Balochistan’s conundrum
Mohammad Jamil
6/14/2012

 

For quite some time, government functionaries have been telling the nation that there is a foreign hand behind the unrest in Balochistan, but they have never named the country or agencies involved in it. Recently, the Inspector General (IG) of the Frontier Corps (FC), Major General Ubaidullah Khan, told the media that 20 agencies are active in Balochistan; around 121 insurgent training camps are operational in Balochistan and 30 in Afghanistan. He claimed that the camps are being operated by Harbiyar Marri, Brahamdagh Bugti, Allah Nazar and Javed Mengal, who are running a concerted campaign to defame the state institutions. Brahamdagh Bugti is the leader of Balochistan Republican Party (BRP) and Harbiyar Marri of Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) – both are accused of fuelling insurgency in the violence-plagued province. However, if anybody has incontrovertible evidence against them, it should be brought before the apex court so that adverse remarks are not given against agencies and security forces by the court.

There are no two opinions that Balochistan has become the focal point of foreign powers that are eyeing avariciously for its immense mineral wealth and also for its strategic location. There is a perception that in case Pakistan refuses to accept Washington’s strategy for Afghanistan, the USA and its allies will continue to support militancy in Balochistan with the objective of ultimately taking the issue to the UN. Nearly a week after he chaired a Congressional hearing on Balochistan, US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher presented a resolution in the House of Representatives on February 17, 2012, calling upon Pakistan to recognise the Baloch right to self-determination. According to the text: “Revolts in 1958, 1973 and 2005 indicate continued popular discontent against Islamabad’s rule, and the plunder of its vast natural wealth, while the province remains the poorest in the country.” The US administration claims that since America is a democracy, it cannot stop Senators from moving resolutions in the Congress, and they are not necessarily in line with its policy.

Unfortunately, the local media is criticising the army and the security agencies for using force against the rebels. Then investigation should be made as to why during military and elected governments (Ayub Khan and Z.A. Bhutto) army actions were taken in Balochistan. Though the Baloch nationalist leaders may have public support in their areas that is a small percentage of the large swaths of land, yet the fact remains that Balochistan does not belong to a handful Baloch youth demanding an ‘independent Balochistan’ like Harbiyar, Akhtar or Brahamdagh. Balochistan is, indeed, the home of a significant number of other Baloch sardars, and also Pashtun tribes that alone make 50 percent of the population, who are Pakistanis and do not want to separate from Pakistan. While the local media highlights those allegedly killed by the police and security personnel in Balochistan, the target killing of teachers, professors, doctors and even skilled and semi-skilled workers in other provinces are downplayed. It also keeps mum over the killing of innocent Baloch people by the mines and IEDs placed by the insurgents.

Balochistan has, indeed, remained in the throes of ethnic, sectarian and tribal feuds for decades. Ethnic and tribal identity is a potent force for both individuals and groups in the province with the result that there exists deep polarisation among different groups. Each of these groups is based on different rules of social organisation, which has left the province inexorably fragmented. And tribal group-ism has failed to integrate the state and enforce a national identity. The problem is that during the British Raj, Balochistan was the most neglected area and after independence, successive governments never made serious efforts to develop it.

Recently, the Supreme Court Bar Association convened a conference on Balochistan. Most participants talked vaguely and ambiguously, and they seemed to be oblivious of the ground realities. They stressed that the province’s resources should be spent on it, but did not underline the point that the sardars consider it their right to own the minerals, gas or oil if found in their territory. As regards the missing persons’ case, no agency has the right to detain anyone without due process of law; and tortured killing is a savage act that can neither be condoned nor justified on any ground. But the killing of Punjabi settlers is no lesser horrific; they too have human rights that do not cease to exist simply because they are not Balochs, but Punjabi-speaking. However, there was not a word of compassion for them, even as scores have been killed, many more wounded, and a lot more driven out of their homes.