Does Islamabad really care about Balochistan?
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.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.