Still Children of a Lesser God
Details Written by Hurmat Ali Shah
The language of exclusion guides, the popular discourses and, charges of treason hangs like sword of Damocles whenever there is talk of rights of small provinces and diversity of the country, which is called Pakistan. Whenever there is exploitation of natural resources or depriving the small provinces of equitable economic and resources distribution, it is always presented in sugar-coated language of sacrifice for larger interests of the country. Sadly this altruistic behaviour is required from the under-developed and under-privileged regions and any dissent from the regions, is at first laughingly and in a mild way dismissed and the dismissal is couched in egalitarian terms of wider national interests. This dismissal then converts into denial of any wrong-doing or any ulterior motive which, if the push by the trumped nationalities is not abandoned, readily morphs into a violent suppression of the dissenting voices.
The arsenal for such suppression is many, the first one that comes is hurling of charges of provincialism, parochialism and divisive ethnic politics. Ultra-patriotism is the most favoured gun to shut all meaningful debate and chauvinism is the tactic of choice to brush away any objection raised in the name of provincial equity. Being labelled as a foreign agent working on the enemy’s behest to undermine the unity and cohesion of the state is not far away in the never-ending hurling of mindless and tactless arguments and charges.
Other provinces, other than Punjab are always treated as economic backyard and strategic dumping ground. Wide and far-reaching endeavours are articulated in a way that ironically has immediate benefits to Punjab only. That is a coincidence, is the reply when someone points out to this discrepancy. Coincidence-by-design is the appropriate answer to this bewildering innocence of the cunning policy makers. Insistence on projects that all other federating units object to and only one unit deems necessary is presented a vital a stone in the future vision of the economy of the country by the spin-doctors, to be shelved off. Kalabagh dam which has been denounced by three provincial assemblies with nine resolutions passed among them is still talked about and is vouchsafed by the quarters which steer economic and development policies, as the only alternative to the country energy crisis. They take exception to the cost-effective and quick solution of small dams that can be sustained by running water from rivers of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Another such spin is underway these days. The much touted Kashghar-Gwadar economic corridor is played with, seemingly to accommodate the immediate and short-term interests of Punjab and long-term greater economic interests of the country. What does that mean, I don’t know nor is it comprehensible to the men of common sense. East Pakistan was deprived of necessary foreign exchanges reserves through manipulation of currency that benefited the industrial products of the West Pakistan while the raw materials from East Pakistan were stolen at much cheaper rates. That consistent policy of wilful manipulation resulted in alienation of the East-Pakistan and it happened for the first time in history that a majority group fought to get independence from the minority of the country. The language used at that time was of functional inequality, the strange theory of capitalism that such inequality will ensure competitiveness and will push the under-developed regions to become at par with the developed regions. That did not generate competitiveness as an economic hinterland can’t compete with the strategic and economic heartland, but instead ended up in a bloody war.
No change is witnessed in this policy of inequality. Reports abound which testify to the growing mistrust and grievance of small provinces. The blind and prejudiced gimmick of an alternative route to Kashghar-Gwadar corridor will further alienate the estranged small provinces. This route is the way out for the regions that are economic backyards to come into a mainstream and compete with the economic heartland. The twisted mentality that is presenting the proposed change to the route as something necessitated by security situation should mind, that it is their misguided notions of strategic depth that has made life in these regions such an insecure. Such projects of economic uplift will go a long way to change the security situation.
Baloch and Pashtun were the men of a lesser god when the economy was built on capitalist lines in General Ayub era. The mantra, as mentioned above, guided the policy then and it is the policy now. Labelling one of the sowing seeds of discontent and shutting down any dissent to the proposed change to the route in the name of suppressing provincialism is not the way out. This lesser Pakistan may consent no more to live under the yoke of constant alienation and may explore alternative routes as against the one they are trying to carve-out for too long now. This alternative route for the disillusioned nationalities will be on lines of exclusion that these policy-makers are proposing for the economic corridors. These children of lesser Pakistan may no more want to be Pakistan.
Hurmat Ali Shah is a freelance writer interested in politics and culture of the region. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andhttps://www.facebook.com/hurmatali.shah.