Does Islamabad really care about Balochistan?

Published: August 27, 2015
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The fighters surrendered their weapons during an Independence Day ceremony at Police Lines in Quetta. PHOTO: INP

This August 14th, approximately 400 Baloch insurgents lay down their arms in Quetta to renounce violence. This surrender to the security forces, however, does little to offer prospects of peace in Balochistan in the long run. Analysts believe that the fighters fear that their struggle has gone down a cul-de-sac without much chance of success. Malik Siraj Akbar, a Baloch journalist argued the same point in the Huffington Post.

I’m a Baloch myself, and I speak from personal experience when I say – we have been alienated. Since the integration of Balochistan into Pakistan, it has faced more problems than any other province in the country has and these remain unaddressed, to date. And this turmoil, the province is in today, is the result of corrupt policies made in Islamabad; to put it simply, Balochistan has become used to brute force and basic human rights violations.

The alleged involvement of Indian authorities, that certain individuals are being funded by India to explicitly jeopardise developmental projects, in the province is also a sign of the dilapidated affairs and poor security structure in the province. While to some extent I believe this to be a comical claim, simply because these ‘insurgents’ were said to have surrendered to the authorities, it is still something that Islamabad would need to carefully tackle.

But, to me, all of this shows how the central government in Islamabad is beating about the bush, instead of dealing with what is most important – peace in Balochistan.

As violence, enforced disappearances’, mutilated bodies, mass graves, military operations and attacks on security forces continue to haunt the Baloch, the one question that remains on their minds is, when? When will they see peace again? Will it be in their lifetime?

Four hundred insurgents surrendering to security forces in Quetta is not a victory; neither for Pakistan as a whole, nor for Balochistan.  To many of us, this surrender is only a ploy concocted by certain politicians aspiring to bag the role of the next chief minister in the province. And in Balochistan’s current political scenario, this seems most likely.

The activist Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur stance was correct when he stated,

“Those who will accept this dirty money are surely not those who have any love for Balochistan and assuredly they will not have it for Pakistan either; their loyalty is to money.”

As per the Murree Accord – collectively signed by the National Party (NP), Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party – Dr Malik Baloch was to leave his post as CM halfway through his five-year tenure.

Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, the head of the banned Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) stated, during his early political career, that Dr Malik lacks a comprehensive plan to heal the wounds of the Baloch people. He claims that Dr Malik was trying to treat the symptoms without diagnosing the illness; a recurring issue with the politicians in this province. In recent months, however, the successive government of Dr Malik has also failed to convince the Khan of Kalat to return to Pakistan.

Since 1948, there have been approximately five uprisings mainly centred acquiring provincial autonomy and/or control over the natural resources belonging to the province. Each insurgency reveals the same story; brutality, sheer mistreatment of the situation and sentiments of the people of Balochistan, and countless fundamental rights being trampled upon.

We cannot be certain as to how long this cyclical insurgency will last, but it is apparent that the mistreatment of the masses and the geo-economic deprivation of the Baloch people will only result in further aggression against the state narrative.

On June 26th, Balochistan’s government apex committee announced a general amnesty plan for all home-based insurgents ready to renounce violence and lay down arms. Under this plan, small-time fighters will be paid Rs500, 000, mid-level commanders will receive one million rupees and top commanders will be given Rs1.5 million. The condition upon which this monetary is formed; the insurgents who accept the offer cannot go back to ‘banned groups’.

This simple monetary solution to such a gigantic problem only goes to show the level of interest and understanding our government and courts have of the conditions in Balochistan. Pray tell, what happens when the money runs out? Do we sit with our fingers crossed, hoping peace will prevail?

The lack of a comprehensive plan that can result in long-term peace in the province is the need of the hour. Balochistan requires more than just a superficial, unmindful amnesty plan. Islamabad will have to do better than that if it truly wants Balochistan to see peace.

Zahid Ali

Zahid Ali

The author is a Washington WA based journalist and a human rights activist. He tweets as @ZSajidi (twitter.com/ZSajidi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • PatrioticSoul

    The article just did not make sense. Prosperity only comes with peace. Article will make sense once there is no insurgency for 5 years and there is no development.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    A baloch like Tariq Khosa appeasing Indians & Indian media. Nayyyyy!Recommend

  • Humza

    While I think there are genuine grievances on the part of the Baluch, the author forgets that the majority of people of Pakistan, regardless of province also have the same genuine grievances. This has more to do with feudalism, lack of opportunity, alienation of the rural masses and more. This is little difference in the way a villager in Upper Sind, Rural Punjab or KPK would feel treated by the urban elite as would a common Baluch. The key is to create opportunity for all. I too have relatives in Quetta but they feel that a lot of the miscreants are only involved in violence because they are paid by foreign agencies. If these people had work, they wouldn’t be involved in this violence. I have seen many Baluch working in Karachi and Lahore who are openly critical of the those tribal leaders on foreign payrolls who are part of the insurgency but they always remind me that most Baluch and all Pashtun there are pro Pakistani despite the money invested by anti state actors.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Sitting in Washington and talking about Islamabad not really caring about Balochistan………ironic ?Recommend

  • Eqbal Khan

    Lack of Plan to address the issues and money is not the solution. These are two basic ideas of this writer. The contradiction is that on one hand he argues that deaths of Baluchs is bad therefore it should not be an option. On the other hand he does not like if the Government does it peacefully even by money. He calls them corrupt who accept money. So he ultimately believes in violence. There is video of Indian National Security Adviser publicly saying that India is interested in separating Baluchistan from Pakistan. Google it. But this writer calls it “allegedly.” It is easy to sit in Washington DC and enjoy life than care about Baluchistan. Pakistan should talk to local Baluch and Pustooons and must ignore ones in Washington. Pakistan must convince Khan of Kalat and Bugti to come back and lead but make sure that development plans are not destroyed because trible leaders want to keep Baluchistan backward with the help of Washington.Recommend

  • Neelam

    Mr Zahid maybe you don’t know but Khan of Kalat is happily roaming around Pakistan, as far as I know has made peace with the Govt. Recommend

  • Sami

    I have many Baloch friends. All of them are affluent and live in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Interestingly I have never seen a single instance where any of them care about Balochistan. So in my view Balochs should introspect. Their elite is living a life where they do not care and their masses are busy just to blame someone in Punjab to be happy.
    I am working with many individuals from Sindh, KP and Punjab and all spare some time to establish schools and social centers in their regions. On the other hand I have not met a Single Baloch who is ever interested in doing any social work for their region. TIme to introspect that other than blaming others what about blaming your own community for just bashing others while doing nothing in reality.Recommend

  • Shoaib

    May be the next time you write something about Balochistan, make sure to explain the ‘comprehensive plan’ as well. I would really love to hear it from an educated Baloch.Recommend

  • Jayant

    Punjabi Pakistan will never accept its fault. They never accepted the true reason for the break up of East Bengal. There is no remorse for the death of thousands of Bengalis. Baluch are proud people, they have been around much before Pakistan even came into existence. Pakistan is that country that never learned anything from history !Recommend

  • Gul Bahadur Rakhshani

    For decades, years and years the Baloch sardars, Khan of Kalat, Bugtis,
    Marris, kept their peons illiterate, DELIBERATELY. They wanted nothing
    to do with education, for the masses. Wanted to keep the populace under
    their thumbs. Once you can read and write, you get KNOWLEDGE. And
    that would have been the undoing of the sardars. Imagine what literacy
    can achieve ! So, they deliberately denied education. And now this blame game?Recommend

  • Sami

    General Niazi, Mr Bhutto and almost all top bureaucrats during the Bangladesh debacle of 1971 were non Punjabis. The famous picture where A Pakistani Army General is surrendering is a Non Punjabi Pushtoon general. Stop lying and give us false history lessons. Also Urdu was imposed by Mr Jinnah who was not a Punjabi afterall.

    But during 1965 Punjabis were in Command and they got the regions of Kashmir while defending Pakistan. On the other hand 1971 was the rule of Non Punjabis and atrocities and mismanagement led to the debacle of half of the country. Musharraf was a Sindhi Urdu speaker and he killed Bugti and led the foundation of hatred among Balochs in the modern times. The first mass scale operation against Baloch was ordered by Bhutto and he was a Sindhi as well.
    After a longer time ISI chief and Army chief both are Punjabis at the same time. General Raheel Sharif is in command and i am telling you that things will be back on track in a record time. People of Punjab infact manage Pakistan in a better manner but they will be bashed by fake historians.Recommend

  • Hamid Khan Bashgali

    It is the Punjabis who have ruled Pakland for 68 years. And have
    run the the country to the ground. With their ingrained culture of corruptness, their provincialism, their mediocrity, their hybrid fossil culture that is now the hallmark of every ill that pervades Pakistan.
    Musharraf is a Urdu speaking Muhajjir, whose family migrated
    from India. Not a Sindhi, where YOU deliberately misled. On the
    the other hand, when Sindhi hating Punjabis like YOU are around,
    fabricating stories, is their any hope left for Land of the Pure?Recommend

  • Hamid Khan Bashgali

    So you only know “affluent Balochs”? No poor ones? No salt of the Earth
    regular man on the street Baloch? The ones who define what being a
    Baloch is. The ones whose lives are made miserable by either the govt.
    or their own leaders or supposedly community stalwarts? The 24/7 bomb
    blasts, the daily senseless killings, the perpetual sectarian and ethnic violence
    By the way do you know any Hazaras? Zikris? Or what Jundullah, from
    Punjab, does in Balochistan?
    How were you able, to get out from the institution?Recommend

  • Humza

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion but you can’t change facts. You seem to be negative against the Punjab but just ask yourself where there is stability, progress, safety and progressiveness? Ask anyone and they will tell you Punjab is developing for many reasons, especially because of the local culture and nature of its people. If you think mediocrity, corruptness and fossil culture is most prevalent there, then I don’t think you have been to Punjab or Pakistan! Punjabis are the majority population of Pakistan but all major players in 1971 were non Punjabis. Musharraf who killed Bugti was a Muhajir who settled in Sind so he would have a Sind domicile. Musharraf has a right to call himself a Sindi by migration. I believe he was wrong to kill Bugti but I don’t blame this on his ethnicity. Considering that Punjabis are the majority population, you should find it commendable that they have not ruled the nation for the last 68 years as you contend. Whether you like to admit it or not, the nation is currently on the upswing economically, politically and in terms of security. Don’t take my word for it but read independent western reports in New York. I don’t think this has to do with a Punjab based PM or ethnically Punjabi Army Chief but due to all the people in the country finally getting together on one platform. Ethnic politics is becoming less relevant in a Pakistan where more people are educated. Trying to create ethnic tensions when they don’t exist out of facts that are not real will not convince anyone.Recommend

  • Hamid Khan Bashgali

    Your little Cinderella story brought tears all around. King size
    towels needed. Somebody, get a bucket, Gone cry me a
    a river. All choked up at the miasma spun by you in color.
    Three time loser, portege of Zia ul Huq, failed ameerul momineen, is guiding the nation towards an upswing? How?
    Exports are down 17%. Thanks to his brother in law Dollar
    Dar, the Rupee has taken a severe mauling. It is now at
    104 + to a dollar [US]. Never mind the financial markets.
    Inflation is rampant. No true figure available because of
    smoke, mirrors and screens and false numbers. IMF is
    investigating last year’s numbers. Does not look good. Six
    billion dollar loan approved by ADB. Plus other ongoing
    tranches still pending. Obama govt refuses to certify Pak
    to Congress for more money to fight terror. Bad, very bad.
    MQM wants a separate province, they have been alienated
    if they go underground, you will have a Son of Balochistan
    in Sindh. PPP political leaders are being hunted down.
    They are crooks. But so is Nawaz and his cabal. Not a
    good scenario at all, when Zardari goes hiding in Dubai
    You have proved nothing, just a feel good cut and paste
    comment about Punjab and the nicey nice hard working
    angels, faithful followers of Jundullah, Le J, Le T, Le I,
    Ahrar ul Hind,..and Raiwind ki Asha…Shamim.
    See, deep down, YOU are a racist. With a deep abiding
    apathy towards Sindhis, Muhajjirs and Balochs.
    Q E D.Recommend

  • Humza

    I am sure that comments like mine bring tears to your eyes! After all, it looks like you celebrate negativity. I will just let you broil in your own negative thoughts while the country continues to improve! While you let yourself be consumed with hate, the nation and its people should just keep doing what it is doing now! Incidentally, the dollar / rupee has been largely stable for two years but a 4 % deflation has certainly got you excited when you don’t know that major world currencies including China have been in for a major drop. If anything, the rupee remains relatively stable. What’s better it’s easy to debunk all of your comments: The Obama government is close to approving the next tranche of coalition funds and appreciates the nation’s role in defeating terror. MQM has back tracked from any demand for a separate province which was never in the cards anyways! The criminal and terrorist groups anywhere in the country, Karachi and elsewhere are being defeated. As for assertion about racism, I have a slinking feeling you are racist towards Pakistanis because of your real affiliation!Recommend

  • Hamid Khan Bashgali

    There you go. When every thing fails, do the tried and true
    trick..point the conspiracy finger. Nothing changes.
    You should bottle your jingo-positive elixir and peddle it from
    town to town, as an all positive dawa. Personally blessed by
    the Raja of Raiwind. ‘Take a dose, loose your morose’ Catchy?
    Just make sure you moved on to the next village, by morning. Oh! make sure you’re using GREEN bottles. Get it?Recommend

  • Humza

    Of course I get it. I’ll let you and your ilk continue to be consumed with hate and burn inside while the rest of us work for positive change and celebrate things improving! I have my green bottle ready and I just returned from a dinner party where many people were also celebrating improvements in the country.Recommend