An article about Balochistan Crisis
The Peace Option
Balochistan has arrived at the brink of secession because of mishandling of the crisis by the federal government in Islamabad, which remains oblivious to ground realities in Pakistan's largest province.
The conflict in Balochistan dates back to independence, when the first military action was undertaken there to coerce the Khan of Kalat to accede to Pakistan. Three uprisings occurred in the province in 1958, 1962-63 and 1973-77, which were brutally dealt with by the state.
Balochistan comprises almost 40 per cent of the total area of Pakistan and is strategically the most important region of the country. It is rich in valuable minerals, including vast copper and natural-gas deposits. The grievances of the Baloch people stem from a host of factors. Foremost among them is economic deprivation. The gas deposits of Sui in Balochistan are catering to the needs of other provinces, but certain areas of Balochistan even today lack the supply of Sui gas. The province receives a meagre amount of royalties for its natural resources.
The issue of missing persons remains a major irritant in relations between the federation and Balochistan. According to UN reports, around 8,000 people from Balochistan have gone missing since 2005. The disappearance of a large number of Baloch women has further exacerbated the situation. This has given rise to an overwhelming feeling among the Baloch people that Balochistan always receives a raw deal from the federal government.
Gory incidents of targeted killings are a daily occurrence in Balochistan and they are putting an adverse impact on the socio-economic situation in the province. The killing of Habib Jalib Baloch on July 15 sent shockwaves across the province. Baloch nationalist leaders accuse the intelligence agencies of this murderous act and such incidents of high-profile killings have gone a long way in weakening Balochistan's bond with the federation.
Moreover, the local sardari system has remained an obstacle to the development of the province. The Baloch usually follow their local tribal chiefs, who are known as tumandars. These tribal chiefs have established their own fiefdoms with their own system of justice. The sardari system was formally abolished by the System of Sardari (Abolition Act of 1976), which prescribed three years' punishment to anyone exercising sardari. The Act was not enforced after its approval by the National Assembly during the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Neither the government of Pakistan nor the sardars have any agenda for the political and economic uplift of the province. Fearing loss of power, the sardars are themselves opposed to the economic development of the province. The weakness of Balochistan's civil society has strengthened tribalism.
The present PPP-led federal government introduced "Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan" package as part of its efforts to heal the wounds of the province. But the package still awaits practical implementation. Despite claims to the contrary by the government, Balochistan remains under the control of paramilitary forces. The policymakers miss the point that there is no military solution to the Balochistan problem. It can be resolved by formulating a well-coordinated and unified political strategy, following by its implementation in letter and spirit.
A new policy is badly needed to compensate for the past mistakes. The federal government should come up with a concrete plan for removing regional disparities. The decades-old mistrust will not be wiped out overnight, but we have to take first step in the right direction. The military operation must be halted and the missing persons should be recovered on a priority basis. And, last but not least, complete provincial autonomy should be granted to Balochistan.
Don't trust your heart, its not on the right side.