COMMENT: Real estate and fossilised mindsets —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur - Sunday, April 24, 2011

Balochistan has suffered since 1947 because it too is considered real estate, albeit a prime one. The more lucrative and bountiful the real estate, the more staunchly it will be ensured that it remains so even if that entails and requires genocide 

I was shocked to read in Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s speech in an Okara school last week that, “the Indian nuclear explosion in 1974 was even a greater shock for the nation than the fall of Dhaka in 1971”. This exposed the extremely delinquent, infantile and fossilised mindset that pervades the establishment.

The sheer inhumanness, insensitivity and callousness of his avowal stunned me because it expediently overlooked the extreme mental, physical and spiritual sufferings and anguish of the entire Bengali nation during the storming of East Pakistan. All Bangladeshis suffered, directly or indirectly, as thousands upon thousands were killed, raped, looted, displaced, dislocated, traumatised and terrorised by the army and its cohorts singularly obsessed with protecting the shaky Pakistani ideology, writ of the government and territorial integrity. The entire population there lived amid fear and terror until the well deserved humiliating surrender of General Niazi out of utter hopelessness; had the situation not been so desperate for the army, the Bengalis would have suffered even more and for longer.

As the impact of the statement’s initial shock receded, I understood that this statement had not come out of the blue but has its basis in the fact that the people who lived in then East Pakistan counted not a whit for the West Pakistani elite, establishment and army. Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, the rich language, the music, the dances, their history and their culture meant nothing to those in authority here and their supporters who continually demanded more and more severe actions against the ‘Indian agents’, the ‘enemies of Islam’ and the ‘traitors to Pakistani ideology’.

It dawned upon me that for the elite, establishment and the army, Bangladesh was never more than a piece of ‘real estate’. Consequently, I realised why, even after 40 years, no apology has been forthcoming for the war crimes and atrocities perpetrated against the Bengalis. You do not apologise to a piece of real estate that somehow is lost from your list of possessions. With this mindset being predominant, apology and remorse over what the army and its mercenaries did there can be ruled out forever.

The Bengalis then had demanded no more than their inborn right to govern their own destiny and manage their own affairs but were offered paltry palliative measures instead; they demurred and the offended establishment decided to teach them a lesson. The Baloch too are demanding their rights now and are suffering.

The belief, notion and attitude that Dr Abdul Qadeer and others in the elite, establishment and leadership display towards these issues do not form in a vacuum or void but have a basis in their warped sense of pride and even more perverted sense of self-importance and imaginary ‘tryst with destiny’.

This fatal flaw makes them give more importance to real estate in comparison to the people, be it Balochistan, Bengal or Sindh, and therefore, naturally, to the weapons and institutions necessary to maintain a stranglehold over all this real estate. This is the pervasive and the predominant conviction and belief within the elite and establishment and it is for this reason that the Pakistani state is only concerned with seeking profits from real estate, spends rashly on defence, and is a ‘national security’-obsessed state.

Since the state is interested only in profits from and not the people residing in the real estate, the health and education sectors have gone from bad to worse. The physical infrastructure has crumbled and there is continuous and permanent electric and gas load shedding. A majority of the people does not have clean drinking water, the irrigation system is in shambles and roads, apart from the showcased ones, are ragged and potholed. Law and order is non-existent; all this is making life miserable for the people. Moreover, the state is unprepared and unbothered about apparently hypothetical social and natural disaster scenarios but when these do become a reality, as in the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods, they abandon the people to fend for themselves.

The attitude of the rulers, establishment and the army since 1947 has been to consider the units falling to the share of the new state as real estate awaiting exploitation. It was on this basis that lands in Sindh were illegally and wantonly allotted and gifted to people and institutions under different excuses and, because of that, today Sindh is a demographic nightmare for the indigenous people who have become increasingly marginalised and are slowly being pushed into pockets that may become large scale ghettoes in the not too distant a future.

As if not content with the already decreasing space for indigenous Sindhis, the present rulers, like the crafty ‘au fiat’ property dealers, realising the huge earning potential of the land and building industry, have criminally designated the hitherto virgin areas of Thatta and adjoining areas as ‘Zulfiqarabad’ for hammering in the last nail into the coffin of indigenous rights. Mind you, had the Baloch not taken to the mountains by now, Balochistan would have been picked clean and laid waste beyond recognition.

Balochistan has suffered since 1947 because it too is considered real estate, albeit a prime one. The more lucrative and bountiful the real estate, the more staunchly it will be ensured that it remains so even if that entails and requires genocide. The regular turning up of the dead bodies of kidnapped youths and the constant fear that the Baloch population lives in is the result of the attempts to subdue and cow down the ‘Indian agents’, the ‘enemies of Islam’ and the ‘traitors to Pakistan’s ideology’ as had been done in Bangladesh.

As Baloch demands for rights and resources gain support, we see the ever increasing involvement of the army in projects and responsibilities that are the politicians’ and civilian authorities’ domain; this speaks volumes about the pathetic failure of the civilian government and the profound anxiety prevailing in the military establishment about the increasing support for the militants among the masses.

It should be understood that in Balochistan opening technical and military colleges and incentives for more recruitment in the army is certainly not going to soothe the wounds inflicted and the callousness and insensitivity demonstrated for the last 64 years. The people see the relentless and remorseless daily dumping of the bodies of Baloch youth and increasing number of missing persons as the true face of the state. It will take some convincing to make them see the state as a benign entity.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

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