With eyes set on a coveted post under military’s boots in France-sized Balochistan, two tribal politicians with dubious backgrounds are staging surrenders of militants, who the locals calls Sarmachars or freedom fighters.
With less than six months left for Abdul Malik, who belongs to the minority National Party, to remain the chief minister of blood-soaked Balochistan, on the north of the Straits of Hormuz, the notables Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and Nawabzada Jangyz Marri are vying for the office. To win the top slot, the two are staging the so-called militant surrender dramas, observers in Balochistan say.
Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz of Premier Nawaz Sharif, which is the major partner in the coalition government, had surprisingly given the chief minister’s post to head the province for the first two and half years of the five-year term to the National Party. Malik’s selection at the time showed he was in the good books of the army and intelligence services.
“Pakistan army is calling the shots not only in Balochistan but the whole of Pakistan,” Philadelphia-based Dr Nazir S. Bhatti, said on phone. He said initially there were hopes that Premier Sharif would have the army’s influence reduced by putting former dictator General Pervez Musharraf on trial, but the drop scene is Sharif himself appears to have been sidelined by the army’s soft coup last fall.
Nawab Sanaulah Zehri, who had killed his elder brother Sardar Rasool Bakhsh Zehri at the home of the late Nabi Bakhsh Zehri, a marble tycoon and former Pakistan senator. In recent years, Zehri who styles himself as the chief of Jhalawan, has had a fallout with his younger brother Mir Isararullah Zehri, and had accused him of attempting to assassinate him.
His arch rival within the Pakistan Mulim League of Premier Nawaz Sharif is Nawabzada Jangyz Marri, who was politically disowned by his father and icon of the Baloch freedom movement Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri. He claims he is now the chief of the Marri tribe but his late father’s loyalists say his father had nominated his youngest son Mehran Marri to handle tribal matters while he had reposed complete faith in Dr Allah Nazar, a gold medalist gynecologist and chief of the Baloch liberation Front to ideologically and politically lead the guerrilla movement in Balochistan.
Mr Marri’s mother, who is a Pashtun from Pishin, too publicly came out to vindicate that her late husband had chosen her youngest son, a Briton, to head the tribe.
Mr Marri, a former communications and works minister, also had wordy duels with another younger brother Hyrbyair Marri, who too had the same communications and works ministry 17 years ago. Mr Marri’s tribesmen accuse him of extortion in collaboration with the Pakistan army and intelligence services.
In fact senior bureaucrats in Balochistan allege that Marri had occupied the houses of his neighbors in Quetta after he returned from Afghanistan with his father in early 1990s. Since his late father believed in carrying out the anti-colonial struggle the Marri tribesmen are famed for, he dubbed his dad a “failed politician” while the late nawab called him the “ISI’s son.” His two younger brothers also call him an ISI agent.
According to The Daily Express, a day after 49 militants surrendered and renounced violence, two more commanders of the banned Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and Tazeem Lashkar-e-Balochistan (TLB), along with 57 militants laid down their arms and surrendered before the government in Khuzdar on Sunday.
The newspaper reported, “Commanders of the banned BLF Din Jan alias Meeran and TLB leader Ubaidullah alias Beebarg have vowed to become a part of the national mainstream. Both were given shawls of Pakistani flags, and also chanted slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and ‘Balochistan Paindabad.'”
However Baloch public antipathy against this slogan runs high in Balochistan as the intelligence services who tortured hundreds of Baloch and killed them execution style had inscribed the ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ on the flesh of these victims, human rights defenders in Balochistan say.
Zehri said those tempting the poor Baloch masses towards so-called ‘freedom’ were sitting in Switzerland and London had no support of the people of Balochistan. He also said that Pakistan Army was never against the people of Balochistan, though his grandfather Nawab Nauroz Khan Zehri died in custody while Zehri’s uncles were hanged by the Pakistan army.
According to Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur Nawab Nauroz Khan Zehri had risen up in arms against Pakistan army action on the palace of the then de jure ruler of Balochistan, the Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmadyar Khan on October 6, 1958. “On May 19, 1959 he along with his fighters accepted the amnesty offer after the authorities promised on the Holy Quran that his demands would be met. But instead they were shifted to the Quetta cantonment and tried by a special military court and sentenced on July 7, 1960.
“The death sentences were carried out on July 15, 1960 at Sukkur and Hyderabad Central Jails simultaneously. The Nawab’s eldest son Battay Khan Zarakzai, along with Sabzal Khan Zarakzai and Ghulam Rasool Nechari were hanged at Sukkur while Jam Jamal Khan Zehri, Masti Khan Musiyani, Wali Mohammad Zarakzai, and Bahawal Khan Musiyani were hanged at Hyderabad.” Ten and half years earlier, Pakistan forcibly made the Khan of Kalat sign an Instrument of Accession.
Zehri who heads the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz was cited by the newspaper as saying that the freedom fighters were being funded by foreign intelligence agencies such as Mossad and CIA.
Earlier on Saturday, another Pakistan newspaper Dawn, whose publishers always sided with the military, reported that two leaders of the banned militant groups Shikari Marri and Madina Marri laid down their weapons and announced at a press conference that they had abandoned their anti-state activities and would serve the people as citizens of Pakistan. They said they belonged to the banned United Baloch Army (UBA) and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). Last week, another guerrilla leader Wali Kalati was shown laying down his arms before Nawabzada Marri.
Jangyz Marri and Sanaullah Zehri are trying to please their bosses by increasing the numbers of fake surrenders, said Moscow-based Dr Jumma Marri, son of former guerrilla leader Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani. “These ISI agents were in the hit list of Baloch Sarmachars suddenly surrender,” Karim Qazi Baloch, tweeted with the hashtags
#Hilarious! #FakeSurrendersByPakiStooges. Canada-based writer and Balochistan freedom advocate Shawn Forbes concurred. He tweeted Jangyz Marri at least had AK-47 assault rifles in the picture of the surrender on Saturday but in the case of Zehri Sunday, those shown surrendering were holding shotguns.
However, since both Sanaullah Zehri and Jangyz Marri do not even command confidence of their own families and both have very dark past, Premier Sharif and the army high command may settle for a less controversial candidate for the chief ministership when Malik is shown the door in the coming months.