their genuine share in the decision making process and participation in the electoral system.
I know it was always easy for the Pakistani establishment to declare the Mukti Bahini as rebels and Indian agents and put that in Pakistani textbooks in order to influence the youth and to avoid the blame for loss of half of their country.
But they would never talk about the economic disparities, discriminatory treatment towards Bengalis and their language, the military imbalance, racism, Bengalis' rejection of the feudal system (which is still prevailing in modern day Pakistan as a symbol of slavery back from the Stone Age), refusal to give Awami League a chance to form government despite their majority win in 1970's elections and, last but not least, the Cyclone Bhola, which struck in 1970 and the cruel response of Yahya's government over the natural disaster, which according to reports, engulfed around 500,000 lives across East Pakistan's coast line. After reading about all these factors along with many other issues, I can only wonder what reason military dictator Yahya Khan and his predecessors had left for Bengalis to not stand up against their own army and then they made the final foolish move and started operations against the intelligentsia, political and nationalist leadership of Bengal, leaving millions of innocent people dead or homeless in 1971. And yet they had to let East Pakistan go in the same year. This is not only a story of how much damage dictatorships can cause to a nation but also a lesson in suppressing a nation to the point where you make them invincible. You make them Ernest Hemingway's man, who as he said, “A man is not made for defeat … a man can be destroyed but not defeated.” The story of Bangladesh portrays a Shakespearean tragedy, a story of bloodbath and betrayal. Those (Bengalis) who had initiated the movement for the creation of Pakistan and independence from British rule were in the end victimised by the minority who were supposed to be their Muslim brothers. Because Pakistan was supposed to be a promised land for Muslims of the subcontinent, where would they live like brothers thereafter? I think the strong lesson that the Pakistani establishment should have learnt from the Bengali experience was that human beings cannot be treated as animals and when you give innocent and unarmed people enough reason, they will turn the whole world upside down to get rid of you.
They should have also learnt from their mistakes and should have said sorry for what they had done to Bangladesh. But they never did it and reached the point where now the largest and richest province of Pakistan (Balochistan) is simmering in the same fire.
There should have been proper trials of the people who were involved in crimes against humanity whether it was the army, government, collaborators or violent militia, to deliver justice to those innocent souls who lost their lives in one of the biggest tragedies of the century in Bengal.
People say that Pakistan owes an overdue apology to Bangladeshis, but I believe the apology is as important for Pakistanis as it is for Bangladeshis. I believe that the day Pakistan will formerly apologise to the Bangladeshi victims and their families, it would mean that they have finally learnt something from their past. It would be a resolve to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Balochistan is still part of Pakistan although the angry Balochs are fiercely resisting it. I think this apology would be in the best interest of Pakistan as it would be a gesture towards undoing the damage they have already done in Balochistan, and mean possible change in policies -- and some balm for the hurt Balochs.
Afnan Khan is Chief Reporter at Pakistan's most liberal newspaper, Daily Times and covers issues related to human rights, minorities, politics, etc., for several local and international media organisations.
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