Ever since Pakistan has come into existence, it has been the cause of many grievances. Sometimes the threat of foreign attack looms over the frontiers or the political system with in the country is under attack. No individual can safeguard his legal and social interests on account of autocracy preponderance. Pakistan is termed by many as an “Island of Tranquility in an ocean of Turmoil”. This political turmoil occurred from time to time along with economic disparities, physical power inequalities, and lack of national integration, social chaos and violence or sometimes institutional tug of war. These factors are generated by a environment of mistrust and deprivation and intensified by external elements.
Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan has faced all of the above. As a strategically important province it promises future economic gains through different ongoing mega projects, rich untapped minerals pledging bigger foreign investment, better economic opportunities and greater economics schemes in the country.
Political analysts agree that elements of national power of a country are its geography, population, technological base, natural resources, political system, diplomatic skills and military might. Internal stability and security strengthens external position in the region in particular and the world in general. The ultimate goal of a state is always national security which, too many, means national defense as they equate it with military preparedness of a nation.
What such an approach ignores are internal problems like revolutions, subversion, violent struggles of power, military coups , disorders, ranging from internal disturbances snow balled into conflict situation – situation where it becomes indistinguishable from internal conflict. Does this imply one should wait and watch until the so-called insignificant internal disturbance magnifies and acquires a threatening institute? By then, it may be too late at least in some cases to deal with the problem.
To obviate these threats nations seek power (political, economic, and military). Power can lead to prosperity and prosperity may generate further power which is a crucial factor for any political system. The main growth factors can be imported where as the political system can not be imported. The example of the India, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Denmark, Switzerland and four Asian Tigers verify the utmost need of political stability in the country to promote faster socio–cultural and economic development.
In the case of Pakistan political strives, insurgency, feudalism have been jeopardizing its political stability, leading to chaos within social institutions. Pakistan has been struggling to achive societal integration of its ethnically, socially, economically and culturally diverse society.
These disturbing organizations strengthened themselves and have worked a lot in all the provinces but mainly in the largest and less populous province of Balochistan
Outwardly, Balochistan was calm, but in reality trouble was brewing there as in other provinces of Pakistan. The move for rights in Balochistan has been quelled with military force in 1948, 1956, and 1970s.
To understand the continuing insurgent movements in Balochistan one has to understand the historical perspective. When Pakistan came into being there were two main claimants of the recent Balochistan. Khan of Kalat as ruler of Balochistan State Union (BSU) with other secondary rulers like Jam of Lasbela, Nawab of Kahran and Nawab of Makran on Baloch areas, Nawab Jogezai on Pashtoon areas and some of the Pashtoon areas claimed by Afghanistan.
Khan of Kalat ruled the area under the power structure designed in Mastung agreement ensuring the secondary sardars complete sovereignty. This sovereignty was further reassured by the British under the Treaty of Gandamak. By the course of events and the administrative division of Balochistan, autonomous status of the sardars and the rise of political strife against the breach of contract by the Government of 1948 provoked the armed struggle against the Pakistani Government. The military coup of Oct, 1958 resulted another insurgency lasted for two years led by Nawab Noroz Khan, his cousin and other 13 rulers commanding major tribes including Marri, Bugti, Mengal. The third insurgency resulted in Marri-Kalat areas in 1973-75. The Marri insurgency was the biggest and most severe of all. Thousands of Nationalist fled from the country. Provisional assemblies dissolved after one another. The well-knitted alliances kept on changing the structure and further dividing in to small units. Clandestine supply of arms and cash in Balochistan has been a bid to bell the political cats. Foreign hands were at work to bolster their own interests rather than bringing any political solution to the trouble-stricken region.
Historical factor in combination with socio-economic deprivation opened a new chapter in the politics. The grievances of Balochistan against the centre are long standing and genuine. Balochistan is the least developed province, covering about 44 % of the country’s total land area. Almost 77% is rural with high illiteracy and high poverty incidence. The economic and social backwardness of the province is due to three main reasons. First, it got the status of the province in 1970—a painful incorporation into the federation, secondly negligence on part of federal and third the most important is tribalism
Balochistan enjoys an important strategic position on the world map. One of the most charming regions of Pakistan attracted not only regional but international powers as well. Balochistan is a mineral rich mountainous region whose natural resource wealth makes it important. It should have been the sole responsibility of the government to develop roads and other infrastructure in the province. Although , the government could easily raise the socio- economic status of the province by establishing roads links and target oriented economic policies under urgent development projects, but the ruling masters showed little initiative and the Islamabad’s decades–old policy of neglect and discrimination has left the province in an under development trap.
Gas wells were first discovered in Sui in 1960s. This gas is utilized throughtout the country from kitchens to the industries except Sui itself. The area continues to remain in a state of extreme under development. While visiting and witnessing the stark contrast of stone-age wilderness surrounding the area we see reality of “Chiragh Tale Undhera”
As per the UNDP Pakistan National Human Development report 2003, of Pakistan’s top 20 most backward districts, 50 percent are in Balochistan.
Balochistan is the most poorly represented province in national services for example, ex-servicemen from Balochistan for the period 1995-2003 numbered 3,753 men only while the numbers for Punjab and the NWFP for the same period were 1, 335, 339 and 229, 846 respectively. Baloch representation in the armed forces is only 0.8% which is as it used to be in the pre-partition days. In Pakistan’s administrative structure, no Baloch has not yet been promoted to the high ranks in federal government even that of the 43 federal secretariats and 72 autonomous corporations, none is headed by Baloch. By the end of 1994, Pakistan had 80 missions abroad, of which none was headed by Baloch. Thus, because of their virtual non-representation in Pakistan’s policy-making processes, over the last 67 years articulate Balochs feel that they are living under a colonial structure that threatens their very existence.
*Source: Pakistan Economic Survey 2010-11
*Source: Pakistan Labour Force Survey 2009-10
The grievances nurtured against the centre over the years. The discontent, never far from the surface, at intervals erupted into a loud protest and low- level insurgency in the province. To a Baloch development means dispossession; cattle never changing into motor cars, gidans never changing into houses and thumb impressions never into signatures. They have to remain content with crumbs like the jobs of guards, peons and gardeners.
In 2004, a massive resistance was offered by the Baloch chieftains and tribesmen against a range of federally managed projects and programs. The rhetoric between military and the tribal rulers has provided the proverbial fuel to the raging fire. Both have said that it is not 1971, obviously drawing separate conclusions.
Bomb explosions, rocket firing, land mine explosions and blowing up of railway tracks and high voltage transmission lines, disrupting the power supply and operation innocently labeled as “action” on part of the government forces continued for the last two years. The insurgency encircled in Kohlu, Sui, Hernai, Barkhan, Tali, Fazel Chal, Sibi and Turbat is leading the areas to the un-residential status on one side and tarnishing the image of Pakistan on the other but not developing the power muscle of either side. The sense of deprivation that occurred over time has never been managed, spiraling into a situation where angry and infuriated youth is more eager to fight than to negotiate.
The political turmoil and uprising also effects the social and psychological interaction of the people. As existed in all other human societies Baloch psychology is also based to their land, traditions, culture norms and values.
The situation has also given rise to psychological controversial issues in Balochistan like:
- Repressed feelings and ignorance creating inappropriate behavior.
- Deprivation and denial of identity leading to a sense of disassociation.
- Discrimination of higher reward and lower cost leading to imbalanced thought, frustration & prejudice.
- Social and ethnic distance between public and groups.
An alarming situation has developed these days in the province. Neither party has addressed the real issue but fortifying their power muscles and dominant positions.
Political analysts, educationists, intellectuals and critics have deep concerns about the situation. Some of them are foreseeing grave harm to the federation of Pakistan.
The previous government has made significant efforts to address the grievances of Balochistan. Before assuming office in September, 2008 President Asif Ali Zardari apologized to Baloch nation for years of injustice. Signing of 7th consensus National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, adoption of a package of reforms and concessions called “Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan” and completion of devolution process envisaged in the 18th constructional amendment have been some of the government steps in addressing long standing concerns of Balochistan.
The incumbent PML-N government has embarked upon a plan of initiating development activities by making the Gwadar Port operational through Chinese companies and setting up a 6,600 MW power generation project at Gidani without addressing the basic issues of missing persons, recovery of their dead bodies and military operations. There are apprehensions among the local people that this sudden love of province is just noting more or less than interest based. They consider these mega projects useless for them and more importantly they don’t have any spill over effects for the ordinary Baloch. What province really needs is a network of roads, hospitals, schools, railway tracks, drinking water facilities and electricity.
Political unrest should not be taken as anything else but a class question. The state is failed to access, analyze and address the situation quickly. The development process involving the other fundamental facilities should be accelerated because it would open job opportunities and that would allow escape hatch to ordinary Baloch to distance themselves from conflict entrepreneurs. The government should also try to cut down the sources and channels of supply of arms and cash to insurgents.
Another fear is that with the development of Gwadar port they would be changed into minority & due to the multi ethnic, cultural linguistic flow and interaction with other ethnicities their own culture will be under threat. Their fear is just and examples can be quoted here of Germany where Turks are decades and decades old residents but socially and politically have the status of guest workers.
If we seek national integration then we have to consider the fundamental elements of integration in which realisation and provision of fundamental rights if citizens rest at the top. A more sensible way towards the future could be serious effort on the part of the leaders to lay the foundations of a truly participatory system of government in which provincial concerns are addressed in a constitutional framework to revamp their image of incredibility and unreliability of the broken promises. Those who claim to be different from the rest will have to take different initiatives not only in procedural matters but in substantial matters as well. This is the only way to turn this current simmering political situation in Baluchistan towards normalcy.
[Ms. Faiza Mir teaches at University of Balochistan, Quetta]