A Baloch activist friend who lives abroad recently wrote to me and expressed concern that some quarters among the Baloch are trying to forge a Baloch-MQM (Altaf)* alliance on the plea that the MQM is anti-establishment and will prove helpful to the Baloch. It is a tricky path to tread with such alliances which join disparate ideologies and sentiments on the basis of quite flimsy grounds of perceived anti-establishment stance. The friend also asked to express my views about this.
Writing about such issues, though necessary, has its pitfalls for there is the possibility of creating misunderstandings among friends and supporters, not to mention even within the ranks of the Baloch too. However, despite the hazards, the subject is too important to not to be commented upon.
The Baloch have been here since millenniums and have a history which was forged by their struggles and vicissitudes in their lives and are a nation by that right. Nationhood never comes on a silver platter. It evolves and exacts a heavy price and the Baloch have paid it by resisting invaders and colonizers; more so since the British came and even more since March 27, 1948. The situation today is that just being a Baloch is a crime enough as is proved by the recent abductions of Baloch students from Karachi, apart from the continued military operations in Balochistan, as well.
The military operations and the systematic enforced disappearance policy in Balochistan show that it is not that Baloch with certain political leanings are under threat; the punitive measures are against all Baloch except for those who like Dr Abdul Malik, Sanaullah Zehri and Abdul Quddus Bizenjo voluntarily and cheerfully enter the service of Pakistan and agree to implement and condone the brutal most policies and actions against the Baloch to deter them from asking for their rights and resources.
Moreover the Baloch struggle has been consistent despite the occasional lulls at times. The Baloch, and by that I mean those who hold their motherland close and dear to their hearts, have never agreed to be the stooges or instruments of the establishment. There is nobility and dignity in the struggle that they have chosen to continue against the establishment despite overwhelming odds. Their struggle has been inspirational and dignified barring some lapses of unnecessary killing of innocents. The Baloch in general own the struggle that continues to be waged for their rights.
I want to make one thing clear before I comment on the MQM. The MQM cannot be equated with the entire Urdu-speaking community for the MQM doesn’t represent all of them and not all the Urdu speaking people own it. It should be pointed out with thanks and appreciation that all Baloch-related issues, rallies and meeting are strengthened by a large number of Urdu-speaking progressives. They are consistently there and give hope to the Baloch that they are not alone. Any alliance with the MQM may antagonize even these sypmpathizers.
The MQM ruled urban areas of Sindh and held them hostage through the terror of not so mysterious ‘Na Maloom Afraad’. Everyone knew who they were but the establishment didn’t want to hurt its ally and only when they felt that Altaf was becoming a burden they ditched him and created new proxies for themselves. The May 12, 2007 incident showed that the establishment has a huge reserve of patience for its proxies for it doesn’t hesitate to even brutally disperse teachers, health workers, special persons and civil rights activists who so much as dare to protest peacefully.
The MQM was created by the establishment to serve its ends and the MQM has remained loyal barring a spat or two. The latest spat and the histrionics and verbal abuse of the establishment by Altaf Hussain should be taken with a bag full of salt as he has all his life retracted without compunction what he may have said in a moment of delirium. Depending on him for remaining anti-establishment is a folly. Even if he remains true to his recent rhetoric there isn’t much that he could do to damage or hurt the establishment. The MQM is a guarantee against the Sindhi nationalism and so will never be out of favour of the establishment for long.
The Baloch should understand that forging alliances with the MQM is forging alliance with the establishment. So, in my view, any alliance with the MQM is a folly and counter-productive. Those who think that an alliance with him is to the advantage of the Baloch should then also consider an alliance with the National Party of Hasil Bizenjo and Dr. Abdul Malik who are responsible for Baloch blood due to their capitulation and complicity with state actions and policies.
Where the Baloch are concerned, the MQM’s stance is no different than the state though its lip service may sound pro-Baloch and may mislead some into believing that the MQM is a friend of the Baloch.
When BSO Chairman Dr Imdad Baloch, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, Dr Yousuf Baloch, Dr Naseem Baloch, Ghulam Rasool Baloch, Nadeem Akhtar and Nawaz Ali Gohar Baloch were arrested by the Karachi police in March 2005, the four-party Baloch Alliance leaders and the Opposition Leader in the Balochistan Assembly, Kachkol Baloch, Jamhoori Watan Party Secretary-General Agha Shahid Hasan Bugti and MPA Mir Akbar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party (Mengal) appealed to the MQM and its sense of justice because it too had faced federal agencies’ coercion in the past. The MQM moved not a finger and we all know that these Baloch were tortured severely and released when quite near to death.
Not only that when the army was conducting operations against Bugtis in Dera Bugti after the rape incident of Dr Shazia Khalid in 2005 the MQM’s pronouncements were in support of the Baloch and that remained limited only to words. Interestingly, in February 2006, Mazhar Abbas writing in Newsline, said: “The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the most powerful coalition partner in President Pervez Musharraf’s political set-up, has once again decided to stay, rather than quit the government, despite much publicised threats to the contrary. It had threatened to quit to protest against the government’s decision to build the Kalabagh Dam, and the launching of the military operation in Balochistan”.
Lip service has always remained a tenet of faith with the MQM. After not following up on its empty threats for justifying its cowardice and its loyalty to the establishment it said it had changed its position because its demands were met. We all know how those demands were met.
Mazhar Abbas wrote further in that piece that “Observers believe that the MQM has not only lost the trust of friends within the government, but also among some of the nationalist parties, particularly in Balochistan and the Frontier. There is tension between the MQM and Nawab Akbar Bugti’s Jamhoori Watan Party, (JWP), which in the past had praised the MQM’s stance on Balochistan”. The JWP trust as you can see was based merely on the rhetoric which emanated from MQM’s leadership.
He further added, “The MQM’s decision to postpone its fact finding mission to Dera Bugti came after Nawab Akbar Bugti refused to cooperate with the delegation, apparently expressing his displeasure over the way the MQM had addressed the situation.”
“The decision to postpone the visit was taken after Bugti’s spokesman, Agha Shahid Bugti, refused to provide security and advised us not to visit,” said MQM chief, Altaf Hussain, in a late night statement on January 23, just a few hours before the 70-member delegation was to leave for Kashmore.
Prior to this decision, Altaf Hussain had a good relationship with Akbar Bugti, particularly after the alleged cooperation Bugti gave to the MQM during the 1992 operation, maintain informed sources.
Nawab Akbar Khan too was taken in by the empty promises and when words are not backed by deeds no one believes you or trusts you. The will to support the Baloch wasn’t ever there but as a leader of the JWP said that the phone conversation between Musharraf and Altaf Hussain put an end to the drama. The MQM then didn’t even have the decency to return the favours that Nawab Akbar Bugti did for them in 1992.
So my Baloch friends, those who are serious about forging an alliance with the MQM for its supposed anti-establishment stance, should bear in mind that come another day another Musharraf will appear on the scene and the anti-establishment stance of the MQM will vaporize and those Baloch who repose trust in the MQM will be left high and dry by them as they were in the year 2005 and 2006.
*MQM stands for Muthaida Qaumi Movement, which was previously known as Muhajir Qaumi Movement.
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur is a regular commenter on Balochistan. He has been associated with Baloch politics since 1970s.