“Wild love for liberty”
A Short Biography of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri
Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri named after his illustrious grandfather who unwilling to provide Marris as cannon fodder for World War I fought the British in 1918 in historic battles of Gumbaz and Harab was born on the 29th February 1928. Once he joked that the British probably set this to avoid yearly presents. He also was the great great great-grandson of Sardar Dodah Khan under whom the Marris at Sartaaf in May 1840 decimated the troops led by Lt. Walpole Clarke who while going to Kahan had foolishly said, ‘If Dodah wants an encounter he might’. Then in August 1840 a large force under Major Clibborn sent for relieving Kahan siege was routed at Nafusk. Most Pakistanis fail to understand that Baloch have a wild love for liberty and their struggle for freedom is not externally instigated. He was the eighth Marri Sardar after Bhawalan; interestingly before Sardar Bhawalan Sardari in the Marri tribe was accorded on services to tribe.
A child brought up on the folk lore of Marris’ exceptional bravery against ‘Pilingees’ i.e. foreigners could not but have become an ardent freedom lover. Many a political analysts believe that Nawab Sahib was a late convert to independent Balochistan, it is patently incorrect. In 1951 when the Political Agent Davies told him, “Khair Bakhsh why don’t you allow the government to carry out development for your wretched people”. He replied, “Davies had Hitler overrun Britain and had you been asked to help the Germans to develop your wretched people, what would have been your reaction?” Davies replied, “I’ll be damned if I ever ask you again”. He always was a staunch believer of independent Balochistan. There is no denying that twice he was a member of the National Assembly but alongside that resistance to Pakistani exploitation continued in form of ‘Farraris’ led by Mir Sher Mohammad Marri. The greatest tragedy for Baloch people is that he alone was persevering in his demand for Balochistan’s freedom while all others moved with current.
Nawab Sahib was proudly defiant against what he perceived as injustices. When in1958 Martial Law authorities ordered submission of guns; the Sardars protested but complied while he sawed the guns into pieces put them in a sack and sent them. For him nothing was more ignominious than surrendering to the enemy and this is what he preached and practiced all his life. He was unforgiving to friends too. In 1989 he was once invited by President Najibullah for discussing something; when he arrived some security person demanded he be searched. Angered Nawab Sahib left on foot Najib’s aides came scurrying to appease him but he refused to return. He said if he were to submit to searches he would have stayed in Pakistan. He had his values and principles which he defended at huge personal cost. During incarcerations he never got admitted to hospitals and never complained. He even washed his own clothes there. When his son Balach, who was martyred by Pakistan in 2008, after firing rockets on Musharraf in Kohlu in December 2005 inquired if he had done the right thing and in return was asked, “Why did you miss?’ Submitting and showing weakness was not a part of his creed.
Nawab Sahib was associated with the National Awami Party of Abdul Wali Khan for a time and during early 70s was it Balochistan chapter’s head but this association came to an end during the 1973-77 army operations in Balochistan over differences of responding to the injustices against Baloch. While others wanted talks and compromise Nawab Sahib favoured continuation of struggle.
He was unfathomable like a snow clad volcano, one could never know what he was thinking or feeling because he never betrayed his emotions by speaking loudly or harshly or be maudlin; he displayed amazing equanimity in all situations. In the 43 years that I knew him and was fortunate to meet him hundreds of time I never saw him get angry or use an inappropriate word. Only once did was he was tearful and it was when he was addressing the Marris in Lashkargah in 1988 and mentioned the difficulties they faced in migrating and living there. He always became misty eyed at the mention of his martyred son Balach. He hid his emotions but didn’t subdue them and therefore dearly loved his people and fiercely hated his enemies. Because of his love for people he always said that if freedom failed to bring justice and rights for people it would be meaningless.
He kept his principles dearer than worldly comforts and that was the real source of his strength as that helped him avoid compromises which others made. He once said that people say he has a lot of money but he was still repaying debts incurred after return from Afghanistan and added that had he had money he would not have been living the house of his son in law. He preferred not to compromise on his principles for worldly comforts and this is what makes him the eternal symbol of the Baloch struggle for freedom.
Nawab Khair Bakhsh Khan left the mortal world on the 10th of June 2014 for the Baloch people he was a father figure, a role model, a philosopher, a strategist and the best example of all that is good in Baloch for the Baloch. He represented the Baloch trait of overpowering instinct for liberty and freedom. His loss is irreplaceable and his supporters and followers will remain inconsolable for a long long time. There is none on the horizon who could step into his boots so the best thing for the Baloch is to turn the pain and sorrow of his loss into their source of strength and continue with more vigour the struggle for an independent Balochistan he sacrificed his entire life for and that would be the best tribute to the greatest Baloch of modern times.