Yaseen Ghani

Yes, I’m from Balochistan

baloch identity, balochi nationalism

Balochistan is not a country. When someone asks me here in Europe where I come from and I tell them Balochistan, it will most likely be the first time they hear about this piece of land. Then they ask me what language do we speak in Bal.. BalokBalokistan

“Balochistan,” I would come to their rescue. ”We’re a bilingual nation, so we speak Balochi and Brahvi,” I would add.

“Are they languages?” I was once asked by someone studying South Asian politics. I answered in the affirmative to his utter astonishment. Sometimes, I think, I should find a more convenient or effortless way to tell them that we are unwillingly a province or a part of Pakistan. Then they might affably tell me with briskness. ”Oh yea, we know Pakistan. So you are from Pakistan.¨ But, I willfully do not do that.

I want them to get this idea and be cognizant of the fact that the world is not exactly what they were told in their schools and elite colleges or universities. I want them to understand that our world is not those approximately 195 nation-states that they were taught it to be. There are regions and nations and ethnic groups which do not find themselves to be recognized in this narrow and indiscreet world order. The unfortunate upshot of it is that these groups do not find themselves to be recognized, represented and counted in the world stage.

These nations and ethnic groups without a nation-state of their own live and die in these veiled holes of anonymities. Their sufferings, sighs and problems never reach the global media. Their colorful crafts, music, dances, and their enriching sides of the culture can never make it to a global audience. Their conservative culture and outmoded rituals and customs could never get updated and reformed due to this enforced detachment to the bigger world. So, it is not just a loss for those groups to live in these blackholes of the modern world order without an identity and recognition, but for the richness and greatness of the whole world.

Whether anyone knows it or not, for me Balochistan is and was where I was born. It was there I learned to speak the very first words. It was there I smiled my first smile. It was there I laughed my first laughter. It was there I cried my first cry. It was there I went to school. It was there I made my first friends. It was there my world began and it is still my starting point no matter where I go. It is an experimental part of my personality and personal story as a human. It is not just a lost name in the mist of the time, but a place for millions of Baloch people where they live and die; where their stories with their joys and tears are born and die; where they aspire to be recognized and respected like the rest of the humanity. But, today, that land where I was born is plagued by war.

The hard fact of the matter is that there are far more nations without states than so-called nation states in the world. There are enormous groups of people with their own distinct piece of land, language, culture and shared history and do not have their own sovereign states, such as Kurds, Tamils, Baloch, Sindhis, Tibetans, and Yoruba people to name a few. Why such groups whose members are in the millions don’t have a right to their own so-called nation states while tiny countries like Malta, Iceland, Maldives, Brunei, Luxembourg, Qatar etc have their representatives sitting in the United Nations. All of these mentioned sovereign nation states with their land and populations together won’t even make half of Balochistan both in terms of land and population. Yet, if you tell someone that we are from Balochistan, it is as if you guilefully planned to confuse them. Anyhow, if you mention one of those little sovereign states, they might know it even without much thinking.

Let’s dig in deeper with the case of Baloch and Balochistan. Apart from the questions of rich civilizational roots and history of origin or ethnography. In the Middle Ages, the Baloch people lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle. The footprints of that agrarian and nomadic lifestyle can be seen in even our present collective cultural mentality. The Baloch nomads roamed around freely with their livestocks in the vastness of Balochistan which was even bigger than the size of the present day Germany. The harsh climate and scarcity of resources might have had formed our collective tribal culture and its rigid customs and values as well as the romantic folklores, congregational dances, and music.

But, the history of a Baloch sovereign state is tumultuous. It goes back and forth like the other regions of that time where the tribal federations, empires and kingdoms appear and disappear. But in 1758, when Mir Noori Naseer Khan Baloch revolted against the afghan empire, he reclaimed the Baloch sovereignty back in the Baloch land which was called Khanate of Kalat then. That sovereign state functioned until 1839 where Balochistan was forced into a British colony and its leader Khan Mehrab Khan Baloch was martyred along with 300 of his companions in his palace while fighting the British and their hired soldiers.

This temporary regain and loss of the Baloch sovereign state makes it even more interesting to ponder over this concept of the modern nation-states. The question about the origin of the so-called nation states is intellectually disputed by the historians and political theorists. But there has always been an element of ethnicity or a central bond in dynasties, kingdoms, empires, tribal federations, city states, even in oligarchies and dictatorships. Though they were multiethnic, there were always a dominant ethnicity or class which was united by a so-called mutual interest or a latent bond in exploiting the weaker classes or ethnic groups. It may not be totally wrong to claim that through this ethnocentric worldview nations and the nation sates must have evolved in their present-day sophistication.

After the killing of Mehrab Khan, the British appointed a successor of their own choice, Shah Nawaz, who was later forced out through an indigenous rebellion. Then came Mir Nasir Khan The Second and then Khan Khudadad Khan while the British representative’s position came second to the Khan and Balochistan enjoyed a unique status under the colonial system as a semi-autonomous state.

Well, getting back to the question of the states or the so-called nation states. One thing is evident that they are formed, deformed or reformed throughout the history. The concept of the nation-state can be an outright social construction, but a social construction with an unquestionable consensus can be deadly real when people get prepared to kill and die for it. when we live in a world where these states are the established fact and their behavior, attitudes, laws, treatments of its citizens and non-citizens effect every individuals. So, one would be left with no other options, but to take these nation-states serious and demands or aspire for one’s own.

When The Second World War ravaged the colonial powers and their position to rule was dramatically weakened, then began decolonization. It was a biased and exploitative process where lot of natural and unnatural lines were drawn and redrawn without taking into account the cultural, historical and lingual bonds of the native people.

Getting the green signal from the former colonial masters, Balochistan was trickily annexed with the newly formed state of Pakistan. As the traditions called for, the Baloch resisted the unjust annexation and the 1948 insurgency of Prince Karim began. Then followed the insurgencies of 1959 (led by Nauroz Khan), 1963 (led by Sher Muhammad), 1971 (led by Marri and Mengal tribes) and finally the current insurgency which began in 2004.

These insurgencies were a mixture of guerrilla warfare and political movements. When peaceful demands were rejected and arbitrary decisions were forced upon the Baloch people, they resisted. Thousands of Baloch were killed, thousands of them got displaced and today thousands of them are missing and are being extra-judicially held and tortured in the notorious military torture cells in Pakistan.

Whether one likes it or not, we live in an era of the so-called nation states. They are fundamental entities of our today’s global politics, economics and social order. The communist dream of getting rid of them failed, the free market dream of globalization is firing back, at least for the time being. New populistic movements are on the rise. The nation state as an entity of the world order, today, became an instrumentalizing means and an end to itself. Nevertheless, it is the status quo and the established world order with all its defects and shortcomings.

But the interesting question is that why just a few nation states? Why not all the ethnic groups have the right to their own nation states? Why these established so-called nation states are so obsessed with their felonious sovereignties where they deny the very right to other which they so violently guard for themselves at the first place. This double standard is a glaring conundrum which is repulsive. After all, the answer to this question is not simply without any ifs and buts, but somehow it seems like as if before the utopian dream of the one world comes true, every nation and ethnicity should have the right to their own nation state or at least they should be treated equal. The demand for a separate sovereign state by an ethnic group should be considered a human right. Every ethnic group and minority should have the right of self-determination to decide their own future.

No matter where we search for the evidence, it is quite clear that the privillaged ethnic groups which have the power in this so called nation states model: exploit the weaker ethnic groups. Even the best system of government, for instance democracies, failed to assure them a fair treatment. For example, the Baloch comprise almost five percent of Pakistan’s population while the dominant ethnic group alone counts for about 50 percent. In a country where the human rights are non-existence, how come one safeguard the basic human rights of the weak. The result is the exploitation, and loot, and murders, and conflicts, and the abuses of power.

The Baloch with other ethnic minorities all around the world deserve to have their own nation states. It shouldn’t come through blind nationalism, but a humanistic need of fair, just and equal treatment of all ethnic groups in the world. Today’s national boundaries and the so-called nation states have been formed with absolute unfairness and ill-intention. However, the dream for the one world shouldn’t die, and before that far-sighted dream of the distant future is achieved, we should make sure that millions of people in the blackholes of our modern world order be recognized, counted, respected and heard in the world stage.

Before that utopian dream of a global government comes true, I want to live in a world where I could tell others where I come from without confusing them.

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Yaseen Ghani studied Political Science from the University of Balochistan. He is also interested in philosophy.

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