Balochistan unrest?
Mohammad Jamil


Interior Minister, governors of Balochistan (former and present), and government functionaries in their statements have often asserted that there is foreign hand in Balochistan unrest. In June 2012, Inspector-General (IG) Frontier Corps (FC) Major General Ubaidullah Khan had told the media that around 121 insurgent training camps were in Balochistan and 30 in Afghanistan contributing to unrest in the province. According to him, camps were being operated by Harbiyar Marri, Brahamdagh Bugti, Allah Nazar and Javed Mengal, and also running campaigns to defame state institutions. Brahamdagh Bugti is the leader of Balochistan Republican Party (BRP) and Harbiyar Marri heads Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) – both are accused of fueling insurgency in the violence-plagued province. Balochistan has in fact become the focal point of foreign powers that are eyeing avariciously for its immense mineral wealth and also for its strategic location, with many rivaling eyes to get their foothold in its crucial Makran coastal belt.

In order to achieve their objectives, alien agencies are funding dissident groups and banned outfits to stir insurgency. Some foreign countries are buying up influential loyalties of some politicians, media men and so-called intellectuals, analysts to express sympathy with the rebels when they are killed in an encounter. However, there are saner elements that demand probe in the complaints by dissident Baloch sardars as well as excesses committed by Baloch militants on people from other ethnicities in the province. International media projects Baloch insurgents as freedom fighters, and local media highlights those allegedly killed by police and security forces during encounters during ambushes and murders. However, the media downplay the target killings of teachers, professors, doctors, skilled and semi-skilled workers from other provinces serving Balochistan and helping in development effort, as if their lives are not important at all and they do not have anybody to mourn.

Balochistan has indeed remained in the throes of ethnic, sectarian and tribal feuds for decades, as tribalism is firmly rooted in Balochistan. Ethnic and tribal identity is a potent force for both individuals and groups in Balochistan with the result that there exists deep polarization among different groups. Each of these groups is based on different rules of social organization, which has left the province inexorably fragmented.

It is due to tribal group-ism that efforts to integrate the state and enforce a national identity have failed. On top of that, sectarian target killings of members of shia community and sectarian clashes have resulted in scores of deaths. Al Qaeda remnants, some factions of the Taliban and Jundallah are reportedly behind these killings that have traumatized the people. Centrifugal forces and Bloch separatists continue with cleansing of Punjabi settlers and during the last four years at least 50 teachers have been killed in target killing. And about 80 professors of university and colleges have shifted to their provinces of origin.

Anyhow, it is the responsibility of the political leadership to come forward and negotiate with the dissident sardars. In part of media, Army and security agencies are being criticized and blamed for using force against the rebels. They refer to the military operation during Ayub Khan’s Martial Law, but conveniently forget that Bhutto government had also ordered Army action in Balochistan. During second stint of Mian Nawaz Sharif as prime minister, Akhtar Mengal’s government was removed through a vote of no-confidence as a result of arrogance displayed from both sides. The fact remains that Balochistan does not belong to a handful Baloch youth demanding independent Balochistan like Harbiar Marri, Akhtar Mengal or Brahamdagh Bugti, as Balochistan is also the home to a significant number of other Baloch sardars, and also Pashtoon tribes that alone make 50 per cent of the population in Balochistan. A great majority of Balochs are diehard patriots, and despite propaganda against Pakistan and armed forces, they do not want separation from Pakistan.

In May 2012, Supreme Court Bar Association had convened conference on Balochistan. Most participants talked vaguely and ambiguously, and they seemed to be ignorant or oblivious of the ground realities. They had stressed the point that resources of Balochistan should be spent on Blochistan, but the problem is that sardars believe it is their right to own the mineral wealth or oil wealth if found in their territories. As regards missing persons’ case, no department or agency has a 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 killing of Punjabi settlers is no lesser horrific. They too have human rights that do not cease to exist simply because they are no Balochs but Punjabi-speaking or speak other regional languages. 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 hearths and homes with intimidation and terror, who had to settle in other parts of Pakistan.

Dissident Baloch sardars have been demanding that there should be no cantonments in Balochistan. Why not? Is Balochistan not a part of Pakistan? As regards the demand that army must be brought back to barracks, it is already back in the barracks. Military has converted establishments in the Baloch belt into educational campuses, which fact the people of Balochistan and media know.

If Frontier Constabulary is also withdrawn, who will be facing the insurgents, as their armed men are operating in the area? So far as police is concerned, it is confined to only big cities, while all the rest is under the control of Levies that have been stuffed by the loyalists of sardars and chieftains. Analysts and panelists in TV talk shows are not conversant with the objective ground realities, and resort to conjectures. In fact, most anchor persons are young and inexperienced, and do not have the requisite knowledge and information to give objective analysis. Instead of creating unity and cohesion, they are stirring debates leading to further divisions in the society.