The Baloch-Islamabad conflict
by Senator Sanaullah Baloch
The Baloch-Islamabad conflict has intensified over the years, Baloch hold Islamabad
responsible for depriving Balochistan of its natural resources and the appalling
state of affairs in the province.
From Liquat Ali Khan to Gen Musharaf all rulers are pursuing the establishment's
unchanged "Zero-Tolerance" policy towards the province, considering Balochistan
to be a permanent threat and Baloch unfaithful citizens.
Balochistan's contribution to the country is Himalayan. In fact, Balochistan's
immeasurable natural wealth and strategic significant turned into curse. Islamabad's
desire to control province energy resources, without sharing its social, economic
and administrative benefits with Baloch, is a prime reason behind repeated military
The establishment is in constant efforts to politically marginalise and disturb
the very liberal and social fabric of Baloch society, by supporting religious
parties and co-opting gluttonous tribal and drug barons is part of the policy
to retain its unquestioning control on Balochistan affairs.
Lacking political and democratic culture, Islamabad is governing Balochistan
through a system known as "control." Control, a suppressive system, is a set
of mechanism used in multi-ethnic states by the dominant ethnic groups to contain
and keep its control on dissident ethnic minorities.
Control is based on the principle that one ethnic group takes over the state,
imposes its culture on the society, allocates to itself the lion's share of resources
and takes various measures, including violent means (military operations) to
prevent the non-dominant group from organising politically.
Control works through three interrelated mechanisms: a) Divide and rule, internally
creating rifts and division among the non-dominant groups, b) economic dependence:
making them permanently dependent for their livelihood on dominant group and
central government. c) Cooptation: involving non-dominant elite like greedy tribal
chiefs, feudal, drug tycoons, corrupt intellectual and politicians through partial
dispensation of benefits and favours.
The military's fresh, unwarranted and indiscriminate crackdown against moderate
Baloch nationalists, intellectuals, students, poets, anti-establishment tribal
elders, businessman and civilians is the reflection of the "zero tolerance" policy
against the ethnic Baloch people.
A poor but educated Baloch, Munir Mengal, who dreamed to set up a Baloch TV channel,
was kept in a torture cell for two years without any trial. Dr Hanif Sharif,
a Baloch short story writer, Mubarak Qazi, a poet, and a singer from Panjgoor
were illegally detained and tortured for their contribution to the Balochi language
and literature and for raising awareness against the inhuman state of affairs.
The gravity of Balochistan's problems is deep-rooted extending behind the minds
of the political parties and educated youths to the masses who are experiencing
inequality and injustices in their everyday life.
Each region, town and village has its own story of mistreatment, underdevelopment
and exploitation. Start from Ormara, where Pakistan's modern navel base is constructed,
to Chaghi and Kharan, where the nuclear test was conducted and copper and gold
are being mined, to Lasbela where the Industrial town and strategic facilities
are located, to Dera Bugti known for gas production, to Quetta and Bolan where
coal is being mined, and you will be confronted with a wretched state of affairs.
Fuelling the national economy for years and helping to save billions of dollars
of worth of foreign exchange in terms of energy import, the province ninety seven
percent population lives without gas facility, 78 percent without electricity,
and 62 percent without safe drinking water. Balochistan has just 3.4 percent
of gas consumers, as compared to 64 percent of Punjab alone, which produces only
4.75 percent of natural gas.
Balochistan being the major coal producing province is deprived of its benefits.
During the 1960s, when Lahore was of West Pakistan, 98 percent the coalmines
of province were allotted to people having no affiliation with province. Today
the locals in these "black-gold" regions live without water, electricity, education
and health system.
The MoU signed by Islamabad with a Chinese company is a classic evidence of misuse
of Baloch wealth. Islamabad and the Chinese company are taking 50 and 48 percent,
respectively, and leaving only two percent profit for Balochistan. The Saindak
project is no man's land for local Baloch youths. Chaghi, the gold producing
district, is the poorest of the poor.
Countless MoU's of such exploitative nature are inked with foreign and local
companies to aggressively exploit Baloch resources. These include the Duddar
Lead-Zinc Project and the Reko Deq copper-gold project. Oil and gas exploration
licenses are given without taking account of Baloch needs and demands.
All glitzy mega-projects and control developments launched in Balochistan, including
those for gas development, coalmining, Gwadar port, Mirani Dam, coastal highway,
cantonments, and the extraction of copper and gold deposits do not envisage any
participation or direct benefit to the people and the province.
The province is of strategic importance and shares long borders with Iran and
Afghanistan and a 700-kilometre-long coastline. But border and coastal security
is 100 percent controlled by non-Baloch paramilitary forces. Seventy thousand
jobs in the Frontier Corps, Coast Guard, Police, maritime security and the Anti-Narcotics
Force are occupied by non-locals, which leaves hundred of thousands of qualified
Baloch youths unemployed.
An unemployed Baloch youth feel more depressed and exploited when an unskilled
soldier on their soil is brought and employed from another province to fill the
position which is legally, naturally and constitutionally a right of a local
Baloch bitterness by all means is genuine, and continued plunder of Balochistan's
natural resources and its economic and political marginalisation and militarisation
are the major causes of mounting tension between the Baloch and Islamabad . Political
instability is on the rise.
Islamabad's reliance on brute force may help the central government to create
short-term cosmetic calm, but unrest and frustration will further lead to growing
mistrust between Baloch and Islamabad.
The establishment in Pakistan needs to radically alter its policies to get rid
of Balochistan's crisis. The egoistic approach towards suppressed people is not
good. Respecting the rights of ethnic groups, accepting the principle of true
democracy and full participation of marginalised groups in state affairs is the
only way out of internal unrests and quagmires.
The writer is a senator. Email: email@example.com