Balochistan – time to wake up

Salman Latif

If today I endeavored to draw a parallel between East Pakistan and modern-day Balochistan, I’m sure it’d be a well-founded one. With the way the central governments have been playing denial to the rightful plights of the Baluchis and continue to do so, it’s not too difficult to discern how similar the situation is to the one on East Pakistan. Whereas all ‘disturbances’ and revolts are attributed to ‘foreign’ hands, the center never ventures to ponder as to what makes Baluchistan a hotbed for such anarchy. A very fleeting look instantly reveals that it has been an acute state of injustice, provincial inequality and continous military repression that has pushed Pakistan’s largest province to the brink of rebellion. Extenstive military establishments throughout the region only affirm the notion that Federation has been using force and coercion rather than incentive and reform to contain local agitation.

The Balochistan issue dates back exactly to the days of Pakistan’s indepedence. For long, the ‘Iron Curtain’ extended by Islamabad over the region prevented the availability of first-hand narratives of the Balochis and their side of the story. All that the masses were ever told by the state machinery was that there was some turmoil in the province and that army had to intervene, times and again, to ‘save’ the people there. However, with an increasing surge of independent media channels, there is now at least an understanding of the fact that something unusual is up with Balochistan. Although such media outlets are still non-existent in Balochistan itself, where an attempt to establish a channel or newspaper often leads to arrest or alleged abduction by intelligence agencies, the Balochis’ plight is slowly being brought forth in limited media circles. And that is indeed a welcome sign.

A brief history of the issue:
On August 12, 1947, New York Times published the following piece of news: “An announcement from New Delhi said that Kalat, Moslem State in Baluchistan, had reached an agreement with Pakistan for free flow of communications and commerce, and would negotiate for decisions on defense, external affairs and communications. Under the agreement, Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state with a status different from that of Indian States.”

So was the state of affairs at the time of Pakistan’s independence. However, not too later, Khan of Kalat was asked to formally accede to Pakistan. Khan retaliated, stating that his state had been granted autonomy under the agreement. A Parliament of the local tribal heads and chieftains unanimously resounded the same sentiment. However, Mr. Jinnah, formerly Khan’s legal aide, was not to hear a ‘no’ and after having pressurized the Khan to sign the Instrument of Accession(as Khan noted later in his autobiography), army took control of the province, jailing him and dismembering his cabinet. Khan’s brother took to mountains, refusing to accept the decision and choosing to retaliate the army’s invastion. That marked the first armed retaliation against the central government.

Since the accession, four more popular armed uprisings have occured in the province, most of them dealt with by army and crushed cruelly. Despite the fact that Balochistan opted for autonomy at the time of independence, the Balochis today ask for their rights more so than the separation from Pakistan. And they would certainly have agreed to adopt the constitutional way had it yielded any results in the past. However, all parliamentary efforts from their end have proved futile and they remain highly disenchanted by the constitutional methods.

Provincial Inequality:
Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest province comprising approximately 43% of the total land area and supporting a population of about 7 million people. It is rich in a number of valuable minerals including vast copper and natural gas deposits. However, the sad fact is that while the entire country benefits from these resources, Balochis themselves are handed a meagre royalty for them and nothing else. A case study shall expound my point. Natural gas deposits were discovered in Balochistan in 1953. Household and commercial gas was supplied to Punjab from this source since as far back as 1964. But royalties were offered to Quetta only in 1980(the amount of this paid royalty is constant ever since) and it was connected with a gas supply in 1986. And today, as even Sindh’s remote areas enjoy the facility, out of Balochistan’s 26 districts, only 4 are supplied with gas.

It is this provincial inequality that has fiercely triggered the sense of deprivation among Balochi masses. Even the provincial governments have been severely inhibited in their efforts to improve conditions because of the fact that Islamabad takes direct decisions over policies governing the province. In the past, a number of nationalist leaders have been elected to the parliament. Nawab Akbar Bugti had served both as the Governor and the Chief Minister of the province. Ataullah Mengal and Akhtar Mengal also lead the provincial government in the capacity of being Chief Ministers. Nonetheless, all these unromantic partenerships with the center ended abruptly with the center wielding it’s power by disregarding these nationalist office-holders and their reservations. To cite an instance, Nawab Akbar Bugto resigned after his disagreements with the Federal Government at the latter’s decision to launch a military operation in Balochistan. Similarly, the nuclear experiments at Chaghai were carried out without any consultation with the Chief Minister or the provincial cabinet. The people in the region continue to suffer severe health problems because of the after-effects of those experiments with no compensation from the Government of Pakistan.

These experiments have hugely disenchanted the local masses of the significance of constitutional furthering of their plights. An increasing number of them, especially the youth, view military response as the only viable solution. However, the mainstream nationalist leaders are still ready to engage in dialogue only if they’re assured that the terms agreed upon at the occasion of accession shall be honored. These include much more provincial autonomy and provincial say in regional affairs.

Terrorism and Counter-terrorism – who’s who and what’s what?
Army has become an integral part of the Balochistan equation since the very start. It has gradually moved from a partial, distant control of the region to a more organized control, replacing the Levies forces and bringing a very large part under it’s reign. In local culture, it has become synonymous with extra-judicial abductions, killings and missing persons. According to UN reports, about 8000 Balochis have gone missing since 2005. And that’s a very small part of the larger picture. Army has been increasingly deployed by the center to extend a firm grip and bring the local dissidents into the fold of central command. Naturally, this has resulted in a very hostile reaction from Balochis who view army garrisons as a sign of enroachment on their nationalism. To them, all army activities in the region are a version of state terrorism.

Federation, on the other hand, is extremely sensitive towards Baloch national sentiments and it’s definition of terrorism terms everyone with a separatist agenda as a terrorist. Such sweeping generalizations have lead to the arrests and abductions of thousands, the whereabouts of many of which stay unknown after years. Center is of the opinion that if it fails to address these anti-national and separatist outbursts, it’s grip on the province will weaken.

When talking of terrorism in Balochistan, Balochistan Liberation Army is not a name to be missed. BLA has been increasingly active in recent years. And increasingly violent too, killing scores of Punjabis or anyone having the slightest to do with Punjab. According to the political activists in the region, BLA enjoys mass support and the sole reason this support is extended is because they fight. BLA is said to comprise educated, young Balochis, many of them engineers, doctors, lawyers, barristers and other highly qualified personnel. Evidently, the democratic franchise has so weakened in the province that people consider an armed struggle as the only viable solution. Needless to state this has put the lives of thousands of immigrants in Balochistan in jeopardy.

Plight of the Baluchis:
Balochis have a set of traditions and norms that strike one as unique at the very first look. Like Pashtuns, they are not a creed easily diminished or invaded. Likewise, they have never given up their struggle for an honorable existence. Ever since their forced accession, they have been denied basic rights. The region lacks health, educational and land reforms and the basic infrastructure is very underdeveloped. To top it, they have been in an unnamed subjugation to the army.

An average Balochi today asks for just one thing: basic rights. They want federal government to expend the money that’s earned through their resources in the same region. They want schools, hospitals and infrastructure development. Above everything else, they want the Center to grant provincial autonomy and stop meddling with local politics. Unlike most of Pakistan’s other region, Balochistan is still safe from the plague of extremism. And contrary to the popular media-made perceptions, Balochis are an enlightened lot. The nationalist leaders, including Khan of Kalat and Ataullah Mengal, agree upon the establishment of a modern, secular democracy should Balochistan be awarded provincial autonomy. This is also the view of an average Balochi today who has put aside his tribal prejudice to purse this common cause.

At the start of this article, I strove to establish a parallel between 1971’s East Pakistan and today’s Balochistan. And I still hold that the two have striking resemblances. Back in 1971, Federal Government kept playing blind to the horrendous discrimination committed towards East Pakistan. And when the eventual backlash started, no self-chastenings would work. If India or other ‘foreign’ hands were able to exploit the situation, it was because the situation was volatile enough already. Bengalis had been neglected for decades and when the army started its saga of atrocities against them, their choice became obvious – separation. Balochistan today seems to move towards a similar destiny. However, with the fragmented resistance put up by Baluchis, it’s a long way before they can claim power enough for a successful armed struggle.

Meanwhile, the Center and the Army has time enough to ponder over their utterly flawed policies, policies which have only worsened the situation over the last 63 years and solved nothing. President Zardari’s government did declare a Balochistan package but like all it’s past counterparts, it’s been mere words and no actions thus far. These policies and the proposed reforms must be implemented without any delay and before the breaking point is reached, we must find a common ground where both Federation and Balochistan can guard it’s interests without fringing upon each other’s rights. If this is not done, and the chances seem thin with the Federation’s total lack of interest in addressing the Balochis’ plight, I fear that we may have to face another 1971.

7 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

7 responses to “Balochistan – time to wake up

  1. muhammad amjad

    the media has kept a deliberate silence on the targetted murders of punjabis in balochistan for the last several years.Hundreds of hours coverage & numerous talk shows have been conducted on the hardships faced by the baloch,but nothing on the ethnic cleansing carried out against punjabi civilians in balochistan,tens of thousands of whom have been forced to flee balochistan,selling their houses,shops of 30,40 years for peanuts in a hurry to save their lives.
    Neither the innumerable tv channels,nor the print media nor the bloggers have said anything about this genocide,where everyone lines up to follow the narrative of the poor,victimised baloch,which is right in itself as they have suffered in the past,but their suffering doesn’t justify the media’s deliberate silence on the punjabis’ ethnic cleansing.

  2. hassan

    You have constantly referred to ‘the Baluchis’ in the article but what about the Balochistani Pushtuns,the ancient Brahvis and several other races that inhabit Balochistan and are JUST AS deprived?Similarly significant portions of the Punjab and Sindh are inhabited by Balochis but they do not complain of discrimination.Why?Simply because this is NOT ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION against the Balochis but REGIONAL DISCRIMINATION against Balochistan.But people like you portray otherwise,making it a ‘Balochi’ cause and Baloch nationalists do the same.

    “Despite the fact that Balochistan opted for autonomy…”

    “Ever since their forced accession”

    Kalat state formed only about 23% of
    Balochistan.The other parts acceded withut scandal but people like you portray Kalat as ALL of Balochistan.how 23% makes all I will never know.Funny thing is that Kalat was not even a Baloch majority state but a Brahvi one…

    “This is also the view of an average Balochi…”

    I’m sorry but you have generalized ALOT in this article.The middle class of Quetta,Kuzdar and such urban centres and hired miscreants DO NOT make all Baloch.you yourself said;

    “BLA is said to comprise educated, young Balochis, many of them engineers, doctors, lawyers, barristers and other highly qualified personnel.”

    This is the view of the ethno-nationalists and ethno-separatists.Generalization really ill-serves a supposedly ‘neutral’ article.

    “Put aside their tribal prejudices…”

    Somebody should have told Bugti and Marri that when they were clearing their claimed tribal territory of smaller Balochi tribes.You kne the funny thing about these Baloch nationalist politicians?they have many colours,which they change with every direction politics takes.

    “Similarly, the nuclear experiments at Chaghai were carried out without any consultation with the Chief Minister or the provincial cabinet. The people in the region continue to suffer severe health problems because of the after-effects of those experiments with no compensation from the Government of Pakistan.”

    I saw a segment on Express Tv that the federal government had endowed certain bodies with millions to perate on the problens caused by the test,especially development of the agricultural sectr.However,due to rampant corruption these bodies are useless.These bodies are run by locals.

    What of her own government?

    People like you take care to outline only the failings of the federal government but what f the provincial government?

    do you know that mineral resources except petroleum and gas are provincial subjects?Most media people like you do not know this or downplay this and declare the contrary.

    do you know what steps the provincial government has taken to improve the lot f the masses?

    Do you know of the Saidak project?one of the world’s larget copper and gold mines are found in balochistan.You will be horrified to learn what the Balochistan government has done to it;

    The mines are estimated to be worth atleast 65 BILLION DOLLARS.The Balochstan government sold excavation rights to a Jewish-American company under the agreement that the company gets to keep 75%!!!not only that but the company gets to KEEP THE ACCOUNTS!In layman’s terms this means if it takes out minerals worth a 100 million it can easily declare them to be 10 million and cheat Balochistan.let me get this straight….BLA fighting Pakistan government for taking gas worth 100 MILLION….BLA ignoring Jewish-American company robbing Balochistan’s mines(apart from destroying the environment) of worth 65 BILLION DOLLARS!!!Seems kinda suspicious no?But nobody seems to mention that….

    Autonomy is not the answer.The same rot shall eat us all away only at a different level.what we need is better ADMINISTRATION and better LEADERSHIP.If we had that there would be no need for autonomy as the nationalist movement is economic no matter how much the baloch nationalists try to prove otherwise.

    “Center is of the opinion that if it fails to address these anti-national and separatist outbursts, it’s grip on the province will weaken”

    I have a feeling our Federal government WANTS Balochistan to break away.An example is when last April three Baloch nationalists were killed.
    The bodies were found near Quetta
    and caused a fire to burn in Balochistan.The Federal government did NOTHING to extinguish the fire.It could have pointed out
    -The bodies were found in the open and in a place where they were obviously to be found.If Central Government had committed the crime then They could have
    hidden their bodies so that there names would appear in the list of missing people and that would have been it.However this was done by someone who wanted FIRE in Balochistan
    -The witnesses say the kidnappers spoke in Persian(an official language of Afghanistan and Iran)
    what happened in 1971 was because of
    -Ayub Khan’s rule that concentrated wealth in the hands of a few elite families,most belonging to West Pakistan
    -The government allowed liers like Mujeeb-ur-Rehman to propagate views such as East Pakistan would have been a super power
    without West Pakistan (Did it become a superpower?)
    Provincial autonomy would only serve to;
    -give wealth to theives in the provincial government insted of Federal government.But still give it t thieves…
    -Cause the weakening and ultimate collapse of Pakistan

    “They wants schools, hospitals and infrastructure development . Above everything else, they want the Center to grant provincial autonomy and stop meddling with local politics.”

    The COMMON MAN wants schools, hospitals and infrastructure development above everything else.Local POLITICIANS want no central meddling in local politics so they can rule the roost.As you seem to be writing for the common locals I think you got these two positions mixed up…intentionally or accidentally.

    “And contrary to the popular media-made perceptions, Balochis are an enlightened lot.”

    In 2008,5 women were buried alive due to their refusal to marrying men selected by the tribal chief.In the senate ,a Balochi senator sided with the action saying it is part of their culture and should be allowed.If an educated man is like this…what of the common masses who didn’t even raise their voice when the killings took place.Balochistanis,regardless of ethnicity,are highly conservative and patriarchal and frown upon changes in social norms.That is subsiding with time,which is good,but your statement is an exaggeration.

    In time truth will reveal itsel

  3. @Hassan
    First of all, let me deal with the area of Kalat. Indeed I am well aware of the fact that Kalat comprised some 23% of the total area of Balochistan as we know it today. But if only your research would have extended beyond facts, you’d have known that the military operations and the consequent take-over by the federation fuelled neighboring regions to a similar cause because perhaps you forgot, in your detailed research, to look up the history of a greater balochistan. Today, too, Balochis exist like the Kurds, persecuted on the western border by Iranis and on this side of the border by our own government when ‘scholars’ like you keep towing a denial line!

    Now the matter of provincial autonomy. So far, the only response you have produced to everything that the federation has done to intervene in the province by procuring this lame excuse: the provincial government itself is too corrupt. Pardon me sir, but I’m quite apalled at the way you put things to suit your cause. If you read closely, times and again Balochis, and for that cause famous nationalist leaders, were made heads of the provincial governments. And nearly all of them resigned or were made to quit pre-maturely before the conclusion of the term. Why? Because the Center was not ready to let them make decisions on their own. This history extends far beyond Chaghai Hill experiments. So kindly get your facts straight!

    //do you know that mineral resources except petroleum and gas are provincial subjects?Most media people like you do not know this or downplay this and declare the contrary.//
    And of course you will bless us with truth now, thank you sir. However, much as you discourse, you come out with connundrums. At one side, you try to justify Center’s intervention in the provincial matters and at the other, when such interventions have pushed Balochistan to a state where it is today, you come back to lash at the provincial government. What provincial government, I ask you?! The one who’s not even asked on key provincial matters which are directly controlled by the federation?! The mineral resources are looted and plundered by the Center and Balochis are only paid a meagre royalty. Constitutionally, the mineral resources are the provincial government’s problem but the fact is that the Center never let it be!

    Oh and let’s come to the ‘insight’ you expressed regarding the Saindak project. Here are some of the facts about it. Hope this will make you realize why Balochistan is further pushed into isolation by so-called scholars who utterly refuse their lens of view and stick to their wrong fact sheets!
    “A copper project in Saindak, in Chagai District near the Iranian border, was originally supposed to train and employ local youth. The project remained in limbo between 1996 and 2005 due to Islamabad’s unwillingness to provide PKR 1.5 billion of working capital. In 2005, the project came under Chinese management. The Metallurgical Construction Corporation (MCC) of China, which has been given the project on a ten-year lease, is now to invest roughly USD 1.4 billion, in return for 50 percent of the plant’s profits. Out of the remainder, 48 percent will go to the federal government, while just two percent will stay in Balochistan. ”

    Finally, when I read responses like these to the Balochistan issue, I am, times and again, reminded of the delusional denial this nation dwelled in on the issue of East Pakistan. And sadly enough, this nation continues to deploy the same negligience by producing such apologetic, false response to this issue.

  4. Pingback: Balochistan - Page 23 - Pakistan Defence Forum

  5. AHMAD RAJPUT

    Salam to all readers.. Jesa k hum sb janty hein k baluchistan mei sirf baloch abad nahe hein blky balochun k ilawa aur b bht c qomen mojud hein jis mei pathan, hindu, sindhi, baluchistani punjabi, hazary aur b bht c komen mojud hein jin ka rozgar jin k tamam tar mufadad baluchistan sy wabasta hein q k baluchistan har us bndy ka ghr hei jo yahan sadyun se mujud hein.. Agar baluchistan k sath zulm kiya jay ga to wo zulm sirf balochun par nahe balky yahan k tamam mukami logon par hoga chahy wo jis b zaban ya jis b mazhab se taluk rakhta ho.. Jb zulm ki inteha ho jay to jung k ilawa koi rasta nahe bachta jesy k aj kal baluchistan mei khana jangi shuru hei aur in halat se tamam baluchistani mutasir hein.. Mera likhny ka aur samjhany ka mtlb sirf ye hei k ye jung jo baluchistan mei chal rahe hei ye jung sirf baluchun ki nahe hei balky har us baluchistani ki hei jo yahan sadyun se mukem hein aur jin ka rozgar yahan se wabasta hei.. Baluchistan k sath ki jany wali ziadati sirf baluchun k sath nahe balky tamam baluchistanyun k sath ho rahe hei jis ka hum sb baluchistanyun ko mil k mo tor jawab dyna hei.. Mei tamam tar baluchistayun se apeal krta hun k is jung ko balochun ki jung na samjha jay balky ye har baluchistani ki jung hei aur hum sb ko sath mil kar chalna hei.. Yahan bat komon ya firkon ki nahe yahan ki jany wala zulm har baluchistani par zulm hei.. Mei tamam baloch bhaiyun ko apeal krta hun k khud ko tanha na samjhen balky sb ko sath ly k chalen yahan par mujud har baluchistani apny is watan ka wafadar hein hn ye zarur hei k kuch kali bheren b hein lakn hum sb ko mil k apny watan k hak k liyay jadujahad karni hei q k ye watan hamara hei hum aj jo b hein apny watan baluchistan ki waja se hein.. Is k sath sath mei un tamam gaddar aur watan faroshon ko b ye pegham dyna chahta hun k apny watan sy gadari chor den warna un k sath b wohe ho ga jo gadaron k sath hota aya hei Mujhy umed hei k mery is msg ko tamam parhny waly ittefaq karen gy k ye hamara watan hei aur hum yahan kci bahar waly ko lot mar ki hargiz ijazat nahe den gy.. Jiyay baluchistan.. Jiyay baluchistani..

  6. Honesty

    Salam to all readers.. Jesa k hum sb janty hein k baluchistan mei sirf baloch abad nahe hein blky balochun k ilawa aur b bht c qomen mojud hein jis mei pathan, hindu, sindhi, baluchistani punjabi, hazary aur b bht c komen mojud hein jin ka rozgar jin k tamam tar mufadad baluchistan sy wabasta hein q k baluchistan har us bndy ka ghr hei jo yahan sadyun se mujud hein.. Agar baluchistan k sath zulm kiya jay ga to wo zulm sirf balochun par nahe balky yahan k tamam mukami logon par hoga chahy wo jis b zaban ya jis b mazhab se taluk rakhta ho.. Jb zulm ki inteha ho jay to jung k ilawa koi rasta nahe bachta jesy k aj kal baluchistan mei khana jangi shuru hei aur in halat se tamam baluchistani mutasir hein.. Mera likhny ka aur samjhany ka mtlb sirf ye hei k ye jung jo baluchistan mei chal rahe hei ye jung sirf baluchun ki nahe hei balky har us baluchistani ki hei jo yahan sadyun se mukem hein aur jin ka rozgar yahan se wabasta hei.. Baluchistan k sath ki jany wali ziadati sirf baluchun k sath nahe balky tamam baluchistanyun k sath ho rahe hei jis ka hum sb baluchistanyun ko mil k mo tor jawab dyna hei.. Mei tamam tar baluchistayun se apeal krta hun k is jung ko balochun ki jung na samjha jay balky ye har baluchistani ki jung hei aur hum sb ko sath mil kar chalna hei.. Yahan bat komon ya firkon ki nahe yahan ki jany wala zulm har baluchistani par zulm hei.. Mei tamam baloch bhaiyun ko apeal krta hun k khud ko tanha na samjhen balky sb ko sath ly k chalen yahan par mujud har baluchistani apny is watan ka wafadar hein hn ye zarur hei k kuch kali bheren b hein lakn hum sb ko mil k apny watan k hak k liyay jadujahad karni hei q k ye watan hamara hei hum aj jo b hein apny watan baluchistan ki waja se hein.. Is k sath sath mei un tamam gaddar aur watan faroshon ko b ye pegham dyna chahta hun k apny watan sy gadari chor den warna un k sath b wohe ho ga jo gadaron k sath hota aya hei Mujhy umed hei k mery is msg ko tamam parhny waly ittefaq karen gy k ye hamara watan hei aur hum yahan kci bahar waly ko lot mar ki hargiz ijazat nahe den gy.. Jiyay baluchistan.. Jiyay baluchistani..