Achieving the Discourse in Balochistan: Power Relations, Conflict and Resistance.

By Dr Mir Sadaat

Discourse, as defined by Foucault, refers to: ways of constituting knowledge, together with the social practices, forms of subjectivity and power relations which inhere in such knowledges and relations between them. Discourses are more than ways of thinking and producing meaning. The discourse of Balochistan has to do more with the power relations, conflict, and resistance of its social actors. Before achieving any discourse for Balochistan, we must understand forms of subjectivity attached to these concepts.

Power is neither defined as the power of one actor over another actor (power as an act of subordination) nor as the power to do certain things (power as a capacity to act). By virtue of its productive role in shaping meanings and identities, power is intrinsically linked to knowledge and the local forms of power-knowledge are embedded in institutions and their actions. These preceding lines imply that power must not be considered just a required act. Power in Balochistan is something which is continuously active to regulate and shape actions to the best interests of the social actors. It must not be exercised only through compulsion but through knowledge, narratives, policies, institutions, and technologies. Power is what the philosopher Wittgenstein terms a ‘family resemblance’ concept. This entails that when we use the concept in different contexts its meaning changes sufficiently so that there is no single definition of power which covers all usage.

In general, power is implied as a structural phenomenon of the social and political system that is dispositional. On the other hand, it can be regarded as the capacity to achieve certain ends in social relations through management. However, in Balochistan we have been more focused on the functionalist view of power. It generally envisions the concept from the realm of politics and considers it a functional thing that operates only with conflict. We have ignored the structural view of power that considers it as a product of structure and an agency emerging from social interactions. Our emphasis should be is more on power relations emerging from the structure of the society, rather than from conflict and resistance. Elite in Balochistan argue that conflict is a prerequisite for the exercise of power, so they co-relate it with power relations. They suggest that power relations could only be witnessed when there is a clear conflict and to resolve that, a party has to dominate and take charge.

This conceptualisation of power fails to resolve some of the major problems in Balochistan. It does indicate that in Balochistan different groups hold power but fails to understand whether or not they have any presence in the process of decision-making. State thinks that all the groups have political resources available to them whereas it is difficult for a variety of interest groups to get any chance to reach the parliament. People exercise their power through voting and elected leaders to take decisions on their behalf but there is a good number that does not vote. In Balochistan a majority of the people do not vote. In a system like Balochistan we may have a pluralist setup a fair proportion of people can still be left unrepresented, and they might show resistance to many decisions.

Resistance is often considered as the opposite of power by us, as a reaction when power is exercised. However, it is not something opposite or outside power. Resistance is embedded in the exercise of power and must be considered a part of power. In Balochistan modes and sites of resistance and power relations are not easy to identify. At one instant, acceptance can contain an aspect of resistance, whereas in another instant it can be an aspect of power. Opposition to state is not the only form of resistance; it can be in the shape of resignation, tolerance, gossip, formal complaints, and legal action. This resistance can be successfully avoided by skilful management of power. Once it is managed, people will participate and cooperate in both economic and non-economic activities.   Now the question remains how to mange resistance then, it has to do more with decision making and implementation than conflict.  

We must understand that when a political decision is to be taken in an indecisive environment like Balochistan, it is seldom that the decision is a result of the structure and accepted as such. There should be an endless debate about the likely and actual options, and the decision must be reached by creating a consensus through persuasion. Persuasion in context of Balochistan means to make someone give up one set of beliefs in favour of another because the other set of beliefs is more appropriate. It is understood that persuasion can never be the ultimate ground for a decision as it will necessarily involve an aspect of force. But in case of Balochistan we must understand the force must not be coercive, it should have the element of positive enforcement and reward in it. In Balochistan discourse must be achieve with the help of organic politicians and intellectuals, while successfully marginalising oppositional forces with the help of people. The state must link different political and social issues to demonstrate that its efforts to resolve one issue have relevance to deal with other issues. Working in shadows is not an option. Planning and decision making at a cross-section cannot improve the situation. Discourse creations should be taken as a whole process, where one event may lead to the next event through relationships between the events and people in time and space. The emphasis should be on the value of community engagement, not the position of power anyone hold in Balochistan. The role of people is fundamental to any change, and we need to understand it. Without them, it is hard to bring about or analyse a change. The changes that occur within a society are a result of relationships among people through discourse creation and perception management. A decision taken or action planned is a consequence of relationships among people not individuals. Change cannot be forced from an external source; it has to come from the people.

2 thoughts on “Achieving the Discourse in Balochistan: Power Relations, Conflict and Resistance.”

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