The Balochistan crisis

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 30.11.11

Balochistan is suffering from a serious crisis of governance. There are two expressions of
the Balochistan problem. First, the Baloch are being picked up, tortured and then their
bullet-riddled bodies are found dumped around. The Baloch believe that the intelligence
agencies or the Frontier Constabulary (FC) is doing that. The second manifestation is that
the FC is under attack and the basic infrastructure such as gas pipelines and electricity
connections are destroyed. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) takes responsibility for
those acts.

Commenting on the causes of the Balochistan crisis, two schools of thoughts have
emerged. The first school of thought opines that the British system of appeasing the Baloch
Sardars, (monetarily, socially and politically) at the expense of the local population should
have been abandoned by the central government after independence. The extension of
that process led to the continuation of dependence of the locals on the Baloch Sardars and
not on the state. Secondly, the process led to the pampering of the Sardars who now are
addicted to that convention. Thirdly, the policy of patronage led to the underdevelopment of
the province, as the Sardars hoarded the wealth and spent little in their areas. Fourthly, the
Sardars remained powerful to incite people into a revolt against the government if and
when required. This school of thought was seconded by General Pervaiz Musharraf who
used to say that Balochistan’s problems were due to three Sardars meaning thereby Nawab
Khairbaksh, Nawab Bugti and Sardar Ataullah.

The opponents to this school of thought say that the Sardars hold sway in only a few areas
of Balochistan but why the rest of Balochistan is backward. For instance, in Makran division
where there is no sardari system but the backwardness is rampant. Secondly, what about
the Sardars who have always been protected by the state? A case in point is District
Lasbella which is the seat of Jam of Lasbella who has always been in the government. The
district is one of the most backward areas of Balochistan. Thirdly, when one of the three
Sardars, as pointed out by Musharraf, has been eliminated by the army and the other two
have been sidelined, why is the situation not improving?

The second school of thought comments on the causes by saying that, in the post-partition
phase, though there broke out at least five insurgencies in Balochistan, the latest one is led
by the Bugti tribe was the product of the BLA founded in 2000. The insurgents demanded
independence of Balochistan and started launching attacks on the security forces. Nawab
Akbar Khan Bugti was demanding only greater autonomy for Balochistan but the security
forces alleged that he was supporting the BLA and that correlation led to his eventual death
in August 2006. The BLA invited ire of the security forces because it was being supported
by India through the Indian consulates in Afghanistan. In reaction to the death of Nawab
Akbar, in 2007, the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) surfaced with the aim of secession of
Balochistan. The BRA started attacks on the security forces and destroyed the
infrastructure. This school of thought was also seconded by General Musharraf.

The opponents to this school of thought ask a question: why did India not figure in before
Musharraf's era? Secondly, India might be supporting the BLA clandestinely but how many
Baloch are to be killed to sever the link between the Baloch and India? Thirdly, if the Baloch
are considered guilty why they are not tried in open courts and why do they go missing and
their bullet-ridden bodies are found later on? Does one wrong sanctify another wrong?
Fourthly, are the security forces not generating a Baloch generation of reactionaries?

The Balochistan package introduced in 2009 was expected to bring a sea change. The
package has introduced two big positives: first, the Sui Cantonment has been converted to
an education institute; and secondly, about 5000 Baloch have been given employment in
the government sector.

Unfortunately, the list of failure of the package is long. Firstly, the cases against several
nationalist Baloch political workers have not been withdrawn and many workers are still
languishing in jails. Secondly, the FC has not been placed under the chief minister. The FC
is more powerful than the police. The FC commander (Inspector General) can overrule the
verdict of the chief minister. The FC cannot be held accountable in the court so it works
with impunity. Thirdly, investigations into the killings of Baloch leaders such as Ghulam
Muhammad Baloch, Balaach Marri, Lala Munir and Munir Ahmed have not been carried out
to any logical conclusion. Fourthly, no significant development has taken place on the
Nawab Akbar murder case. Fifthly, no effort is being made to bring the self-exiled Baloch
leadership back to Pakistan. Sixthly, political dialogue with major Baloch stakeholders has
not been initiated. Seventhly, the role of the intelligence agencies in Balochistan has not
been reviewed, as the number of missing people is continuously increasing. Eighthly, the
slow progress on the package indicates that the central government is not tabling a report
in parliament on the implementation of the package after every three months.

There is a perception in Balochistan that there is no guarantee that promises would be kept
or agreements would be respected. The Baloch think that the political government is under
the influence of the army. Hence, there is a gulf of mistrust between the central government
and the nationalist Baloch. The government needs to understand that the recovery of
missing Baloch political activists is vital for the peace in Balochistan. Secondly, no package
can meet success if the mutilated and bullet-ridden dead bodies keep on appearing in
Balochistan. Each dead body sabotages the Balochistan package. Thirdly, the government
has to establish its credibility in the eyes of the Baloch. Only then can the nationalist come
back from their self-imposed exile. Fourthly, declare and consider the Baloch nationalists
pro-Pakistan and offer amnesty to all.

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