GATHERING THE TRIBES
Screenwriter Annie Nocenti (she wrote Patriotville, directed by Talmage Cooley, which is currently in post-production) just returned from Baluchistan where she shot a documentary with partner Wendelin Johnson. She’s written a piece for The Brooklyn Rail discussing her trip which is a fascinating portrait of a “modern Sitting Bull”: the Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleiman Daud (pictured). A “chief of chiefs” in Baluchistan, one of Pakistan’s tribal provinces which also borders Iran and Afghanistan, Khan Suleiman is a Gucci shade-wearing, Hummer-driving statesman trying to unify the tribes towards an independent Baluchistan so that his people can stave off a “slow-motion genocide” and reap the benefits of the land’s natural resources.
From Nocenti’s piece:
But considering Khan Suleiman once took four AK47 bullets in the gut and chest in the tribal equivalent of a drive-by and lived, the bullet-resistant Hummer makes practical sense. Khan Suleiman’s survival of that shooting was considered so miraculous that there is a university doctor who teaches a class in the incident. As for all the guns and ammunition, Baluchistan is one of the tribal provinces of Pakistan, and in tribal regions, one needs protection. Especially the Khan of Kalat, which literally means King of the Fort, the chief of chiefs. But it’s not his own people he needs protection from.
Khan of Kalat Suleiman’s country is rich in resources that everyone wants to take and he doesn’t have the power to stop them. “We sit on a mountain of gold,” he says, “and the devil sits on us.” His people, the Baluch Nation, are being indiscriminately bombed, arrested, and kidnapped, and he’s powerless to stop it. Journalist Selig S. Harrison has called it a slow-motion genocide and Human Rights groups have called it an ethnic cleansing. “We have 700 miles of coast and oil and gas and gold,” says Khan Suleiman. “We try to do something to have rights to it, we get spanked. We resist every ten years and get spanked every ten years.” For the past few years, he has been in the middle of an unseen war that few beyond the regional press are reporting.
It’s a fascinating, detailed article that deserves to be read in full. Also, check out The Baluch, which contains more info and video clips of the interviews contained in Nocenti’s piece.