Retrieving Balochistan from the brink of disorder
It took one US Congressman to jolt Pakistan on the urgent need to address Balochistan issue. Whatever malicious designs he had on an integral part of a sovereign nation that too a consistent ally in US regional endeavours, speak of US thinking on this strategically located part of Pakistan. The crude way however with which he took upon himself to speak for Balochistan on the floor of US Congress maliciously calling for an independent entity was an outright interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan.
Christine Fair, a prominent journalist, in one of her recent articles on the Congressman’s move has described the crude attempt as an attack on Pakistan’s integrity and full of mala-fide intentions. Nevertheless, the echoing of the issue abroad has reminded us of our national failure to redress the Baloch depravations through a focused and sustained effort. The half hearted and wane attempts made by our collective political leadership in the past have enabled the Baluch separatist tribal heads thrive on foreign financial backing and militant training in camps located in Afghanistan for disrupting peace in the province. Ignoring of the issue for far too long has now transitioned their cause from redressal of deprivations to the theme of separation.
We are talking about the same Balochistan that weighed Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in gold. They had rallied behind the great leader in latter’s pursuit of a separate homeland for Muslims of the sub-continent. Despite the unwavering support for an independent Pakistan, Balochistan’s economic and political landscape has not changed much since then for our collective leadership’s criminal faltering in timely evolving of a national agenda that could remove Baloch apathy. Along the way various governments did take political initiatives to redress their deprivations but somewhere along the way these initiatives always got derailed for un-acceptable conditions levied by tribal Sardars and Nawabs of Balochistan. The Baloch tribal leadership, therefore, cannot be exonerated also for not letting their people prosper through these initiatives. These leaders are still not prepared to let go their lust of power abundantly found in Sardari and Nawabi systems of governance. Being desperate in returning to the age-old system, the Bugti, Marri and Mengal leadership has landed in safe havens in America, England and other European countries trying to internationalise the issue through like-minded foreign operators.
Nevertheless, the recent developments mandate our national leadership a serious look in the dynamics that ail Balochistan. The Baluch people are very docile and friendly natured and love being Pakistanis. Talking to an ordinary Baloch one finds that he is not only aware of the issues, courtesy electronic media, but is also oblivious of clandestine efforts being carried out by various agencies, both foreign and national, to spurt unrest in the province. The Baloch also opine that sudden projection of their dissident leaders as heroes on our own media is fake and they find themselves better off without the dissidents’ ruthless leadership. They accuse tribal leadership of having blocked their progress and development and infested their minds that only Federation was responsible for their deprivation. The present day political leadership in Balochistan despite being heavily funded has also not been forthcoming in developing Balochistan.
To pull back Balochistan from the brink of muddled security environment a string of immediate steps are needed. For kick starting the provincial economy, all the loans provided to the province be written off as the first step towards confidence building measures. The Federation needs to open job vacancies for employing as many Baloch as possible in various departments all over the country, especially in the province of Punjab to soothe anti-Punjab sentiments in Balochistan. The Baloch tribal leaders who have taken refuge abroad must be talked into returning to Pakistan for collective efforts to remove Baloch deprivations. These leaders however have to be compelled to denounce separation calls and abandon indulgence in anti-Pakistan activities. In the meantime talks with the mid level Baloch leaders be initiated to avoid them falling prey to the influence of Sardar and Nawab hierarchies. The leading educational institutions nationwide be pursued to accommodate at least 2% seats for students directly from Balochistan with boarding and lodging at institution’s costs. Similarly, mobile telephone companies and other software houses be persuaded to open their offices in Balochistan and incentives like tax holidays be offered to them. Industrialisation in the province must also be incentive based with greater ratio of Baloch employment. Communication infra-structure be resolutely laid for economic benefit of the province. Gawadar port and related infrastructure with road links is to be completed and made operational with sincerity. Instead of the Centre, the development of the province be carried out by the provincial leadership with due monitoring from the Centre. Funds for these development initiatives be provided by the Centre also. Restructuring of the system of deliverance in Balochistan has become inevitable lest we sink ourselves more in an irretrievable position. Pakistan’s political parties have always worked in tandem to preserve each other’s interests, like the recent 20th Constitutional Amendment, but they have failed themselves in uniting on internal issues that pose a threat to our national integrity, Balochistan being top most in the list of such issues. We have taken Balochistan grievances’ very lightly so far and sleeping over it any more may become hazardous in preserving our national integrity.