Identifying the core issues in Balochistan
By M. Abul Fazl
Sunday, 17 May, 2009
I.A.RAHMAN, talking about Balochistan’s woes, observes incisively that the Baloch leaders, who “have, quite comprehensively, documented the wrongs done to them …,” should go beyond statements to implement “their plans for their people’s liberation from anachronistic bonds …” (Dawn, May 7, 2009). It is a recognised law of history that the oppression and exploitation of a society by outsiders can be durable only if it is linked organically to the exploitation of its masses by their own ruling class. The exploitation by the outsiders can only be an extension of the internal exploitative regime.
Governor Z.A. Magsi of Balochistan states that the problems faced by his province are not because of nawabs and sardars or the Baloch tribal system. They are due to the issues between the province and the centre. The demands of the Baloch leaders and politicians are genuine and the federal government must meet them, warning for good measure that the failure to meet them may lead to disintegration of the country. (Dawn, April, 30, 2009).
This must be the most fragile country in the world, perpetually on the brink of disintegration, as various provinces and groups inform us from time to time that if their particular grievances were not addressed immediately, there may be secession. Everyone is constantly assuring us that he is making an incredible sacrifice by agreeing to be a citizen of Pakistan. And it is the only country where the citizens, specially the most privileged ones — the ones to whom independence brought everything — appear to relish at least making the prediction of a disintegration.
Balochistan is a special case, being more retarded socially than other units. This does not mean that it lacks class differentiation but this process, having started, has stopped for a while for lack of economic development. Its dominant mode of production is pastoral, organised politically in the tribal form. There are also patches of agriculture, fishing etc., the whole super-imposed by a modern sector of trade, railway, transport and mining. Productivity is low in the pastoral sector. This militates against the development of class struggle. It is similarly low in agriculture and fishing, which makes the tribal-feudal ruling class’s position secure.
The Baloch intelligentsia has developed a semi-independent existence with the rise of the educational institutions. However, the road to social change being closed by objective conditions, it can operate only in a situation of class collaboration. Therefore, the easiest way out is Baloch ‘nationalism,’ particularly for the unemployed educated young, driven by frustration. They combine with the feudal-tribal ruling class to demand that the province’s natural resources be handed to it. The question of an internal re-distribution of wealth can presumably be considered later.
Balochistan’s soil being full of natural resources and probably oil, and with a total lack of local capital and technology to develop it, why not hand over it to foreign capital and live off the rent? Another Kuwait, another Abu Dhabi. Here the sardars do not come in the way of the intelligentsia.
The ruling class is, of course, opposed to the building of roads, schools, industries etc. It also criticises the Gwadar project. But this is only as long as these are built by the federal authority. If all this is done by foreign capital answerable to the provincial government, it would not mind it so much.
The problem with the federal leadership is that while it wants to integrate Balochistan, economically and administratively, with the rest of the country, it would like to do so by keeping its tribalism and social backwardness intact. It does not propose a major social change there. Indeed, a government which is happy with feudal power in Punjab and Sindh and which thinks the country’s industrialisation can be left entirely to private, mainly foreign, capital, cannot be expected to make a serious attempt to even understand any complicated problem, for example, the fact that the Taliban movement is the result of blocked capitalist transformation.
Our national ruling coalition is composed of the feudal class, the bourgeoisie as its much weaker partner and the global capital, represented by the IMF-World Bank combine. The bourgeoisie is no more led by the industrial sector. It has therefore neither the inclination nor the strength to reach out for the conquest of the state power or to oppose the foreign domination of the Pakistani state or economy. It accepts the hegemony of the army. Thus the dominant mode of production in the Pakistani socio-economic formation is feudal. And the feudal class lends its social outlook to the entire society.
Our socio-political analysis is incomplete without noting the role of the army in our government and its effect on our social formation. The army is an autocracy. This means that, though it may rise above classes, it is not independent of them. True it does not share power with the ruling classes. But it works in the interest of the whole ruling coalition though, in the field of distribution, it may have a privileged position. The resulting structure of power unites the army’s interests so closely with those of the ruling classes that it has been objectively, i.e. by its very vocation of exercising power, opposed to social change. That renders the feudal power safe in Punjab and Sindh and the feudal-tribal power in the NWFP and Balochistan. There is no question of land reforms or of the abolition of the tribal sardari.
The violent end of Akbar Bugti at the hands of the federal law-enforcement agencies exposed again a major contradiction in the administrative policy of the army leadership. While it favoured outmoded, almost medieval, systems over most of the country, it insisted upon governing the society with the prerogatives of a modern state.
The first army government, emerging from the coup of 1958, was allied to the nascent bourgeoisie. It carried out land-reforms, mild but real, and accelerated industrialisation. Z.A.Bhutto’s “land-reforms” reversed them, actually increasing the ceiling of land-holdings. But, more important, the wholesale nationalisation of industries by his government destroyed the industrial bourgeoisie, closing the road to industrialisation and progress of the country. Whatever his Third World, indeed “socialist,” rhetoric, he made the power of the feudal class unassailable. And this ensured that Pakistan would be mired perpetually in backwardness at home and be in thrall to the global finance capital abroad.
The army returned to power in 1977, apparently having learnt the lesson that if it wanted to rule and enjoy the fruits of that rule, it must not attempt social change. Technology can be allowed in, indeed, encouraged, since no technology threatens to upset, by itself, the existing social relations. Any society accepts only that technology which it can absorb. Feudal-tribal society of course absorbs the consumer products of technology. However, the social relations, the society as such, can be changed only by conscious political action. In the absence of such action, the society may stagnate. It may even tend towards disintegration. It would not be transformed, whatever the quantity of the products of technology it may use.
As a result, the post-Bhutto army rule, far from wanting to reform society, inserted itself into the existing class structure of the country and is now committed to perpetuating it. Therefore, the people of Pakistan have, confronting them, a solid wall of domination and reaction stretching from feudal-tribal power to comprador bourgeoisie to the imperialist capital, the whole backed by the military power.
The long-term solution of Balochistan’s problem lies in the growth of differentiation between its pre-capitalist and capitalist economies, which would open the possibility of the modern sector and the bourgeois intelligentsia waging an effective struggle against the primitive exploitation characterising the Baloch society today. But the growth of differentiation is itself blocked by the low level of surplus produced in the society. In such a situation, neither the economic sectors e.g. agriculture, pastoralism, industry, differentiate satisfactorily, nor does the political struggle develop.
The main task in Balochistan is to bring its intelligentsia into the mainstream of Pakistani society. This cannot be done by buying them with sinecure jobs, though that can perhaps also be tried in the short run. The Pakistani state must itself take a hand in the quick industrialisation of the province in order to draw the intelligentsia into the modern sector and turn this proto-bourgeoisie into industrial bourgeoisie.
And, in spite of what the IMF, World Bank advise, this job must be undertaken by Pakistani capital of both state and private sectors. Balochistan must not become the hunting ground of the global capital, out to make a quick buck. That way leads to ruin. Maybe the army’s own economic enterprises can take the lead in the project of industrialisation.
The tribal-feudal chiefs have to be dealt with firmly though not necessarily violently. They are the product of Balochistan’s extreme backwardness and are the main hurdle to change. Their power demands the preservation of the misery of the Baloch masses, combined with growth in their own rentier incomes i.e. they favour material growth only as long as it does not involve a re-distribution of wealth and resources, and a change in the relations of production.
Ideally, they would want an undefined “autonomy” for Balochistan which would permit them to hand the province’s subterranean wealth to the global capital for exploitation in return for royalty to them. It is only with the embourgeoisement of the Baloch society that they would be forced to cede place to the rising bourgeoisie and the progressive intelligentsia.