The Emergence of Separatist Movements in Pakistan
Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza, Editor Glasgow International Newspaper.
There were the brutal murders of Sindhi nationalists, Maqsood Qureshi and Salman Wadho on Friday March 21 2014 and that of Kashmiri nationalist and leader of All Parties National Alliance, Sardar Arif Shahid on May 13 2013. These assassinations and the recent long walk from Quetta to Islamabad by the Baluch who were protesting against the disappearance of their loved ones in Baluchistan pose serious questions regarding the security of individuals in Pakistan. More than that, they are an indication that something is seriously wrong in the current political climate of the country.
The demonstration taken out by the Jay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz in Karachi on March 23 under the banner of the ‘Freedom March’ was attended by hundreds of thousands of angry protestors. Kashmir-wide anti-Pakistan discontent ignited as a result of the murder of Arif Shahid, while the separatist movement has re-emerged in a baptism of Akbar Bhugti’s blood (murdered on the orders of Pervez Musharraf). All of these events have called into question the very viability of the 1973 Constitution.
We have undergone two martial law regimes since the National Assembly adopted the 1973 Constitution.The 1973 Constitution has failed to transform Pakistan into an economic success, has failed to reduce unemployment, has failed bring harmony among antagonist social classes and has failed to solve the national question.
The reason for this can be found in the lack of success of the Pakistani mercantile class in establishing itself as the sole ruling class. In order to carry on business as usual, it was forced by its historically weak position to find innovative methods to co exist with the landowning class. From a very early stage in Pakistan’s political history, this has brought in the men in uniform to play the role of power brokers - and hence the dominant role of the military in our country.
In order to continue the plunder of natural resources across the provinces and Kashmir and to guarantee the uninterrupted exploitation of the working classes, the military in collaboration with the landowning and mercantile classes, always has been keen to discourage any opposition. Such opposition has included questioning indigenous claims for royalties of natural resources usurped by the centre.
The continuous plunder of resources and human labour in the provinces has not raised the living standards of the population - poverty, illiteracy and disease are rife among the majority. At times, there was an uneasy truce between the elite of provinces and centre. The slightest indication of a reduction in booty results in blackmail through nationalistic or even separatist slogan-mongering. This has brought the provincial elites a double benefit.
On one hand, they would make demands for more concessions and an increase in the share of the booty and on the other they posed as the defenders of both the national identity and the rights of the underdog population living in the provinces. And thus, they keep the populace on their side.
However, there is also a third factor that helps to stir the feelings of injustice among the poor in the provinces. This is the need of the military to create a single national identity in which all other regional national identities could be subsumed. This effort has been given the fig-leaf that under Islam, we are ‘one nation’ and Pakistan is the “fortress of Islam” which supposedly, perpetually is threatened by its predominantly Hindu neighbour, India. Anyone who challenged this narrative or the purpose of the Islamic republic was branded a traitor, or worse.
Top: Map of Kashmir and surrounding area. Middle: 10th President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. Bottom: 1973 Constitution