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A Turning Point in the Baloch Liberation Movement
Monday, June 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm
Dr Shahswar K
On 10 June 2014 the Baloch nation lost one of her most beloved sons, the veteran Baloch political leader, Khair Baksh Marri. He was born on 29 February 1928, the same year that Reza Khan Mir Panj the Persian military dictator invaded and occupied western Balochistan. Ironically, this can be seen as a contest between two antinomies in disguise. On one hand was the birth of a symbol of resistance and on another the birth of a parasite colonial state. Whilst the two events were unrelated they have been interlinked in some way. A Baloch child was born into a homeland, that he was unaware, had been taken from him by force. In his teenage years this child detected an incurable defect in the system. He personally experienced escalating cycles of envy, violence and exploitation by the system. It is no wonder he fostered a belief that the political system imposed on him was a cataclysmic disaster, not just to to him but also to his people. What followed was that he judicially worked out the real source of injustice. To this end he used his critical mind, evaluating the nature of the colonial system and its cataclysmic effects and for this he was branded a heretic from a very early age.
In his lifetime Balochistan went through an astonishing number of upheavals and he was placed at the centre of these events and had to endure the hardships of such turmoil. Eastern Balochistan regained its independence in 1947 and then lost its freedom to the theocratic Frankenstein state of Pakistan. The Pakistani army, made up of mainly Punjabi Muslims, launched five military operations in eastern Balochistan, resulting in thousands of Baloch being disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, displaced and killed. To state the obvious, the dividing line was clearly drawn between two opposite thoughts. It would be counter intuitive if it was not. The imposed political order was entirely irreconcilable to its moral campus.
The world has changed during his life time. The Second World War broke out and the British Empire collapsed. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and then vanished and the Persian people overthrew their King during the 1979 revolution and replaced him with a fanatical Shia theocracy. Last and not the least, the internet opened the dictators Pandora’s box and their dream of everlasting tyranny has evaporated into thin air. The gates of the last bastions of autocracy and despotism were opened and the world began to know about many colonial geopolitical structures that once were considered as unified and homogenous. The question was; why preserve a geopolitical structure that is inherently violent, undemocratic, irrational, immoral, inefficient and unwanted? Balochistan is an archetypal victim of such a system. For Khair Baksh Marri this was a riddle that only Baloch could resolve. So he dedicated his life to this cause. Subsequent events have proved that his hypothesis was true and now we see before our eyes the whole region being on the verge of disintegration. Sadly he is not with us any more at the very time that we need his wisdom the most.
For most of his adult life he was struggling against one of the most criminal and corrupt states that is known in modern history. The Pakistani state, from its inception to the present day, has been involved in a quagmire of dirty politics, bigotry, sleaze and exploitation and has been responsible for the criminal bloodbath in Balochistan. Baloch were dragged against their will and dumped in the midst of this toxic colonial swamp and to get out of this swamp is a herculean task. Not many individuals have accomplished this end uncontaminated. Khair Baksh Marri is an exception among Baloch political leaders and it is commonly believed that he worked hard to accomplish this mission untainted by corruption or lies. The truth is in leading the Baloch voyage of liberation no one has questioned his candour, honesty and his deep sense of justice. He was bound to be the main target of a Pakistani political, religious, military, media and commercial establishment. The Pakistani state conspired against him constantly but he came out of all these trials impeccable. He was an outstanding Baloch political leader of our time and the Baloch people’s gratitude toward this modest and unassuming man is not misplaced and will remain evermore within the length and breadth of Balochistan and will be remembered in history for all time.
The fact of the matter is oppressed people sooner or later finds their leaders. The late Khair Baksh Marri is the product of his time and place. He was a well-informed, public-spirited and consistent man. Political leaders of such qualities are very rare. He broke the spell of a firmly held belief that the history of Balochistan was over and made a robust denunciation of entrenched assumptions that conceived colonialism as the natural order. This requires courage. Courage, however, is a lonely business. In the beginning the one to be despised would be exonerated whilst the messenger of truth and justice would be held responsible for the anomic violence and insecurity. Masters and bondsmen alike reproach the messengers for their unconventional outlook.
Khair Baksh was a visionary and pioneering leader. For decades very few people shared his thoughts of a free Balochistan. The vast majority told him that it was unattainable. But the two contrasting forms of survival are irreconcilable. Freedom and subjugation are not a compatible way of life. Khair Baksh was among the first Baloch political leaders who recognised the colonial geopolitical structure of Pakistan as a transitory system – a construction that contained the seeds of its own destruction. The alternative view to his was submission to the will of the colonial state and army. Both the right and the left mocked him for his stand as if he defied the laws of nature. This was not because he was wrong but because struggle for acquiring ones inherited rights is hard and risky. It is a cause for lament that those Baloch who opposed him made virtue out of fear, opportunism and interest or purely out of criminal intent. The logical conclusion of all these excuses was to forgo freedom and surrender to a colonial order.
The most significant contribution that Khair Baksh has made to the Baloch liberation movement is not that he stood decisively against colonialism and repression. His distinctive mark was imbued in his moral philosophy. Much the same is true for the clarity of his thoughts and purposeful intent about the question at issue. Moreover, he was very conscious of the repercussion and ramifications of this political and moral stance. The process in which this transition took place was a gradual one. For upholding this position his life was in constant danger from 1950s, onwards. He was put in prison during 1950s, 60s, 70s and at the dawn of present millennium. For the rest of his life either he was in exile or in house arrest. Khair Baksh’s philosophy of the struggle for freedom, justice and equality amounted to the destruction of a colonial geopolitical structure. He paved the way for the demise of Baloch subjugation and giving prominence to the diffusion of political power to Baloch people to determine their own future.
His inspiration came from all sorts of sources but most specifically from his experience of living under British and Panjabi colonial rulers. It is impossible to dissociate the formation of his political and moral philosophy from Pakistan’s rampant bloodshed, exploitation and destruction in Balochistan. He set out to expose, with the cannons of evidence, the imposition of theocratic colonial geopolitical structure on Balochistan . His persistence in words and in practice succeeded to disentangle this myth and morass of venality. In his teaching he openly rejected the degrading and socially incapacitating invading armies and political and religious establishments. To suppose Punjabi and Persian colonialism, as systems of the obligation of reciprocity, he argued, involves a logical fallacy.
He was well read and up-to-date on current affairs. His lifelong convictions, however, were influenced by socialist and liberation movements of 1940s and 1950s. But the foundation of his political and moral philosophy is first and foremost rooted in Baloch liberal, secular and humane values and traditions. For him the overriding condition of legitimacy of any political system is the general consent of free people. This belief is the keystone of his political philosophy. Those that opposed him, Baloch or otherwise, started from a different premise. From the early days of his political career he realized that in the case of Balochistan if the overriding premise does not commence from Baloch inherent human and the democratic rights, Baloch would never be free of colonialism.
By the same token, it follows that the future of the Baloch people would not be any different to that of Native Americans or Australian Aborigines. One of his core beliefs was that the extermination of an entire nation, their history, culture, language, traditions, moral and legal values, art and music, economy, land and environment would only serve a small clique of colonial political, religious and military elites. Such deeds deserve all the contempt that history can bestow. In this case there are two options open to the subjugated. Either they would resist subjugation and get back their rights or accept the conquerors domination and disappear. He rejected the subservient option and opted for resistance.
On the contrary, the determining premise for Persian and Punjabi colonial rulers is the sanctity of the colonial constructions of Iran and Pakistan. These structures are held as being eternal and untouchable. The primary premise for the ruling religious establishments is Islam. For the Marxists it is the unity of the world’s working class and for the liberals and conservatives it is the prevailing national and international laws. These precepts would invariably deny Baloch their natural rights. Any paradigm that begins with a general assertion of this kind would be to the detriment of Baloch people or other nations in a similar situation. Colonial determinism is in stark contrast to Kair Baksh’s moral philosophy. Colonialism is not a self-evident truth. For his opponents colonialism is the only certain truth. Resorting to a presupposition that endorses subjugation as the only truth is debilitating burden to equality, justice and freedom. His adversaries, as to be expected, have overlooked the central premise of his message and then accused him of being a narrow minded nationalist and a political loser. Some even went as far as accusing him of the colonial states’ atrocities and exploitation in Balochistan. All these people, most with intent and a few naively, have attacked him on matters that were trivial and irrelevant to the central point of his moral philosophy. The real source of his contention was not the Baloch nation on its own but colonialism in general and most specifically the colonial states that occupy Balochistan. His remedy is not to have more of the same colonialism but to terminate it once and for all.
Khair Baksh Marri was not only a distinguished Baloch liberation leader but more than that he was an insightful moral philosopher. He was consistent and was one of the most forthright exponents of lucid ethics. At the heart of his moral campus are the precepts of freedom, justice and equality. Most specifically, it is the recognition of equal rights between all free human beings that seem to stand out above all. The necessary and sufficient preconditions for peace and prosperity are seen in the maintenance of humanity, freedom, justice and equality. These are the building blocks of a peaceful and democratic society. The painful experience of Baloch history has taught them that these rights are neither inscribed in religious texts, nor in colonial rulers’ texts, nor in Marxian texts or any other liberal or illiberal discourses. The book to find these rights for Baloch is in Balochistan. The realization of this fact is a credit to Khair Baksh’s moral philosophy. He was arguably the first and most prominent Baloch political leader and moral philosopher who articulated this discourse with sufficient clarity and applied it in his liberation struggle. Furthermore, he stood by his words and acted accordingly. He knew too well that without a free and democratic Balochistan, any talk of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, rule of law, economic prosperity and peace is meaningless.
The rest of his ideas are logical conclusions of his moral philosophy. One conclusion that can be derived from his moral stance is that freedom cannot be obtained without struggle and pain. Most certainly it does not come from jingoistic and theocratic politics. Besides, emancipation is not achievable if we do not liberate ourselves from fear first. Fear paralyses its victims. It is an instrument of control. Colonial states use this instrument to subdue and force subjugated people to submission.
In his teachings colonial slavery is unnatural and it can be defeated and eventually will be defeated. We just need to have confidence to fight against it and not to accept less than our equal rights. It is then and only then that colonial rulers can be stopped from their control and the subjugated can refuse to be ruled by them.
Another stepping stone to his moral philosophy is that no one else can free the oppressed except the oppressed people. Relying on oneself is the only effective way of getting the liberation movement to its ultimate destination. For this reason he put his faith in Baloch to liberate and establish their free and democratic society. On this account his moral theory is grounded in humanism. The oppressed are the source of change and they are the true potential for creating a better society and deciding their future.
One cannot doubt his high expectation of the oppressed people. Deep down, he knew that his people would stand up for their democratic rights and would break the chain of colonialism. A free and independent Balochistan is possible in his view whenever Baloch people discern their fundamental rights and want to be free. He argued at length that Baloch progress and well being cannot be compatible with colonial states progress and well being. The conflict of interest between the two is undeniable. This conflict cannot be resolved within the given boundary of the colonial geopolitical structure. The disease is the colonial system. The remedy is to remove the colonial structure and let the free nations to cooperate on the basis of mutual interests, benefit and respect. Perhaps, more than any other Baloch leader he figured out the criminal and corrupt nature of the Punjabi theocratic military and political establishment. In his judgement, which proved to be right, this establishment cannot and would not afford to leave Balochistan if it is not forced out of Balochistan.
The right of self preservation is another guiding principle of his moral philosophy. He believed that one can get nowhere unless one resists repression and with informed and organised resistance people can acquire their rights sooner or later.
Khair Baksh Marri was a pioneer political leader. He is the first true Baloch national leader in the true sense of the word. For the first time in the history of Balochistan we had a liberation leader who was known nationwide and respected all over Balochistan. He dedicated his entire life to the freedom and well-being of his people in a most honest and earnest manner. There are very few political leaders in human history that have completed a journey that was as long as his and as perilous as his with such dignity and integrity. Unfortunately, he is not with us anymore but he will always be one of the most inspiring figures in our history.
In the realm of resisting repression there are many unexpected ups and downs. In this journey no one is infallible. The Baloch road to freedom has been very long, very difficult and painful. In retrospect, many things could have been done differently. But such shortcomings apply to everything and everyone, especially someone who leads a liberation movement. On the most important matters Khair Baksh Marri never failed his people and led his people with all his power and love until his last breath. He remained true to his words and deeds. He taught us that in the marathon of struggle for freedom not all the participants cross the finish line but if we keep going eventually we cross the line.
Baloch unity is a paramount factor to secure freedom. In his life time he made many attempts to unite all Baloch democratic forces in one united front but was under no illusion that any unity is not the recipe to success. A unity that has no clear purpose and is not informed will lead to greater disunity later.
He was a visionary leader with clear aims for lasting peace and cooperation. He laid the foundations of the ongoing Balochistan democratic liberation movement and left a legacy of tolerance, wisdom and responsibility that is hard to follow.
What he wanted from us is to stand upright and confident to fight for our democratic rights until we receive these rights. In his manner and conduct he showed us how to be moderate, be conscientious, open minded, responsible and truthful in what we believe and do. He wanted us to put short term interests aside and fight for a much greater goal of freedom and human dignity for all. He educated us that the current theocratic geopolitical structures are not here forever and we are not doomed to be in chains forever. The better prepared we are the more ready we would be when freedom comes. The best way to remember him is to remember his central message to unite in a well defined and informed platform, with a clear set of objectives and fight for our freedom until we succeed.
Dr Shahswar K is a Baloch political and Human Rights activist, and the co-ordinator of International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons in United Kingdom. He is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at London Metropolitan University, United Kingdom. He is the author of “Money and its Origins”