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Balochistan and clash of ideas

January 22, 2013

MUCH has been written and said about Hazara killings in Balochistan in recent times. Hazaras claim that they have lost more than 1,000 people in the last eight to 10 years while many have migrated to other countries, particularly to Australia.

I interact with them on a daily basis and have noticed that they are culturally, religiously close to Afghans and Iranians due to their historical links.

Leaving history and wrongdoings of the British colonials aside, it is interesting to observe as to why they have become a soft target in recent times.

Pakistan after the military takeover by Gen Zia adopted the path of Islamisation. Balochistan has traditionally been a province of fiefdoms and the state has never been functioning there with full presence like in other parts of the country.

There have been ‘A’ areas and ‘B’ areas with nominal state writ.

There have been two groups of Baloch nationalists — pro-establishment Sardars and anti-establishment Sardars — both with anti-establishment nationalist left-leaning masses.

The state in the 1980s established the web of religious seminaries, particularly in the areas under pro-establishment sardars.

The effort was focussed on neutralising the centrifugal trends of the masses, since the majority of the population followed

Sufi-inspired ultra-right forces of Islam, the only antithesis could be the militant Salafi version.

Similar efforts were made in interior Sindh but strong Sindhi cultural nationalism fought back with ‘Sindhi Ajrak and Topi day’ and by strengthening Sufi-inspired Islam.

It is actually that fear of backlash from strong Sindhi nationalist forces which has till day kept far-right forces in check in rural Sindh.

The policy has now taken roots and has fractured Pakistani society to an almost irreparable extent. The anti-pluralist orthodox right forces have gained so much power that these forces are now putting their agenda in practice.

It may be pleasing for some elements inside the establishment but in reality it is suicidal.

The remedy is one education system: teaching philosophy at secondary schools ceases state support to ultra-right forces.

ATIF MAJOKA     Melbourne