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Resolving the Baloch National Question: aspects of a negotiated settlement

by Dr. Naseer Dashti
posted at regainingsovereignty.blogspot.com


The Baloch and the Pakistani state relations can easily be termed hostile since 1948. The history of relationship between the Baloch and the Pakistani state establishment is the history of violent conflicts. According to the Baloch perceptions, their national resistance is their response to cultural and economical domination and political subjugation. Crude military power has been the only way adopted by almost every Pakistani Government in dealing with the Baloch discontent. During all conflicts, the Baloch masses and their leadership suffered heavy losses in men and material. The ongoing military campaign is the bloodiest one causing internal dislocation of thousands of Bugti and Marri tribesmen. The brutal murder of one of the towering figures of the Baloch national movement, Nawab Akber Bugti and the mysterious death of the revered resistance fighter Nawabzada Mir Balaach Marri are the most important happenings of the present conflict. In addition, kidnapping of hundreds of the Baloch by security agencies is another unprecedented hallmark of the 5 years long, low intensity war of resistance and political mobilization in Balochistan. In the wake of a democratic dispensation in Pakistan, talks of a negotiated settlement of the conflict between the Baloch and the state are being heard from various quarters. Is a negotiated settlement possible between the Baloch national resistance and the state establishment? This essay is a brief discussion on the nature of the Baloch and the state relationship, dimensions of the Baloch resistance and the possibility and parameters of a peaceful settlement within the Pakistani Federation.

Aspects of Baloch- State Relations

The primary aspect of the Baloch and the State relations has been the dispute over the legitimacy of accession of the Baloch State of Kalat with Pakistan. In the wake of British withdrawal from South Asia, the Baloch declared their independence on August 11, 1947. Immediately elections were held for a bicameral Legislature, beginning a new democratic political system in Balochistan. However, with the help of British colonial administration in India, a portion of the Baloch Land, which was leased out by the Baloch State of Kalat to the British Government during and after Anglo-Afghan wars, was incorporated in to Pakistan under the pretext of a controversial referendum. Protests against this action were totally ignored by the colonial administration in New Delhi. Soon Pakistani establishment began to employ different pressure tactics for coercing Kalat State to merge in to newfound religious state of Pakistan. When in March 1948 Pakistani troops entered Balochistan from north and south, the ruler of the Baloch State had no option but to sign an agreement of accession with Pakistan. This was against the will of the Baloch people expressed by both Houses of their parliament. In a Baloch perspective, it is the illegal occupation of their land without their consent.

The second aspect of Baloch-Pakistan relations is the irrational rather politically perverse doctrine of ‘Islamic brother-hood' and strong centre tradition. Legal, cultural, social and economic systems put in place by the State ignored or contradicted pre-existing social, political and cultural systems of the Baloch and other minority nationalities in the newly created state. According to Baloch perceptions, the concepts of Islamic brother-hood, Pakistani Islamic Nation and strong centre doctrine adopted by the state were used as tools for subjugating the Baloch and other nationalities and for undermining their cultural, linguistic and social traditions.

Coercive military presence tends to be a permanent feature of the Baloch and the state relations. The soldiers were the first to arrive in Balochistan followed by civilian administrators and settlers. Over a period of time, it became the sacred task of the Pakistani army to protect the backward and politically ‘immature' Baloch people from the “exploitation, tyranny and corruption” of their tribal, social and political leaders. Army as the protector of so-called “ideological boundaries” of the state was declared a sacred institution. Any discussion even academic about the role of army, Islamic nation-hood and strong centre were regarded sins as big as blasphemy and treason. The Pakistani army, perceiving the Baloch nationalism as a grave threat to the state, launched major military offensives in Balochistan during 1948, 1958, 1962, and 1973. Extra judicial killings of the Baloch by the army, paramilitary and state intelligence agencies, harassment, kidnapping and inhuman torture of the Baloch political activists and intellectuals during the sustained military campaigns are the other permanent features of the state and Baloch relations. The recent military aggression in Balochistan is the continuation of that policy; nevertheless, it surpasses all previous military operations in its intensity and ruthlessness.

Once the military control was established in 1948, a system of 'indirect colonial rule' was employed in Balochistan in order to gradually gain comprehensive economic, cultural and political control. A small, carefully selected group of the Baloch who were loyal to the state establishment exercised limited powers in the province on behalf of the centre. The state intelligence agencies selected, instructed and often co-opted these figureheads who have no political, social or cultural identity in Baloch society. Beginning from 70s a new and previously unknown breed of elite, the ‘religious leaders', was created in a secular Baloch society and was also incorporated in the schema of ruling Balochistan by proxy. This internal colonizing tactics is yet another gloomy aspect of the state and the Baloch relationship.

One of the hallmarks of hostile relationship between the state and the Baloch is the settlement of people from other parts of the country in to various regions of Balochistan in order to bring state sponsored demographic changes. Consequently, many townships in Balochistan are increasingly becoming settler dominated. The Baloch identity of many towns including capital city Quetta has been replaced by the identity of a settler society. The exploitation of oil and petroleum reserves and the recognition of Gwadar Port as a potential economic and commercial centre has encouraged a whole range of planned colonization schemes to attract investors and migrants to the region. According to the Baloch perceptions, the objective of this colonization process is to counter the Baloch national aspirations by a drastic shift in the population.

The systematic developmental aggression is yet another feature of the Baloch and the state relations. The state establishment often tried to legitimize its claim that it is the state, which brings development and progress to the underdeveloped Balochistan. They consider it to be part of their ‘sacred duty' to ‘promote' to the well-being of the Baloch who were ‘'not yet able' to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern socio-economic and political expansion. According to the propaganda rhetoric of rulers, only the State represents modernity vis-à-vis the 'backward' Baloch population. The underlying assumption is that the state dominated by a particular nationality is in a better position to define and fulfil the needs of the Baloch people. Under this elusive perception, the process of expropriating the natural resources of Balochistan is going on from the very beginning. First, they extracted the natural gas resources of Eastern Balochistan at the extent of exhausting the reserves. Then was the turn of mineral wealth of North Western Balochistan. Now the rulers want to accelerate the exploration processes in Mari area and Jhalawan regions. Above all is the hurriedly initiated mega project of developing port town of Gwadar in to a shipping port with land transit facility on international standard.

Cultural exploitation of the Baloch is another characteristic of the Baloch and the state relations. Alien cultural traditions and language are being imposed at the expense of traditional Baloch social values, which have, strengthen the Baloch beliefs that their socio-cultural and political systems are being destroyed or corrupted in a systematic and organized way. According to the Baloch perception, the ‘sacred mission' of the Pakistani army and the civilian establishment to ‘civilize' the ‘uncivilized' Baloch is the cultural counterpart of the economic exploitation and political domination. It is to encourage or coerce Baloch people to become 'perfect Pakistani Muslims'. An important aspect of this mission is the language and education policy of the state in which it has deliberately imposed an Indian language (Urdu) on the Baloch as national language and language of instruction in educational institutions. In their zeal of creating an artificial Islamic culture, the establishment ignored the fact that destruction of a culture inflicts real harm not only on the group or the nationality but also devastate and hurt the individual human beings. One culture cannot simply be removed and another transplanted without committing a violation of the dignity and integrity of that group, nationality or individual.

As a manifestation of classical colonial mentality, organized attempts were made by state establishment to bring religion into a prominent position in a secular Baloch society. In this regard, large numbers of religious schools were funded by the state. Tablighi (preaching) sessions were patronized in every corner of Balochistan to convert the 'ignorant Baloch' and save them from ‘eternal damnation'. A culture of ‘kawalis', ‘naaths', religious narrow mindedness and other alien traditions of northern India is being imposed to promote an alien cultural codes at the expense of Balochi traditional social values. This 'colonisation of the mind' has important implications. Replacing a traditional belief and social system of a people by an alternative frame of reference often amounts to changing the entire identity of a people. According to the Baloch perceptions, as the distinct secular identity of the Baloch is a vehicle of nationalist aspirations, these efforts were used as a means of diluting their political resistance to domination and subjugation. They perceive that the concept of ‘Muslim brotherhood' and of making the Baloch ‘perfect Muslims' is in fact intertwined with the colonial concept of economic development and classically has often been invoked in order to justify the exploitation of the natural resources of captured territories in the colonial era.

Violation of basic human rights of the Baloch is the most painful aspect of the Baloch-Pakistan relations. Extra judicial killings, harassment, kidnapping and inhuman torture of the Baloch leaders; political activists and intellectuals are the normal state responses to the Baloch political mobilization and expression of Baloch national aspirations.

It is obvious that the Baloch National Question in Pakistan cannot be reduced to a single dimension. It comprised of many interlinked characteristics. According to the Baloch view, the socio-political and economic situation in Balochistan in terms of Baloch national identity remains grave and alarming. It is the universal perception among the Baloch that they are living a life at the gunpoint in the shadows of inhuman atrocities by the most atrocious state establishment in the contemporary world. They believe that their very survival as a Nation is threatened by the distortion of their history, and colonization through forced occupation, militarization, and systematic efforts and designs aimed at submerging them in the culture and national identity of the dominant nationality. According to the Baloch, all the parameters indicate a colonial relationship between Pakistan and Balochistan. The Baloch after 1947 found that after the partition of India they had simply traded one set of oppressors, the British for another, Pakistan. The lives of uncounted millions of the Baloch people are characterized by oppression, exploitation, violence, and injustice. The result of this is that many of these people have been forced to seek some form of defence against these experiences. In this context, the Baloch resistance whether it is political mobilization or armed resistance is by all means defensive in nature.

Dynamics of Baloch National Resistance

As described above the marginalization of the Baloch, ruthless and frequent military operations and the Baloch vigorous resistance for national rights are the main characteristics of the Baloch and the state relations. The Baloch national resistance is complex and in order to understand it should be placed within its specific historical, cultural, geographical and economic context.

The Baloch define them as a nation based on common ancestry, history, society, institutions, ideology, language and territory. Their existence as a nation is ancient - that is, there have been mention of the Baloch as a group of people as long as some 3500 years before. For many among the Baloch, their resistance is the continuation of efforts for national salvation beginning from the Sassanid period. The history of Balochistan in a sense is the history of resistance against alien occupation and cultural invasion. The Baloch resistance against Sassanid, Arab invaders, Afghan plunderers, Qachar and Pehlavi dynasties were a manifestation of their endeavours for retaining their national identity, dignity and honour.

In Pakistan, the Baloch masses have been expressing their strong opposition to subjugating measures in different forms including fierce armed struggle, on political plan equality and inclusion in the state power structure. It may be mentioned that during the last many decades, the Baloch conflict with the state was confined to some extent to tribal pockets and could not gained status of a mass national resistance movement. Some analysts believe that ideologically, it wavered from the demands of independence, confederation, to implementation of 1940 Lahore Resolution and greater provincial autonomy. Things changed during 70s with the inclusion in the politics of national resistance of some elements among the Baloch educated class and the creation of a low profile Baloch bureaucracy in the newly created province of Balochistan. Today the context of the Baloch resistance is very different from its early or formative years. Now it has acquired many dimensions that are necessary for a national resistance movement to flourish and survive. These new dimensions can be summarized as follows:

1. A significant change can be witnessed in Baloch social and economic context. Emergence of a Baloch upper class of relatively rich businesspersons and retired bureaucrats is an important development. Many among this new rich class are aspiring to replace the artificially created ruling elite in Balochistan. It has been presumed that the Baloch resistance is getting substantial funding and moral support from the so-called would be ‘Baloch National Bourgeois'.

2. The development of a modern communication network in Balochistan is not only helping the state machinery to counter the armed activities, it is also providing much assistance to resistance groups in their efforts to unite, consolidate or coordinate their actions.

3. Development of a growing middle class in search of social identity and economic privileges is providing the movement with political agitators and propagandists. The same class is also providing manpower to a limited extent to armed groups.

4. A vocal Baloch community in many European countries has been able to draw attention of international media and some political and pressure groups towards the plight of the Baloch people.

5. A growing number of jobless students and youth volunteers are reportedly joining the resistance movement in cities and mountains.

6. The perception of running out of time among the Baloch intellectuals and opinion makers is fuelling the sentiments of ‘national salvation in our life time' among the Baloch politically conscious elements. The Baloch universally share the belief that as a nation they are at the verge of being extinct.

With all its weaknesses and contradictions, the struggle waged by resistance movements and their allied political groups can be termed genuine and widely supported by the Baloch masses. Facing absorption and subjugation, the Baloch seem to have had no other choice than to resort to arm. They have chosen the option to fight to be alive rather being submissive to be extinct. Baloch national resistance by no means can be termed the activities of small groups of isolated individuals, though state authorities frequently describe them as such. Many analysts believe that the Baloch resistance is invariably a defensive reaction to oppression and cultural genocide - attempts to wipe out their culture through forced assimilation. The struggle so intense and pervasive is not sudden or impromptu outburst but born out of popular discontent, and emerged over long periods of time not only to combat oppressive conditions but simultaneously to express aspirations for a different and more just society. In general, the Baloch national resistance seeks to control their affairs and destiny - economically, politically, socially, and culturally.

The state's sequential policies of assimilation and integration strategies have failed to suppress the cultural and linguistic aspirations of the Baloch and have effectively stressed the need for the Baloch people to resist the subjugating manoeuvres of majority nationality. Today, the Baloch national resistance whether it is political mobilization or armed insurrection is more widespread, more organized and universally appreciated among the Baloch. The mass support for the resistance is seemingly unprecedented. The resistance has increased its degree of political organization and armed mobility as well as its theoretical and ideological poise. Armed resistance groups with different nomenclature and with different areas of operation are emerging as well- organized clandestine movements unprecedented in the history of the Baloch national struggle. While the Baloch resistance gained ground, the endeavours to suppress the Baloch with ruthless military force, the establishment has lost its moral support even from the intelligentsia of the ruling nationality in Pakistan.

The process of reconciliation

No remedial measures had ever been initiated in the past to narrow the gap in the perceptions of the Baloch and the state. Instead of identifying resistance fighters as patriots battling oppression and injustices and seeking the emancipation of their people, the state establishment usually refer to them as "miscreants or terrorists." The reactions of the state to nationalist and secular demands ranged from the bloody and ruthless suppression of dissent by the use of military muscles to the mass imprisonments and curtailments of political activities or violation of civil rights of the Baloch people. The state establishment has been justifying these actions by claiming that the suppression of dissent is necessary to protect the population at large against a “handful of irresponsible, ignorant and anti-development elements” led by some tribal chiefs. The state agencies and their chosen nominees in the province often characterize the Baloch demands as unrealistic or blackmailing tactics of some tribal chiefs, whom they prefer to refer as “war lords”.

The Baloch access to the political process has been deliberately suspended, to the detriment for conciliation and co-existence with the state. During the last sixty years, only three provincial governments with a semblance of Baloch representation were allowed to function for nearly 3 years in all. First was the NAP coalition in 1973 for nine months led by Sardar Ataullah Mengal, second was the government of Nawab Bugti and the third was a coalition government headed by Akhthar Mengal in 1997-98, which was allowed to function for fifteen months. During the remaining period, the province was ruled by centre through proxy. People were hand picked by the central government who governed the province without any moral or political authority among the Baloch masses. The state functionaries have been promoting non-entities as alternates to Nawab Marri, Sardar Mengal and Nawab Bugti, which not only proved to be a futile exercise, but also engendered the hostility of Baloch masses. By all accounts, it appears that the policy makers have been facing the Baloch problem without any genuine desire to appease the Baloch and address their legitimate apprehensions on social, political, economic and cultural issues.

To understand the Baloch national struggle, it is necessary to strip away the camouflage terms and explanations that the state establishment use to hide its true nature. In this context, the Baloch describe their resistance as a patriotic duty. The Baloch political leaders of all nationalist groupings are presenting their resistance whether it was armed or political as their struggle for human rights, honour, identity and national salvation. The conscious circles amongst the Baloch believe that armed resistance was adopted when all acceptable peaceful solutions - appeals, legislative and judicial actions, and the resources of the ballot box - have been proved worthless. In this context, their armed resistance can be termed as an extension of their political mobilization.

Resistance to oppression is the consequence of the oppression itself. When the state violates the rights of the people, insurrection becomes for the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties. The general impression among the Baloch is that the state is trying to overwhelm the nationalist forces who are engaged in a political battle for the Baloch national identity and cultural survival, by the use of ruthless state power. Using military muscle in conflict resolution in a multinational state like Pakistan is least acceptable today as a modus operandi given the new concept of international legitimacy (human rights, rule of law, pluralistic democracy and minority protection) and particularly the Western sensitivity on such issues. The most appreciable means have been identified for conflict resolution are dialogue processes and through peaceful means. As the conflict between the Baloch and the state is a direct result of oppression, and there is only one-way that the products of oppression can be dissolved, and that is to stop the oppression and the settlement of the dispute with a fair reconciliation process. In Baloch context in order to make the negotiation fruitful adopting a comprehensive strategy is imperative. The genuine process of reconciliation has been experimented in different parts of the world with positive results. The reconciliatory processes always include:

· Confidence building measures

· Suspension of hostilities

· Negotiating the issue

Confidence building measures

The prerequisite to any dialogue should necessarily be based on the recognition of the hard fact of the nature of the Pakistani state and the extent and character of the Baloch grievances. Soon after take-over of power by a civilian dispensation, redressing the Baloch political grievance and social injustices and ending the cycle of death and destruction in the province, is being discussed openly in the political and military circles of the country. This is perhaps because the policy of military operation failed to suppress, manage or contain the Baloch resistance. However, there are important factors, which are fundamental and must be considered before a meaningful negotiation between the Baloch and the state establishment should begin. The major obstacles, which can jeopardize an attempt of attaining a peaceful atmosphere in Balochistan, could roughly be grouped into three categories. First, is the denial of the acknowledgment of the real Baloch national leadership as the genuine representatives of the Baloch masses and second is the absence of visible will of recognition and redress of personal, tribal and national grief and loss resulting from the use of ruthless military power. The third obstacle into a meaningful dialogue is the arrogant behaviours of the powerful the state establishment. Without overpowering the arrogant and short-sighted mindset of the ruling elite, no model of reconciliation in Balochistan can be of any substance.

In any reconciliatory move of such a nature where mistrust has been the hallmark of the entire 60 years of relationships between the Baloch and the state establishment, substantial and meaningful confidence-building measures are supposed to be necessary before any serious attempts of a negotiated settlement between or amongst the stakeholder. In this context a few pre-requisite are mentioned below:

Ø The first step on behalf of the powers, which are running affairs of the state, should be the open and loud acknowledgement of all injustices committed to the Baloch people by the state machinery. As an expression of intent, this would constitute the minimal recognition of the loss; it should also include a public expression of regret or apology by the Parliament and the government.

Ø Immediate release of political workers and tribal people languishing in secret service dungeons and prisons without any trial for the last many years. To find out everything possible concerning the fate of all missing Baloch arrested during action and other victims would in itself provide recognition of the suffering and loss endured by the Baloch.

Ø Although the memories of the brutal murder of one of the towering personalities of the Baloch national resistance are very painful; nevertheless, revealing the facts regarding the murder of Nawab Bugti and Mir Balaach Marri is essentially fundamental before a dialogue process could be started.

Ø A comprehensive rehabilitation of Mari and Bugti tribes in a fair program of compensating individual victims and the tribes as a whole of violence and destruction perpetrated by the government agencies provides yet another confidence building measure.

Ø A dignified and honourable rehabilitation of Nawab Bugti's family should also include the acceptance by the establishment of the declared heir to the Martyred Nawab, as the recognised chief of the Bugti tribe.

Ø The Baloch considers the Marri levy force and groups of Bugti tribesmen or organizations of the settlers armed by the agencies, as a divisive tactics by the establishment, fomenting intra-tribal animosities. Similarly, the state secret services have grouped together, armed, and supported to certain criminal elements as bands of dacoits and proxy killers in various areas of Balochistan. The Baloch will welcome the disbandment of these armed groups as a reconciliatory gesture by the state.

Ø The government should announce the suspension of building cantonments in Balochistan.

Ø Thousand of acres of land acquired by the army in the disguise of defence needs in various districts of Balochistan should be handed over to the provincial government.

Suspension of hostilities

After adoption of some important confidence building measures the next step should be the cessation of hostilities or suspension of all violent activities from both sides. The confidence building measures and a visible ceasefire from both sides will pave the way for a negotiated settlement of the Baloch national question in a cordial atmosphere.

Negotiating the Baloch National Question

After creating a positive environment, the negotiation on actual demands for Baloch rights should begin. However, it is fundamental to identify the players in Baloch nationalist struggle. If the state establishment is seriously thinking of a political and peaceful solution of the Baloch Question then negotiation should be between those who really represent the Baloch masses and those of the state establishment. The most powerful institution of the state for the moment is the National Security Council. It is composed of not only the army chiefs but also political chiefs of federal and provincial governments. It is imperative that negotiation with the Baloch leadership should be conducted through National Security Council or their declared representatives.

Identifying the Baloch Representatives

The major stakeholders in the Baloch National Resistance can be categorized into three distinctive; nevertheless, overlapping categories.

1. Baloch National Leadership/Personalities

2. Political parties or groups

3. The armed Resistance Groups

After the tragic loss of Nawab Bugti, for many among the Baloch it is believed that Nawab Marri and Sardar Mengal are the only remaining towering personalities, which can influence the outcome of any negotiation. However, this fact cannot be denied that after the martyrdom of the Nawab, Nawabzada Mir Brahamdag Bugti, as the declared political and tribal heir of Nawab Bugti, showed such a degree of resilience, courage and steadfastness that he is now undoubtedly one of the leading political personalities of the Baloch National Struggle. These personalities enjoy such a tremendous degree of support among the Baloch masses and opinion leaders that without their consent no negotiation can be fruitful. This fact perhaps at first instance may be hard to digest for the short-sighted low calibre personnel in the state establishment which receive their wisdom of state craft mainly from the intelligence reports of their mediocre informants and think-tank. Nevertheless, recognizing their status in Baloch society, dialogue with the recognized Baloch nationalist leadership is politically unavoidable. Inclusion of Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleiman Daud, being the nominal Khan of the Baloch, in the negotiating process can also be helpful in achieving positive results. It may be mentioned that the surviving two symbols of the Baloch national struggle, Nawab Marri and Sardar Mengal are expressing their mistrusts in any dialogue process with the establishment. They can be justified in their apprehensions taking into account the lack of trust between the Baloch and the state establishment. However, if substantial guarantees are provided and adequate confidence building measures are taken which should clearly indicate that the state is quite serious in the resolution of the Baloch National Question in Pakistan by peaceful means, the Baloch leadership can be persuaded to join the negotiating process either directly or thorough their representatives.

The other players in the Baloch nationalist politics include the four political parties or groups, which have been in the forefront of the political mobilization in Balochistan. The political struggle has been spear headed by Jamhoori Watan Party, Balochistan National Party, Baloch National Front and the National Party. Taking into confidence of these parties is of primary importance as these parties, not only are mainstream nationalist parties and as such have mass support but with few exceptions, some of them have some sort of affiliations with one or the other armed resistance groups in one way or the other. Thus these parties can easily influence the underground armed resistance movement for negotiating the issue with the state.

The most important phase of the reconciliation process would be bringing the militants or armed resistance groups to the negotiation table. B.L.A (Balochistan Liberation Army), B.L.F (Balochistan Liberation Front) and B.R.A (Balochistan Republican Army) are the known armed outfits engaging the state forces in Balochistan. Although, for the moment it appears to be very difficult to get their agreement for talks, however, after developing some measures of trust after some strong confidence building measures by the Government, and after taking into confidence the Nationalist parties and political leadership, the armed resistance movement can be persuaded to be part of peace processes. It may be noted that the State of Pakistan can not be persuaded to negotiate any geographical change of the countries borders, nor the Baloch Resistance Movement can easily withdraw their demands for an independent and Sovereign Balochistan, but both the parties to the conflict can go to negotiation table without compromising the stated positions on the issue. This is an acceptable position for conflict resolutions throughout the world. It may also be mentioned that in any reconciliation of such a nature, usually a third party guarantor is been involved. In many conflict resolution situations a neutral country or countries volunteer to mediate or offers to be a guarantor with the consent of both parties. Such a course can be adopted in Baloch-Pakistan talks.

The Agenda for the Negotiations

The needs and interests of the state establishment and the Baloch are in many ways diametrically opposed to one another. The Baloch are fighting for their cultural, historical, geographical and economical rights while the state is concerned with making an artificial Islamic nation, political marginalization of the Baloch and ruthless exploitation of the Baloch resources. The past few decades have witnessed a massive acceleration in the rate at which the Baloch have been deprived of their lands and livelihoods by imposed development programs characterized by unchecked resource exploitation. It is obvious that the fallacy of ‘Islamic brotherhood' is a façade behind the plunder and control of resources of the Baloch and other minority nationalities. In confronting and challenging the legitimacy of policies resulting in forced assimilation, development aggression and the introduction of alien language and cultural values, and the perpetuating a state of terror by the security agencies, the Baloch have targeted the source - the meaning of development itself. The Baloch do not simply oppose development or progress. Instead, they are asserting the right to define and pursue development and progress in a manner compatible with their own cultural contexts and their national identity.

The Baloch grievances against ruling elite of the country are cultural, economical and political in nature. It is obvious that in a negotiating process, the agenda should encompass all those issues, which can be termed as the Baloch demands for cultural, economical and political autonomy and guarantees for their survival as a distinct nation. The peace and harmony can be negotiated on the following issues;

1. The recognition of the Baloch as a national entity

2. Re-demarcation of the Baloch boundaries on historical, cultural and linguistic context

3. Guarantees that in future military will not be used in the disputes between the Baloch and the state.

4. The nature of constitutional relationship between the Baloch and the Federation of Pakistan.

It should be kept in mind by both sides that there is no shortcut in any reconciliation process of such a complicated nature where a nationality within the boundaries of multi-national state should be seeking political sovereignty. Talks therefore, should continue as long as it takes to reach a workable mutually acceptable settlement.


There is the widespread perception among the Baloch conscious elements that the Baloch national identity is more at peril than ever before. Economically, they believe that their land is rich while they have been kept poor by the state. Politically, the Baloch believe that their secular democratic mind set is not compatible with religious fundamentalism and dictatorial behaviour of state's ruling elite.

The Baloch resistance is gaining ground and is not controllable for long by police, armies, intelligence agencies, or fomenting intra-tribal or inter- tribal disputes among the Baloch, and other tried and untried formulae of state control and terror. The Baloch national struggle is controllable only by eliminating the root cause – the subjugation and oppression and accepting the Baloch as a national entity having their own culture, language and territory and accepting that they have the inborn right of controlling their own natural resources and destiny.

If democracy means rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then it also follows that no one nationality may rule another. Management and resolution of the Baloch and the state confrontation is possible mainly by upholding the charter of international human rights commission by the state elite and extending cultural, economical and political rights to the Baloch people. The perception is gaining ground among the Baloch that in this religious state controlled by the army of a single nationality, there is no scope for a democratic and peaceful struggle for the achievement of national rights of the Baloch people. The proponents of this theory argue that by going through history, it is an undeniable fact that the Pakistani ruling elite only understand the language of force. The Baloch are fully convinced that the state establishment is not voluntarily going to relinquish its hold on power. Neither it is ready to give the national rights of the Baloch people in a silver platter. Nevertheless, it is a historical fact that every violent conflict ends up in a negotiated settlement. The failure of a negotiated resolution of the conflict can bring catastrophic results for both parties. Continued state intransigence and non-accommodation of genuine Baloch demands for cultural, economical and political rights will ultimately lead to the possible dissolution of the federation of Pakistan.

The writer 50-year old Dr. Naseer Dashti holds a PhD on Baloch health-seeking behaviour from the University of Greenwich, London, and is a renowned Baloch nationalistic scholar and a medical doctor by profession.