Balochistan in focus

Daily: The Nation
Date: 10.08.04

Even after the departure of Mir Zafarullah Jamali, the former Prime Minister, Balochistan is
again in the headlines due to various sorts of terrorist activities happening continuously on
its soil. During the tenure of Jamali, there were authentic ‘rumors’ that he had been
opposing a military action in Balochistan.

Looking at the nature of the attacks, it seems that these have touched almost all significant
and multidimensional aspects of society: sectarian, military, politician, civilian, foreigner, etc.
Someone, the Balochistan Liberation Army, has claimed to give direction to the
happenings: to liberate Balochistan, as the name implies.

Generally speaking, the situation refers to the past. In the general election of 1970, the
National Awami Party (NAP) of Wali Khan group clinched more seats and joined hands with
the second political competitor, Jamait-i-Ulma-i-Islam (JUI) to form governments in both
Balochistan and NWFP. In 1974, the law and order situation worsened in both the
provinces. In 1975, the assassination of a senior minister, Hayat M. Khan Sher Pao,
remained a main reason of banning the NAP by the central government of the Pakistan
People Party (PPP). Its leaders were jailed. After certain political maneuvers, in both the
provinces, the governments of the PPP were installed. However, the arrangement could not
last long and witnessed certain political turns till the imposition of Martial Law of 1977 on
Pakistan. In the mean time, the military action taken in Balochistan left a lasting mark, which
aggravated the grievances, the province was carrying on since the One-Unit days of 1955.

The Bengali nationalist movement of the eastern wing of Pakistan that eventually led to
Pakistan’s dismemberment in 1971 inspired the so-called separatist movements of the
seventies in the western wing. The overwhelming cause of that tragedy was the
geographical remoteness, which gave birth to all misunderstandings and problems. The
same is not the case now as all the provinces are contiguous and interdependent even for
their respective survival.  

The MMA overwhelms in both the provinces. Undoubtedly, it challenges the central
government of the Muslim League in certain matters but that kind of challenges do not
seem to destabilize any province or country. Moreover, by making its leading figure an
opposition leader in the Parliament, the intensity of discontent has been minimized.

Nevertheless, the grave situation offers two angles to look at Balochistan. First, is there any
indigenous disgruntlement to the level to act in this manner and way? Second, is there any
outside factor acting — a spill over from any adjacent province or country?

The possibility of existence of a local factor may be because of some sense of deprivation
and concern pertaining to two Gs. That is, Gas and Gawadar. It is just to refresh the
memory that in 1945 when the Quaid made a historical declaration: “Give me silver bullets, I
will fight the struggle of independence, and give you Pakistan”, the people of Balochistan,
in response, gave donations of silver bullets in shape of money and gold.

It is duty of the central government to allay the fears and address the grievances of the
people of Balochistan in whatever forms these exist. The center has to adopt the policy of
reconciliation and not of aggression.

Even today, for both Balochistan and NWFP, the words of the Quaid-i-Azam that he
incorporated in his famous Fourteen points in 1929, stand valid that “Reforms should be
introduced in the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan on the same footing as in
other provinces”. However, this time the application will be different: to be more extroverts.

The chance of role of any external factor cannot be ruled out as well. In this regard, the first
is the trans-provincial dimension of the issue. That is, the multifaceted terrorist acts may be
to divert attention of the troops from the Wazirastan Operation. The same can be visualized
as a retaliatory measure to challenge and engage the troops in vast area to dilute the
concentration in one particular area.

The second is the trans-national dimension of the matter. That is, the same may be to
compel the Pakistani troops to leave the western international border relatively unattended,
where Kandahar of Afghanistan is not too far.  

Since the military operation in the tribal belt has commenced, there has been captured an
increase number of fugitives, belonging allegedly to al-Qaeda, in various cities of Pakistan.
Parallel to this development, the election in the US is approaching fast. It seems that the
traditional ‘October Surprise’ of the US election will emerge from the west of Pakistan
encompassing the area comprising Balochistan and NWFP.

Hence, it can be said that till November 2004, generally speaking, both the provinces will
remain a focus of attention of the world as well as a source of trouble for the central
government of Pakistan.

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