Tag Archives: Baloch

Being Indigenous in Karachi

اردو میں پڑھنے کیلئے کلک کریں

Bahria Town and Expropriation of Sindhi & Baloch Goths  

The indigenous people of Karachi, mainly Sindhi & Baloch communities, living in rural villages called goths, are fighting for their land which is being forcibly occupied by the capitalists organised behind the real estate tycoon Malik Riaz. The expropriation* of these originally agricultural and pastoral communities from their land was initiated by the British colonial empire in the nineteenth century by enforcing colonial property relationships that encourage enclosure and private property on communal land. This historical process, the expropriation of indigenous Sindhi & Baloch Goths, is now reaching its conclusion with Bahria Town’s forceful removal of all barrier (both physical and social) to achieve complete annihilation of the agricultural communities of rural Karachi, to create new landscapes for the further growth of the capital that they have accumulated in the parallel economy – the shadow economy of tax evasion, bribery and kickbacks. Black money must find ways to enter the formal economy to continue its expansion.   

Being Indigenous in Karachi

Sindhi & Baloch agricultural communities claim of being indigenous in Karachi. They maintain that their history in the area dates back prior to the walled settlement that latter turned into an important colonial port city, and later went to become the first capital of Pakistan. The city of Karachi developed from within the walls of the fortified settlement of Hindu merchants built in 1729, which after the British occupation in 1839, started growing into a center of colonial trade through its natural harbor and attracted migrants from across the region. Within a decade of colonial rule, the town grew out of its walls and new working-class suburbs started to grow between the old city and the Lyari river that formed the western boundry of the town. The in-migration brought about by the increasing colonial trade through the port resulted in a surge in the population, estimated around 14000 at the time of British occupation, to 57,000 by 1856 and over 100,000 by 1890 earning Karachi the status of a city.    

Much before this population surge and the transformation of the fortified town into a colonial port city, these Sindhi & Baloch tribes have had populated the fertile riverbeds and the rain fed landscape of Malir valley besides the fishing villages along the natural harbor. The tribes were later joined by communities from Trans-Makkuran in the eighteenth and nineteenth century; with time they become a part of the natural economy of the region. The early tribal settlements and the in-migrants before British invasion collectively form the indigenous population of Karachi, most scholars agree.  

Many of the Sindhi-Baloch goths facing expropriation in the hands of Bahria Town find their lineage to these pre-colonial inhabitants of Karachi who could not be detached from the land during the colonial development of the city. These early agricultural and pastoral communities, for whom the land on which they were living was an inalienable mean of subsistence, can be designated as indigenous in relations to the other communities who settled in Karachi during its development into a colonial port city and were mainly affiliated with the port economy instead of work related to agriculture and livestock raising.   

Colonial Legacy of Expropriation

Baloch communities who settled along the Lyari river in late eighteenth century became the first to be expropriated, that is to lose their relationship with land as the means of subsistence, during the urban sprawling of colonial Karachi. These Baloch goths that later turned into working-class suburbs became the center of urbanization. By the time of partition, the rural economy of Lyari had diminished considerably and soon vanished in the face of the intensive in-migration during 1950s. Unlike the indigenous goths of Lyari, the impact of the urbanization and the post-partition economic structures, were initially minimal on the rural villages of Malir. Although, the temptation to part ways with land have been present since the early days of the partition among ‘Waderas’ – clan heads who dominated the social structure of the village and were legally entitled to sell the communal land – mainly due to their changing status from village heads to independent landowners and petty capitalists with increasing shares in the post-colonial political economy of Karachi.   

Wadera is the top rank feudal title in the structure of dominance at village level among the Sindhi & Baloch agricultural communities. In pre-colonial days, Wadera of a community belonging to larger tribal structure, has been either appointed directly by the tribal chief as his representative at village level or nominated by the villagers and endorsed by the chief as head of village community that formed a branch of the mother tribe. The independent Sindhi & Baloch communities who emerged during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, having no affiliation with any larger tribal hierarchy, organised themselves in non-tribal communal structures in the goths were normally led by a prominent personality endorsed by fellow villagers.  

These village heads became informal or ‘unofficial’ Waderas once private property was established over the communal land by the British empire through various colonial regulations that reshaped the property relations by enclosing the indigenous communities within the limits of the cultivated land; separating the non-cultivated grazing grounds, and bringing them in direct control of the colonial authorities; and entitling such figures to private ownership of the previously communally owned land considered to be part of the Goth. Non-cultivated land and the grazing grounds taken over by the colonial board of revenue was later given on lease to either the same tribes for their loyalty, or the in-migrating communities. The British during colonial rule used such land as bribe, the carrot in the proverbial ‘carrot and stick’ to control communities and strengthen the role of its loyalists. In the early twentieth century another colonial regulation paved the way for large private land ownership through ‘land consolidation’. Individuals who were leased small parcels of land at different sites were allowed to receive consolidated land at one place. The practice resulted in the creation of large estates and the growth of the landlord class.  

The Capitalists in the post-partition state – in Karachi’s case most of them being in-migrants who replaced the out-migrating Non-Muslim merchant class leaving behind a ready market for the newcomers – inherited the colonial property relations. The colonial legacy of land alienation was continued through privatisation of communal land and expropriation of the agricultural masses for the expansion of accumulation in an essentially non-capitalist space. Another wave of expropriation of the Sindhi-Baloch goths in rural Karachi began in 1960s with land reforms that resulted in large scale consolidation of property in the hands of the landlords coupled with the privatisation of the land held by the board of revenue to big industrialists and influential personalities, a process that continued sporadically until 2000 when under the new local government system, the land loot entered into a new phase setting ground for complete alteration of rural landscape.  

Bahria Town Karachi, A Phenomenon

General Perveez Musharaf’s dictatorship saw a new rise in arbitrary rule in Pakistan where the capitalists – commercial and politico-military elite, joined by ‘feudal lords’ of Sindh and ‘tribal chiefs’ of Balochistan who own big capitalist ventures besides their feudal-tribal titles – mainly relying on the parallel economy found new space for expansion of capital. Interestingly, this social group is frustrated with the growing role of the state functionaries who are at the same time rent seeking in their politico-economic behavior.  In other words, it seeks to ‘appropriate the appropriators’ by claiming a share of the profit being made both in the formal and informal economy. As a result, one often encounters state functionaries themselves as owners of massive capital. They have turned their offices positions into points of accumulation mainly through manipulation of the market. Of course, they have numerous advantages over those (market based) competitors who have to consult state functionaries in order to get past the bureaucratic barriers.  

This pattern of arbitrary rule, with a few intermittent breaks, only continued to create zones of exceptions for the capitalists: enabling them to bring-in their capital from parallel space to the formal economy and expand the accumulation beyond the limits of the market. Such zones of exception were created during early days of Musharaf rule when the new local government system enabled the district administration of Karachi to exercise land transfers in Sindhi-Baloch goths on massive scale. Takeover of the privatization process by the state functionaries being led by personnel who were at the same time also stake holders in the process, elevated the privatization of land beyond the limits of the market resulting in massive rent-seeking practices, shadowy transactions, and bogus claims that would be used to delegitimize the original claims of the indigenous people.  

Transformation of the role of state functionaries from regulators to market agents with personal business stakes helped ease the limits of the market. Further, they also lowered the barriers and boundaries between the regulated, taxed market and the unregulated parallel market which enabled the ever-growing phenomena of Bahria town, a city within a city, that is engulfing village after village with no end in sight. Using the might of the bourgeois accumulation of capital, Malik Riaz finds himself in the perfect position to do the necessary: he is able to resolve bureaucratic hurdles by putting proverbial ‘wheels to the files’, to get over the legal complications, he pays compensation, to build political consensus, by striking business deals with political and military leadership, and to improve his public image through highly compromised electronic media.  

The real-estate tycoon has combined all the essential components of a capitalist state and the bourgeoise interests into one place that would otherwise not been possible in the unnatural development of the political authority in the country. In this zone of exception, Bahria Town is continually expanding its direct domain by enlarging its physical boundaries, and its indirect domain by degrading the natural ecosystem, restricting the movement of indigenous people, disturbing the water and electricity supply to goths and finally, restricting the indigenous people into walled enclaves and using covert and overt force to compel them to relocate so that the housing project may expand to the entire rural landscape of Karachi.  

* Expropriation in Marx’s conception is specifically identified with “appropriation… without exchange,” i.e., appropriation minus the equality in all actual exchange relationships. Expropriation thus meant theft of the title to property. (Source: Monthly Review)

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Note: This article is a collective effort by Balochistan Marxist Review team.  

We Can’t Afford You: Punjab Shuts Doors To Baloch Students

Picture By Kamil Baloch, Twitter @kamilSayed3, Bahaddin Zakariya University, Multan, 1st September 2020.

Eight years of the so-called “national cohesion* efforts, started in 2012 by then Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, near an end as universities of Punjab follow each other’s lead to shut their doors to Baloch students. The anti-student atmosphere building up in the public sector universities across the country coupled with Imran Khan’s privatization regime is having its immediate fall outs on the most marginalized strata mainly the formerly patronized students from Balochistan and erstwhile-FATA.

The rollback was initiated in Lahore’s Punjab University in 2018 when the number of reserved seats for Baloch students was cut half from 100 to 53. The decision was revised in the following year after protests but instead of a full restoration the number was increased only by 17 seats from 53 to 70. The unwilling restoration of 17 seats was also made on conditional bases – only for women applicants. The intentions of the varsity establishment are clear, the old policy of patronizing Baloch students under scholarship programs is no more in effect.

The lead set by Punjab University is now followed by Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan and Islamia University, Bahawalpur. Both public sector universities suspended their scholarship programs overnight after initially announcing admissions and accepting applications on reserve seats. The future of hundreds of students, mostly from middle and working classes, have been put in jeopardy by a politically motivated scholarship program that has lost its raison d’etre in the changing political relationships between Balochistan and the core.

Colonial-style Pacification of Baloch Youth

Unlike ordinary financial assistance offered by any welfare club, charity or university independently, the scholarships Baloch students availing since 2012 have been a part of larger political program, the so-called Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package. The reconciliation package was presented before a joint setting of the Parliament on November 25, 2009 and was aimed at addressing province’s “sense of deprivation, in political and economic structures of the federation.” The original package was to address matters relating to constitution, politics, administration and economy.

The clause on education that suggests “special quota of scholarships” for the students of the province is the last among the 21 ‘Politically-related matters’ that needed to be addressed. The designers of the draft must have had a strong logic to put education among the politically related matters. Clearly, here education was used as a tool to address not just the political issues, but the Balochistan conflict in general. The Baloch students who have availed these scholarships since 2012 were looked in the campuses in Punjab as the personification of the conflict.

Punjab, dominating the core in the core-periphery relationship between the state and the provinces has created general resentment among the people at both ends. The more so in the ‘peripheral’ regions. This retrograde order of things has been fostered by the forces dominating the state structures that include the Punjabi bourgeoisie as well as their counterpart in the smaller provinces such as Balochistan. The aim has been to divide the masses on the base of their identity so that their resentment can serve the hegemonic order in Pakistan. As a result alienation has developed among the youth in peripheries, and a superior air exists among the Punjabi middle class and top bourgeoisie alike that has resulted into stereotypes about various sections of the populace.

There has been a number of relatively less politicized incentives given to the students of Balochistan through the package, such as the aid provided through the Higher Education Commission. But the Punjab centred initiative of implementing the same has been driven mainly by the objective of giving the marginalized Baloch youth exposure of life in Punjab. This exposure instead of building a positive image of Punjab among Baloch youth proved unproductive as the identity based organizations of Baloch youth in those campuses not just disappointed the policy makers but also threatened them with a presence of new and organised student political force that might turn troublesome in future if allowed to foster further – as seen time and again in the Punjab University where Baloch–Pashtun–GB students alliances quickly occupied socio–political space within the campus and posed seriously challenges to right wing student groups.

The Balochistan package was thrown to dustbin within a couple of years. The political forces behind the package withdrew their authority in the matters of Balochistan in order to save their hold in the centre. For example, Pakistan People’s Party which was politically empowered to introduce and implement such a reconciliatory package, by the popular support it garnered after the killing of Benazir Bhutto on 27 December, 2007. Butto’s party although itself a part of the so-called establishment could not sustain that empowerment in the matters such as Balochistan that have been under the influence of the military establishment.

The colonial-style exposure of Baloch youth to the life in the core under the package was supposed to bear fruit only with its implementation in letter and spirit. Failing to do so, Punjab universities gathered a crowd of Baloch students while the political and economic conditions kept deteriorating in Balochistan. As an ultimate result instead of pacifying the Baloch youth it has contributed into further marginalization. The idea that the youth can be incubated in de–politicised space of campus did not work.

Baloch students in the campuses of Punjab have grown into a political force organized under various bodies named ‘Councils’. The Baloch Councils have been an important part in the new students uprising in the urban centres of the country demanding restoration of the student’s unions and also entering into issue-based short term alliances with other student groups. The new opportunities created by the initiatives such as Balochistan package have contributed majorly into the creation of the new political force that is being dealt with through scholarship cuts.

Implicit Privatization of Higher Education

The International Monitory Fund program for Pakistan under Imran Khan’s Tehreek-E-Insaf government necessitates privatization through explicit and implicit means. Pakistan Steel Mills is one of such big names that is facing an explicit privatization attempt, a number of other public sector entities are listed to follow the suit. Behind this the real privatization regime exists in governments attempts to discourage public sector activities in order to create space for the private sector. The general attitude of the PTI government towards education may not suggest massive privatization plans but it is discouraging the growth of public sector institutions while the private bodies thrive with no regulations in the name of the ease of business.

These underhanded tactics have provided not just the federal government but also the provinces an excuse to get away with anti-student and anti-working class policies in the name of fiscal constraints. The Punjab institutes are trying to hide behind shortage of fund and demanding an hefty amount from Balochistan government to finance the program. Knowing the unwillingness of the provincial government to provide funds, the Punjab universities have crafted a perfect excuse to get away with scholarship cuts.

Balochistan government is already pursuing its own similar plans with the privatization of the Bolan Medical Collage, the leading medical college in the province. The other public sector universities are not declaring explicit privatization plans as of yet but are put in a perpetual state of funds shortage and a governance crisis. The biggest public sector institute in the province, the University of Balochistan, operates under a strict regime that can’t even be changed after issues such as UoB harassment scandals. In recent attempts to discourage students political and academic space the university has opted to a covert policy of minimum admissions. During the academic year 2019-20 out of over 600 applicants in English literature department over 50 students were awarded admissions while the universities can easily accommodate over 100 students with its existing teaching staff and infrastructure. The same has been the case with other social sciences departments which are considered as dens of politicized students who can raise voice against harassment scandals and anti-student policies of the campus establishments.

Reclaiming The Campuses

One of the major concerns of the students protesting BZU and Islamia university scholarship withdrawal is that the policy will trickle down to other campuses providing scholarships to Baloch students in Punjab. There are around 700 students who have applied for admission on scholarships this year alone who can fall victim of this attack on educational rights. Most of the affectees having no other means to sustain their costly studies in Punjab campuses without an aid, will be forced to abandon their studies or return to universities at home. In Balochistan, they have but a few options, UoB need no further description, University of Turbat while a growing university in an ‘education-loving’ environ has grown its own corrupt campus establishment. The UoT establishment runs the campus with the sheer force of nepotism negatively impacting its administrative matters, hiring of academic staff and admission policies alike. The same could be observed in the Lasbela University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Sciences, Uthal.

Students are yet again pushed to streets to fight against the curb on their right to quality education. The camp in front of BZU Multan is led by Baloch council the students body of Baloch students in Punjab universities. The hopes for restoration of scholarships through these protests are already depressed given the past records of the university establishment and their dealing with such student’s protests. As witnessed in the campaign against the BMC Act where despite rounds of talks the students and employees are yet again forced to sit-ins as there is no indication of policy change from government’s end. The only achievement such token strikes have had is the partial restoration of incentives that are once withdrawn. Such partial restorations as Punjab University did last year are aimed only to reduce the impacts while the policy drive remains effective with the threat of further curbs at any moment.

The protests that have been restricted so far to Baloch students and their demand for restoration of scholarship program need to connect with other campus issues such as the privatization of BMC and the general anti-student policies being followed in almost all public sector universities. Through the ban on students union the campus establishment across the country have maintained coherent policies of condemning the progressive student forces while allowing regressive forces to flourish and maintain their control over the campus life. In the face of privatization and depoliticization of campuses all the progressive student tendencies as well the lower staff of the universities are hit alike. The capitalist encroachment over the basic rights can only be stopped through the unity of students and their joint struggle alongside the working class for whom the privatization is a question of bread and butter.

Note: This article is a collective effort by Balochistan Marxist Review team.

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* The University of Punjab, Lahore announced its free education program for Baloch Students on April 17, 2012. The varsity allocated 100 reserve seats in its all departments for free education up to PhD with free hostel and a stipend of rupees three thousands per month. Then Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Mujahid Kamran while announcing the program was quoted saying that the initiative aimed to strengthen “national cohesion” and to promote bonds of brotherhood between the Baloch youth and the people of Punjab.

Birth of a Movement: Transformation of Bramsh Solidarity Committees

Picture by: Zahid Ali Baluch @ instagram.com/zahid_ali_baluch/ 22 August, 2020 at Karachi Press Club

Baloch society has entered into a new phase of political mobilization since the Dan’nuk incident1. A growing number of students, youth, and ordinary citizens, previously withdrawn from political activities during the ‘reign of terror’, a decade of state atrocities that is epitomised in the popular but also gory phrase of “kill and dump” started reclaiming the popular political space from the conventional nationalists as well as the king’s party. This mobilization is happening in the streets as well as on the social media, with a leading role of students and an unprecedented presence and participation of women. This new political force, comprising of students, youth, and intellectuals has started organizing independent of both bourgeoisie parliamentary parties and the separatist militant groups. Organizing on its own, crafting its own slogans, and perhaps most importantly, refusing to be a part of reactionary nationalism divided on the lines of personal interests of the elite leadership. The new phase of Baloch political mobilization is taking a shape of its own – a decentralized solidarity movement.

Since Bramsh incident, the new phase of mobilization has entered into its third and most intense wave of protests which were sparked by the killing of Hayat Baloch who was murdered by the Frontier Constabulary with such brutality that it shook the society to its core. Unlike the solidarity campaign for Bramsh, and the protests against killing of Kulsoom Bibi2, the new wave has spread to more constituencies not just in the native land of Hayat Baloch but also in major cities such as Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Islamabad attracting crowds from progressive circles in the urban centres. Solidarities also poured in from the politically marginalized Pashtun areas such as Waziristan that has witnessed its own episode of atrocities in the hands of similar forces. The keynote protest event was held on 22 August3, nine days after the murder, despite the fact that all attempts were made by the law enforcement agencies to defuse the situation through symbolic actions. The Frontier Constabulary, known by its acronym FC, anticipating sensitivity of the matter, surrendered one of its soldiers into police custody. The police showed unprecedented proactiveness by proclaiming the arrest of the soldier, even before a FIR could be lodged. In the follow up, condemnations poured in from government officials which peaked on an unprecedented visit by the Inspector General of the paramilitary force to the victim family.

The masses mobilized in response to the killing of Hayat Baloch, refuse to give in to the manoeuvres by the government and PR exercises by the FC. The consecutive waves of protests have resulted as the realization of the vulnerability of the common people who live amidst a fractionated insurgency and an unchained paramilitary force. Another Bramsh incident, another murder of Kulsoom and Hayat appear written on the wall; thus, pushing a large number of politically conscious youth into the field of action, and bursting the bubble of fear. The random and unsynchronized solidarity committees in the name of Bramsh on their turn are converging into committees beyond any particular incident. The material conditions for a broader Baloch solidarity movement are in the making. A civil rights movement with potentials to become the dominant political force of the society seems viable.

This article aims at highlighting key aspects of the Bramsh solidarity committee phenomenon, the possibilities of its turning into a Baloch solidarity movement and the historical responsibility of progressive forces in an imminent political movement.

Birth of A Movement

To state the obvious, the three main incidents responsible for this new phase of mobilization – the murder of Maliknaz and Kulsoom in the hands of patronized criminal groups or death squads, and the murder of Hayat in the hands of FC are closely linked with the ongoing Balochistan conflict. The hostilities that started in early 2000 soon gave way to a war like situation. It culminated into two decades that are known for missing persons, mutilated bodies, and military operations. The groups responsible for the first two incidents, of Maliknaz and Kulsoom, were created mainly to counter the militancy. After serving their purpose these groups were not disbanded; soon, they started to attack the ordinary population, often the weakest section.

The victims of such groups have been mainly the working class population and the petty bourgeoisie or the middle class, consisting of small land owners and traders who struggle to make ends meet. The Baloch indigenous economy is either subsistence agricultural, livestock, or fishing economy operating under-resourced to meet household needs or the informal economy which runs parallel to the capitalist state economy. Nevertheless, the contribution of state economy on mass level is limited to government jobs which serve as the only sustainable source of income. The larger ‘primary’ economic sector of natural resources, has never been a part of indigenous economy, instead, it has turned into a tool of exploitation; therefore, limiting the economic options for the local population while strengthening the tribal elite and the security establishment in the resource rich areas, while making the situation worse for the lower classes.

The working class and petty bourgeoisie, while struggling with such economic hardships have to face the death squads and the security forces in their daily lives, while they work on their farms, manage their small shops, trade in the market, and even in their leisure – for example on picnic spots. These daily encounters have the utmost possibility of turning deadly any moment. This is what happened with Hayat Baloch and his family. It is the fait accompli of every peasant that goes to see his crop, every farmer that goes to the farm, every fishermen that goes to the sea, every shop owner who has to go the Bazar daily to earn a living.

“Hayat could have survived if he had enough time to clear the civil service examination and join the bourgeoisie through the bureaucratic channel but he wasn’t there as yet, instead he was son of a farmer who had to keep working on his farm despite bomb blasts and armed clashes.”

The Baloch bourgeoisie – comprising of the dominant tribal elite, along with its non – tribal large business owners, the monied politicians and bureaucrats – has a rare privilege in this security situation. Extracting the surplus created by the working class, or the money they have collected on their name, they have raised armies of their own. They have enough armed men to guard them from violent attacks, unlike the working class which is a soft target – either attacked easily for being a spy or who happens to be in the line of fire between the militants and the security forces in his daily quest for economic survival. The Baloch bourgeoisie avoid being killed in the hands of militants as well the security forces and death squads using either his armed men or the privileges it has gained due to the membership of the upper class status. Hayat could have survived if he had enough time to clear the civil service examination and join the bourgeoisie through the bureaucratic channel but he wasn’t there as yet, instead he was son of a farmer who had to keep working on his farm despite bomb blasts and armed clashes.

The bourgeois class have been dominating the political superstructure of Baloch society since 1990’s by occupying the top leadership in nationalist parties of different names. In these three decades, they have turned from ordinary sons of Sardars or Nawabs or Mirs, the middle class business owner and bureaucrat into capitalist rent-seekers who own multi – billion businesses and real estate here and abroad and have established partnerships with various tycoons. The capital they have accumulated resides abroad and does not makes any appearance at home except in the elitist lifestyle of their children who proudly and shamelessly flaunt their upper class status in a society living at the edge of economic desperation and social chaos. In Balochistan where the bourgeoisie have its political roots in the nationalist politics they never admit to their own economic and social privileges, instead their entire politics is based on the illusion that the exploitation of Baloch and Balochistan is national and thus constant across the boundaries of economic class and social status.

The politically conscious strata of lower classes have historically affiliated themselves with the bourgeoisie leadership since the emergence of popular nationalist politics in 1980s and its maturity in the proceeding decade. This affiliation has however changed over the years as the bourgeoisie class proved repeatedly their incapability to lead the society towards social justice leave alone national revolution. The failure of bourgeoisie leadership has contributed to the alienation of masses from political process in general resulting in a political gap and the rise of nationalist militancy followed by a ruthless counter insurgency regime. Various non-conventional and independent bodies in the form of either civil society, students’ unions, or localized solidarity groups in response of recent events are emerging out of this political gap.

The Solidarity Committees

Over the past decade of terror, a new generation has grown up that is now an active part of students and youth politics. This new generation, like Hayat Baloch, wants to think and act beyond conflict, they are politically conscious of their economic conditions, the rottenness of their social structures, and the corruption of national leadership. They are fed-up of unpleasant daily encounters they have with the security forces at check posts, in their campuses, on the farms, and on the streets. They refuse to live under the fear of death squads, they don’t want to be led by a corrupt leadership, they want to live with freedom and dignity. This is the new political force, the raw material for an ensuing social movement born out of a deadly conflict situation.

In Makkuran, where the above mentioned three prominent incidents happened the new wave of protests are led by the civil society which is dominated by the students. Civil society is a new phenomenon in Balochistan which emerged with increasing urbanization and the resulting civic sense among the educated youth and intellectuals. The corruption and overall lack of concern in the state institutions administering these urban centres has resulted into an acute lack of amenities. The condition of educational institutes and health felicities is worst even in rapidly growing towns like Turbat and Panjgur with no adequate infrastructure and utilities such as gas, electricity and water supply. The organization of educated youth and intellectuals into various kinds of social groups have been a response to this deficit in civic services. Amid a depoliticized atmosphere, the civil society has been a vibrant social force accommodating within its ranks active forces from across the society, including students organized within campuses.

The conflict situation and its belligerent forces, the state and militants have hardly been the subject of interest for the civil society before the recent protests. The Dan’nuk incident pushed the civil society out in the streets in solidarity with a victim of a situation that it has always avoided to consider into its agenda. The civil society although has all the necessary ingredients to initiate an event-based solidarity campaign, is far from leading a sustainable movement of political significance. The constraints of civil society became visible soon after the formation of Bramsh solidarity committees that could not translate the momentum into social and political structures to create a sustainable force. With the condemnation of a criminal act and its political patronage, and the expression of solidarity with the victim, the civil society has served its purpose – reaching the limits of its structural capacity.

Need for a Progressive Movement

The resolution of an armed conflict and an end to arbitrary rule by the state forces is a question of political authority over the society and cannot be resolved without the organization of masses under a revolutionary program that enables them to take the political authority in their own hands. The dominant political forces of Baloch society, hitherto, have failed to perform this historical task in a tribal society that is in the middle of a modern nation building project. In the absence of an organized progressive political force the civil society in its various forms is inclined to fall prey to the reactionary nationalists who have already started influencing the solidarity committees in different cities. The national bourgeoisie is struggling to reclaim the political authority over the society that it has lost a decade earlier. While on the other hand the more radical groups are also trying to reclaim their support base through tried and tested methods.

The killing of Hayat Baloch is transforming the Bramsh solidarity committees in their respective constituencies. A transformation that has the potential to emerge in the form of Baloch solidarity movement against the arbitrary rule of state on Baloch society and the impunity that it has given to abduction and killing of the youth. It is the historical responsibility of the progressive tendencies to fight against the attempts by the reactionary forces to manipulate this transformation for their political gain. The progressive students, intellectuals, and the working class parties need to unite, organize and strengthen their bonds with the masses that is the only way the reactionary forces can be defeated and a new progressive political force can be built from within the society.

Note: This article is a collective effort by Balochistan Marxist Review team.


1 On 26th May, 2020 armed men stormed a house in Dan’nuk area in the outskirts of Turbat city in south-west Balochistan killing a woman Malik Naz and seriously injuring her four years old daughter Bramsh. One of the culprits was apprehend by vigilant neighbours was identified as a member of one of the many criminal gangs operating in Makkuran region. The incident became an epitome of anger among the masses against the criminal groups known as death squads. A viral video of little Bramsh on a hospital bed crying for her mother resulted into a wave of protests across Balochistan and the formation of Bramsh solidarity committees.

2 On the night of 14th June, 2020 Kulsoom a working class women was murdered in front of her children during a robbery in Tump area of Kech district. The incident further inflamed the anger of the masses and resulted into a new wave of protests to follow the earlier campaign against Dan’nuk incident.

3 On 22nd August 2020, a day of protests was marked in solidarity with Hayat Baloch who was killed by Frontier Constabulary on 13th of August in Absar area of Kech district. The protests originally called by Karachi University based Baloch Educational Students Organization, the students body Hayat was affiliated with, was later joined by Bramsh solidarity committees and other progressive organizations all across Pakistan. Protests demonstrations, candle light vigils and solidarity marches were held in at least 32 districts.