Solution to Balochistan imbroglio

Mohammad Jamil

For quite some time, there have been targeted killings of people belonging to different ethnicities including Punjabi settlers in Balochistan. Few Baloch nationalist leaders were also either killed or reportedly disappeared. Whereas civil society acted as a silent spectator of targeting killings, some elements highlighted the murder of Baloch nationalist leaders, and what they called their enforced disappearances. The fact of the matter is that Balochistan is in the vortex of violence firstly due to contradictions between various ethnic groups and also because some misguided Baloch leaders are playing into the hands of aliens who wish to destabilize Pakistan.

Anyhow, ethnic and Shia-Sunni fracas have also shaken the erstwhile ethnic and sectarian harmony, as criminal gangs are stoking ethnic and sectarian divisions. Of course, poverty and deprivation are the root causes of this situation. Nevertheless, tribalism is firmly rooted in Balochistan, as 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 fragmented, as tribal group-ism has failed to integrate the state and enforce a national identity. But those who have not weaned from the poison of sham nationalism should take a look at the history of the Balkans, and the fate they have met. Anyhow, the only solution of Balochistan imbroglio is to reach out to the people of Balochistan that are living in trepidation and fear. Their lives and property need to be protected while a meaningful dialogue process with the leadership including exiled Baloch leaders is required to bring peace in the province. Simultaneously, the development of Balochistan is imperative to alleviate the miserable conditions of the people of Balochistan. It is indeed the responsibility of provincial government to initiate developmental projects including hospitals, schools, roads, etc in relation to ethnographic details and terrain at district level. One must however appreciate the efforts of Balochistan Government in remaining firm on excavating gold mines at Reko-Diq through our own resources.

Indeed, there is need to expose the foreign hands in the recent spate of sectarian violence involving brutal attacks against Shiite community killing innocent people in Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan and Karachi. Their aim is to fuel sectarian clashes and create political instability in the country by disturbing the law and order situation. There is a possibility that terrorists are behind these incidences of sectarian violence, who have foreign connections and a political agenda to gain power at all costs. The situation has been well controlled by the security forces whose efforts are commendable, however, in order to minimize the sectarian divide some concrete measures are essentially required to be undertaken by the state of Pakistan. Full protection to all citizens of Pakistan including Shiite community must be provided by the state, and the perpetrators of sectarian violence must be punished severely. Scholars of different sects must act in unison to create inter-sect harmony, and educate people on the significance of inter-sect harmony to prevent polarization in the Pakistani society.

We do acknowledge that Balochistan was neglected during British Raj, and after independence successive governments either did not seriously try to develop Balochistan, FATA and Northern Areas, or the local elite did not allow the development effort to succeed. We must admit that the formation of One Unit had created ill will between Balochistan and the federation. At the same time it must be acknowledged that the ruling elite in Balochistan also perpetrated the excesses on the people of Balochistan. No one should accept and approve the private jails of sardars, waderas or jagirdars in any part of Pakistan. In other words, the problems people of Balochistan are facing are due to lack of development, and also their exploitation by sardars. It goes without saying that people of Balochistan have the first right over minerals and other natural resources of Balochistan; of course sardars have the right for their share, which they are getting.

The people of Balochistan have been waging struggle for their rights ever since the British left. There could have been justification for resistance when they were under strong center and unitary form of government in 1950s and 1960s. But once the One-Unit was done away with and complete provincial status was given to Balochistan, the struggle should have ended. But fact of the matter is that there has been a sort of rebellion whenever there was an elected government. However, the long dormant crisis erupted into a brutal confrontation with the center in 1973 when late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had tried to establish educational institutions and construction of roads in Balochistan. The insurgency, however, lasted for four years from 1973 to 1977, and it was after promulgation of Martial Law by Late General Zia-ul-Haq that sedition cases were withdrawn against Baloch sardars. However, sardars and feudal chiefs thrive even amid the centre’s injustices and the clashes between them and the security forces. It is unfortunate that the civil society does not consider it worthwhile to comment on what a few dissident sardars have been doing to their people. No human right activist cries over the atrocities inflicted on them by their feudal lords and sardars in their private jails.

We do not hold any brief for military dictators, but one must appreciate the good things done by the elected or military ruler. Since the time, former president General Pervez Musharraf had focused on the development of Balochistan and mega projects were started, Baloch Sardars started a campaign against the federal government on one pretext or another. They did not understand that all the mega projects including Gwadar deep-sea port will remain the property of the people of Balochistan. After February 18, 2008 elections the elected governments in the centre and the provinces are in place, Baloch nationalists should have coordinated with the provincial government to secure their rights. Baloch nationalists were angry with former president Pervez Musharraf over Akbar Bugti’s killing but after his exit from the political scene there should have been change in their thinking. After his election as president, Asif Ali Zardari had dashed to Balochistan and had apologized for the atrocities on Baloch people. Anyhow, the journey to reconciliation must continue and efforts should be made to address the grievances of people of Balochistan.

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