Saturday, June 8, 2013

COMMENT : Nawaz Sharif’s generosities towards Balochistan — Lal Khan



There have been several cosmetic attempts by the previous regimes to carry out reform to pacify the masses in Balochistan 

On the appointment of Dr Abdul Malik as the chief minister of Balochistan by Nawaz Sharif, there is a display of euphoria by the media, the political superstructure, civil society and the political outfits serving as umbrella organisations for diverse NGOs. There is also widespread praise for the newly elected rightwing prime minister, representative of Pakistan’s ruling class. From his former home minister and presently rival Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain on the right to the ex-lefts who have capitulated to capitalism, laurels are being showered on Nawaz Sharif for his ‘generosity’. It is indubitable that every sane person would be wishing an end to the bloodshed and mayhem that has engulfed Balochistan.

Yet to create an illusion that just by changing the political leadership at the top of the administration can resolve this grotesque carnage and bring peace to this tragic land is dangerous and will lead to inevitable disappointment and disillusionment. The repression of the state in Balochistan is not out of habit or just for the sake of it. The host of proxy wars being waged and sponsored by vested interests have reasons behind them.

This gruesome barbarity has grave material, financial and strategic interests at the core. Balochistan’s coastline runs up to the Iranian border, ending just before the straits of Hormuz through which passes a good 40 percent of the world’s oil supply.

It is a no surprise that a new great game is being played out in the wilderness of this resource-rich region. The geostrategic importance and the abundance of rich mineral resources have in effect become a curse and a tragedy for the poor inhabitants of Balochistan. The existing state structures and the economic system are designed and destined to exploit the resources and oppress the people. Within this administrative and economic framework the grievances of these deprived masses cannot even be addressed, what to say of solving them.

Mr Sharif’s gesture of giving power to one of the factions of the Baloch nationalists is not to abolish the plunder of Balochistan by imperialists and the Pakistani elite but a manoeuvre to facilitate and sustain it. The situation in Balochistan is too critical and complex. The state and the system are too rotten to introduce any improvement or stability within the confines of the present setup. It is not merely the army, the Frontier Constabulary and other paramilitaries but there are several other so-called non-state actors sponsored by diverse sections of the state itself. Then there are the rival imperialist powers sponsoring their own proxies, complicating the conflict even more. Certain Arab and Muslim ‘brethren’ regimes with hegemonic designs are financing fundamentalist outfits, wreaking havoc upon the ordinary people of the region. The largest seminary of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi/SSP outside of the south Punjab is in Mastung.

The insurgency in Balochistan has been intermittently surging for over six decades now. The state has been repressing the struggle against national and class oppression ever since. However, there have been several interludes imposed either by fatigue or betrayals.

After the insurgency in the mid-1970s, General Ziaul Haq released most of the Baloch nationalist leaders and activists. He also rescinded the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case to drive a wedge in the resistance against his despotic rule. Yet the national and class oppression continued and state brutalities went on unabated. Perhaps Mr Sharif has taken a leaf from General Zia’s diary.

In the last analysis it is not the good intentions and sincerity of Dr Malik that is in question. The most articulate, genius and brilliant of the politicians cannot develop a society with a crippled economic base and a social fabric torn apart by the burgeoning crisis. One cannot revive one’s virility by dyeing one’s hair black. Even in the 1960s when due to the spin-off effects of the capitalist boom in the west, the Pakistani economy grew at a rapid pace with growth rates reaching nine percent, there was little or no industrialisation in Balochistan. No major infrastructure was developed. The regime in Islamabad failed to provide the deprived masses of Balochistan with basic facilities such as health, education and so on. The exploitation was such that the natural gas from the reserves in Balochistan reached Islamabad long before it was supplied to Quetta. Today Pakistani capitalism is so rotten that it simply does not have the financial and economic capacity to alleviate poverty and end deprivation.

Also, the comprador bourgeoisie lacks the strength and ability to put a stop to the imperialist pillage of Balochistan. Different factions of the state are actually falling over each other to either directly or indirectly serve the interests of rival imperialists scavenging the region to extort its riches. There have been several cosmetic attempts by the previous regimes to carry out reform to pacify the masses in Balochistan. The last one was the ‘Aghaaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan’ package. It proved hollow rhetoric. Even if Dr Malik tries his level best and gets his full powers through the 18th Amendment with all the designated funds, he will, at best, implement superficial changes. More importantly, he will be powerless to stop the conflagration. This will further exacerbate the contradictions as the masses will want to see real changes in their daily existence. But the basic question is that there are no funds in the debt-ridden semi-bankrupt state to spend. The reality is that just to finance debt-servicing, military and dreaded security expenditures, the state managers will have to go with a begging bowl to the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions.

The mineral resources of Balochistan can only be utilised for its oppressed inhabitants when they collectively control and own them. This means that the imperialist ownership of these resources have to be expropriated. This cannot happen under capitalism. Would Dr Malik be prepared to abolish capitalism? Mr Sharif’s much touted generosity hides the fact that it is yet another ploy by the Pakistani state and its imperialist bosses to continue the exploitation of Balochistan to plunder its wealth. The middle-class Baloch leader in the last analysis will end up doing the dirty work if he remains within the confines of the system and its state. Individuals from the middle and toiling classes when inducted into state power do not change the system but the system converts them into custodians for the rule of capital. Mr Sharif is a shrewd businessman and an astute negotiator. The deal he did in Balochistan is for the benefit of the capitalist elite, not to their disadvantage.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at ptudc@hotmail.com

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