Dr. Naseer Dashti
The national liberation struggle is a complex phenomenon. It involves sacrifices of all kinds. It needs political maturity and perseverance. It needs strategies that should surpass those employed by the enemies. It needs leaders to leaders that should streamline the protracted struggle for national salvation. In the process, leaders emerge, and some become famous and prominent and with their exceptional deeds, they become inspirational personalities. If we look back at the 180 years history of the Baloch national struggle, we find many prominent personalities who streamlined the activities of those involved in the strenuous and protracted struggle for the salvation of a nation. In the context of the last 70 years of struggle, with his courage, steadfastness, and sacrifices, Sardar Mengal became one of the icons and towering personalities of the nation. He became a legendary figure and source of inspiration for those involved in the tortuous struggle for a dignified existence of the Baloch.
Sardar Mengal’s journey of greatness began in the 1950s. The first decade after the occupation of Balochistan by Pakistan in 1948 was the period when the Baloch horizons were engulfed in the dark shadows of despair, frustration, and a growing sense of total defeat and helplessness. Beginning from the British occupation in 1839, the situation for those involved in the Baloch national struggle was never favorable but it became very daunting for them with the creation of Pakistan and the occupation of Balochistan by a client state created by a colonial power to serve its strategic interests in the region. The symbolic short-termed armed resistance by Agha Abdul Karim against the occupation collapsed unceremoniously. There was a total ban on political activities in Balochistan. Kalat state national party was banned by Pakistani authorities. Political activists were awarded harsh terms of imprisonment involving up to ten years. The last Khan of the Baloch instead of leading his nation was hobnobbing with the aggressors. He was acting as a pawn of the Pakistani establishment. The factual position was that by all accounts, the Baloch social and political horizons were shadowed with dark clouds of humiliation, fear, defeatism, doubts, and distrust. In these hours of despair, a few valiant political activists, and leaders under tremendous pressures of all kinds were continuing political activities clandestinely. In such circumstances, the joining of Sardar Mengal in the nationalist struggle was a gift from heaven and a stimulus and hope for them. Later, it was proved that indeed it was a beginning of a better future for the national resistance. In many ways, it was a blessing for the Baloch political activists in those difficult times when Sardar Mengal joined their ranks.
Sardar Mengal was aware that engaging the might of the Pakistani establishment was not an easy task at that time when the whole western bloc was behind the aggressors. He understood that confronting and defeating such a mighty force was only a dream. But his greatness was that to materialize this dream, he initiated a new era of hope in the Baloch politics of that dark period. Sardar Mengal and his fellow Baloch leaders like Nawab Mari, Nawab Bugti, and Mir Bizenjo got the status of greatness because, despite the cognizance that they were not going to taste the fruit of their struggle in their lifetime, they sacrificed their privileged positions to set an example of the national struggle for the Baloch generations to come.
As it is famously said that it is easy to be brave in front of an inferior enemy. It is easy to be brave when you have superior might. But the real bravery is to confront a mighty enemy face to face. The real bravery is to turn disappointing and adverse situations into helping tools. The real bravery is to withstand the obstacles and difficulties of various magnitudes with courage and perseverance. Facing the enemy and converting despair to hope was the real greatness of Sardar Mengal. If we could imagine the socio-political milieu of Balochistan in the 1950s and 1960s, upholding the torch of hope and the belief of final victory with a small number of political activists against tremendous odds shows the dedication and political acumen of Sardar Mengal and his fellow leaders.
The extraordinary character of Sardar Mengal was a product of many socio-cultural and political virtues which made him one of the incomparable figures in Baloch history. Leaders are formed in the process of struggle. Within a few years of joining the struggle, he stood out as the most capable and valiant leader and became a towering personality in the Baloch national struggle. Within a few years, Sardar Mengal was recognized by friends and foes alike as a steadfast leader with extraordinary capabilities and a courageous fighter for the national rights of his people. Perhaps his faith in the Baloch will of resistance and the belief in the final victory of the Baloch over the aggressors was the basis of his steadfastness in his political journey. Although he suffered personal and material losses in his long struggle, he was rewarded with the immeasurable respect of the Baloch nation. Not only he became a role model for the Baloch youth of that period but for the generations of the Baloch to come.
Sardar Mengal died dreaming of a bright future for his people. The death of this indefatigable, versatile, and virtuous leader is saddening for the Baloch. His death is indeed a setback for the Baloch resistance. It is undoubtedly a blow. It is a hard blow for those who are giving sacrifices in many ways to counter the aggression of the occupying forces. It is a hard blow for the nation whose dream of salvation he could not materialize in his lifetime. But the struggle for national liberation involves sacrifices from generations of a subjugated nation. Sardar Mengal also did not foresee an immediate victory.
With his demise, while Baloch and Balochistan are still under subjugation, the enemy must not conclude that they have defeated the ideas of Sardar Mengal. It is obvious that the enemies of the Baloch are joyful, but their joy is certainly short-term. The call of Sardar Mengal for a meaningful struggle has reached the receptive ears of millions of the Baloch throughout the world. His call has galvanized a generation of political activists. In his long political career, Sardar Mengal has created a multitude of mature political activists who are certainly committed to taking their nation towards the goal of final victory. With an unwavering commitment to the national cause, he has left to the future generations of the Baloch the gift of his experience and knowledge on which they can refine and enhance their ways of struggle. The Baloch certainly will recover from the hard blow of the death of Sardar Mengal. Their march to the destination will certainly continue.
The extent to which he demonstrated a spirit of devotion to the cause of the Baloch was enormous. And for this, the Baloch for generations to come should be grateful for this brave son of Balochistan. However, the expression of gratitude for the most admired of the personalities in the recent history of our nation is not enough. This generation of the Baloch must face the future with firmness, determination, and optimism as shown by him in his long and tortuous political journey. It is a fact that the Baloch are facing one of the gravest times in the history of their existence as a nation. But remembering the spirit of resistance shown by Sardar Mengal, the steadfastness he showed in his struggle, is certainly a tool to uplift the spirit of those who are engaged in the relentless struggle for the dignity and sovereignty of the Baloch and Balochistan.
Living up to the standard of Sardar Mengal’s political character may not be an easy task but it is the only way forward for reaching the cherished goal of national salvation. The best way to pay tribute to this legendary figure and the noblest of the Baloch leaders is that in the circumstances where the very existence of a nation is at stake, there should be a firm belief that giving in is not an option.
The road for the Baloch national salvation has never been smooth. Circumstances are as unfavorable as they were at the time when Sardar Mengal and his associates were leading the struggle. There is again a feeling of helplessness. There is a thinking that the challenges are insurmountable. But the pessimists must not forget that the challenges are to their survival as a national entity, their language, culture, and way of life. When the issue is the matter of survival of a nation, there is no room for backtracking. The best way to pay tribute to Sardar Mengal is to change unfavorable circumstances into favorable ones. The best way to pay tribute to this noblest of the Baloch sons is to continue the struggle with courage, tenacity, and honesty. The Baloch must not succumb to the pressures of unfavorable circumstances. They must show their commitment to the national cause by showing maturity and steadfastness. They must continue the struggle with full vigor to make a reality the dream of a liberated and dignified life for the people.