Baluchistan: Pivot of Asia

Baluchistan: Pivot of Asia

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

Part One: Facts

  The war of independence in Baluchistan where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran converge might be classified as trivia by most Americans even if they had ever heard of it.  Knowledge about the world is available throughout the world, just not in America. 

  This war heated up this past weekend when elements of the Pakistani military assassinated the former chief minister, Nawab Akbar Buqti, who in recent months has been living in a cave directing a full-fledged war of independence.
  Think tankers have been fully aware for decades about the Baluchi independence movement, which I have always strongly favored just as much as I have always favored Kurdish and Shi’a independence as part of a larger confederation in the Fertile Crescent.  When I was eighteen years old in 1947 and 1948, I used to spend many hours in the office of Senator Molly Malone of Nevada memorizing the provinces of Persia and Afghanistan from the largest map I have ever seen, which covered one entire wall in his huge office on Capitol Hill with notations on where oil and gas might be discovered. 

  My interest was only in the people who lived there because each province had its own history.  The good senator, who was the Ranking Republican on the Senate Internal Resources Committee (of which my father was the Director), was concerned only about securing American power over natural resources, especially oil, in rivalry with the British and Russians.  The last thing he wanted was any kind of self-determination.  Unlike the modern NeoCons he did not back up his mission with an ideology.  Imperialism had already shifted to control through proxies without the need for any justifying ideology, but it seemed obvious to me that supporting dictators against the self-determination of nations would eventually backfire.

  The Baluchis are like the Kurds.  They come from an era before there were any state boundaries, which was a concept invented by European rivals during the 19th century.  Each imperial power supported its favorite tyrant’s expansionist policies.  Confederation is the answer in some state/nation conflicts, but no would-be emperor wants to share power or support a tyrant who does.

  Earlier this month major military operations were carried out to suppress the Baluchis, who have an alliance with the Taliban, whom half of the Pakistani military support and half do not.  Musharraf has not been able to crack down on his own army, so he may be overthrown as an American puppet.  In my estimation, the pro-Taliban faction then would win out over the anti-Baluchi faction.

  At that point, it would be best for the American forces to withdraw from Afghanistan, just as they should withdraw from Iraq, so that they will no longer be a cause for extremism.  We have a number of options in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ranging from bad to worst. 

  Withdrawal may be the best of the bad, if only because the American imperial presence has been Osama bin Laden’s strongest card.  Anybody who would betray him would be a traitor to every independence movement in Asia.  The Taliban do not like him and probably would put him under house arrest.  Our failure to differentiate among our “enemies” merely creates more of them. 

  If “law and order” is what we are after, the Taliban are the best.  If we had supported them, we would have a gas pipeline through Afghanistan by now and still have leverage over the oil and gas empire that is now developing in central Asia and increasingly is posing a threat to American control of global energy supplies. 

  NeoCon stupidity is part of the reason why pragmatists now have had more than enough of Bush’s “war against the axis of evil.”  Unfortunately, the proud Baluchis are a pawn in the proverbial “Great Game” of Central Asia, which is part of the geo-strategic paradigm known as the Heartland Theory, postulated by Halford Mackinder when he was Director of the London School of Economics a century ago.

  “Ideas,” like generals, to use MacArthur’s famous phrase, “never die,” and sometimes they do not even fade away.  Afghanistan according to the MacKinder hypothesis is the famous “Pivot of Asia,” and Baluchistan along its southern border is part of the pivot.  Ignorance may be bliss, but please not in the white House.  An independent Baluchistan might even become part of an “axis of good.”

Part II: Principle

  The deeper issue of the Baluchistan independence movement goes far beyond individual leaders.  Those who seek stability as the highest goal of political life have described the Baluchi national leader, rahmat Allahi ‘alayhi,  as a “degenerate and depraved vagabond,” but the same is true of other national leaders in this part of the world.  One of the most reviled people on earth is the Badshah Khan, who was an inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi.  The Badshah led a peaceful resistance movement in the Pathan area of what was then called the Northwest Frontier and is credited with persuading the British to abandon their colonial enterprise in India. 

  Just this year half a dozen articles have been published in to memorialize him as a model Muslim hero:  “Badshah Khan: The Forgotten Muslim Hero,” by Chan’ad Bahraini; “Islamic Non-Violence: The Legacy of Badshah Khan,” by Shahed Amanullah; and this author’s “Peace Through Justice in the Holy Land: Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s Spiritual Jihad,” “Forecasting the Future of Afghanistan: Confederal Regionalism and National Liberation,” and “The Vision of Communitarian Pluralism: The Conflict Between State and Nation.” 

  Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Nawab Akbar Buqti cannot be compared as individual persons, but their mission can.  The Badshah wanted to preserve India as a very loose confederation and thereby avoid the ghettoization of two countries.  He and Gandhi later changed their minds to support partition, for which Gandhi was then assassinated.  The result may still be mutual nuclear annihilation. 

  The Badshah was then doubly demonized because he wanted to create a loose confederation in Pakistan once it was created, instead of following the Western model of a modernized and therefore tightly centralized state. 

  These two national liberators fit perfectly the classic American model as I developed it in award-winning articles written during the 1960s on South Asia (India), Southeast Asia, and Central Asia.  The term I used to describe this phenomenon was termed “revolutionary regionalism,” which means that natural nations should unite beyond the borders of existing states to form larger confederations capable of marginalizing the power-oriented sovereignty of Western-style states in favor of the justice inherent in communal pluralism.

  The jurisprudential model of the Native American nations in America is the model from which I derive all my political theory, since I devoted a good part of my life to implementing the American political ideal of multi-level sovereignty, a concept that was anathema to every European country ever since the sovereign state was invented about four hundred years ago.  This history should never be forgotten, because it illustrates both the best and the worst in America.

  Chief Justice John Marshal was the principal theoretician of the American political genius through his quarter-century-long tenure as America’s first Chief Justice and as the seminal developer both of the federal concept and of the judicial branch of government as its powerful supporter.  He presided over the court that declared as a matter of constitutional law that the Cherokee Nation had sovereignty superior to that of the State if Georgia.  The Cherokees, having inherited Islam as both their religion and their culture, argued their own case and won, since the first thing they did when the Europeans arrived was to send their brightest young men to get law degrees in England.

  Unfortunately, President Andrew Jackson, who won election on the strength of his reputation as an “Indian killer,” challenged Marshall with the taunt, “How many army divisions do you have.”  When Marshall replied that his power lay in the law, Jackson sent his army down to Cherokee country and drove almost the entire Cherokee nation out beyond civilization to Oklahoma in the middle of winter.  Escorted by the U.S. Army, this exodus, known as “The Trail of Tears,” resulted in the deaths reportedly of a third of the entire population.

  Although in fact the Europeans never respected the individual and community human rights of the Native Americans, the law has never wavered in recognizing their sovereignty.  This is why the Native Americans on their land bases have their own legislative systems, courts, and police forces and their own sovereign governments.  This is also why the U.S. government may not tax them or forbid gambling casinos.  My own feeling is that the exemption from taxation is being abused.  For example, gasoline is much cheaper on Indian reservations than right outside their borders, because their gasoline stations are not subject to federal tax.  And I believe that the same is true of the casinos, which technically are owned by the tribal governments but in actual fact are owned by syndicates in New York City and other places.

  The 150-page Crane Report in 1970, which I prepared as Nixon’s personal adviser on Native American affairs, called for a bicameral legislature, consisting of an upper house based on the land-based NTCA (National Tribal Chairmen’s Association) and an urban-based NCAI (National Congress of American Indians), both completely independent of the Department of the Interior, which succeeded the War Department as the governing power over Indian affairs.  Half of all Native Americans live off the reservations in big cities but most by their own constitutions are eligible to vote in their homeland elections. 

  The final authority over Native American lands, according to the Crane Report, would rest not in Congress but directly in the trust responsibility of the President of the United States.  Since economic sovereignty is essential to real political sovereignty, I even co-founded the AINB (American Indian National Bank) to network with the big New York banks in leveraging native-owned natural resources (oil, timber, and cattle) for economic development in the form of both individually and tribally owned ventures in advanced technologies.  Unfortunately, the big oil companies put the quietus on this movement, primarily by exploiting the corrupt native leadership that had developed under the colonial aegis of the Department of the Interior.

  The American concept of sovereignty from the ground up rather than from the top down has been threatened before but never more gravely than it is now.  President Bush’s effort last month to secure legislation permitting him to nationalize the various National Guard armies from every state in the nation outraged all the governors, especially the Republicans.  Every level of sovereignty must have its own military force in self-defense against outside pressure, especially from a higher level of sovereignty.  This is the whole concept of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the right of each person and each state to revolt against tyranny.  This is an absolute fundamental of Islamic jurisprodence, which is enshrined in the single statement of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam, “Whoever fails to oppose a tyrant is guilty of tyranny.”

  Many of the nation’s governors at their recent gathering rightly considered that this was the most dangerous threat ever proposed to states rights and the American system of government based on the doctrine that sovereignty emanates upward from the lower levels to the top, rather than the other way around.  This political paradigm of personal and community self-determination is America’s contribution to the world, but we can sell this abroad only when we practice what we preach.

  Bush was dead serious a couple of months or so ago in his proposal that American elections be postponed during a national emergency (as declared by whom?), but one may question whether he knew what he was proposing.  Nowadays, however, even many of his Republican supporters no longer give him the benefit of the doubt.

  When the American concept of national self-determination is threatened at home, it is no small wonder that people no longer trust American policy in Iraq and Palestine.  At the same time, it is no small wonder that traditionalist Americans naturally would support the determination of the Baluchis to independence from the unreliable and often very dictatorial government in Islamabad. 

  Freedom of a national minority with an ancient land base to vote is not sufficient to guarantee freedom.  Such minorities, such as the Shi’a and Kurds in the Fertile Crescent must have their own armies to defend their freedom not only from foreign threats but from enemies within their own putitive federal or confederal government, which can derive its only legitimate power from the consent of the governed.

  Of course, from the perspective of a modern Western centralized state, the Baluchi leader, Akbar Buqti, is automatically described by his opponents as “a corrupt and dangerous outlaw.”  But, to determine the truth of such a charge of corruption, we should first ask the Baluchis.  Few of them would characterize him as an outlaw, when the law that they accept has always been Baluchi.  This is an issue of human political and economic rights and fundamental paradigms of justice.  This is the larger issue in the case of Baluchistan, Pivot of Asia.