DERA GHAZI KHAN: The speech in Taunsa Sharif by Balochistan National Party (BNP) leader Akhtar Jan Mengal last week, where he demanded the inclusion of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts in Balochistan, has initiated a debate among Seraiki and Baloch nationalists.

The most-revered politician, intellectual and ideologue of Baloch politics, Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bazenjo, in recognition of the Seraiki identity, formed the Seraiki chapter of his Pakistan National Party. In 1986, at the residence of his teacher, Mehmood Khan Buzdar, in DG Khan, he said if there was a difference of opinion among the masses at the time of the formation of a new province, the people of DG Khan and Rajanpur should be provided a chance to decide if they wanted to be part of Balochistan or the Seraiki province through a referendum.

In those days, Seraiki intellectual and researcher Zaman Jaffery, of Multan, wrote a thesis regarding the significance of historical cultural-cum-lingual connections among Seraiki, Sindhi and Baloch people. His findings were: socio-political and economic future of Sindh, Seraiki Vasaib and Balochistan had been interlinked for centuries and there was no space for contradiction among them.

Famous Baloch poet and nationalist Allah Bukhsh Buzdar said that DG Khan, Rajanpur and Khangarh (Jacobabad) were mainly Baloch-dominated areas to every Baloch. At the same time, Seraiki and Sindhi nationalists have an equal staunch claim over these areas. The universal principle of settling such an issue is through knowing the opinion of people inhabiting these border districts. He said that in his humble opinion, there was no reason to create hatred among oppressed people as Baloch and Seraikis have been living together peacefully for centuries.

“It’s up to the masses to decide whether they call themselves Baloch or Seraiki,” he said.

The common Baloch people who reside in mountains of Sulaiman range, when start their journey towards DG Khan, Rajanpur or Taunsa Sharif, say in Balochi, “Ma Sindha Rawaghain,” (I am going to Sindh). Tribal Balochi speaking people mostly consider the trans-Indus districts as part of Sindh.

In 1951-52, the tribal area located in mountainous Sulaiman range, an abode of nine Baloch tribes, was annexed and included in Punjab as per the will of their elders.

Mehmood Nizami, an intellectual and Seraiki nationalist, said the Seraikis had no differences with Baloch nationalists. He said historically DG Khan never remained part of Balochistan.

Pakistan Siraiki Party chairperson Dr Nukhbah Taj Langah called Mr Mengal’s visit to Taunsa “Usman Buzdar (PTI)-sponsored show” only aimed at making the Seraiki province issue controversial.

She said earlier the PML-N came up with the Bahawalpur province issue and now the PTI shared its own version of controversy. There was no historical evidence to prove this controversy was real, she added.

Mir Ghaus Bukhsh Bezinjo historically supported and fully acknowledged the Seraiki identity and the boundaries of Vasaib. Moreover, in the past all nationalist parties joined hands to set up PONAM for a collective cause during the Zia regime but later on this alliance came to an abrupt end because of anti nationalists plots. In the wake of Mr Mengal’s speech, it also seems another plot to create differences among nationalists.

Mushtaq Gadi of Siraiki Lok Saanjh said that the body considered both the Siraiki and Baloch people as oppressed nationalities who were united in their suffering. He sees no conflict in the present situation as there are constitutional provisions and path for the settlement of such differing claims.

The fact is that parliamentary and constitutional process for the creation of a new Seraiki province is already going on and all mainstream parliamentary parties, including the PTI and the PPP, back it. Similarly, the demand enjoys the support of all parliamentarians of DG Khan and Rajanpur. It once again reiterates the significance of parliamentary democracy in the settlement of such matters.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2019