|Jan 23, 2010
ANALYSIS: "PARALLEL GOVERNMENT" The FC in BALOCHISTAN
Mohammad Ali Talpur
The problem with the FC does not merely lie in its ethnic
makeup, though it plays a major role in its attitude problem.
The real problem lies with the mindset and its unbridled
power compounded with a total absence of any accountability
for its actions
Mohammad Aslam Bhootani, the Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly, though a member
of the ruling coalition has a penchant for forthrightness that leaves many of
his partners embarrassed. In May last year he said that the trust deficit between
the Baloch leadership and Islamabad was a major impediment to resolving the Balochistan
issue. He had also said there was “a perception in Balochistan that the
Frontier Corps (FC) was running a parallel government in the province”.
The truth of his statement has presented itself in shedding of innocent blood
in Khuzdar where two students, Ali Dost and Saddam Hussain, were killed and four
others were injured. HRCP Khuzdar chapter accused the FC of opening fire on a
peaceful rally organised by BSO-Azad to protest the recent Lyari killings. The
FC denies this claim and states that it retaliated when a convoy of the Kalat
Scouts commandant was attacked. So people were killed though versions differ.
Who could be speaking the truth?
A look at FC’s history and its conduct — or rather misconduct — in
Balochistan should set the record straight. A hundred years ago Lord Curzon bequeathed
this region with the FC, an efficient and reliable instrument of repression.
The devil be given his due, he created an outfit that not only fulfilled their
needs then but serves their legatees even today.
The US provides the 80,000-strong force $ 75 million a year for five years from
the $ 750 million FATA package. It also sustains FC in Balochistan because it
is supposedly performing the duty of guarding Balochistan (from its own people
I suppose?). In January 2003, US envoy Nancy Powell handed over 483 vehicles
and 626 wireless sets to them under the $ 73 million security assistance package “to
enable them to patrol rugged, remote locations in order to maintain law and order
on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and to check terrorist activities, narcotics
trafficking and other forms of criminality.” Probably the suppression of
the people’s democratic struggle is conveniently lumped under the heading
of checking ‘other forms of criminality’.
The FC’s colonialist behaviour and activities are a major reason for the
resentment and anger of the people of Balochistan. This attitude has prompted
defiance from the Baloch population and more often than not resulted in violence
in which the unarmed people bear the brunt of state violence. The 37,000-strong
Balochistan FC, like the Rangers in Sindh, draws hefty amounts from the provincial
government in the name of internal security and operating in place of the police.
At times it seems that conditions are created to prolong and perpetuate the presence
of these forces in these provinces.
The misconduct and highhandedness of FC had prompted a debate in the Balochistan
Assembly in August last year where it came under severe criticism from members
of the ruling party because of its continued and unjustified harassment of the
people. The House was told that the provincial government had allowed a public
rally in Turbat on Bugti’s death anniversary but the FC resorted to unprovoked
shooting, which killed a civilian and injured many people. The FC had also completely
sealed the Pak-Iran border, resulting in a severe shortage of food in the border
towns. It was revealed that the FC personnel rubbish the officially issued passes
of the DCOs to the citizens wanting to visit their relatives in Iran. The Khuzdar
situation too was pronounced as equally bad even then.
In July 2003, the FC in Quetta forcibly occupied a youth hostel meant for short
visits run by Pakistan Youth Hostels Association (PYHA), a private charitable
trust. An FC contingent surrounded the hostel and kept its staff hostage for
several hours. Another FC contingent led by a Major surrounded the hostel secretary’s
residence and abused him when he refused to hand over the keys. However, on the
night of July 16-17, the FC contingent broke open the gates and locks of the
hostel and forcibly occupied it.
The problem of hostel occupation is acute in Sindh as well where in June 2009
the Sindh Assembly was informed that 27 buildings of schools, colleges and hostels
were occupied by the law-enforcement agencies (read the Rangers).
In October 2002 the Mekran Scouts wing of FC opened fire on a crowd protesting
its highhandedness and killed Nisar Ahmed and Noor Mohammad; five people were
injured. Though an FIR was reluctantly registered, nothing came of it. The track
record shows that the trigger-happy FC personnel do not hesitate to open fire
on peacefully protesting crowds.
This is not the only problem. The FC’s mandate to guard Balochistan’s
borders with Afghanistan and Iran is a source of an equally grave evil of lucrative
smuggling. This vice’s prevalence was serious enough to force the FC in
October 2003 to suspend 45 lower ranks with the promise of action against some
officers. This happened only after the finance ministry and other authorities
had taken serious notice of massive smuggling despite increased deployment of
security forces along the border.
The siege of three newspaper offices — Daily Asaap, Daily Azadi and Daily
Balochistan Express last year, which eventually forced Asaap to cease publication,
is among its dubious achievements in the battle to subdue democratic forces in
Balochistan. Sadly, there was not a squeak from the national mainstream media.
The recent Khuzdar killings are a continuation of the long list of atrocities
against the Baloch population and will not be the last. Following the gruesome
killings of Balochistan National Movement (BNM) Chairman Ghulam Mohammad Baloch,
Lala Muneer Baloch, Sher Mohammad Baloch of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP),
the Balochistan High Court (BHC) took suo motu action and the chief minister
formed a three-member tribunal comprising of BHC judges to investigate the activists’ death.
Nine months have elapsed with no results. The Home Minister has now ordered a
judicial inquiry. Odds are that it too will suffer the same fate.
These outrages are countered only with worthless and insincere condemnations
and denunciations simply because the writ of the chief minister and the governor
does not go beyond the doors of their respective official residences. They are
ineffectual and helpless when their orders infringe on the areas of influence
of the military and paramilitary. The chasm between their rhetoric and actions
has severely diminished their stature and credibility. Though their authority
has a semblance of autonomy, it is as illusory as it is inane and in fact completely
subservient not only to the Centre but also to the FC.
The problem with the FC does not merely lie in its ethnic makeup, though it plays
a major role in its attitude problem. The real problem lies with the mindset
and its unbridled power compounded with a total absence of accountability for
its actions. It has repeatedly committed atrocities with impunity as commissions
and judicial probes have never redressed the grievances. This ironclad guarantee
against prosecution encourages it to ride roughshod and little wonder it acts
like a parallel government in Balochistan. All this does not augur well for anyone.
Postscript: Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has accused the FC of running
a parallel government in Balochistan (January 20, 2010). He has only confirmed
the obvious, already put on record by Aslam Bhootani. He also complained that
the federal government had rejected the scrapping of the Gwadar Deep Sea Port
and Reko Diq project agreements; but bravely said that the Balochistan government
would not allow any agreement that undermined the rights of the people. So much
for the illusory authority that they are so proud of.
It should now dawn upon the power wielders that the Centre can ill afford to
allow the FC to run a parallel government and that they can overrule the decisions
of their very loyal provincial government at will and still expect the already
alienated people of Balochistan to help them sustain the already endangered integrity
of the federation.
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going
back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at email@example.com