As a citizen of Pakistan, I demand to know more about Balochistan
Back in 1998, while living in Quetta in our cosy cantonment apartment, I had known little about what this province in the southwest of Pakistan is facing. For me, it was more about exploring the rugged mountainous terrain of the largest province of Pakistan, enjoying the juicy apples and cherries, and experiencing the melting of snowflakes on the palm of my hand during winters.
Back then I didn’t know that for 60 years this region has been a battleground. Even today many people living in other provinces of Pakistan do not know about the on-going conflict. Mostly because whenever somebody tries to talk about it, their voices are hushed.
The shameless assassination of social activist Sabeen Mahmud is a case in point.
So what exactly is ‘Pakistan’s dirty war’ about? Why doesn’t the government want us to know anything about it? Why can’t we exercise our right to freedom of expression when it comes to Balochistan? I might sound naïve asking these questions. But on a serious note, I really want to know: What is it about Balochistan that we need to know? Don’t we have a right to know, be informed about the state of affairs in our country – a democratic country?
The Baloch uprising against the Pakistani government has received little attention. The Baloch people have never accepted being part of Pakistan; some demand complete independence whereas others demand greater control on the natural resources of the province and provincial revenue.
After Pakistan’s independence in 1947, Balochistan was an independent state till April 1948. It is claimed as that in 1948, during the interim period when the Khan of Kalat was deciding whether to go for independence or join Pakistan, military force was exerted to influence his decision and Balochistan was forcefully made part of Pakistan. According to different sources, the Instrument of Accession was signed by force.
That all happened in the heart of Kalat.
Maybe that is the centre of the political discourse that is being silenced by the government. The Baloch rebellion and Pakistan’s suppression of it has claimed thousands of lives to date, including key leaders of the insurgency like Akbar Bugti.
Akbar Bugti’s assassination aggravated an already volatile situation.
Hushing people or killing them will suppress the issue for a while but in the longer run, it is just going to make matters worse. In the Saudi-Yemen war, Pakistan’s government is acting as a responsible negotiator, trying to make peace in the region. Now, won’t it be hypocritical if that approach isn’t utilised in Balochistan’s case as well?
Instead of shushing the debates and discussions that are going to take centre stage sooner or later, it is time to listen. We need willingness from the government to listen, willingness to discuss and willingness to settle. As a citizen of Pakistan, I demand to know more about Balochistan.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.