Balochistan has remained in conflict with the center during the last six and half decades, with Baloch nationalist forces protesting against the Punjab dominated establishment for not having been treated fairly or granted authority and autonomy. The resultant trust deficit, between the federation and its federating units has caused uncertainty among the people of Baluchistan who have on occasion taken up arms against the state.
Balochistan joined Pakistan involuntarily in March, 28, 1948 under an agreement reached between Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Khan Ahmad Yar Khan, the then ruler of the princely state of Kalat (Which was the principal seat of modern Balochistan except northern Pashtoon area). Both the Upper and Lower houses of the state of Kalat rejected annexation the newly created state of Pakistan instead demanding independence.
Under the instrument of annexation, maximum autonomy was guaranteed, granting all subjects to the princely state except the subjects of currency, defense and foreign affairs. The quantum of autonomy can be gauged from the fact that, it was promised that if state of Pakistan needs land for any purpose within its boundary, it will seek formal permission from Kalat State Authorities. However, maximum autonomy has remained a dream for the Baloch people which because of the deceiving character of Pakistani rulers, is yet to be realized.
Within months of being signed, the agreement was thrown in the trash and the people of Balochistan were dealt with military might forced Prince Abdul Karim, the younger brother of last ruler of Kalat to take up arms in May 1948 against Pakistan along with 300 companions. After five months Prince Abdul Karim and his armed men were arrested and put in jail for a number of years. Nawab Nauroz Khan Zarakzai also took up arms when the Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmedyar was arrested for gathering a Lashkar for revolt against the Pakistani state. Within a year he was brought down from the mountains under the oath of the Holy Quran, promising amnesty, but was later charged with treason. His two sons and three relatives were hanged while he died in captivity.
Later an armed group led by Sher Mohammad Marri popularly known as General Sherov went to the mountains in 1963 against the One unit policy and new military basis in Balochistan. And that insurgency continued till 1969. In 1973, Baloch people including hundreds of tribesmen mainly Marri and Mengal revolted against the dismissal of the Sardar Attaullah Mengal led government and the sending of Baloch leadership to jail in the Hyderabad conspiracy case. The insurgency ended after General Zia took over and announced general amnesty after releasing all NAP leaders and Baloch leadership. The ongoing insurgency started in 2000 when separatist leader Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri was arrested and charged with the murder of a high court judge.
The people of Balochistan in general and the Baloch in particular, refuse to accept Pakistan as true federation rather a form of government dominated by one province (Punjab). Punjab perceiving a threat from the domination of Begalis on the basis of population, introduced the One Unit scheme in 1954 to bring ‘parity’ between eastern and western wings. However, after getting rid of Begalis in 1971 it has been dominating the smaller provinces on a majority basis.
Balochistan has always been ruled by the military establishment even in the presence of elected governments. During the rule of the previous PPP governments in the center and in Balochistan, the governments were unaware of military actions and any special “political arrangement” of intelligence agencies in the troubled districts of the province. The same situation exists today when a Baloch nationalist party is leading a ruling coalition. Military action and the forced disappearances of Baloch youth continue relentlessly despite hue and cry by Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch, a middle class politician.
Natural gas was discovered in 1952, from the Sui town of Dera Bugti and its supply to Sindh and Punjab started after one year later spreading all over the country except Balochistan. It was supplied to the people of Dera Bugti and Sui and provincial capital of Quetta in the 1980s. Even today, people living on the periphery of the gas producing town of Sui and 80% of the population of the province are deprived of natural gas. The provincial governments have even been unaware of the number of units produced per day from Sui and its revenue.
However Nawab Akbar Bugti, the former chief minister (1989-90) during his tenure managed to obtain some facts and figures about gas and the arrears of Rs. 600 billion, the federal government owed. In the labour cadre of gas companies, 80% are locals from Dera Bugti while the ratio of local or the people of Balochistan in the management cadre is negligible. Bugti tribesmen started damaging gas pipelines in 2004 when the company management refused to regularize the casual labour working in gas companies for the last ten years. Nawab Akbar Bugti became hostile towards the federal government after the failure of his talks through the then Governor Balochistan Lt. Gen (R) Qadir Baloch over regularization of his Bugti casual workers. There was also vast disparity in the prices of gas being produced from Balochistan and Sindh/Punjab, but this gap was narrowed to some extent during Musharraf regime. However it was later rationalized by PPP government besides promising Rs.120 billion gas arrears to Balochistan.
Balochistan does not appear anywhere in the federation like on the list of Federal PSDP, in services quota in federal departments, corporations, autonomous and semi autonomous bodies and in foreign service (Political appointments). It receives not more than Rs.30 to 40 million annually out of the total Rs. 50 billion of NHA annual budget for development activities for national highways despite the fact 38% of highways pass through Balochistan. Till 1999, Chief minister Jan Mohammad Jamali would say, on record, that he has to visit Islamabad every month to get the salaries of government employees of the province.
Though belated, a very positive step has been taken by the PPP government to meet the long standing demands of smaller provinces for provincial autonomy through the 18th amendment. Con-Current list has been abolished and 50% share of the provinces in their own natural resources was guaranteed. Similarly shift from 100% population criteria to 82% for resource distribution by accommodating other factors as well like poverty, area and revenue collection and generation will naturally benefit Balochistan. These steps have been welcomed by almost all political parties by terming them as a major breakthrough in the struggle of smaller provinces. However they are skepticical about the implementation of these measures in letter and spirit.
Such steps may help in winning over common Balochistanis, but not the Baloch youth who have been drifting fast towards separatistism. The PML(N) government has embarked upon a plan of initiating development activities by making the Gwader port operational through Chinese companies and setting up a 6600 MW power generation project at Gadani without addressing the basic issues of missing persons, recovery of their dead bodies and military operations. The Gwader port has been handed over to the Chinese without specifying provincial share or benefits. The Baloch claim to have been turned into a minority on their own soil after the influx of people in millions from other provinces.
Not just the Baloch population, but other ethnic groups of the province also believe that mega development projects are not aimed at the development of the local people or Balochistan but the development needs of Pakistan or specifically the Province of Punjab. They argue that when the federal government could not build a national highway in Balochistan from their provincial share for the benefit of the local people, how can it develop mega projects for their benefit?