South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

COAS in Balochistan
A Javed

The COAS, General Kayani, used the inauguration of the Education City at Sui to announce the abolition of the cantonment there. The Education City will house the country’s third military college, and as Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani, who also spoke on the occasion, said, the trust deficit among the Baloch will only be reduced by education. By recruiting Baloch youth, the Army was not only providing jobs, but also an environment in which they would be exposed to other young men, from the other provinces, engaged in the common enterprise of defending the country. General Kayani also said that the Army was imparting technical training to 1700 Baloch youth, having imparted it to 1700 already.

The significance of the steps is not just that the Army is playing its role as a nation-building institution in the province, but also that it will serve thus to counter the strong nationalist sentiment prevalent there. Apart from providing jobs through recruitment and education, the Army is also performing an important national service in a troubled province. It should not be forgotten that this policy was also tried in Sindh, and served the joining of that province into the mainstream of national life. There is perhaps a more difficult task in Balochistan, where the Army is starting later, and which has mineral wealth of its own. In this context, as well as that of Gwadar port, General Kayani’s statement, that the local people had first right over the natural resources of the province, gains importance, apart from stealing the nationalists’ thunder.
What General Kayani has said is probably music to Baloch ears, and not just because the source is one of the most powerful men in the country. What he said reflected an institutional commitment, not merely a personal, to a heightened profile in the province, until it came fully into the national mainstream. Therefore, it was not all that inappropriate for Governor Zulfiqar Magsi to ask General Kayani to help solve the missing persons mystery. However, Governor Magsi should have realized that his question meant that the federal government which appointed him could not do anything about the province’s missing persons, who are supposed to have been picked up and spirited away. General Kayani should realize that the military regime also came under fire nationwide, but primarily in the province, for murdering Nawab Akbar Bugti. At the same time, the government should be aware that its Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan package has not worked, because if it had, then General Kayani would not have stood out as he has with his present steps.