In Search of Solutions
An Autobiography of Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo
Edited by B.M. Kutty
Published by: Pakistan Study Centre University of Karachi & Pakistan Labour Trust Karachi
Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo’s role in the politics of Pakistan had many noticeable and unique characteristics. He will always be remembered for his principled stands and pragmatic approach in politics. Coming from a remote village of Baluchistan, he rose to the respectable position of an elderly statesman of Pakistan’s politics. Mir Sahab, that is how he was addressed by both his fellow politicians and the political rank and file of the parties he led or remained associated with in his long political career, had been a member of National Assembly, and, for about nine or ten months, the Governor of Baluchistan. He had also been an important leader of the National Awami Party (NAP), National Democratic Party (NDP), and later, the founder-president of Pakistan National party (PNP). But, the offices held were not as important as the perception and vision for which he was known and which he tried to inculcate in Pakistan's otherwise directionless politics. Mir Sahab was a man of conviction who could see beyond the confines of his times and immediate surroundings. He can very rightly be described as one of the very few political leaders of the twentieth century Indian subcontinent, who firmly adhered to the principle of human equality, social justice and peace throughout their political career. While being a firm believer in the right of self-determination of all nations subjugated by colonialist and imperialist forces, he never succumbed to the negativity of racism or national chauvinism. He was equally critical of all forms of exploitation and discrimination perpetrated upon the working class and weaker section of the society by the elites of the nation struggling for emancipation from the colonial domination. Despite the fact that he hailed from a very backward and tribal society, Mir Sahab had developed an astonishingly progressive outlook on all social, economic and cultural issues. He was, undoubtedly, a Humanist par excellence.
Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo was a man of great conviction and resolve. Beginning his political career as someone committed to freedom and independence for the Baluch nation, he stood firmly for federalism within Pakistan, once he was convinced of the soundness of such a solution. However, he also believed that a centralised federation without sufficient autonomy for the provinces would not work in Pakistan. He was a strong supporter of maximum provincial autonomy and thought that by overcoming the inter-provincial disparities of economic development and by allowing the people of all provinces their due right, Pakistan could emerge as a viable and prosperous federation. He went even further to advocate a collective South Asian identity and vision for the region in the phase of accelerated globalisation in the 1980s.
Mir Sahab was against all types of discrimination and extremism. He was opposed to the use of religion for political ends.
Mir Sahab was an avid reader of books on almost every subject of social import. Even when he was in jail he sought books and asked his friends to send as many books as possible. His excellent personal library in Nal is a testament to that aspect of his life. His quest for knowledge continued till the end. He once asked for some of Leon Trotsky’s works as he had not read them. He was provided two of Trotsky’s most famous books The Permanent Revolution and The Revolution Betrayed. A few months later while browsing through his library in his village, one was astounded to find that both the books were read and there were remarks written, paras underlined on almost every second page!
Mir Sahab was an extremely kind and humble person. He treated all human beings, young and old, men and women, friends and foes, with utmost respect, sensitivity, care and love. Under no circumstances would he allow himself to be overpowered by anger.
Like in his political views, he was moderate in his personal life too. Perhaps, the only extreme thing that one noticed in his life was his fondness of green chillies and perhaps it was this taste of his which took the toll and contributed to the very rapid deterioration of his health in his last days.
In presenting Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo’s autobiography, Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi and Pakistan Labour Trust feel the pride that we have been able to preserve a very important source material on Pakistan’s political history. This autobiography has been compiled by Mir Sahab’s close associate Mr. B.M. Kutty who shared Mir Sahab’s ideas and ideals and always remained with him during his good or bad days. Mr. Kurty has rendered a great service by preserving Mir Sahab’s notes with care and by writing down this valuable autobiography. On behalf of our respective institutes, we thank Mr. B.M. Kutty and hope that soon he will write his own political memoirs which, it is believed, would have a lot of food for thought for the readers of our history. We also thank Mr. M.B. Naqvi, a very senior journalist, who knew Mr. Bizenjo well and is fully aware of his political contribution and ideas, for suggesting the title of the autobiography, In Search of Solutions. Finally, we thank Mr. Yasir Hanif for preparing the book for print and also for the compilation of its index.
Karamat Ali Prof. Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed
Managing Trustee, Director,
Pakistan Labour Trust, Pakistan Study Centre,
Karachi University of Karachi
URL of this page: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/baluch-leader-mir-ghaus-bakhsh-bizenjo’s-reflections--in-search-of-solutions-for-ills-of-pakistan/d/2333
The main culprit: US imperialism
The United States and its western allies were always apprehensive of the influence and prestige of the Soviet Union in the developing world. They sought to ensure by all means fair and foul that the small oil-rich states of Middle East and the countries in the vicinity like Pakistan did not enter the Soviet sphere of influence. Inherently anti-people sheikhdoms, monarchies and dictatorships in the region, which were scared of the advancing lava of progressive Arab nationalism with pronounced pro-Soviet leanings, were forced to seek safety and security in the lap of western imperialism. There was a confluence of interests between the imperialist powers and these rulers. In the entire region, no government except that of India could claim to enjoy the support of the people. All others were usurpers.
The root cause of all the tension and instability in our region is foreign interference. Be it yester-years’ Iran-Iraq war or the on-going Afghanistan crisis, the periodical army takeovers in Pakistan, the decades-old Arab-Israel conflict, the interstate disputes and rivalries between the developing countries, the endemic hostility between Pakistan and India – all are links in the same chain. By pitting these countries and peoples against one another and, for good measure, using the Soviet thereat card from time to time, the US-led imperialist bloc has been able to keep the ruler of these third world countries under perpetual fear of being over-run by popular movements, while they go about freely plundering the latter’s natural resources and also make huge profits by selling them weapons. This vicious cycle is going to last as long as the peoples of these countries fail to assert their sovereignty and ownership over their resources and enforce a system of governance, free from individual or collective exploitation.
The anomalies of Punjab’s politics
As the representative party of the progressive, anti-imperialist forces of Pakistan, NAP emerged as the most articulate forum of the oppressed classes, communities and nationalities of Pakistan in the short span of two years since its formation in 1956 (PNP) – 1957 (NAP). As the NAP grew stronger and its programme became popular, repression by the state and criminalization of politics at the hands of the reactionary forces also became more intensive.
Every two or three years the dominant class had to invite the armed forces to crush the rising popular discontent and protect their vested interests. As Punjab had unfortunately become a strong bastion of reactionary vested interest groups and assumed their leadership, NAP could not grow into a popular all-Punjab political party. Our party comrades in Punjab had to encounter formidable obstacles while trying to organize the party. In East Pakistan and the smaller provinces of West Pakistan, the party stood on strong foundations because the party programmer reflected the people’s aspirations and needs; hence they responded positively. In Punjab, the situation was different and therefore our Punjabi comrades had to bear the brunt of state excesses on the one hand and on the other, face allegations of working against the interest of Punjab (interest of Punjabi elite, actually). The people of the other provinces, by thoughtlessly blaming Punjab and Punjabis for all their problems, also hurt the sentiments of our Punjabi comrades, One must give due credit to our Punjabi comrades for standing firm on their political and ideological commitments in the face of all these adversities and provocations.
Punjab had most of the time suffered from a deficit of popular political leadership. It had often remained under the domination of civil and military bureaucracy, feudals and mullahs. People’s movements were made ineffective or irrelevant in what is today known as West Punjab, to ensure that the source of recruitment for the armed forces was not affected.
On the other hand, Punjab was in terms of skill, enterprise, education and productive potential, far ahead of all the other provinces of Pakistan. Though East Pakistan was the majority province in terms of population, all the sources and levers of power were monopolized by Punjab – civil bureaucracy, armed forces, education, skill – all were under the command of Punjab. It was also the stronghold of feudal power. Making use of these instruments of power, the ruling elite of Punjab denied legitimate participation to others in the country’s governance. All policies and plans were drawn up by them, for them and any obstacle in their way was removed with the help of the bureaucracy and the armed forces. It has been like a cycle – some sort of toothless democratic dispensation running the country for a certain period, followed by army rule replacing it for a few years, then giving way to a civil dispensation for another few years – and so the cycle continues till today.
Secession of East Pakistan and after
When Awami League won the elections in 1970, Punjab’s ruling elites, in connivance with a scheming politician from Sindh, refused to transfer power to the winning party. It will be relevant to point out here that the political opportunists in the smaller provinces too were in the camp of the self-seeking opportunists of Punjab, The natural consequence was the popular uprising of the people of East Pakistan. For the first time in history, a majority nationality was forced to raise the slogan of secession to save itself from the excesses of the minority! And eventually they seceded in the most heart-rending circumstances. A tragedy of such magnitude had perhaps seldom occurred even during the most barbaric periods in human history – the slaughter of innocent human beings on such a massive scale and so many lakhs of people being displaced and rendered homeless.
After East Pakistan became Bangladesh in a sea of human blood and tears, the military bureaucracy and opportunist politicians proceeded to crown their fake hero Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as the Chief Martial Law Administrator and President (of the leftover Pakistan) and actually celebrated the event! The motto was: Forget the tragedy as a bad dream and strive for a bright future in the new Pakistan! The story of how Mr. Bhutto proceeded to construct his ‘new Pakistan’ – how he pursued a double-faced policy during his negotiations with NAP and how the functioning of the democratically elected NAP-JUI government was obstructed constantly in the bid to build up the case for its eventual dismissal and how at last that government was dismissed after a torturous ten months in office – have been narrated earlier in this book.
Four and a half years of military action in Baluchistan got Mr. Bhutto nowhere. The issue was not just the hatred which the military action and the arrest and trial of the entire NAP leadership and activists generated against him in Baluchistan; the fact was that his wrong policies resulted in wide-spread discontent in the whole country, so much so that his government was forced to resort to martial law-like steps in different cities to quell public protest. Protest rallies and meetings were taking place in various cities and townships at the call of the UDF – an alliance of the opposition parties – and the army had to be deployed in Karachi, Lahore and other cities. Eventually, Mr. Bhutto was forced to announce in November 1976 that general elections would be held in March 1977.
By the time Bhutto came to realize that unless he came to an understanding with the opposition parties the armed forces would be tempted to move in, it was already too late. PNA’s decision to boycott the provincial assembly election after serious charges were levelled against the government for rigging the National Assembly election that preceded it and PNA’s call for a countrywide strike had created the ideal setting for the army to strike. As Mr. Bhutto played his habitual game of hide and seek in his negotiations with the PNA, his hand-picked Chief of Army Staff, General Zia-ul-Haq, and his Generals were engaged in finalizing their plans to oust him. Before Bhutto could move against them, they moved and seized power on 5th July 1977. Mr. Bhutto and most of his cabinet colleagues were ‘taken into protective custody’ and placed under detention in Murree.
Though the Generals’ greed for power had to do much with this unfortunate turn of events, most of the politicians were so blinded by their hatred of Bhutto that they were willing to shake hands with the devil if that would help them get rid of Bhutto. They failed to realize that with all his personal faults and all the odious things his government had done to the country and its people, he still did represent some sort of a democratic facade which was better than a military dictatorship.
Thoughts from Hyderabad jail
In Hyderabad jail, except me and one or two comrades, all the others were near unanimous in their preference for Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law over Mr. Bhutto’s civilian rule! As far as I remember, reports from outside the jail were also not very different. One doesn’t have to look too far for the reasons; during Mr. Bhutto’s civilian rule, everyone was in one way or other harassed, humiliated, imprisoned, tortured or cheated.
Mr. Bhutto’s four and a half years’ military action in Baluchistan gave birth to extremist tendencies among the youth. The subsequent decade of Zia-ul-Haq’s military-mullah rule further sharpened these tendencies, as Baluchistan continued to be denied its legitimate rights within the federation. Today, the political leadership of Baluchistan and in Particular the youth seem to have arrived at the conclusion that there is no future for smaller nationalists in Pakistan. I agree that this should not have been the answer to Mr. Bhutto’s and General Zia’s misrule and misdeeds. The answer, in my opinion. Should have been a redoubled commitment to waging a sustained struggle to overthrow their anti-people regimes through mass people’s movements. Given Baluchistan’s minimal clout in terms of manpower, it was not possible for the Baluch to initiate or lead such a movement. In the given situation, the immediate logical response was adventurism, taking the Baluch youth on the path of pointless sacrifice.
I tried from the beginning to avoid confrontation, but Mr. Bhutto’s politics of opportunism and lust for power, coupled with the inflexible stance of some of my comrades, intervened to foil my efforts to seek a non-confrontational way out. Armed confrontation became the only option. There are very few precedents in history of a people enduring such trials and tribulations and facing such a mighty foe in combat for four and a half years with such monumental courage and determination, as the people of Baluchistan, the youth in particular, have done in recent years. However, owing to the lack of proper planning, absence of the necessary objective conditions and above all, due to the lack of a realistic approach, all these sufferings and sacrifices have come to naught.
In Hyderabad jail, where more than sixty of us were undergoing trial on wild trumped up charges of treason, the future of Baluchistan and other smaller nationalities and the course of action to be take (n) remained constantly under discussion and debate. Towards the last days of our stay in jail, this debate had reached what I may call its logical conclusion. Particularly, in so far as the Baluch leadership was concerned, a decisive point had been reached.
The senior detained members of NAP from Baluchistan, called a meeting in jail to take a final decision on what should be the future course of action. Two viewpoints emerged: (1) Fight for national rights within the framework of Pakistan; suspend the resistance movement which has taken the path of violence; call the men back from the mountains; (2) Upgrade the present movement into a full-fledged struggle for separation from Pakistan; those who are in the mountains be asked to stay there and reorganize themselves for this mission.
Nawab Khair Bakhsh, Sardar Ataullah and three other comrades were of the opinion that the Baluch or for that matter any other small nationality has no future in Pakistan. Their argument ran as follows:
Punjab will not let any other nationality live with honour and dignity. If East Pakistan despite its numerical and electoral majority, could be exploited and oppressed with impunity to the extent that they were left with no option but to secede, who is going to pay heed to the wailings of the Baluch with their miniscule size in terms of numbers? The blood and sweat we will squander in the futile exercise of seeking to reform Pakistan should be saved for the noble cause of the liberation of Baluchistan. Therefore, no move should be made to bring back the men who are still in the mountains or in Afghanistan,
I was of the view that the opinion of my comrades was conditioned partly by subjectivism and partly by the absence of any focused investigation into or a clear understanding of the contemporary national and international developments and objective conditions. However, it is not difficult to understand their position. With the opportunistic coalition of Panjabi-Muhajir vested interests in control of the engines of power since the first days of Pakistan until 1969, Baluchistan was not even acknowledged as a province. Whereas all other regions – Punjab, East Bengal, East Pakistan, Sindh and NWFP – were allowed some kind of provincial identity and related autonomy, the Agent to the Governor General of Pakistan (AGG) continued to be the all-powerful ‘Ruler’ of Baluchistan! Direct or indirect army actions were launched periodically from day one till the Bhutto era, in the course of which tens of thousands of people were killed, thousands of families were made homeless and reduced to (the status of) destitutes, all the fundamental rights and liberties of the people were suppressed and Baluchistan’s national leaders and political workers were jailed and subjected to torture for long periods. It is a never-ending saga of betrayal of trust that still goes on. Not only successive federal governments but political parties too – dominated by the Punjabi ruling elite have all along been bitterly opposed to the struggle of the Baluch for their legitimate rights, labelling their demands as parochial, and so on.
Viewed in the above context, one would not find anything unusual about the subjectivism of my comrades. It is but human to react in the way they did in the given circumstances. They were justified in being overwhelmed by what they and their fellow Baluch were going through. But if you pry a little deeper into the Baluchistan-Pakistan conundrum, you would see that answer did not lie in what my comrades were proposing. Granted that we were and are under the combined pressure of a legitimate sense of frustration, persecution, deprivation and denial of rights for decades. But, take a look at our location and status. We are situated in a region where global interests and designs of major world powers compete and collide. As I have stated earlier, South Asia, particularly Pakistan, is a fertile ground for plots and intrigues hatched by US imperialism and its western allies to destabilize Soviet Union and China and to have a dominant influence in oil-rich Iran and the Gulf states.
It will be very naive on one’s part to think that the western imperialist powers will quietly sit and watch the disintegration of Pakistan and allow Baluchistan to break free. Baluchistan constitutes 48 per cent of Pakistan’s territory and 98 per cent of its sea coast and from a military point of view is one of the most strategically vital spots in the world. If it secedes from Pakistan, will Pakistan survive?
Three questions arise at this point:
1. Is it necessary to break Pakistan?
2. Is it true that the dominant ruling nationality, Punjab, and its leadership have crossed the point beyond correction and self-reform; that they are bent upon pushing Pakistan into the abyss at all costs by persisting in their wrong policies towards Baluchistan?
3. Can one say for sure that Punjab will not give up its domineering posture towards the smaller nationalities?
I believe that the people of Punjab, including the Intelligentsia and the enlightened among the ruling elite of Punjab, are not insensitive to the gravity of the crisis staring them in the face. Imagine the scenario if Pakistan breaks up. How devastating will be the civil war that will accompany such breakup? Can Baluchistan, which is still passing through a semi-tribal phase with so many disparate tribes and sub-tribes pulling in different directions, evolve a viable centralized system of governance? How can so many tribes and clans be united and made to accept an integrated state structure? Baluchistan lies at the mouth of the Gulf; it is so close to Iran and Afghanistan and constitutes South Asia’s most strategically vital western flank; how can it be kept free and safe from the coveting eyes of external forces?
Keeping all these possibilities in mind, and the objective conditions around us, I had reached the conclusion that the aim of our mobilization should not be predicated on Punjab-bashing and secession. On the contrary, we should unite and fight for the political and economic rights of different nationalities within the framework of the demand that:
1. Each nationality shall have exclusive and indisputable control over all its resources;
2. Each nationality shall be politically and economically autonomous and sovereign as explicitly stated in the 1940 Lahore Resolution, and only such powers shall be conceded to the centre, on which all the units are unanimous and without which their defence and development can be hampered. All such decisions have got to be voluntary and unanimous. Tyranny of the majority will be counterproductive and self-defeating.
3. Each nationality shall be free and autonomous in terms of its language, culture, customs, traditions and lifestyle.
My last effort
This is my last effort. I have been at this exercise for the last ten years since our release from Hyderabad jail. I have been frequently going to Punjab and trying to persuade the leaders of Punjab to read the writing on the wall. I have been pleading with them from every platform I have had access to, to join the struggle of the smaller nationalities for their legitimate rights; rather to assume the lead in winning the confidence of the smaller nationalities by acknowledging their rights without any reservation.
The apathy shown by the ruling classes sometimes leads me to think that the position taken by my comrades, and which I have been dismissing as subjective, is perhaps not so. On the contrary, I now tend to ask myself: am I the victim of a flawed line of thinking? Is it a sense of frustration that inhibits me from correctly evaluating the reality-driven standpoint of my comrades? The intelligentsia and the thinking segment of the smaller nationalities are finding it increasingly difficult to bear the burden of persistent denial and its predominant positions in the bureaucracy and armed forces. They argue and I cannot but agree with them that no one can or will tolerate a life of slavery for all times.
Late. Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bezanjo [on the left side of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto]
National Awami Party, Late. Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bezanjo, Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Late. Sardar Akbar BugtiMir Bezanjo continued his struggle for the rights of the people of Balochistan, therefore, on 6th March, 1972, a meeting with Bhutto was arranged at Rawalpindi where a twelve point accord was drawn up.The main points were :1. A brief session of National Assembly will be called.2. The interim constitution will be passed.3. A vote of confidence in the Central Government will be passed.4. The coalition of NAP and JUI in Balochistan and N.W.F.P was accepted.5. The sessions of the Provincial Assemblies will becalled.6. The Provincial Governors will be appointed by theCentral Government in consultation with the Provinces. Therefore, as a result of this accord, Bhutto agreed to givedue recognition to the representatives of the majority in Balochistan.Consequently on 29th April 1972, Mir Bezanjo was appointed as the Governor of Balochistan. He had the honour to be the first Awami Governor after the successful breakage of one unit. It was also the recognition of his services and a reward to the mass struggle in Balochistan. Sardar Atta Ullah Mengal was sworn in as the Chief Ministeron 1st May 1972.PRINCIPLE ORIENTED ADDRESSES OF MIR BEZANJO.The Governorship of Mir Bezanjo became as a big successfor the people of Balochistan. It heightened their spirit and soul. Mir Bezanjo laid new foundation of Governorship. His addresses were principle oriented when he came to Quetta on 30th April 1972 as Governor of Balochistan. He said, "Today we are building a new Balochistan of ourown. We miss our companions who have departed", especially he named Sadiq Kassi. He also announced right on the Airport the another significant development i.e. that "Sardar Atta UlJah Mengal will be sworn in tomorrow the 1st May, 1972. On the eve of oath taking ceremony, Mir Bezanjo was verymuch pleased and satisfied. His eyes were telling that the people ofBalochistan were getting the reward of their struggle. On the same eveningwhile addressing the officers of Balochistan, he said, "In our struggleagainst the British Colonial Government, we suffered a lot but themiseries, tortures we took at the hands of their successors were moreswear and bitter; and you all know it, but today we forgive it all. Bhutto is pushing out a considerable size of the officers but we will not follow this practice. Nevertheless, if any personnel or officer misbehaves and doesnot serve the cause of the people, we will not tolerate him even for anhour in his seat, who so ever he may be. This is the country of themasses, hence, their hegemony will be established. The Governmentofficers are the public servants".The words of his addresses are fullof love and affection for his people and the land. He is not making anydiscrimination in the masses, rather, he is protecting the masses without making any racial or lingual differences. He is assuring the people thattheir rights will be protected so that they should feel a difference in the Government of the alians and the Government of their own.He toured Balochistan to see his people and for therestoration of their confidence in themselves. He addressed the people and assured them the solution of their problems and the protection of theirrights. Addressing a public rally, he said, "When I came to you for your support and votes, I had the same structure, the dress and "wasket" I amputting on right now, so no difference, the only difference is of theprotocol officers, police and the lewis but all of them are the publicservants. The people are the real master of this country; they are the owner of the sovereignty and this is a sacred trust in my hands; you arethe real owners and masters".Here Mir Bezanjo is once again assuring the people that (his Government belongs to themselves, it is to serve them. All theadministrative and governmental machinery is to serve the masses. Theyare the real owner of this country and the actual master of sovereignty.His speeches, tours, mass interaction brought big change inthe working of the administration. The people regained their confidence.The mass honour was restored back, the feelings of alienation had cometo an end.BHUTTO UNHAPPY WITH MIR BEZANJO.As almost all the opposition leaders including Sardar AttaUllah Mengal, Nabi Bakhsh Zehri, Akbar Bugti, Ahmed Nawaz Bugti were in London for the one reason or the other, the government controllednewspapers propagated that they had gathered for some conspiracy and gave it the title, "London Plan". Bhutto called Mir Bezanjo and discussed this issue wherein he called it "all a pack of lies and thecreation of a frustrated mind. But Bhutto on a question said, "hedid not know of any "London Plan" nor did he give importance to theassembling of certain individuals in London". Although he negated such talks but there were some stories resounding in the corridors ofpowers in Islamabad.THE DAYS OF DISTURBANCES.There were some disturbances in the Patfeeder area ofBalochistan during the month of November 1972. Federal Government took a serious view and sent some civil armed forces on its own behalfalthough the Provincial Government sent Mir Khair Bakhsh Marri to settlethe issue and clear the area. The Provincial Government was very unhappyover the Central Government's interference in the entirely provincialdomain. There were also disturbances in Lasbela and among the policemen.DISMISSAL OF MIR BEZANJOAND SARDAR ATTA ULLAH MENGAL.As mentioned earlier, there were some disturbances in different regions for one reason or the other and Federal Government hadintervened, though the Provincial Government was also taking the steps. On 8th February, 1973, the Army stepped in the situation. It changed the environment altogether, Mir Bezanjo and Sardar Atta Ullah Mengal were dismissed on 15th February 1973 and Sardar Akbar Bugti was sworn in as the Governor of Balochistan. He also had been a popular tribal Chiefof Balochistan. N.A.P's Government went out giving way to Jam Ghulam Qadir who was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Balochistan on 28th April, 1973.PUBLIC REACTION.Mir Bezanjo a popular leader of Balochistan after being dismissed from Governorship started serving the people in other way. The people were disappointed over his dismissal, as it was followed by militaryoperation which brought sufferings and miseries to them. But Mir Bezanjo was not disappointed and his democratic approach could see somethingdifferent which perhaps others could not see. He continued holding frequent public meetings and demanded the N.A.P + J.U.I Ministry. Mir Bezanjo visited Karachi and on 3rd March 1973 addressed the most significant forums like Press and the Bar. Here he explained the situation and the case of Balochistan Mir Bezanjo wasalso among the leaders of United Democratic Front who were to addressthe 23rd March protest at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi. Bhutto administration did not want it, so uniformed police and Federal Security Force openedfire to disperse the people, it caused many casualties. Mir Bezanjo criticised this brutal act of the Bhuto regime and called it the continuationof his undemocratic policies and actions. Weekly Zindagi remarked, the chief object of this incident was that Bhutto wanted the continuation of his rule but without any existence of opposition.LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT.Mir Bezanjo and his Colleagues of N. A.P. sent a letter to the President of Pakistan bearing the names and signatures of twelve men (out of 20 seats it was a clear majority) to show and prove that they still had the majority in the Provincial Assembly and also that the budget session(forthcoming) was not possible without them. It was a democratic step tore mind him that the Central Government was adopting undemocratic policies.MEETING WITH BHUTTO:THE LAST EFFORT.Mir Bezanjo and his colleagues of N.A.P. continued their democratic efforts. On 28th June 1973 a meeting with Bhutto was held at Murree to realize him the factual position of Balochistan and Balochistan Assembly especially about the forthcoming Budget Session. But all in vain and consequently the President issued an amendment in the Constitution empowering the Provincial Governor to authenticate the Provincial budget even without calling the session of the Provincial Assembly. This new development showed another aspect of the personality of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, where nothing was left for the majority of the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan.
Sardar Ataullah Mengal [NAP Chief Minister of Baluchistan during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Regime 1972 - 1977]
Sardar Khair Bakhsh Marri [NAP Leader from Baluchistan - Pakistan]
Khan Abdul Wali Khan [NAP Leader from NWFP - Pakistan]
MIR BËZANJO ARRESTED.The intentions of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto were very clear about Bezanjo and the N.A.P. ministry. He had pushed them in a blind street.He took another step and on 15th August 1973 arrested Mir Bezanjo andsome allegations were shown. His colleagues like Sardar Marri and Sardar Mengal were also arrested and kept behind the bars.
Sardar Akbar Bugti [Governor Baluchistan during Military Operation conducted by Bhutto regime in 70s]
HYDERABAD CONSPIRACY CASE.Bhutto regime had ben making efforts to get rid of Mir Bezanjo and N.A.P as Mir Bezanjo was already kept behind the bars so now it was the turn of N.A.P Two statutory notifications were issued bythe Government of Pakistan on 10th February 1975. In one it was declaredthat "under Section-6 of the Political Parties Act, 1962, the Federal Government declares that the N.A.P is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty and the integrity of Pakistan" and in the other notification the N.A.P was dissolved and its all properties and funds wereforfeited to the Federal Government.Now according to the same law, the Government had to getthis action confirmed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Hence, on 24th February, 1975, the Government of Pakistan filed a reference.ALLEGATIONSThe Governmental reference against the N.A.P contained the following allegations:1 - N.A.P preached nationalities doctrine which hindered the process of national integration in Pakistan.2 - N.A.P has been seeking and receiving encouragement and help from the foreign powers hostile to Pakistan.3 - It has been supporting the violence to weaken the State of Pakistan.4 - N.A.P has been supporting Azad Balochistan and Pakhtoonistan in an effort to disintegrate Pakistan.5 - It supported the terrorists to de-stabilize and disintegrate Pakistan.To hear the reference, a full Bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice, Justice Hamood ur-Rehman was composed. The accused were represented by a panel of eminent lawyers headed by Mian Mahmood Ali Qasoori. Mir Bezanjo faced all the allegations very firmly and confidently and gave a very comprehensive statement in reply to the allegations. The important points of his statement are given below:a) Adequate and sufficient facilities are not being provided to reply the reference and inclusion in the annexures.b) I am in jail since August 1973, my right may be reserved and when Supreme Court will give me the facility, I shall include them in the statement andannexures.c) The Reference and the allegations are concerned only to a few people and all of them do not belong to N.A.P.d) Neither in the Reference nor in the grounds, anyallegation is on N.A.P The manifesto of N.A.P neither mentioned or cited.e) The Reference and the grounds speak about fivemembers who are already under trial under the sameallegations.The individual acts of millions of its members andsupporters may not be treated as the acts of N.A.P.I, as the founder member of N.A.P also throw light on the following facts:f) After the sad demise of Quaid-e-Azam and the assassination of Khan Liaqat Ali Khan, the State of Pakistan went in the grip of bureaucracy.ii) Bureaucracy placed it in the lap of exploiters.iii) The defense treaties reduced its global andinternational role.iv) The ruling class served the vested interests only.v) The failure of their foreign policy isolated Pakistan inthe region and the family of nations.vi) The principle of parity in the Eastern and Western Wing enhanced poverty, frustration, deprivation andexploitation. The above situation forced some honest, country loving andfaithful political workers who had been fighting for the liberty of their country to establish an organization to raise a voice against the malpractices and exploitations.However, in 1956 , Azad Pakistan Party from Punjab, Sindh Muhaz and Sindh Hari Party from Sindh, Khudai Khidmatgar from N.W.F.P, Ustaman Gall, Wur Wur Pashtoon from Balochistan amalgamated in themselves and formed Pakistan National Party ... in 1957 with the inclusion of Bashani Group of Awami League the title of the party was amended as Pakistan National Awami Party.After giving the reasons and factors which lead to the establishment of P.N.P. Mir Bezanjo explained the objectives of the partyand said, the main objectives were as under:1. The security of the independence and solidarity ofPakistan.2. To prepare a non-aligned free and neutral foreignpolicy for Pakistan.3. To eliminate the system of exploitation from Pakistan.4. The breakage of one unit and the re-demarcation ofthe provinces.5. The security of the universal right of adult franchise. He stressed that the main cause of banning N.A.P was thatthis political party has been criticising the policies of the government.He also said that :1. Bhutto attempted (on many times) to pressurise N.A.P but N.A.P never accepted this pressure.2. The removal and dismissal of the N.A.P's governors from Balochistan and N.W.F.P to pressurize N.A.P.The character assassination of the leaders to pressurize and disrepute us.The dismissal of N.A.P's government in Balochistanquite illegally and against the constitution of Pakistan,negated the mass right and deprived Balochistan of themajority party's government.All the above mentioned events and facts were narrated to prove that Bhutto's government had been using various tactics to pressurize N.A.P. so that it should not perform it political role. Mir Bezanjo also stressed upon the fact that he and his colleagues never involved themselves in anti State activities and that the statements against the government should be differentiated from the anti State activities. Every political party has the right to criticise the governmental policies and that the government should response in a responsible and a democratic way.Also that N.A.P never differentiated among the citizens of Pakistan on social or lingual basis rather it struggledto protect the fundamental rights of all the citizens of Pakistan.JUDGEMENT OF THE COURT.Full Bench of the Court heard the case for about 44 days between June and September 1975 and finally on 30th November passed the judgement as follows:"We see no escape from the conclusion that the National Awamy Party was, within the meaning of sub-section (I) of Section 6 of the Political Parties Act (III) of 1962 operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan and therefore made itself liable to be dissolved under the said Act".MIR BEZANJO BAILED THE CASE WITHDRAWN.The Bhutto government continued and dragged this case till it was replaced by General Zia's Martial Law. After the change of government Mir Bezanjo and his colleagues applied for bail on 6th December 1977. Here the Court recorded that "It is, however, admitted that these judicial confessions do not directly implicate all the accused or establish a case of criminal conspiracy". The bail was granted and he wasreleased on bail.A few days later the government withdrew the referenceand this famous Hydrabad Conspiracy Case came to an end. Mir Bezanjoonce again started his struggle.NOTES AND REFERENCES.1 - The interview as recorded by Rajinder Sareen on 7th April 1982 at Quetta and published in his book "Pakistan Indian Factor "Mujahid Brailvay included this interview in his book, "Jamhoriat KaSafar , Karachi, Pakistani Adab Publications, 1987, P.P.72-73.2.2 - Gul Hai Aqeedat, Chakar Khan Baloch Balochi Dunya, Multan 1990.3. The campaign of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto forced Ayub to step down Ayub had neglected all the democratic forces hence the people had gone against him.4. Awan, A.B., Balochistan, London, New Century Publishers, 1985,5. Khan, Tahir Mohammad, Siasiyat-e-Balochistan, Quetta M.M.Traders, 1988, P.P.230-31.6. Gen. Yahya announced the breakage of one unit and the principle of parity.7. Gen. Yahya Broadcast address of 28-11-1969.8. See the full text of President's order No.2 of 1970 (The legal framework order, 1970).9. As mentioned in Pakistan Divided, Lahore, Institute of Islamic Culture, 1989, P.63.10. Safder Mahmood, Pakistan Divided, Lahore, Institute of Islamic Culture,1989, P.64.11. Awan, A.B., Opcit., P.254.11 Government of Pakistan, Extra Ordinary Gazette No. F. 24(1)71 -Pubdated the 21st December 1971.12. DAWN Karachi, 21st December, 1971.13. All the newspapers highlighted Bezanjo's arrival and his address, see the newspapers of 1st May 1972.14. Full coverage was given to this address of the Governor of Balochistan by all the newspapers. His address became a lesson for the personnels and the bureaucracy.15. See Pakistan Times, 10th April 1972.16. Musawat, Lahore, 12th September 1972, also see Guardian,London, 12th September 1972.17. Pakistan Times, 17th September, 1972.18.Although Jam Ghulam Qadir sworn in as the Chief Minister but still the majority in the Provincial Assembly was enjoyed bv N.A.P + J.U.I.19. Weekly Zindagi, 1st April 1973.20. President by orders announced the interim constitution and increased the powers of the Governor where he could by-pass the Provincial Assembly for the approval of Provincial budget.21. All the national newspapers placed this news in the headline and it was heard as a sad news in Balochistan and N.W.F.P. As the accused were kept and the trial was made at Hyderabad Jail so commonly known as Hyderabad Conspiracy Case.22. 1975, Under Act 6 (2) Political Parties Act 1962. Islamic Democratic Republic of Pakistan through Secretary Interior and Kashmir Affairs Islamabad V/s Abdul Wali Khan Ex-President N.A.P.23. The full text of Mir Bezanjo's statement is published under the title "Aur Bian Apna" Lahore, Awami Press Ltd., P.P. 197-244.24. Awan A.B., Opcit P.290."UNQUOTE"
Revisiting the Che Guevara-like days of Baloch resistance movement with Asad Rehman October 19, 2009http://gmcmissing.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/revisiting-the-che-guevara-like-days-of-baloch-resistance-movement-with-asad-rehman/
Guerilla movements in Balochistan have always been romanticized by young men who aspire to overthrow the domineering elite and bring revolutions. Taking to the hills for the rights of the Baloch fatherland is what has placed many statesmen, kings, governors and princes from Balochistan at irremovable positions in the annals of the Baloch history.
A similar exceptionally striking chapter of the Baloch movement was written in the early 1970s when a group of five scions of Pakistani non-Baloch elite joined Balochistan’s guerilla war against the Pakistan army’s occupation of the Baloch land. Popularly known as the London Group, the members of this study circle left the comforts of wealthy life, education in London and joined the Balochs in their battle against the Pakistan army in the Marri hills. In their early twenties, these comrades adopted Balochi names, learned the language, explored the terrain, faced hunger and fought on the frontline in their commitment for the Balochs.
A spirited Asad Rehman, the youngest but the fittest in the popular London Group, remembers how he, at the age of 21, used to ambush the Pakistani military convoys and take away ammunition from them to sustain the movement. An eyewitness to what he bills as the ‘genocide” of the Balochs in the 70s, Rehman alias Chakar Khan, still an ardent supporter of an independent Balochistan, reveals how Baloch women were used as ‘comfort women’ in the military custody and male fighters were captured and thrown from the helicopters.
In an exclusive but a candid and revealing interview with this writer, Rheman recalls his Che Guevara -like days of Baloch resistance movement of 1970s and compares it with today’s Baloch movement. Excerpts:
MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR: Tell us something about your family background.
ASAD RAHMAN: I am the son of late Justice S.A. Rahman, who retired as Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court in 1968. We were three brothers and one sister. My eldest brother, Shahid Rahman, a Supreme Court lawyer, has passed away. My sister is the Dean of Liberal Arts at Beacon House National University, Lahore. My middle brother, Rashid Rahman, is a well-known journalist and political analyst.
I owe my sense of justice and serving poor humanity to my parents because they helped all sorts of people. Until my mother died in 2002, she was running a Convalescent Home with (late) Begum Justice Shahabuddin where they treat women and children free of cost and this was established in 1948.
My father was also the member of the Boundary Commission and, therefore, worked very closely with Quaid-e-Azam and Lord Radcliff. He was in the East Pakistan Boundary Commission. He served as a High Court judge in 1947, became the Chief Justice of the High Court in 1955 and was elevated to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1960. We did not know how he help poor people until his death in 1979 when lots of people came from his hometown of Wazirabad and told us that he had actually educated hundreds of boys and girls of the area. Even my mother did not know about this aspect of his humility and humanity. He was a totally self made man.
I was born in Murree, district of Rawalpindi on 11 August 1950. We lived all our lives in Lahore and I was educated in Lahore. In 1969, after completing my intermediate, I left for London to study architecture. In 68-69 when the anti-Ayub movement was going on, I was very much a part of it as a student-agitator of Government College Lahore.
I did not finish my studies in London because in 1971, I came back to Pakistan (straight to Balochistan). Why I came to Balochistan is a very interesting story. My father was also the chairman of the tribunal which was trying Sheik Mujeeb-ur-Rehman in 1968-69 in Agartala Conspiracy Case and the Chief Election Commissioner in the 1970 elections, reputed to be the fairest and cleanest elections in Pakistan’s history. There were two Bengali judges and my father was the chairman of the tribunal. When Sheik Mujeeb was finally released by Bhutto, the first person he visited was my father. He said he had come to thank him because, according to Mujeeb, “if you had not been the chairman, they would have hung us.”
When I went to London, there were around 25 Pakistani, boys and girls, from different cities who had formed a study group. There were some Indian students as well in the study group. We used to study all kinds of literature, Marxist, Maoist, Leninist, Stalin etc. In Pakistan in those days, we could not get this kind of literature. In London, we got the opportunity to read Marxist literature. I do not call myself a Communist, Marxist or Socialist simply because I do not think we are true Marxists. When you have an ideology and you do not practice it or are unable to practice it, it does not give you a reason to claim to be a Marxist.
The study of these literatures gave us an understanding of humanity, human rights and understanding of exploitation by the ruling elite of the poor. That is what drove me to Balochistan.
MSA: Who were the prominent members of the London Group?
AR: There was Najam Sethi, Ahmed Rashid, my brother, Rashid Rehman, Dilip Dass. These are the people who originally came to support the Balochistan movement. These are the names I am willing to disclose because they are well-known as having played a part in the Balochistan movement. I would not be discussing the names of the other members of the London Group for two reasons: One, they did not participate in Balochistan movement. Two, I will be compromising on their security if I disclose their names.
In 1970, when the East Pakistan civil war started, we felt that whatever was happening in East Pakistan was wrong. We decided to bring out a monthly magazine, called Pakistan Zindabad (Long Live Pakistan). In that magazine, we used to write about nationality rights, minority rights, fundamental human rights, articles on how the army had taken on Pakistan’s polity, how it was dictating to civil government that was in place. We started to write about the East Pakistan issues and the economic exploitation. We used to distribute that magazine in London, Manchester and Birmingham.
I suppose some friends felt they needed to bring this magazine to Pakistan. They smuggled some copies of it to Pakistan. Some Leftist groups here reproduced the magazine and distributed it among the local Left circles. I can take the name of Ali Baksh Talpur, who has now passed away, who was the one to bring this magazine to the attention of Sher Mohammad Marri (whom we called as “Babu” while the others remember him as General Sheroff) and Nawab Khair Baksh Marri.
MSA: So was it the first time you got in touch with the Baloch leaders or had you already met some Baloch leaders or students back in London who informed you about the situation in Balochistan.
AR: No. we were never in touch with the Baloch at all. In fact, we had very little knowledge about what was going on in Balochistan. We did not know about the military operations of 1948, 1958 and the ones in 1962 to 1968. Like any other Pakistani outside Balochistan, we had no knowledge of these things. Information in those days was completely suppressed. I mean just look at whatever happened in East Pakistan, for instance, when West Pakistanis were absolutely blank. They knew nothing about East Pakistan.
Similarly, about Balochistan, I can tell you that we did not know what the issue of Balochistan was. We did not know about the forceful annexation or the military operations.
Hence, when Sher Mohammad Marri and Nawab Khair Baksh Marri read our magazine (Pakistan Zindabad), they felt we were talking about identical issues which they were also trying to address at the time such as nationality rights, ethnic rights. So they sent Mohammad Bhaba to London to contact us. Mohammad Bhaba was the son of Hameed Bhaba. His was a family that was settled in South Africa and connected with the African National Congress (ANC). They had come back to Karachi and resettled there. Hameed Bhaba was a very good friend of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. They had socialist ideas and they got in touch with Khair Baksh Marri through Ali Baksh Talpur. Bhaba approached us through a mutual friend. We had lengthy discussions with him. He then gave us the offer from Khair Baksh Marri that if we really wanted to do some revolutionary work and implement the kind of ideas that we had then he could provide us an area conducive for such work (in Balochistan). At that time, it was not decided in which part of Balochistan or Sindh we were going to work.
The London Group sat and finally decided that we could support the Balochistan Movement. Most of the people decided not to join the movement, except for seven of us. Two of them eventually backed out days before we were preparing to come to Balochistan. In March 1971, I was the first and the youngest from the group to come to Karachi. A member of the Marri tribe, who could speak Urdu, was sent to Karachi to receive me. I traveled with him up to Lehri and from there I met up with Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani, who took me to the Marri tribal area. We established our first camp in Bhamboor in a mountain called Miandadtot. It was just a normal camp not a training camp or study circle. There was no one I could do study with. I could not speak the local language and the Marrris, except for a few, did not speak Urdu. We remained there for two months until we shifted to Tadri.
MSA: What did it feel like for someone like you who had come from an elite background, proper education, cosmopolitan upbringing to live with the rustic tribesmen in Balochistan.
AR: I would not describe myself as someone from the elite. In the first place, you have to understand when I went to Balochistan; it was my commitment to work with the poorest, marginalized and disfranchised population of Pakistan wherever it was in Balochistan, Sindh, North West Frontier Province, Punjab or Northern areas. Since we were given an opportunity to work in Balochistan, the five of us who had the commitment came to Balochistan. Najam and Rashid were based in Karachi as our liaison which was responsible for collecting funds, ensuring medical treatment and public awareness.
Ahmed Rashid and Dilip Dass came to join us in the mountains and worked with me. About a year later, Mohammad Ali Talpur joined us as a paramedic. He was a contact of Mohammad Bhaba, not a member of the original London Group. We started to learn the language, customs and traditions of the Marris.
MSA: How comfortable were the Marris in accommodating you people in their ranks?
AR: In the first place, many of the Marris were not told that we were non-Balochs. They were told that we were Balochs who had lived all their lives in Sindh and Karachi. They did not know that we were Punjabis until 1978. The government came to know about our identity in 1974.
I was hosted by Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani. I owe a great debt to Mir Hazar’s father, Gula Khan, who died in 1975 at the age of 105. He used to sit with me and tell me about Baloch history, folklore, customs, traditions, the dos and don’ts of the tribal society, the administration of tribal society, the role of the Sardar, mukhadams, waderas.
Everything that I know about the Baloch tribal society, from a social point of view, is because of Mir Hazar’s father, who had fought at a young age against the British when they invaded the Marri area. He was also the richest man in terms of livestock and crops in the Marri area. He financed the whole war for four years.
MSA: How old were you when you came to Balochistan and how easy was it to adjust with the tribal atmosphere?
AR: I celebrated my 21st birthday in the Marri tribal area. I do not know about the others but it was a little easier for me to adjust with the new surroundings. It took me four months to learn Balochi language which I fluently speak till today. Because of Persian poetry taught in our schools of those days (Iqbal) and Balochi being a sister language of Persian, it was easier for me to pick up the language faster.
I was the youngest and the fittest in the group. Ahmed Rashid is flatfooted. So it made moving in the mountains difficult for him. His eyesight was bad. He used to wear spectacles, so did Dilip Dass and Mohammad Ali.
Since I picked up the language quickly, Mohammad Ali trained me in the medical aspect. We started a foot-doctor scheme where, for example, if a woman was ill and could not come to our camp for treatment then, I used to go there and provide them medicines. This helped me to travel around and get to know more Marris. Eventually, when the NAP (National Awami Party) government was dismissed in 1973, by that time we had totally integrated ourselves into the Marri tribe and learnt their language and customs.
MSA: How did your parents react to your decision to join the Balochistan movement?
AR: My parents did not know about my joining of the Balochistan movement until 1974. They thought that I was still in London studying architecture. We did not tell them due to security issues. It came to their knowledge only after the arrest of some members of the London Group from Karachi who also disclosed the names of other comrades.
In 1973, with the dismissal of the NAP government by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, we naturally prepared ourselves for a struggle. We knew that an onslaught was coming. We had very little time to prepare. I bought a Dara-made 303 rifle for Rs. 300. That was the only weapon I had. In the meanwhile, I recall, Balochistan was undergoing a drastic drought in 1971-73. In the wake of the drought, a lot of Marris moved to Sindh for grazing land and water. Hindu and Marri shopkeepers used to go to Sibi and bring ration into the Marri area.
After the NAP government dismissal, we found that the paramilitary forces were surrounding the Marri and Bugti areas as well as the Mengal and Bizenjo areas. When that happened, we started to prepare. The objective of this siege was to stop our food supplies that reached us with the help of the Marri traders. The forces intercepted the camel caravans, capture them, rip open the sacks so that the food would fall in the sand and become unusable for anybody to eat. Things like Gur, atta, sugar were deliberately mixed with the sand. Even the ghee tins were punctured.
In May 1973, another Baloch caravan was coming and the forces killed two men from the caravan. We could see that the paramilitary forces had adopted a specific strategy and were trying to starve the Marri tribesmen out; secondly, there were so many women, children and elderly citizens who were more vulnerable. We had to break the siege somehow. We decided to retaliate and on 17th May, 1973, I led a group of twenty Marri tribesmen and we attacked the same team of the security forces near the Tandori Railway station which had previously attacked and killed two members of the Baloch caravan. In the attack, we killed seven personnel of the Dir Scouts, captured their weapons and went back in the Marri area.
Four days later, Mawand and Kohlu were invaded by the Pakistani army on helicopters provided by the Shah of Iran because at that time Pakistan army did not have helicopters, especially the Chinook which the Iranians possessed. They also gave gunship helicopters to Pakistan and financed the whole war because the Shah of Iran feared that if the NAP government in Balochistan got established and strong then it would support the Iranian Balochistan movement. The Shah wanted the NAP government to be immediately dismissed. Bhutto looked at his personal interests based on relationship with the Shah of Iran rather than considering the national interest of Pakistan. The Bhutto-Reza Shah alliance actually started the whole war. It was the bloodiest war Balochistan has ever seen. Even today, that kind of fighting is not taking place. Nearly 5000 causalities were suffered by the army, out of which 1500 were killed and 3500 injured. On the Baloch guerrilla side, we only lost about 70 guerillas but 15000 Baloch old men, women and children were killed or wounded.
MSA: Was it only the Marris who fought and suffered causalities?
AR: No. Meharullah Khan Mengal, a brother of Sardar Attaullah Mengal, had a group in Mengal area. Aslam Gichki led a group in Lasbela and Mir Safar Khan Zarakzai was operating in Sarawan while we operated in Marri and Bugti areas. I commanded the area right from Pir Samalan down to Marri tribal areas and Dera Gazi Khan. The political command was with Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani. Sher Mohammad Marri had been arrested in January 1973. Even before the dismissal of the NAP government, I had a lot of interactions with “Babu” (Sher Mohamamd Marri). He used to come to Tadri. We also met Khair Baksh Marri four to five times in those two years. We used to discuss issues and strategies for development. Khair Baksh and Attaullah Mengal and all other NAP leaders were arrested in August 1973.
MSA: Was Nawab Khair Baksh Marri ever on the forefront of the armed movement?
MSA: What was his role?
AR: His was a political leader’s role.
MSA: What about General Sheroff?
AR: Sheroff, as I said, was the leader of the 1962 to 1968 movement for the break up of the One Unit regime and led the guerrilla forces in those days. He had been arrested even before the dismissal of the NAP government. So, he could not participate in the resistance movement. It was Mir Hazar who was playing the political as well as the military role. He deputed me as a commander of the Marri tribal units. We had about 1500 guerillas. At no time did I have more than 200 guerilla fighters because we used to rotate them.
MSA: Where did you get your weapons from?
AR: I told you I had purchased a Dara-made 303 rifle in 1972. We had no extraordinary weapons with us when we started the resistance. After our assaults on the Pakistan army, we captured weapons from the army. I have used the M1 Garrant semi-automatic rifle, an LMG, Seminnof, which is a Chinese weapon, G-3, MG3P machine gun and the Kalashnikov AK 47. We captured all these weapons from the Army and Special Services Group, the commando unit of the Pakistan army. We did face a shortage of weapons and ammunition all the time. We continued to replenish our ammunition from the Pashtun traders who used to bring ammunition and sell them to us. In those days, I remember a round of 303 or that of a Kalashnikov cost us one rupee. We also bought some Kalashnikovs from the Pashtoons. We did not know where the Phastuns brought those weapons from. We did not have any support from Afghanistan, India, or Soviet Union. It was a totally indigenously financed war. It was mostly financed by Mir Hazar.
Meherullah and Aslam Gichki’s groups finally gave in one year’s time. They disbanded their groups and went to Afghanistan.
MSA: Why did they give up?
AR: I think due to insufficient commitment. You have several instances in the Baloch movement when the members of the elite gave up the comforts of life and led the Baloch resistance movement. For example, Nawab Nauroz Khan and Prince Abdul Karim Khan belonged to the elite families but still went to the mountains. No doubt, Aslam Gichki and Meherullah were Balochs and I have nothing against them but I think they were not able to adjust with this kind of atmosphere. So, they disbanded and went to Afghanistan in 1974. From May 1973 to 1974, the fighting had intensified. Safar Khan on his side was involved in a number of clashes.
MSA: Was it a full-fledged war or a guerilla war?
AR: It was all guerilla war. What we, the members of the London Group, brought to the Balochistan movement was modern thinking and technique on guerilla war. We had read a lot of books on Che Guevara, General Vo Nguyen Giap, even non-communist generals of Cyprus. We had an idea of guerilla war and conventional wars. We could not fight the Pakistan army in a conventional manner simply because we did not have the weapons, the financial resources and the manpower. It was basically a guerilla war. Some people say it was an insurgency. It was not. It was a resistance movement. I have always called all our Baloch fighters as resistance fighters and not as insurgents.
MSA: Could you further differentiate between “insurgency” and “resistance movement”.
AR: An insurgency is something planned and initiated with a clear objective. Resistance is opposition against the armed force who impose armed conflict. So, there is this crucial difference between the two.
MSA: For how long did the war last?
AR: It lasted till July 1977. In fact, Zia-ul-Haq had not declared a ceasefire at that time. Just after the elections, we ambushed another convoy near Barkhan in Khethran area. That was our last combat against the Pakistan army.
MSA: What was the means of transportation? Did you use camels, horses or vehicles?
AR: We did not use any transportation whatsoever, except our own feet. We used to move mostly at night. We had the advantage of knowing the terrain; knowing where the water was; where we could hide; where we could ambush; where we could cause maximum damage to the army. At that time, let me tell you, there was no unit as the FC (Frontier Corps). There were paramilitary forces such as the Dir Scouts or Swat Scouts. It was the army that was directly fighting us. After Safar Khan’s killing in 1975, the army deployed four divisions against the Marris. Each division comprised of 20,000 personnel. That said, a total number of 80,000 army-men were deployed against us. Even if you consider that 5000 of them were logistical troops, that means 15000 fighting troops were actually fighting against us per division. We continued to resist until Zia-ul-Haq declared a ceasefire in 1977. Zia instructed his army commanders in Balochistan to stay inside their camps and cantonments. Patrolling of the areas by the army was stopped.
By that that time, of course we were also exhausted. We were running short of ammunition, human resources. We had shifted a lot of our fighters’ families to Afghanistan as refugees. The fighters needed to get back home because those fighters who had their families in Sindh or in Balochistan could easily go for a short holiday to meet their families. But for those whose families had gone to Afghanistan, it was very difficult to go and meet the family members.
MSA: What about yourself? Did you ever go to Lahore to meet your family as you had come to Balochistan as early as March 1971?
AR: No. This is my regret that when my father passed away in February 1979, I was not able to bury him with my own hands. I was in Afghanistan. In December 1978, Zia disbanded the Hyderabad Tribunal case and released all the Baloch leaders. Najam Sethi had been arrested in 1976. He was also in the jail and released with the Baloch and Pashtun leaders.
MSA: How was Najam Sethi captured?
AR: He made a “very stupid” move –I call it a “stupid move”. As the cover we had in Karachi, Rashid was running an automobile workshop while Najam was with some architects and development consultants. Najam persuaded them to bid for some development projects in Marri area under Bhutto’s government. In the meanwhile, some people from the original London Group had been arrested from Karachi. They disclosed the names of all of us. He had at that time gone to Quetta and was flying in a military helicopter to go and see the site of a project that they wanted to build.
MSA: How did he get into a “military helicopter” as you people were already fighting against the military?
AR: Now that is the whole question. We don’t know. Maybe the government gave them the consultancy and asked the army to take him there. I don’t know. The benefit of doubt has to be given over there. In any case, the message was sent to the pilot of the helicopter that Najam was flying in. Hence, the pilot turned back to Quetta where they arrested Najam and took him to the Hyderabad jail. After that, he had no role whatsoever in the Balochistan movement of the 1970s.
MSA: What happened to Dilip Dass, another comrade of yours from the London Group?
AR: Dilip Dass was arrested near Baelpat when he was going to Sindh to see some comrades. After that we never heard from him. He was traveling with a Marri called Sher Ali who was also arrested. We suspect somebody in Quetta actually gave away the information because he was transporting them to Sindh and then he got them arrested in Baelpat. Dilip was held in Mach and in Quilli Camp (in Quetta) for quite some time. We believe he died under torture. It is interesting that when Nawab Akbar Bugti was the chief minister in 1990, I came with a delegation of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) – that was the first time I was meeting Nawab Bugti. I spoke to him in Balochi and asked him for an investigation about Dilip. He got angry and said, “Your friends don’t understand Balochi. Who are you?” When I told him who I was, he actually got up from his seat and hugged me.
MSA: So he did not recognize you as Asad Rehman?
AR: No, because we had never met before. He had heard my name and knew what I was doing but we had never met. He did not know what I looked like physically. He hugged me and asked what I wanted from him.
I requested him that in Balochi traditions even if you kill your worst enemy, you handover the dead body to their family members. Therefore, I requested, Dilip’s dead body be handed over to his family. He said he would try to find out. Nawab Bugti called up his personal secretary and instructed him to contact the corps commander, the ISI [Inter-services intelligence] and whosoever and report back to him where Dilip had been buried. The military never gave that information to Nawab Bugti. Therefore, we were never able to take his body home.
MSA: I am touched by Bugti’s move –standing from his seat and hugging you.
AR: Yes, I am trying to tell you that this is the kind of respect we as outsiders – I won’t say just Punjabis because Dilip was not a Punjabi but a Karachi-based converted Hindu – got from the people of Balochistan. Every single Baloch Nawab or Sardar I have met, they have given me the same respect whether they were in favor of NAP or against it.
MSA: We hear that when you joined the Balochistan movement. You also adopted the Balochi alias name of Chakar Khan. How did this happen?
AR: Well they could not call me Asad Rehman. We were incognito in Balochistan. It was Mir Hazar who gave me this name. Since we were in Lehri and Chakar Khan Domki was the Sardar there, Mir Hazar asked in a light mood, “so what do we name him?” While Mohammad Bhaba was known as Murad Khan, Mir Hazar said, “Okay, why don’t we name him as Chakar Khan?”[Chakar Khan was a great Baloch statesman who lived in 1468-1565]. This is how I got my name. Subsequently, I realized how heavy it was as far as Baloch history was concerned. I was a little scared whether I would live up to that great name – in terms of Chakar Khan’s bravery and wisdom. I don’t know if I have accomplished it or not or whether I have held that name at the same level of respect. This was one of my fears that I would let that great name down, leave alone anything else.
MAS: When General Zia disbanded the Hyderabad Conspiracy case and announced general amnesty for the Baloch leaders, was this amnesty also for the London Group? Did you also benefit from this official decree?
AR: While the general amnesty was given to all, five of us (I, Rashid Rehman, Ahmed Rashid and Mohammad Ali Talpur) and Ajmal Khattak, who was in Afghanistan then, were denied amnesty. In January 1979, I went to Afghanistan after Mir Hazar Khan called me there so that I could help in organizing the refugee camps.
MSA: What was the number of the people who migrated to Afghanistan? Were they all from the Marri tribe?
AR: In total, there were 10,000 families. They were not just Marris. They were from Sarawan, Badani and Jamaldini areas as well.
MSA: Tell us something about the state of the media and the level of public awareness in those days. While the Pakistan army launched a major military operation in Balochistan, did rest of the country actually know what was happening in Balochistan?
AR: Just like the period of the East Pakistan debacle, no news used to go outside from Balochistan. We had no access to the media. We were not able to give our point of view. There were some Baloch leaders, like Sherbaz Mazari, who used to visit Balochistan and then go back to Punjab or Karachi and talk to the national media about the situation in Balochistan. Yet, he did not have the real information on the ground. It was in fact a very negative media for the Balochs. The government was very good at its own propaganda and disinformation which it used to spread through the media to mislead the civil society and the public opinion. For instance, when I went back to Lahore, the so-called leftist friends of ours came and met me. They asked why I was fighting a “sardars’ war”. That was the concept given to the people of Pakistan due to official disinformation. It was only those people who knew us and our ideology that understood what we were trying to do.
MSA: Your description of Dilip Dass’s disappearance and subsequent murder takes us back to the future. Even today, a lot of Baloch activists are believed to be held inside the torture cells maintained by the state-controlled intelligence agencies. What was the level of enforced disappearances in those days? Sherbaz Mazari has also disclosed in his autobiography A journey to Disillusionment that Baloch women were also picked by the army and used as sex-slaves. This coincides with the recent uproar in Balochistan about Zarina Marri case as well.
AR: As far as the issue of missing persons is concerned, it was as much in those days. Anybody who was arrested actually “disappeared”. According to our estimates, over 2000 people went missing in a period of four years. Even the fighters who were captured, they were never brought to the court.
Brigadier T (ariq) M (ahmmod) Shah was the commander of the Special Services Group. He allegedly used to throw Marris out of helicopters at great heights. As fate would have it, he himself died in the same way. He was doing para-jumping from a helicopter for August 14 celebrations. He jumped and his parachute did not open and he was killed. Some very influential people told us that throwing the Marris out of helicopter did happen. I cannot tell you the exact number of people who were subjected to such brutal treatment. In Mach Jail and Quili Camp, very, very atrocious and torturous treatment was given to the Marris.
MSA: Does it mean that there were no pressure groups or human rights organizations that could take notice of the human rights’ violation in Balochistan.
AR: No, nothing of that sort (ever existed) at all. In fact the international media did not know the whole thing till 1975 when I met Lawrence Lifchultz in Karachi. He is the one who broke the story of Balochistan story in Far East Economic Review in September 1975. After that Time magazine also picked it up. But they picked it up from an anti-communist point of view.
There was no media that was giving our point of view. There were no reports of the atrocities that were taking place in Balochistan. Women did disappear and were used as “comfort women” in the military camps as is being done at present. The involvement of women as victims is such a sordid story that the Balochs as well as we feel that even recalling those things is actually an attack on the dignity of the Baloch people. We normally do not talk about these things. We, however, remember the level of human rights violation of the level of picking up the women, rape, extrajudicial killings. The issue of women is a very, very emotional thing that one does not want talk about. It is very disturbing to talk about it, let alone the families and the individuals who went through it.
MSA: Tell us about the circumstances that led to your departure to Afghanistan.
AR: In the winter of 1974, Baloch tribes started to go to Afghanistan and take refuge there when the army started huge operations in Marri areas. When we realized that the kind of operation they were doing included arresting and killing non-combatant women, children and decimating livestock (the economic mainstay of the people), we decided to shift the families to Afghanistan. I would literally term it as a “genocide” that was taking place in Balochistan at that time. Today, Balochistan is encountering genocide once again.Hence, we as a policy decided to shift our noncombatants –women, children and older citizens – to Sindh.
Some of our leaders who were outside the jail, they negotiated with the Afghan government of Dawood Khan to allow some of our families to go to Afghanistan. Ajmal Khattak, who was already in Afghanistan, is the one through whom we approached the Afghan government. Dawood Khan responded positively and allowed our families to go there. It was not an influx of refugees for just one year or a few months. It was a continued process. Wherever operations were taking place, we were pulling our people from there.
Eventually, there were about ten thousand families in Afghanistan. An equal number had migrated to Sindh, settled in Tandoadam, Nawabshah, Dadu, Hyderabad, Larkana and even some of them went to Karachi. If you count each family with six to seven members, the total number of refugees would become something like 120,000 people.
MSA: Did you use Afghanistan as a base for political activities or to launch offensive against the army deployed inside Balochistan?
AR: As far as fighting is concerned, it was only being waged by the people inside Balochistan. From Afghanistan, we tired to involve the international media about what was happening in Balochistan. From Sindh, we also tried to approach the national media but they had strict instructions of censorship. There was no report about us in the national media.
As I mentioned earlier, when Lawrence Lifchultz broke the story internationally, that was when the international media started to take a little bit of interest in what was going on in Balochistan. Again, papers like the Guardian and some Asian newspapers also took up the story. I think there was a lot of coverage in the Soviet Union and the Middle East.
MSA: How big was the support given by the Afghan government to the Balochs?
AR: The Afghan government only gave our people refuge. There was no military or financial support. The only financial support was just what is often offered to the refugees, such as food, medicine and some educational facility. We were not allowed to do any kind of business or trade in Afghanistan. We had limited movement. When I went in 1978, the schools in Khandahar and Zabul had already been established. We did not live in the cities but inside refugee camps very far away from the major Afghan cities.
Zabul was not a developed place while its capital Kalat was just like a village in Pakistan. It had a small hospital but we even did not live in the proper town of Kalat. Our main camp was based 20 kilometers away from Kalat in the mountains. The other camp, called the Khandhar Camp, was close to Khandhar city. But it was also located about six to seven kilometers away from the city center. We were not allowed to do any kind of trade.
MSA: How did the Afghan people receive the Baloch refugees? Were they forthcoming or hostile towards you?
AR: There was no discrimination from the Afghan people. They helped us many times. They accepted us as brothers confronted with a hard situation. They supported us, so did the Afghan government of the day. The animosity started much later. We did not support either the Khalq, Percham, the Soviets or Dawood for that matter. When the Mujahideen started fighting in Afghanistan, we were attacked by them in 1981-82. There were quite serious attacks but fortunately we were all from Balochistan and had weapons to defend ourselves. In 1981-82, the Mujahideen groups were not as powerful as they grew later on. They also attacked us in 1990 and 1991. In 1992, when the Balochs were coming to Balochistan, the families were ambushed by the Mujahideen which killed a lot of Balochs, including some women. They even threatened to kill Nawab Khair Baksh Marri. Now who was telling them do all this? Obviously, the government of Pakistan and the military were egging the Mujahideen to target the Balochs.
MSA: In the first place you said that General Zia-ul-Haq granted amnesty to the Baloch leaders soon after coming into power. Now, you are telling us that he was prompting the Mujahideen to attack the Balochs. Does it not contradict what you said previously? Why would General Zia do that?
AR: You see General Zia did not give amnesty. Initially, Zia’s reaction to the Baloch resistance was that it was a war initiated by Bhutto. There is this saying that your enemy is my enemy. He needed the support in Pakistan for the actions that he was going to take against Mr. Bhutto. The Mujahideen suspected that we were there maybe to support the Soviets. So they carried a number of small attacks on the Balochs. We lost one or two people only in all those attacks. In 1992, Taj Mohammad Jamali’s government came into power in Balochistan. It put a lot of pressure on the federal government that the Balochs should be brought back. Taj Jamali felt that Nawab Khair Baksh was a very respected leader of Balochistan. They did not want to leave him and his tribesmen in lurch. Therefore, they brought all of them back.
Taj Jamali even pressed Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan, to give two C-130s to bring back the families of Nawab Marri and some other leaders.
MSA: Some see Nawab Marri’s willingness to sit in a military C-130 and come back to Balochistan as a “political compromise”.
AR: I don’t think it was a compromise on the part of Khair Baksh Marri. I think it was a compromise as far as the province and its people were concerned. You see if you set such a precedence of attacking or killing a refugee leader then it has a lot of international repercussions. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif had no quarrel with Khair Baksh Marri. Even Akbar Khan Bugti went to Nawaz Sharif and told him to bring Khair Baksh back and also invite Sardar Attaullah Mengal from London to come back. If you remember, Nawaz Sharif invited them to Islamabad and they –Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti – held a press conference together.
You have to look at the political situation of the day when these things happened. Balochistan’s population is very small and if this population that had migrated to Afghanistan was also left over there, the Balochs would lose that population. Therefore, Taj Jamali wanted to bring Nawab Marri and that population back to Balochistan. I know this that initially in 1990 Nawab Marri was approached and asked to return but he refused. It took the Baloch leadership a lot of efforts to go there and convince him to come again to Balochistan.
In 1992, the situation for the Baloch refugees in Afghanistan had become so grave that there was a threat to Nawab Marri’s and his family’s life and to all Balochs who were there as refugees. That was the reason they were brought back. It was not because of any political compromise or anything like that. It was just that Nawaz Sharif felt that Balochistan had been done badly with and they needed to repair whatever could be repaired. I mean it was political diplomacy basically that led to Khair Baksh’s return to Balochistan.
MSA: What about you? For how long did you stay in Afghanistan?
AR: I went to Afghanistan in January 1979 and flew from Kabul to London in May 1980. I came back to Pakistan in June of 1980. I was in Afghanistan for a year and half but it was a very turbulent period in Afghanistan. First, Dawood was overthrown by Khalq Party. Within Khalq Party, there was a coup. Tarakai was killed. Hafizullah Amin (1929-1979) came into power. Later on, the Parcham Party came into power with Babrak Karmal (1929-1996), who was later on replaced by Najeebullah (1947-1996). In this period, after the killing of Hafizullah Amin, the Soviet forces came inside Afghanistan. I was a witness of all that eventful epoch of the Afghan history.
At the same time, what I would like to say is there are many issues that need to be addressed. There has not been any research or analysis done of that period. Therefore, the political history of that period is very vague and I would request my friends, especially the Baloch friends, who can write, research and analyze as to what actually happened at that time.
MSA: What caused the current deadly differences between Nawab Khair Baksh Marri and Mir Hazar Khan?
AR: In answer to your question I do not have all the details as I had already left Afghanistan but what I have heard is that Mir Hazar asked for a political and operational analysis of the war period. He also asked for declaration of how much was contributed by Khair Baksh in the war financially as it was being alleged that NAP had received some funds. At the same time Khair Baksh was asked to clarify his position on his ideology and practice.
Apparently the issue of financing the war effort was what they fell out on. In the beginning Babu tried to mediate between the two but when KB brought in the issue of Bijarani versus Gazaini (KB belongs to Gazaini section) then Babu also sided with Mir Hazar (both Bijaranis).
I believe there is some truth in all the issues raised. Khair Baksh ordered Mir Hazar’s weapons taken away when they were returning to Balochistan and it is also alleged that he had Mir Hazar’s women searched. This is of course is against all Baloch customs and honor.
MSA: Let’s get back to the London Group? What happened to the individual players of the Group who came to Balochistan?
AR: It was only end of 1974 that the government came to know who was involved in the Balochistan movement. My brother Rashid Rehman, went underground when Najam Sethi was arrested. Rashid had already married when he joined the Balochistan movement. His eldest son was only about four months old. He sent his wife back to my father’s house in Lahore. Throughout that period until 1978 he was underground in Karachi. He established the liaison cell along with some friends.
They used to take out a magazine called Jabal (Mountain) and we used to feed them information from the mountains. Jabal was a very informative monthly magazine published and widely circulated in Balochistan and the leftist circles of Karachi, Lahore and other places. If you get hold of some old copies of Jabal, you must read it. I am sure you will find it very informative. In 1978, when amnesty was granted to the Baloch leaders, I asked Rashid to come to Afghanistan from where I would send him to London for a family reunion.
MSA: What about Ahmed Rashid?
AR: Ahmed Rashid is maybe a good intellectual but physically he was not suited for guerrilla activity or living in mountains. He was never able to pick up the language very well and he stood out that he was not a Baloch. He was very fair; a scanty beard although he was much older than me. He was not able to keep up with our Marri comrades when we were moving in camps. He wore spectacles at that time which transformed into a disadvantage for him. Plus, he was flatfooted. He was falling all over especially at nights when we were moving around. He never developed good friendships the way I was able to do. Maybe I had learned the language, the traditions and customs much better than anyone.
At the same time, because I was involved in fighting, when your life depends on somebody else’s actions then there develops an affiliation of comradeship which is much deeper than anything else.
Unfortunately, Ahmed was not a good rifleman. He could not shoot very well. In the Baloch culture, they expect you to do all these things but when you are unable then you stand out as somebody who is alien to the culture and life style.
There was a similar case as far as Dilip Dass was concerned. I must say something here which I have never revealed before. Since you are doing a very candid interview, I must mention it here that Dilip resented my position as the commander. They also resented my relationship with Mir Hazar with whom I was, and still am, very close.As I mentioned before that I was taught a great deal of things from Mir Hazar’s father, Gulla Khan, I remember he was a very simple man. He liked me so much that he offered one of his daughters in marriage to me. Subsequently, I had to explain to Mir Hazar why I could not accept the offer.
MSA: Why could you not accept the offer? Were you already engaged or married?
AR: No. I was not married. I was only 20 years old when I came to Balochistan. Firstly, we were not-Baloch –But that would not be a big thing. The real reason for my refusal to the offer was that we had gone to Balochistan for a purpose and I did not want to get bogged down. If I had married and settled down in the Marri area, that would have defeated the whole purpose that I had come for. I discussed this with Mir Hazar Khan and told him why I could not accept the offer. Then, he explained it to his father that I was in the movement and did not want to get bogged down with the family issues. That could become my weakness.
MSA: How was Dilip Dass captured?
AR: Dilip was also unable to pick up the language too well. He wore spectacles. He was slightly a misfit for guerilla war. It was his resentment to my position that eventually threw him into the position he went into when he was captured and killed. Let me tell you what actually happened.
When we established our first camp in Khandhar, some issues popped up between our camp and the Khandhar government. I was asked by late Abdul Wahid Kurd to go to Afghanistan and settle that issue. When I came back to our camp, Dilip was there and asked why I had been nominated to go to Afghanistan to settle the issue and why not he (Dilip) to go for negotiations. I told him that I had no objections if he wanted to go. I wondered if he could handle the situation.
I told him there were some Marris who were also Bijranis and in fact from Mir Hazar’s section, like Yaqoob Ramkani, Dil Shahd and some others who were a little difficult to handle. I also reminded him that he should realize that he would be talking to the Afghan government. In order to do that, one needed to have a mandate. I mean Abdul Wahid Kurd had already sent my name to the Afghan authorities for negotiations. Dilip did not like that too much. As I told you, I was the youngest in the group. All of these people had been in the London study group much longer than me. They knew Marxism better than me. Possibly, they were much more exposed and conversant with the ideology. I don’t deny that.
That resentment against me grew out of ego and anger. So, Dilip left the camp with a Marri and contacted somebody, who was probably a Kurd, whom we suspect of being an infiltrator in the Baloch movement. He is the same man whom we suspect in Asadullah Mengal and Ahmed Shah Kurd’s murders.
MSA: Who was that Kurd?
AR: I don’t want to disclose his name. In this kind of a situation you have a lot of repercussions. I just met him once and I became suspicious of him in that one meeting. I never met him again. Dali, as we used to call Dilip, contacted this very man to take him to Sindh. The circumstances of his arrest are very dubious. This man took Dilip in his own jeep along with Sher Ali Marri; drove him from Quetta to Baelpat. He passed peacefully through Bolan and the whole area. In Baelpat, we had never seen a check post before. Yet, they were stopped at a relatively new check-point. The security forces asked for identification. The Kurd driver said, while referring to Dilip and Sher Ali Marri, they were Marris whom he had picked up on the way. They told Dilip and Sher Ali to get down and allowed the driver to drive off. The circumstances of his arrest also put a lot of suspicion on the driver. After that, we never heard of Dali because we think he was tortured to death within three months of his arrest.
MSA: How significant was the role of the London group in the entire movement?
AR: I was the right hand man of Mir Hazar Khan. I was his guerilla commander. He was the political and the tribal leader. All his politics were derived from our discussions and dialogue. We discussed socio-economic relations, governance, human rights and other issues with him. The London Group played a very vital role in awareness raising and empowering Mir Hazar and his commanders. I converted the traditional guerilla war tactics into modern tactics.
MSA: Balochistan’s politics is filled with so much suspicion. People often bill their rivals as agents of the intelligence agencies. There is one question which must be hitting the minds of my readers. If Dilip could be captured and killed and Najam Sethi arrested, why were you never caught? What was your role?
AR: I was arrested. In 1975, I had fallen seriously ill. I went to Karachi for treatment. My brother, Rashid, took me to a doctor who operated on me. Of course, we had alias names. This was exactly the same time when our names had been revealed. Rashid left Karachi and went underground.
A week after my operation, I was driving a friend’s car who had been looking after me throughout my recovery. He was also sitting in the car. As we approached his office, he asked me to stop near his office.He wanted to pick up something from the office. While I waited in the car, I had my bandages and all. Suddenly, two people attired in plainclothes came close to me and pointed a pistol at me. I could not detect them because they were in plain clothes. They asked me to go with them. I asked the reasons for my arrest. They said they would tell me at the CID (Crimes Investigation Department) office. They drove my friend and me in separate cars to the CID office. On our arrival, I saw this friend of mine with the local DSP (deputy superintended of police). I silently showed my friend my fist, meaning that he should not reveal anything about my origin and activities. We had already made up a story about me with the police saying that I was a friend of his from school days who had come to Karachi to find a job. Because of not getting a job, he added, I was temporarily serving as his driver.
The DSP sat in front of me and asked who I was. I gave him my alias name and narrated an unreal story. He said I looked educated and decent just like the other detained friend of mine. He said he was surprised why we indulged in such “negative activities”.
The office from where this friend of mine was arrested was the same consultancy firm where Najam Sethi used to work as a cover. My friend already knew what we were actually doing.
The DSP introduced himself as Ashiq Hussain and said he had arrested us for our anti-state activities. I declined my links with “anti-state activities’. They questioned me for about half an hour. My friend and I stuck to the same story which we had made up. They kept us at the police station the whole night. In the morning, my friend called another friend of his to bail us out. The newcomer, on his arrival at the police station, said he identified the mutual friend but not me. My friend turned around and said he vouched for me because I was his driver. So, that is how we were released and immediately within an hour, I left Karachi with my bandage. I came to a Marri comrade’s house in Sindh where I stayed for two weeks until I could get rid of my bandages. Then I went to the mountains. Thus, this is incorrect to say that I was not arrested. It was just that they could not identify me and I guess I was lucky.
MSA: You said some of your friends back in Lahore ridicule you over fighting some “sardars’ war”. I would put the same question before you. When you look back at your activities of 1970s, do you think you were actually fighting a “sardars’ war”?
AR: No. The London Group’s long-term objective was to bring about a revolution in the whole of Pakistan. We wanted to bring the army back to its position of a public servant and defender of our borders under a civilian government that was in place. We wanted to make a democratic front that could bring about a change in the country’s political structure and institutions. We wanted a democratic system that upheld the rights of the people and which served the interest of the people on an equal and non-discriminatory basis.
MSA: Was it not adventurism on the part of a group of five young men to abandon everything and start a struggle for a revolution?
AR: We did not want to initiate a war. We expected that once we started, more people would join us. We were developing our links with the National Awami Party (NAP) and building contacts. We were trying to develop our links with the other leftist groups in Sindh, Punjab and Frontier because NAP was common to Balochistan and the NWFP. When the offer came to us from Khair Baksh Marri and Sher Mohammad Marri, that was, we felt, the ideal opportunity for us to go and work with the people of this country, not at the elite, middle class level or with the sardars of Balochistan.
In my whole interaction in that period with Khair Baksh Marri from 1971 to 1980, I only met him four or five times. So why would I be fighting his war?
Secondly, it was not a ‘sardars’ war’. Look, there are around 70 to 80 sardars and nawabs in Balochistan. At one time, when we were here, there were about 104 sardars and Nawabs in Balochistan. Now, there number has declined. Out of those 104 tribal chiefs, how many do you think were with us? Besides Nawab Khair Baksh Marri and Sardar Attaullah Mengal, can you count me any other Sardars who were with us? Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo was never a Sardar, nor was Mir Hazar Khan. So what are you talking about? If it was a “sardars’ war” then all the sardars and nawabs of Balochistan should have been on our side. In fact, Nawab Akbar Bugti was anti-NAP. That is why he became the governor of Balochistan. People who describe the Baloch struggle as a few sardars’ war in fact do not know the ground realities.
MSA: As an observer, what do you think is wrong with Balochistan? Why have the Balochs, unlike the Sindhis, Pashtoons and Punjabis, been able to integrate themselves in the federation of Pakistan? Why the need for a military operation always is felt after every ten years or why is it that the Balochs feel the need to pick up guns after short periods?
AR: To find an answer to this question, you will have to look at history. If you understand the history properly then you can answer these questions. In the first place, the State of Kalat (today’s Balochistan) was never a part of the British India or the Mughal Empire. It was a separate state which was self-ruled. This state was established in 1666 when democracy had no roots or influence in this area. The Ahmedzais actually established a confederacy of the Baloch tribes which was known as the Kalat State.The British never ruled Kalat. They only ruled by proxy and through agreements that were made between the Kalat State and the British Crown in Delhi. When the Partition was taking place, Kalat made its case to the Partition Commission which came with Lord Cripps. The Kalat State made this plea that it had never been a part of the British India. It had remained a sovereign state. Therefore, it should be treated differently. When the Partition plan came about, the British offered the Kalat State three options.
Firstly, to remain independent and become a dominan of the British crown. Secondly, to merge with India and, thirdly, to merge with Pakistan. The Kalat State outrightly rejected two of these options. It said it would never merge with India or become a part of the British crown. They said they would remain independent and negotiate with Pakistan our merger because of disparity in political, economic and social development of the Kalat State as compared to the other areas of Pakistan.
Plus, the population of the Kalat state was much smaller than any of the other provinces. From that point of view, this was the status of 1947 when Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, and the Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, signed a stand still agreement on 11 August 1947. On 14 August 1947, Pakistan became independent while on 15 August 1947, Balochistan declared its independence.
I am sorry to say that but it was Mr. Jinnah himself who tried to force the annexation of Balochistan with Pakistan. He was forcing the Khan of Kalat to sign the Instrument of Accession. The Khan said he could not decide on his own and had to consult both the houses of the Baloch parliament –Dar-ul-Umra (the House of Lords) and Dar-ul-Awam( the House of Commons). Consequently, both the houses of the Baloch parliament rejected unconditional accession to Pakistan and said they needed to have dialogue. If you read the Instrument of Accession of Kalat with Pakistan, which was finally signed by the Khan of Kalat without the mandate of the people of Balochistan or the members of the parliament, it is written that whatever constitutional structures are made by Pakistan will not be implemented in Balochistan without his and the peoples consent. It was agreed that there would be self-rule in the Kalat-state, which represented all areas of the present Balochistan.
Liquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister, tried to break up the Kalat State. Lasbela, Mekran and Quetta were made separate administrative regions in 1948 in an attempt to weaken the Kalat State. When they forced Ahmed Yar Khan to sign the accession, he was, immediately after signing, arrested and his brother Prince Abdul Karim went to the mountains as Mekran region was being forcefully taken away by Pakistan. Then Mr. Jinnah ordered the military officer of Quetta to prepare a brigade to invade the Kalat state. These were the instructions of Mr. Jinnah. We do not know what happened subsequently but he relented and asked the army to maintain the status quo. As a result, Mekran and Lasbela were once again given back to the Kalat State. Prince Karim was brought back from the mountains but put into the jail for ten years. Ahmed Yar Khan was also released. Again in 1958, when the Pakistan army invaded the Kalat State, took down the Kalat State flag and replaced it with Pakistani flag, Ahmed Yar Khan was arrested and put in house arrest in Lahore for ten years.
We call it annexation, not accession. It was a forced annexation and military occupation of the Kalat State by the Pakistan army. Ahmed Yar Khan was not personally adverse to accession with Pakistan. There was pressure on him from the people of the Kalat State and the parliament and there was pressure from Mr. Jinnah as well. It was a military occupation and annexation. That is why we say Balochistan has never been “governed”. It has always been “ruled” as a colony. You see when you capture any region or territory; you never treat it as an equal partner in the federation.
The question of Balochistan stems from 1947. This is what I always try and explain to my friends. They somehow don’t seem to understand because of the history studied by our friends in schools and colleges. The history they study at schools and colleges is the government’s version of the region. This is why it is crucial that I keep telling my Baloch friends that they have to write their complete political history. There are books such as Ahmed Yar Khan’s autobiography, Inside Balochistan, in which he admits that he did not have the mandate of Kalat parliament to accede to Pakistan.
MSA: Who do you think is responsible for not accommodating the Balochs in the federation of Pakistan?
AR: The Pakistan State, who else? The state has denied the Balochs their rights. Balochistan finally became a province in 1970. Before that, it was being ruled by a governor in Lahore, under One Unit. What I am trying to say is that once India and Pakistan were both colonies. Why did they start a movement for independence? Because they faced a similar situation. Over there, you also had military suppression by the British Crown. The people of India and Pakistan fought against it. Now, when we talk of Kalat (Balochistan) and how its independence was usurped, how they have been colonized and how they are demanding their rights, what is your answer? Your response is the same of the British colonial army that you start firing on them.
MSA: Many people would say we have to forget the past and look at the future. One feels that even there is ample realization in Punjab that Balochistan had not been treated fairly in the past. Is there a possibility for the future for Balochistan and Pakistan to coexist?
AR: The issue is that the state structures of Pakistan are not a federation. The structures are not of a federal set-up. They are a centralized government run by the state in a repressive and oppressive manner. The repression and oppression in the whole of Pakistan is at varying degrees depending on the number of people from those provinces and territories that are a part of the ruling elite. Who are the ruling elite in Pakistan? It is the army, the civil bureaucracy, the rich and the industrialists of the country. They do not want to include the Baloch leadership. They want to exclude them in all forms of decision making processes.
MSA: Why does this attitude exist against the Balochs only? Why not against the Punjabis, Pashtooons or Sindhis?
AR: Because Punjabis, Pashtoons and Sindhis are all part of the ruling elite. They don’t want to include the Balochs in this club of elite.
MSA: But they say Balochistan, ironically, has its own elite which has allegedly kept the Balochs backward and hampered all sorts of development in the Baloch areas.
AR: I agree. But you should see the level of development in Balochistan. There are no sardars or nawabs in Mekran (Turbat, Gwadar and Panjgur districts). There are no sardars in many other parts of Balochistan. The Sardar is no longer significant. It is an evolutionary thing. You can not impose an immediate change in social and political relations. What you can do is to evolve the people, not necessarily the sardars only, by giving them their socio-economic rights. You give the masses education, good health facilities and better economic opportunities so that they can stand before their own sardars. This change is not impossible. Look at Mir Hazar, for instance, who has challenged Nawab Khair Baksh Marri. Now, Nawab Marri and his sons can not go in the Bijrani region of the Marri area. Why? Because he has empowered his people.
I think our biggest contribution to the Baloch movement is that we sowed the seed of anti-nawab and anti-sardar thinking in terms of people’s rights. If Khair Baksh’s children, for example, are able to study at Aitcheson College or in London then it is equally the right of the sons of Mir Hazar and other Marris to go abroad and study.
That seed that we had embedded is what is being seen as a political development. Fortunately, this change is not occurring in the Marri tribe only. When the other Baloch tribes look at the Marris, they say why they should not apply the same model. That seed that we embedded in the Marris is now spreading across Balochistan and has become a small plant hopefully it will continue to grow. When we are talking about change in social orders, we cannot bring change in a very short period of time. It is an evolutionary change, a slow but progressive change.
MSA: So you are trying to say that the Baloch society is not stagnant but continuously evolving. How big an issue is tribal structure of Balochistan?
AR: Yes, the Baloch society is definitely evolving. It is not stagnant at all. The tribal system is no longer the issue. The issue is of economics, socio-economic development, and exposure of the Baloch social structure to the outside world. At the same time, education is very important. The younger generation needs to be educated. They need to be given skills. Human resource development must take place. The Balochs should be given an opportunity to earn an adequate livelihood.
MSA: Some Balochs complain that the federation has deliberately kept them backward. Do you agree?
AR: Yes, I do. Look at Sui where gas was discovered in 1952 and the gas went all over Pakistan except Balochistan. Sui town is half a kilometer from the gas refinery but it has no gas in the Baloch colony. Dera Bugti is another 50 kilometer away from the gas field but has no gas facility. Only in 1986, Quetta got gas but that too because of the military cantonment present in Quetta. Even today, if you look at consumption of gas in Balochistan, it is barely 2%. Out of 30 districts of Balochistan, only the main towns of four districts have access to the very gas that was discovered and supplied to the whole country since 1952 from Balochistan. The gas pipeline from Sui to Quetta passes two kilometers away from Sibi but Sibi has no gas. This whole thing has led to degradation of the environment. Trees are cut for firewood to cook food. Therefore, the rains are further reduced. This has subsequently generated water issues and deforestation in Balochistan where the underground water level has gone as down as 700 feet. The real question is ownership and control over the natural resources of any given area.
MSA: Some observers from outside find it difficult to describe the ultimate goal of the Baloch movement. Is it a movement that seeks maximum provincial autonomy or separation from Pakistan to found an independent Balochistan?
AR: When the movement started even much earlier than 1970, when we joined it, at that time the movement asked for sharing powers and control over their natural resources. This stemmed from the idea of self-rule and complete provincial autonomy in a federating unitary system. The Baloch movement has now been pushed to that point where they have started to actually asking for the right of self-determination.
MSA: Has this movement, which asks for right to self-determination or independence, arrived to a no-return point?
AR: If we don’t realize our mishandling of peoples rights and do something positive in the next year or two, I think then it will be too late. There is still a very thin and small chance to rectify the situation. If the Pakistani state realizes its mistakes and wants to keep Pakistan as it is today then it has to do something about it.
MSA: There is a hullabaloo in Balochistan about the target killings in Balochistan of the Punjabi settlers. You are a Punjabi who has worked very closely with the Balochs. How do you feel about it? Do you not think such cases are likely to alienate friends of Balochistan like yourself?
AR: It is a good question. Target killings are not confined to Punjabis alone. Hazaras and other ethnic communities are also the victim of target killings. Let me be very categorically clear and state this that it is not the Baloch movement doing this. Target killings are being done by some Balochs or Pashtoons agents of the intelligence agencies who are being instigated and paid to do this. In Mastung, for instance, two persons attempt to target kill a school teacher were caught red-handed by the members of the community. They turned out to be the personnel of an intelligence agency and possessed official service cards.
Currently, there is a lot of fear and resentment in the Punjab about these target killings.
There is another issue here. Some of the settlers, not necessarily just Punjabis, have been guilty of giving information to the intelligence agencies about guerilla movements. Unfortunately, Awami National Party (ANP) is also a part of it. They are now giving anti-Baloch statements from the Pashtoon side. I perceive that they (the rulers) are still following the same divide and rule policy in Balochistan and trying to pit the Pashtuns against the Baloch; Balochs against the Hazaras and the Hazaras against the Pashtoons. They have managed to develop a situation of uncertainty by creating ethnic rivalry among the people of the province. By doing so, they think they can destroy the whole Baloch movement in this way.
MSA: You have been emotionally attached with the Baloch movement. Do you also tell your children about your Balochistan experiences?
AR: As a very small supporter of the Baloch movement, I have even taught my son a little Balochi. In 1997, I brought two of my nephews and my own son to Marri area to show them how people lived there. I wanted them to know what the Baloch society looked like and what it was all about. I deliver lectures in Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and other universities. The youth of the Punjab understands the problem of Balochistan. They lack current information. So it’s a little difficult to mobilize them on this issue.
MSA: Do you support the movement for an independent Balochistan?
AR: Any person who believes in the international human rights conventions has to support the independence movement of Balochistan. In any case, if the Baloch nation is suppressed and repressed for as long as 62 years and there is “genocide” going on then the Balochs have very right to seek self-determination. I will support them in anyway that I can.
MSA: What recommendations do you have for Islamabad to resolve the Balochistan crisis?
AR: The government should immediately take confidence building measures.The government needs to address these issues immediately. 1) Withdraw the FC from Balochistan as they are promoting ethnic conflict. 2) Withdraw the army to the positions of 2000. 3) Release and give information of all missing or killed Baloch people especially the 150 odd women. 4) Cancel all agreements with foreign companies who are exploiting the gold-copper from Balochistan and the Gwader port authority. 5) Hand over these projects to the provincial government. 6) Release all political prisoners and student activists. 7) Move complete provincial autonomy as the priority legislation to be made for all provinces allowing only 3 or 4 subjects to the Federal government. 8 ) Taxation should be provincial subject with a share given to federal for its expenses. 9) All natural resources belong to the people of the district, province and not the central government.
The constitutional packages and all these things are nonsense. These packages do not solve the issue. They think they can buy the Baloch. Let me tell you categorically, you can never buy the Baloch. If you give the Baloch respect, they will give you respect. If you offer them friendship, they will give you friendship. If you share your bread with them, they will share their bread with you. If you try to take anything away from them by force, they will resist it till the last man.