Balochistan: the other dimension
In his three-part article in The News, titled, ‘The real Balochistan,’ former senator Sana Baloch has mentioned the backwardness and deprivation of the Baloch people. This is looking at the problem in isolation, ignoring the reality that most other parts of the country are also backward and deprived.
If Balochistan is a virtual prison because of “thousands of check-posts dotting the province,” then so are the other provinces of Pakistan, given the threat posed by the extremists. In Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where I live in the most posh area of the cantonment, I have to leave and enter my house via a military police check-post, which is right in front of my gate, and this has been happening for several years.
Balochistan was never peaceful. The Khan of Qalat, claiming an independent status for his region, revolted against the central government soon after the departure of the British on August 14, 1947. The democratically elected prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ordered military action in Balochistan in 1974, and so did the government of Gen Ziaul Haq.
The fault lies with the mindset of the local sardars. The British had no interest in Balochistan and had therefore given a free hand to the local sardars to administer the tribes at their own discretion so long as peace was maintained in the region. With the onset of a new Muslim League government, the sardars could not accept receiving directions first from Karachi and then Islamabad, nor could they accept their highly subjugated tribesmen being introduced to democracy.
It is not true that the central government’s policies and actions in Balochistan devastated millions of lives. The truth is that the arrogance and inhuman treatment by the sardars devastated the lives of the Baloch masses. Nawab Akbar Bugti, who developed personal differences with the Kalpars and Masuris, banished the sub-tribes from their ancestral regions and forced them to lead nomadic lives in Sindh and Punjab. They were rehabilitated by the federal government in 2002.
The Baloch sardars also hindered any development schemes or establishment of educational institutions, so that the locals did not become conscious of their own rights. Millions or rupees in the royalty received from the Sui gas fields was squandered on luxury cars and pleasure trips abroad by the tribal chieftains. Not a single paisa was spent on the welfare of tribesmen.
Non-Baloch ethnic groups who have lived in the province for several decades and are engaged in educational and health-sector activities have been mercilessly killed. When Nawab Bugti was made governor of Balochistan, the first action he took was to cleanse the administration of experienced non-Baloch bureaucrats in the province. During his rules as governor and chief minister of Balochistan, Bugti did not initiate a single development project there. Many other Baloch personalities held extremely important offices but started or completed no project worth mentioning.
Gen Mohammad Musa, from the Hazara tribe of Balochistan, served as the second commander-in-chief of the army and governor of what was then West Pakistan in the progressive Ayub era, and was appointed governor of Balochistan during Zia’s regime. Sardar Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali of Balochistan was prime minister of the country.
A major portion of the Balochistan budget is spent on the upkeep of an army of ministers and advisers. Were there genuine concern for the welfare of fellow Baloch, the lawmakers would have voluntarily reduced the size of the cabinet. Balochistan’s home minister Mir Zafarullah Zahri revealed on March 28 that three ministers in the provincial coalition setup are involved in kidnapping for ransom. If Baloch ministers are themselves involved in perpetuation of such heinous crimes, it is difficult to see how the administration can be expected to halt the deterioration of the law-and-order situation. Are Islamabad and the establishment entirely responsible for the crisis?
The cantonments established by our army have always brought development and prosperity to local populations. Kharian in Punjab and Punnu Aqil in Sindh, for instance, were unknown arid places. But they have been turned into model towns when they were converted into cantonments, because they resulted in roaring business in the areas and employment opportunities for the locals.
The 1,700-kilometres Baloch coastline has three modern naval facilities, the Jinnah Naval Base at Ormara, Chaghai and Kharan. It has strategically significant regions like the one where the nuclear test was conducted in 1998. Also, on Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s instructions 10,000 Baloch men have been inducted in the army.
As for the natural wealth of the Balochistan that includes natural gas, coal, copper and gold, the greatest obstacle to the exploitation of this wealth is the disturbed law-and-order situation. For its own lack of expertise and resources, the Baloch population needs to get the help of non-Baloch compatriots to exploit the mineral wealth.
If the Balochistan problem is to be resolved, the lawmakers of the province will have to be more honest in the utilisation of the available funds and resources for the welfare of the masses.