The Truth About Balochistan

By Ejaz Haider

The situation in Balochistan is throwing up lies and half-truths. While partisans can’t be trusted with truth, what about some so-called libs whose favourite pastime is to find fault with the state without offering viable policy solutions?

Let me put it up front: Balochistan needs to be healed — within Pakistan’s federal framework. Those who want freedom by resorting to violence and through the support of hostile elements have no place in any negotiating process unless they lay down arms. Let us also flag the point that the issue is about Balochistan’s grievances, not just Baloch grievances. Lest anyone forget, Balochistan houses other ethnic groups too.

There is deep irony in the fact that the Baloch sub-nationalists who don’t tire of talking about their rights have shied from fighting the internal battle for more egalitarian social structures which could have freed them from the debilitating influence of the sardari system. It is that system, also exploited by successive governments, which has kept Baloch areas undeveloped.

Look at the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), led by Hyrbiar Marri, son of Khair Bakhsh Marri. Educated, like most scions of the sardars (while the common Baloch remains pathetically uneducated), he is based in London. It was his group that took responsibility, among other terrorist acts, for killing the innocentPunjabi labourers.

Next is the Balochistan Republican Army (BRA). Not a nice bra this one. It is led by Brahmdagh Bugti, grandson of Akbar Bugti, whose district Dera Bugti, according to the Human Development Index, is the worst in Pakistan, even though the late Akbar Bugti served at various times as the interior minister of Pakistan and chief minister and governor of Balochistan. While BRA fights for the liberation of Balochistan, presumably on the basis of Baloch rights, Dera Bugti lives in the 12th century. The Bugti patriarch was not prepared to grant equal rights even to other Bugtis.

Then we have the Baloch Liberation United Front. This group killed four Punjabi businessmen and kidnapped John Solecki.

The fourth is the Balochistan Liberation Front of Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, the only group which comprises middle-class professionals. It also draws its cadres from the Balochistan Student Organisation (Azad) and mainly operates in the Makran belt and central Balochistan.

The fifth is Lashkar-e Balochistan, which is the militant face of Akhtar Mengal’s Balochistan National Party (M) and operates in the Khuzdar area. The slain Habib Jalib Baloch was the secretary general of BNP (M).

The sixth group, Baloch Musalla Dafa Tanzeem, is led by Ataur Rehman Mengal, son of former state minister Naseer Mengal, and also operates in Khuzdar. In the murky waters of Balochistan, this is likely the establishment’s response to Baloch militancy. Most of these groups draw people along tribal lines; there’s no united leadership and they continue to fight among themselves.

Balochistan in general and the Baloch in particular need to get their rights. But negotiations must be within the federal framework. Equally, the Baloch must realise the irony of fighting for their rights while living in a stultifying tribal system. Many want their children to be educated. There are cases of fighters secretly sending their boys to enroll in the army-funded education programme. They must not be disappointed.

So backward is the ordinary Baloch that the Baloch demand recruitment quota even in private organisations. A Pashtun from Pishin cannot get into the Bolan Medical College despite high marks while a Baloch with very low marks can secure a seat because of the quota system. This needs to change.

Finally, for those who think the Hazara community is living in great peace in Quetta or that the Punjabis are not leaving: visit Quetta and meet both communities. Since 2002, the Hazara community has suffered more than 1,200 casualties in various sectarian attacks and target killings. And try telling the Punjabis their numbers are swelling rather than depleting. You better be a good runner!

Published in The Express Tribune November 6th, 2010.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “The Truth About Balochistan

  1. Ally

    Sad situation… how to remedy it???

  2. I think Government is equally responsible for all this. Firstly because Baluchistan is really an exploited province of Pakistan and secondly rule of Feudals and waderas there. If these two reasons are seriously considered, we can have this issue fixed.

  3. Bilal Ahmad

    Good article, Baloch nationalists are also responsible for such bad state of affairs, as they were provided authority by getting to assemblies, but never did anything significant for their own people.

  4. DN

    Tribal leadership is one of the facets of violence. Afterall, the province has been a part of the federation since the begining. The state must also take responsibility for the state of affairs prevailing today. Secondly, the sense of deprivation and gloom is present not just amongst the uneducated masses, it is present in the educated middleclass youth in equal measure.

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  6. Questor

    Ejaz Haider writes: Those who want freedom by resorting to violence and through the support of hostile elements have no place in any negotiating process unless they lay down arms.

    Does he have any credibility to say this? He has all along supported the use of militancy/terrorism to try to bring India to the negotiating table.

  7. sid

    Exactly similar article can be written about Kashmir😛

  8. It is a partial account of all the happenings in Balochistan. What about our stance on Afghanistan when we welcome negotiations with the Taliban, making peace deals with them in FATA and other parts, and having our eyes closed on Southern Punjab, where roots of all the extremist organizations exists and which is a major source of recruitment along with FATA for the extremist and terrorist organizations.

  9. I lived in Quetta from 2000 to 2009. I shifted from Lahore. My husband faced many hardships to adjust in the local market as being a computer professional from Punjabi background. He really very loving people there in Pathan, Baloch and Hazara community. They love to live peacefully. But still there is always sleeping Bigotry about each other. They recognize and evaluate more on being part of some tribe. There is always a hidden tension between communities.

    Schools in Balochistan are not allowed to hang Pakistan flag and sing national anthem. In Quetta city almost all school have abandoned the morning assembly call due to the same reason.

    Hundreds if not thousands families have already shifted to Lahore, Karachi or other parts of countries. Many I know are still there only because they have nowhere to go. They don’t have enough recourses to move. We had to move from Quetta to Lahore due to increasing influence of Baloch insurgence in the main cities. My husband was threatened on phone call by some person who claimed to be member of BLA.

    Who’s fault is this? Actually its fight against awareness and ignorance. Most of movements are supervised by Nawabs. They know that if other communities will interact with baloch people they will get enlightened and demand more for their rights…. They want baloch people, to be alienated from other world. They don’t want schools, collleges, bank or any other facility in their local areas. They want to keep total blackout in their territories…..
    Destroying Nawabi system in Balochistan is the only solution to this problem or oblige Nawabs with huge money so that they stop doing this for some time…. but it will only be for a short period of time… it would not be a permanent solution.

  10. Rashid Aurakzai

    Bugti was always Islamabad’s man. Why him too?

    Stop pitching Pakthoons against Balochs. They have been living in peace for centuries.

    More than 50% of Balochistan’s used to be taken by non-Balochistan ethnicities. As an example, Iftikhar Chaudry of Quetta is using Balochistan’s quota for himself as well as his children.

    And why are we concerned with Baloch Sardari System only when justifying military action. If its people are doing well with status quo, why should Islamabad spread chaos. Wasn’t it easy for Isloo to have peaceful Dera under Nawab, than now when it’s a battle field for ecessionist Gorillas.

    They have right to preserve and live by their customs, tradition and way of life since We have failed to integrate them in our national sphere. Islamabad has exploited the system as long as it has served its purpose.

    Has Islamabad ensured standard education in Gov Primary School Bara Kahu, before its concerns for Dera Bugti.

    Give them Control over their resources. It’s their right by any definition.

    Pakistan has now five sons, Punjab, Sindh, KPK, Baochistan and Gilgit Baltistan. Why should you keep them in a combined family where the rich Sindh or Balochistan with few children has to sacrify for the children of its big brother Punjab, only because it has many.

    Why not let each live happy with its income and problems. Let’s not make one pay for others headache.

  11. YLH

    Mr Aurakzai…you cannot use a national/ethnic demand and hope to derive a territorial advantage.

    Balochistan’s resources within the federation should be for all Balochistanis not just the Baloch or the Pushtuns. By Balochistanis I mean residents of the province of Balochistan regardless of their religion, caste or creed.

    *** This Message Has Been Sent Using BlackBerry Internet Service from Mobilink ***

  12. Vishnugupta

    I hope the lot of you here including Ejaz, realize that you lack any sense of irony. Let us forget India, for now, and let’s turn our ironic gaze towards the situation in Pakistan. Whence the talk of land reforms and governance in Balochistan, when the rest of Pakistan is no different? When there is no attempt to tax the wealthy in Pakistan, whence the talk of reforming the revenue administration of Balochistan? And as for affirmative action, Pakistan would do well to implement it.