Sardars & Sardari system must fade away

One Baloch point of view

 A few weeks ago, while I was covering the Punjab convention of the Workers Party Pakistan, I met Yousaf Masti Khan, a Baloch politician who provided several useful insights into the issue. Khan is by no stretch of the imagination the prototypical sardar my urban, liberal, democratic friends are so keen to blame for all of Balochistan’s grievances.

He is a Baloch by birth who now lives in Karachi and is a member of the central executive committee of the WPP, a union of several left-wing parties.

For him, the problem is not the sardari system, which he said was embedded in the social fabric and could only be fad away through an evolutionary process. Such a transformation of the Baloch society, Khan contended, would do little good if imposed by outsiders (note: one of the central tenets of the European colonialism was to ‘civilize’ the so-called barbarians, yet post-colonial world is hardly a more civil place to live in).

Social change, he maintained, could only be set forth in Balochistan through true self-government. For this to happen, he said, the authoritarian state machinery needed to stop playing its dirty game of co-opting and pitching sardars against one another. His within-the-federal-framework-solution came with the following onditionalities:

1) Recognising the armed struggle as homegrown instead of linking it to Indian support

2) Releasing missing persons and political prisoners

3) The military’s withdrawal from civilian areas – and –

4) Autonomy to the people of Balochistan over themselves and their resources

A federation first needs to provide representation to all people falling within its borders, only then can it claim sovereignty over them and their territory.

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