Difficult but not impossible | Pakistan Today

Difficult but not impossible

  • Problems of Balochistan

 By: Dr Rajkumar Singh

After accession to Pakistan, Balochistan witnessed the implementation of the One-Unit scheme in 1955 which amalgamated the four western provinces into one. The new scheme was more vehemently opposed in Balochistan than anywhere else, and it was the first defiance of central government’s authority. This is why the army moved first in Balochistan, in 1958, just before the imposition of martial law. It was the beginning of an anti-people regime in Balochistan. The unrest further increased when the army demanded that weapons should be handed in at police stations and the tribesmen refused to comply. 23 years after the creation of Pakistan, in 1970, Balochistan was granted the status of a province. This was followed by the formation of a pro-Baloch government of the National Awami Party (NAP), in alliance with Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), a religious party.  However, it found no relief under the new regime and as earlier, centralist tendencies continued.

The Baloch people had become part of the independent state of Pakistan yet colonial policies for controlling these tribes continued. The policy of offering incentives to tribal chiefs at the cost of the common man alienated Balochistan from the rest of the federation. The political leadership of Balochistan argued that the British government always treated them differently and they enjoyed special status and relationship with the British Indian government. They had accepted amalgamation with the state of Pakistan, but got apprehensive about the fact that the Baloch were only a small fraction of the total population and hence in a serious danger of loss of identity. Their apprehension was strengthened by the imposition of the “One-Unit” system, and later on, political arrangements under long military rules existed in the country. This forced them to rally under the banner of nationalism. The Baloch had voiced strong grievances about their lack of representation in the Pakistani bureaucracy, and armed forces, or even in the provincial administration of Balochistan. Relations between Baloch nationalists and the central government have been confrontational since the creation of Pakistan, periodically turning violent.

To solve the various problems of national interest through wide consensus, the government should work on creating and implementing concrete policies that will lead to socio-economic development and problem resolution

In last two decades, the understanding between Baloch people and the central government has worsened, especially during the Musharraf era. In 2004, the long-simmering tensions broke out into renewed insurgency. The conflict stems in part from the central government’s imposition of a historical narrative of the creation of Pakistan as a religiously homogeneous country on the ethnically distinct Baloch. The 1999 military coup increased general alienation among the Baloch. This is because Baloch see the Army as lacking Baloch representation due to its domination by the interests of the Punjabi and the Pakhtuns. The transition from the military government of Musharraf to the civilian government of Asif Zardari in 2008 till today under the premiership of Nawaz Sharif and now Imran Khan, almost nothing has been done to assuage Baloch discontent.

Concerns of the Baloch are one of the most serious threats to the country’s federal structure. The history of the relationship between the Centre and Balochistan shows a long story of political ineptitude, economic exploitation and unfulfilled promises. The Centre, in its successive policies and measures, has overlooked the sociological and anthropological peculiarities of Balochistan’s people and the harsh economic realities under which they pass their lives, and which over 70 years, have given birth to deprivation. This deprivation has caused a number of uprisings. Unfortunately, being kept away from mainstream politics, the Baloch have developed serious grievances, which over time; have developed into nationalistic feelings, threatening the federation. The situation in Balochistan in recent years evoked concern, with deteriorating law and order and strident political demands that threatened destabilization with a growing sense of deprivation.

At the moment, Baloch nationalism which to a large extent, is within constitutional limits, is trying to retain the Baloch identity while safeguarding the rights of common man in the developmental efforts of the provinces and the country. It is perhaps the most suitable time to address this issue seriously which otherwise may turn into separation, given the increasing pressure from the sentimental youth of Balochistan. Nationalist terrorism has mainly been witnessed in province of Balochistan at regular intervals and mainly revolves around the issue of exploitation of resources and threat to the political identity and culture of minorities, sub-nationalities.

Possible solutions: Under the circumstances what needs to be done is a wholesome response. The most fundamental and urgent requirement is for trust-building and the only way this can even begin is, by governance measures from the Centre that are urgent, transparent and reach the doorstep of the ordinary masses. For its part, Pakistan needs to learn that the problem of Balochistan must be given urgent attention and top priority in good faith and measure. The governing elite in Pakistan has to be sensitive to the genuine demands placed on the federal government by the Baloch.

The government has to adopt a multi-pronged anti-insurgency strategy to placate the Baloch people. The use of force will not lead to a peaceful solution. History is witness to the fact that suppression further ignites such movements. By taking serious and urgent socio-economic measures and by providing justice and fair play as the basis of governance, the back of the insurgency can be broken. This can be achieved if the federal government in conjunction with the provincial government, applies the will to ensure that the legitimate rights of the people of Balochistan are granted and delivered immediately.

To solve the various problems of national interest through wide consensus, the government should work on creating and implementing concrete policies that will lead to socio-economic development and problem resolution. Provincial and ethnic autonomy could enhance the participatory approach which will help to develop a wide consensus over national affairs. The legitimate grievances of the Baloch must be addressedm as of all other deprived areas. For the broader peace and security programme in the region, the government must invest in human development, and politically empower the people to take part in economic development through a modern but decentralized governance mechanism.

The author isHead of the Department of Political Science, BNMU, Saharsa, Bihar, India, and can be reached at [email protected]