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Pakistan: Balochistan – A Ticking Bomb

Beauty of Balochistan. Image by Flickr User NotMicroButSoft. CC BY-NC-SA

Balochistan, the largest province (43% of landmass) of Pakistan, has been a hotbed of anarchy. Moign Khawaja quoted a Balochi in his travelogue Neo Martian's Notes to highlight the state of affairs in Balochistan:

“Guess a land that is blessed with natural wealth yet suffers from chronic poverty. A civilisation that is rich of culture and traditions yet suffers from degradation. A nation that takes pride in its values and traditions yet suffers from suppression of identity. A labourer that works hard with patience and diligence yet gets exploitation and oppression as wages. And ironically, a cow that is forced to give milk yet starves for fodder to survive.”

The factors leading to such a state date back to the days of Pakistan's independence. Despite the fact that the central government has long persecuted Balochis for their nationalist sentiments, they still resound them in their conviction. Ale Natiq, an ex-student of FAST University, took an expedition to Balochistan to gather first-hand narratives. He writes in his blog:

“We had many meetings the next day with people from diverse backgrounds and ideologies – students, teachers, doctors, politicians, social workers, aam-shehri(common citizens), activists and an intellectual. An ex-member of the BSO-Azad (Baloch Students Organization- Azad) briefed us in detail about the historical facts. It was surprising to learn that Balochistan was independent for many years before the emergence of Pakistan and that they never wanted to be part of Pakistan. He told that Jinnah himself had been the lawyer for the Khan of Kalat, the then ruler of the independent Balochistan, for a case against the British regarding the sovereignty of Balochistan. After the creation of Pakistan, when Jinnah offered them to be a part of Pakistan, both the houses of then parliament of Balochistan (house of lords and house of common) refused to be merged with Pakistan, thus later in 1948 the area was captured by the Pakistan Army and included in Pakistan by force and since then they are being deprived of their rights.”

“The ‘Instrument of Accession’ of Kalat with Pakistan, while signed against the wishes of the majority of the Baloch people, clearly stated that, among other things, the constitutional structures of Pakistan would not be implemented in Balochistan without the consent of Khan and his people” notes Urooj Zia in a guest post in Bazm-E-Rindaan blog.

The sad fact, however, is that today Balochistan is granted neither provincial autonomy nor a just return for its vast resources which the Center has been exploiting for decades. Natural gas, discovered in Balochistan back in 1953 and exported today to the remotest districts of Punjab and Sindh is supplied to only 4 out of 24 districts of Balochistan itself. Urooj cites:

“Balochistan’s growth indicators have also been far worse than those of the rest of the country, despite the province’s rich mineral and maritime resources. Natural gas, for instance, is taken from Balochistan and piped to the rest of the country, leaving the Baloch to burn wood trucked in from Sindh.”

That's not it, however. Such repressive policies have led to frequent uprisings in the past which the Army has brutally crushed each time. Today, Army is synonymous with extra-judicial killings, abduction and missing persons in this region.

Sheheryar Ali's highlights the terror in his blog:

“What is happening in Balochistan is unbelievable. People have been “burnt alive” in molten coal-tar by Pakistan army. Thousands of Baloch students, intellectuals and political activists have been “disappeared”. Pakistani secret agencies are largely considered responsible for these disappearances.”

These claims are supported by reports from independent human rights organizations which talks about the disappearance of some 8000 personnel since 2005.

The past inabilities of the provincial governments and the Center's express control over provincial affairs has hugely disenchanted Balochis of the constitutional ways. And the youth is increasingly indulging in armed struggle. If Pakistan today wishes not to face another separation like the one in 1971, the federal government needs to be more humane in its policies towards Balochistan.

Urooj concludes her note on the lines:

“The Pakistani intelligentsia needs to get its priorities straight: support for an oppressed people is more important than perceived concepts of patriotism and love for artificial lines on maps. Silence or neutrality in the face of oppression is also part of the support for oppression; and in the era of the internet and new media resources, ‘I didn’t know’ cannot be the answer to the question of Balochistan.”

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