The Balochistan Conundrum: An insightful read

Book: The Balochistan Conundrum

Author: Tilak Devasher

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 358

Price: Rs 899

With Balochistan is to Pakistan what Kashmir is to India. But, Pakistan has blocked global media coverage of its genocide in Balochistan so the United Nations Human Rights Organization is blissfully unaware of the millions of Balochis who have disappeared. Balochistan is a nation (=qaum) by itself with its land mass divided between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. After 1947, it was forced to accede to Pakistan which brutalised its native Brahvis and Pashtuns to plunder its natural resources.

This is why a book on the subject is imperative, because Balochistan has emerged as a cauldron of murder and mayhem which wants to secede from Pakistan. Journalists are discouraged from going there and those who do so are tortured and buried. Pakistan’s military intelligence and ISI join hands with the local warlords to ensure no news of Balochistan leaks out to the world.

Tilak Devasher is a bureaucrat and writes like one so his tome reads more like an academic treatise than a gripping tale of brutality and banditry. His style is pedantic rather than racy which would have made this book more gripping. His extensive research on Balochistan is proved by the voluminous notes at the end of this tome for further study. Interestingly, the Baloch claim to have descended from a single ancestor, Amir Hamza, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad. They can prove their ancestry with genealogical tables, ballads and traditions.

Divided into six parts distributed over 18 chapters, Devasher predicts “Pakistan has gone too far down the road in commitments to the Chinese on Gwadar port to give the Baloch a stake in their own homeland.” He is right — sooner or later the Baloch will want to secede from Pakistan because Islam is not the glue to bind them to the Punjabis. That is why India has a stake in Balochistan and how the Balochis deal with their tormentors in the Pakistan Army.

The Balochis do not trust Pakistan and with help from India, may realize their dream of seceding from Pakistan. After all, Balochistan is an ancient civilization which dates back to 4000 B.C. with clues that the former rulers of Kalat were Hindus. The earliest account of Balochistan was written by Lucius Falvius Arrianus (Arrian) whose Anabasis of Alexander’s Campaigns says how the epic march through Balochistan’s deserts cost Alexander the lives of three-quarters of his army. Modern Balochistan has been carved out of the ancient land mass only in July 1970.

The Balochis have a culture of their own so the sardars commanded more loyalty than the state. This is why Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wanted to dismantle the sardari system — but did not succeed. The sardari system is unique in world history with local chieftains administering rough-and-ready justice without recourse to the courts in exchange for unswerving loyalty. So, there you have it — a book which dissects the history of Balochistan which is the third in Devasher’s trilogy on Pakistan. A must-read for all those interested in the affairs of our sub-continent.