Dis­grac­ing National Pride

The de­struc­tion of the Ziarat res­i­dency by rocket at­tacks was a trau­matic af­fair that rocked the na­tion. Was it enough to shake the peo­ple out of their reverie?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Dr. Moo­nis Ah­mar Dr. Moo­nis Ah­mar is a Pro­fes­sor of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at the Univer­sity of Karachi and Di­rec­tor, Pro­gram on Peace Stud­ies and Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion.

The at­tack on the Ziarat res­i­dency has dam­aged Pak­istan’s his­tory.

In the wee hours of June 14-15, 2013, mil­i­tants of the Baloch Lib­er­a­tion Army (BLA) launched a co­or­di­nated at­tack on the res­i­dency of Quaid-eAzam Mo­ham­mad Ali Jin­nah in Ziarat, Balochis­tan and de­stroyed that national her­itage. The BLA took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack and vowed to de­stroy all such sym­bols in the prov­ince.

Mo­ham­mad Ali Jin­nah, the first Gover­nor Gen­eral of Pak­istan, lived his last days in the hill re­sort of Ziarat as he was suf­fer­ing from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. Since his death, the Ziarat res­i­dency was de­clared a national her­itage and was re­named as Jin­nah res­i­dency. That build­ing was, in fact, built dur­ing the Bri­tish days and served as a res­i­dency for Bri­tish of­fi­cers posted in Balochis­tan.

Rocket pro­pelled grenades were fired at the res­i­dency, killing the lone po­lice­man on duty. The at­tack­ers also re­moved the flag of Pak­istan from the build­ing and put up the BLA flag. The National Assem­bly, which was hold­ing the bud­get ses­sion, strongly con­demned the at­tack and the fed­eral in­te­rior mi­nis- ter paid a visit to Ziarat to get first hand in­for­ma­tion.

For some time now, Balochis­tan has been fac­ing an in­sur­gency by the BLA and other na­tion­al­ist groups though this is not only the is­sue, Quetta is rocked by sev­eral sui­cide at­tacks, par­tic­u­larly against the Shi­ite Hazara com­mu­nity, killing hun­dreds of peo­ple. Strangely, the at­tack on the Jin­nah’s res­i­dency took place in a Pash­tun-dom­i­nated area which had been peace­ful and al­most free of crimes. If the BLA can tar­get a national her­itage in a non-Baloch area, it can also reach places where it has no phys­i­cal pres­ence like the Jin­nah mau­soleum in Karachi.

Ziarat is a hill re­sort in north western Balochis­tan. It is fa­mous for its ju­niper forests and wa­ter­falls. Thou­sands of tourists from dif­fer­ent parts of Pak­istan visit Ziarat ev­ery year and also visit the Jin­nah res­i­dency. The at­tack­ers not only de­stroyed the res­i­dency but cre­ated fear and in­se­cu­rity among the peo­ple of Ziarat - that they could be vul­ner­a­ble to such at­tacks in the fu­ture too.

The fed­eral govern­ment in­structed the Chief Min­is­ter of Balochis­tan to take all ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures to pro­tect the Jin­nah res­i­dency from fu­ture at­tacks and pledged to restore the res­i­dency to its orig­i­nal shape in three months. But the dam­age has been done. Not only the peo­ple of Pak­istan are in ut­ter shock over the at­tack but the out­side world is also ques­tion­ing the fail­ure of of­fi­cial au­thor­i­ties in pro­tect­ing its national her­itage from a bla­tant at­tack. Only one po­lice­man was posted at the res­i­dency and surely it was not pos­si­ble for him to pre­vent such an at­tack which was car­ried out by half a dozen armed men and nei­ther was it an­tic­i­pated

by the au­thor­i­ties.

Why were proper se­cu­rity mea­sures not taken to pro­tect the res­i­dency from acts of sub­ver­sion and why were state au­thor­i­ties so lethar­gic in ful­fill­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties? Th­ese are the ques­tions that are be­ing asked in the af­ter­math of the at­tack. How can the state ef­fec­tively guard its national and strate­gic as­sets?

Four fac­tors im­pact the causes and im­pli­ca­tions of the at­tack. First, the at­tack took place barely a few days af­ter the oath tak­ing of the Chief Min­is­ter of Balochis­tan Mr. Ab­dul Ma­lik Baloch who be­longs to the na­tion­al­ist National Party. When the Pak­istan Mus­lim League (N) emerged as the sin­gle largest party as a re­sult of the May 11 elec­tions, it agreed to sup­port Ma­lik hop­ing that he may be able to con­trol years of law­less­ness and in­sur­gency in Balochis­tan. But, the at­tack on the res­i­dency gave him the mes­sage that de­spite the pres­ence of na­tion­al­ist par­ties in the Balochis­tan govern­ment, they would not stop their anti-Pak­istan ac­tiv­i­ties.

The BLA de­mands an in­de­pen­dent Balochis­tan ar­gu­ing that the Khan of Kalat’s re­ported ac­ces­sion to Pak­istan in 1947 was il­le­gal and the new govern­ment of Pak­istan forcibly took con­trol of Balochis­tan. Ever since the as­sas­si­na­tion of Baloch leader Nawab Ak­bar Bugti in Au­gust 2006, Balochis­tan, par­tic­u­larly its Baloch ar­eas, are in tur­moil. No prov­ince of Pak­istan has ex­pe­ri­enced re­peated mil­i­tary ac­tion since the 1960s. In the May 2013 gen­eral elec­tions, the voter turnout was very low in the Baloch ar­eas of Balochis­tan which raised ques­tions about the cred­i­bil­ity of the polls.

Sec­ond, the is­sue of miss­ing per- sons, tor­ture and ab­duc­tions in Balochis­tan is a se­ri­ous mat­ter which is used by the BLA and var­i­ous sep­a­ratist groups to jus­tify armed strug­gle, par­tic­u­larly against the se­cu­rity forces and the non-Baloch set­tlers, namely the Pun­jabis. In view of nu­mer­ous at­tacks on Pun­jabi set­tlers in Balochis­tan, in­clud­ing Quetta, there has been an ex­o­dus of set­tlers from Balochis­tan. Baloch na­tion­al­ist and sep­a­ratist groups con­sider the Pun­jabi dom­i­nated mil­i­tary and bu­reau­cracy as be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the loot and plun­der of the prov­ince’s nat­u­ral and min­eral re­sources. They also give the ex­am­ple of what they con­sider the “col­o­niza­tion” of Gwadar port and the bru­tal ex­ploita­tion of gas and other nat­u­ral, min­eral re­sources of Balochis­tan by Is­lam­abad.

Third, the tragedy in Ziarat has ex­posed the writ and cred­i­bil­ity of both provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments in pro­tect­ing that national her­itage. Dis­grac­ing the Jin­nah res­i­dency and hoist­ing the flag of BLA means that the state is dys­func­tional in Balochis­tan and has tried to cover up that episode by sus­pend­ing a few of­fi­cials and mak­ing some ar­rests. The sad re­al­ity is that the flag of Pak­istan can­not be hoisted even on Pak­istan Day and In­de­pen­dence Day in many parts of Balochis­tan, in­clud­ing Balochis­tan Univer­sity. Like past acts of ter­ror­ism ad vi­o­lence in Balochis­tan, whether con­ducted by the re­li­gious ex- trem­ists or eth­nic na­tion­al­ists, the Ziarat in­ci­dent will also be for­got­ten.

Fi­nally, the fed­eral in­te­rior min­is­ter while talk­ing to re­porters dur­ing his visit to Quetta made it clear that the vi­o­lent acts of sep­a­ratist groups would be an­swered in the same terms. This is con­tra­dic­tory be­cause the PML(N) in the past took a po­si­tion to talk to such groups, such as the Tehrik-e-Tal­iban Pak­istan (TTP) with which it wants ne­go­ti­a­tions. In re­al­ity, the Ziarat tragedy will pro­vide fur­ther en­cour­age­ment to sep­a­ratists and other na­tion­al­ist groups in Balochis­tan to aug­ment their ac­tiv­i­ties.

There are some in the Balochis­tan Assem­bly who in­di­rectly re­fused to con­demn the at­tack on the res­i­dency in Ziarat. While tak­ing to The Ex­press Tri­bune, Akram Shah, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of Pash­toonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) which is a coali­tion part­ner in the govern­ment of Balochis­tan, de­scribed the Jin­nah res­i­dency as a “wooden house at Ziarat which was a sym­bol of slav­ery as it was built for the colo­nial Bri­tish of­fi­cer Sir Robert Groves San­de­man who ruled Balochis­tan un­til his death in 1892. The house has al­ways re­minded the Baloch and Pash­tuns of the long pe­riod when they were the slaves of Bri­tish Em­pire in the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent. For us, it’s no more than the house of the then agent to the gover­nor gen­eral of In­dia.”

Re­act­ing to the state­ment, mem­bers of Balochis­tan Assem­bly said, “Akram Shah has hurt the feel­ings of mil­lions of pa­tri­otic peo­ple in Balochis­tan and of those who had an emo­tional at­tach­ment with the his­toric build­ing, Ziarat res­i­dency. The PK-MAP leader should be­have like a re­spon­si­ble politi­cian and not for­get that his party is a coali­tion part­ner in the Balochis­tan govern­ment.”

If the govern­ment fails to take a stern ac­tion against those who dis­graced a national mon­u­ment, it will prove its in­abil­ity to rein in those groups who openly chal­lenge the writ of the state and are able to get away with their vi­o­lent acts.

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