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The Baluchistan Issue

06 February, 2006

By Farzana Shah


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With the fast progress in the mega development projects in Baluchistan like recently completed  Mekran Coastal Highway and the under construction Mirani Dam, Gwadar Deep Sea Port and Kacchi Canal along with the multi million dollar Saindak, which could transform the fate of the poverty stricken Baluchis soon, the Baluchistan is once again witnessing unrest due to the attacks on the government installations and counter operation by the government against the saboteurs.  Who is (are) behind it all and whose purpose do such unrest and law and order situation serve? Who stands to gain and who stand to lose, should not be difficult to guess.   Development in the region will usher in an era of progress, ameliorating the lot of the poverty stricken Bluchis. Once the down trodden Baluchis are freed from economic shackles and taste the fruits of development, their  children graduate from schools and colleges opening vistas of future employment for them, roads are built  in the difficult terrains connecting the interior and the hinterland with the main markets and big cities, their sick and ill children, women and the old get proper medical aid and care from the hospitals, and so on so forth, they will be a changed people and it shall not be possible for the Sardars to keep them subjugated any longer with the ease that they have been doing so for the centuries.  Acts of sabotage and saboteur are, therefore, the only way of keeping the progress away from the Baluchis, which serves the purpose of the Sardars only too well. 
When mortars and rockets fly around, the government is left with not much option but to use force to establish its writ in the area. Use of power, however, legit it may be is bound to draw criticism from most and particularly from the vested interests. This is what is happening in Baluchistan and the ongoing operation there has come under sever criticism from different quarters specially the nationalists and the opposition parties.
Keeping in view the critical strategic location of Baluchistan with 347,641 square kilometers - nearly 43 per cent of country`s total area,  its command over 900 miles of the Arabian Sea coastline, vast potential for natural resources like oil, uranium, copper and other minerals and the massive development planned for the province specially the Gwadar Port, stabilizing Baluchistan and consolidating the administrative hold of the government there is of paramount importance.
Baluchistan and the Baluchis have a long history of heroic deeds in the face of its adversaries and resistance to external power. The proud tribal tradition and strong ethnic bonds make them a fearless and too independent in nature a people to accept any authority enforced upon them.  They have to have their ‘leader’(Sardar) among from them and once he gains their confidence as a just and impartial Sardar nothing can wean them away from him. It is unfortunately an other matter that some of the Sardars exploit their such sincerity to their own advantage and extol the unwary poor simpletons to fight for their rights. The government would, therefore, be well advised that along with the use of minimal force to restore its writ there, it should also take steps to ‘re-engineer’ the Sardari system in the province keeping in view the long term interests of both – Pakistan as well as the Baluchis. 
The British learnt their lesson after the internecine tribal wars in Baluchistan and started  administering the province by dividing it into A and B Areas: ‘A’ areas were directly controlled and administered by the British (through a Regent to the Viceroy), whereas in the ‘B’ areas the British exercised proxy control through the princely Sardars. The system seemed to work and even continued after Independence by the Pakistan Establishment.  Baluchistan remained a Regency till as late as 14 October 1955, when it became part of the West Pakistan province. It was only after the dissolution of the One Unit that Baluchistan became a full fledged province of Pakistan on July 1st, 1970, almost after 23 years of the existence of Pakistan!
The ‘B’ areas of Baluchistan - the largest province of Pakistan – mainly constituted of four States – Kalat, Las Bela, Mekran and Kharan. Three of these states acceded to Pakistan on 17 March 1948 and the Khan of Kalat acceded on 31st of March 1948. On 3rd of October 1952 these states formed ‘Baluchistan States Union’ with the Wali of Kalat as the Khan-e-Azam of the Union. Finally the State extinguished on 14 October 1955 when merged into the Province of West Pakistan. However, Baluchistan maintained its distinct identity and Khan of Kalat wielded great influence in the area.
Due to the fact that 95 per cent of the province was `B` or in a later term ‘unsettled’ area, police did not operate in it. That provided the Sardars with a free hand to control not only the resources of the province but also the destiny of the poor Baluchis and exploited their sense of deprivation to continue their own rule. Sardars administered the law, dispensed tribal justice and goaled the ‘culprits’ in their private jails. Their  hold was so strong that nothing could move in their respective areas of influence without the explicit approval of the Sardar. Any ‘trespassing’ could erupt open hostility resulting in ambushing the public transport and  kidnapping the government officials to be taken as hostages for bargaining. 
Successive governments, one after another, kept negotiating with these influential Sardars to avoid the law and order situation and more often than not only the ‘bullion’ could keep the bully away. Political dialogue is the best way to solve the problems, however, one must not look for the immediate solutions only and should plan for the long term goals of bringing piece and prosperity to the area and its inhabitants.
Five districts of the `B` area were declared  as ‘A` or settled areas in 2004 by the Musharraf government. The districts are enormous in size, the terrain mountainous and very difficult and the communications poor. Policing them effectively is a Herculean task, not possible without the most modern means and equipment – wireless sets for effective command and control, cross country going vehicles and helicopters for better mobility in the inaccessible areas and modern superior weapons for the ultimate showdown, if any. The entire power structure in the province has to be re-engineered gradually to send the message of ‘no-nonsense’ to the miscreants and the influential at their back. The task is not only difficult but unpleasant also, inviting trouble from the powers that be, as is evident from the reaction evoked after the Musharraf government showed its determination to bring most of the province under policing, who immediately started guarding their interests by targeting vital installations, security forces and state actors on the pretext of fighting for the rights of the Baluchis. Strangely, whenever there is an effort on the part of the government to start some small or mega development project(s) in the province to ameliorate the lot of the Baluchis, the so called Sardars raise the hue and cry, creating unrest and fuelling attacks on the government machinery and forces using sophisticated weapons reportedly with external support. Involvement of our next door neighbor in worsening the situation in Baluchistan is now an open secret. Apart from funding the miscreants and providing them with the weapons, the fomenters of the trouble are also suggested strategies and pattern of attacks to adopt through its websites and analysis. Commenting on the situation during 2004 one of the Indian analysts wrote "Nevertheless, the pattern of insurgent violence thus far suggests that the Balochis are essentially demonstrating their capabilities, rather than using them to the fullest.
Actions are being calibrated to a threshold that keeps the movement alive, while a fuller commitment is kept at abeyance till clearer assurance of support is secured from one or another external power." This clearly shows the designs of the Indian government and how are  the saboteurs  being constantly guided by it. Sudden increase in the hostile propaganda to the extent of brazen interference in our internal affairs coinciding with the eruption of the unrest in the province should not surprise our political pundits in any way. Note should in particular be taken of the strategies being suggested this time aiming at uniting the  Sardars for a full scale insurgency through calibrated and widely dispersed campaign of attacks virtually across the length and breadth of Baluchistan changing the pattern of insurgency from that of 1970s. Also, the strategy seems to keep the Pakistan army engaged in the
conventional counter-insurgency operations, forcing it to deploy even more troops here which it would find difficult to move from other areas, specially from the Western front where it has around 70,000 men committed operationally. Similarly, a large number of the troops is engaged in providing relief in the quake-hit areas. Pakistan has to adopt measures to prevent miscreants from spreading insurgency to the entire geographical area of Baluchistan. Individual pockets of insurgency are to be effectively cordoned off and dealt with piecemeal. Individual rebels are to be kept away from forming a united front so that attacks on the Army, law enforcing agencies, vital installations and sporadic skirmishes could be controlled.
A strict vigilance has to be kept over the Pak-Afghan bordering areas (Nemroz, Helmand and Farah) that could provide a safe heavens to the rebels as heretofore.  The sprawling routes connecting vast areas of Baluchistan with the rest of the country need to be effectively patrolled to foil any attempt of the saboteurs to disrupt or interdict these routes cutting the province from the other parts of Pakistan.
On the political front, the establishment has to deal with the Sardars cautiously but firmly. The process of political dialogue is considered certainly the most favoured option all over the world. They might have some genuine grievances which must be addressed to on priority basis.  Patriotic and considerate Sardars believing in negotiating the political solutions be kept away from the hostile Baloch leaders given more to the power of the barrel. Removal of the grievances of the common Baluchis would also need urgent consideration. A common Balochi perception of the Panjabis exploiting their resources while they themselves remain deprived of even the basic amenities is abundantly exploited by their influential leaders.  While the successive governments are also responsible for backwardness of the province as these have only added to the strength of the Sardars by providing them huge amount of money on the pretext of initiating development projects, knowing fully well that the money would be  pocketed by the Sardars themselves. Is it not time that the establishment did away with this system and instead reached out to the poor? The common Balochis should be interacted with more and more but gradually to draw him into the main stream of the development projects instead of the few Sardars, who in any case spend  the money on the maintenance of their private armies. The parliamentary committees constituted to find a political solution to the problems, specially the one headed by Mushahid Hussain had some excellent suggestions to deal with the situation and those should be implemented. Gas royalties, if to be paid, should go to the common Baluchis instead of the Sardars.  This one act alone could make the Baluchis throw away the shackle of subjugation to the Sardars and make them better Pakistanis in the truer sense.
There is yet another dimension to the Baluchistan issue which is of international nature.  Activities of the  so called Balochi Liberation Front are viewed with much concern by the Iranian government who has its own share of substantial Baloch population. The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipe line passing through the area and providing the Central Asian countries a land access to the warm waters of the Arabian sea through Kabul and Qandhar have given an altogether a different strategic dimension to the region. China is massively investing in the province in projects like construction of Gwadar Port and now in the expansion of its ability of handling larger vessels, apart from the already initiated multi million dollar Saindak copper and mineral mining project. The growing involvement of China in the region cannot be simply ignored by the sole super power who has her own designs for the Persian Gulf, the Indian and the Arabian seas.  India can be an ideal ally for the Americans to counter the Chinese and the Pakistanis simultaneously. How long will USA delay this most likely course of action seems to apparently depend upon the war on terror in the Pak Afghan border areas. History could repeat itself in the USA re-enacting the part played by her in the post “Pakistan -Afghan Mujahideen war against the USSR” period.
All such factors warrant Pakistan to tread extremely cautiously in the ‘troubled’ waters and take well considered and calculated measures for the security of the region which could only be ensured through establishing the writ of the government in the province by winning over the Balochis diplomatically and peacefully.
End.

Farzana Shah


 

Reader Comments:

GREAT ARTICLE FARZANA!!! i seriously hope it openes the eyes of many people regarding the current issue in baluchistan

Asfar Siddiqui, Pakistan - 06 February, 2006

Balochistan's destiny lies with Pakistan

Farzana Shah has rendered an excellent coverage to the belleaguered Banochistan province. Much of the blame for the trouble in Balochistan falls on the inept political governance of the whole country. It is an undeniable fact that the civilian governments as of now have failed to evolve a democratic culture as a role model to Balochistan. The priority, therefore, lies in learning from our British friends the working of their parliamentary system. On our own, we are more likely than not to further compound our problems in the correct governance of the country.
Having said this, we must turn for help towards the media. The media must have the message sink in with the Balochis that in the fast moving world, Balochistan can neither exist on its own, nor can it have a federation with any of its neighbours in Central Asia. The so-called Sardars are a dying breed. Let this be fully understodd by the Balochi people. President Musharraf is here to stay in present circumstances. He is a pragmatic leader and knows how to tame the rebellious elements in Balochistan. It is here that the media should fully support him in the larger interest of Pakistan.
There is a lesson for the Balochis to learn from Afghanistan and the unstable states in Central Asia. An evolution is taking place in the whole region and Pakistan is the only country that provides them an outlet with the outside world as well as facilities of modern education and training in modernising their police and military commands.

Sher Mohammad.

Sher Mohammad, Pakistan - 06 February, 2006

we want freedom from u pakis.
get out from our land.we prefer india than u.u pakis kill our brother and sisters get out from baluchistan

baluchi, Pakistan - 06 February, 2006

An orphan country

An orphan country
Bugti has been sucking the poor Kolpurs blood more ruthlessly than a bloodiest bug. Bugti has been poking fun at the state sovereignty & property more callously than the worst enemy - and has been going berserk to do any thing the bloodiest monster can do against the country & its poor people. But none in any political gang, whether secular or clerical could dare to denounce the nasty dreadful deeds of the 'terrorism bug' even slightly, simply because they are exploring their own opportunities in the situation! If this is the blackness of these blackmailer politicians how they can be relied upon for running the state affairs??? Looking the shambles, our political lot has been playing against the state one can comprehend well the chemistry of these gangsters.
Our internal security apparatus clicking in Dera Bugti is also not up to the mark. Had they wiped of the 'big bug' timely a lot of innocent poor blood could have been saved. If they could not tam the bloodiest bug thus far in the Dera Bugti then they should have not caused the poor Kolpurs to be this mush open to the bloody elements.
The prime questions are; when this much lethal heavy weapons of assortment were being smuggled and dumped for years by the 'big bug' & his hired assassins what the security agencies were doing? Why it is so easy even now to explode everywhere and any time they want during the presence of security forces in Balochistan as well as other parts of the country? Why the 'big bug' was so strengthened at the dent of poor Kolpurs and others? Why the 'big bug' was granted that lavishly? Why the 'big bug' was granted the royal privileges & perks of all sorts? Why the big bug was made master of the free born people? Why a might shall always be the right in this country - and when a right shall become the might in this country? Can even now there is any body in this country to put forth the data of the mammoth means & materials has been granted to the 'big bug' - and under which provision of Law?
When any deed or action of the pack in power shall be dealt with on merit by the gang of opposition in this orphan country? Can any one establish the worldwide rule in this orphan country that plundering shall never ever pay to the plunderer and that plundering shall make the plunderer the prey instead in this country? Would we be able to witness in our life in this country that every preacher shall preach Islam and never a splinter?



Aftab Alam Advocate (High Court) Swat, Pakistan - 07 February, 2006

Baluchistan

Great article Farzana.
You have given us such an elaborate analysis of the Baluchistan issue.
While India and the other external forces that are at play here, it is upto Pakistan Government to take the initiative and quell the problem before it explodes into something more difficult to manage.
The Baluchi people indeed have to be shown that following their Sardars is not going to take them anywhere but keep them in poverty and misery. The royalties from the gas indeed must benefit the common people and not the Sardars.Nawab Bugti and the other trouble makers in that feudal class must be hounded and rendered toothless.It might take some display of power and aggression, but once they have been neutralized, Baluchistan has nothing but prosperity to look forward to.
The Administration has to be careful to monitor the dispensation of the money to benefit the common people and there must be strict accountibility and monitoring of that...not some other Zardari taking his 10% share.
Keep us informed Farzana..God bless you

A.R.Khan, Pakistan - 17 February, 2006

Pashtuns Zee

One thing one, the pakitan government is not helping the baluch at all. Neither, they are helping any pashtuns. Everything they invest, the ivest in punjab. Pashtuns and the baluch get nothig, all the education system you are taking over there, they all in Urdu or foreign language English. There is nothing in there for the pashtuns or baluch. We in the NWFP that you call it, we dont eat grass, we are not stupid anymore, this is 2006. My advice to pashtuns, if you dont listen to punjabis, your a communist or a terrorist. Dont go round killing the chinese or other powerful countries. You are creating more problems for yourself. Your problemi is that the people around which are there hypocrites who try to brainwash you in the name of Islam and keeping the pashtuns down. You all suppose to work together as pashtuns and start fighting for your own mother language. Thats the kind of education system you need for your children in the schools. Start fighting fr your own independance freedom. Pashtunistan zindabad.

Khushan Khan Khattak, United Arab Emirates - 27 February, 2006

Inqlab Zindabad

Long live the Islamic Republic of Balochistan.
I am a Baloch and in 10 years we will have a republic of our own.
No more Punjabi domination. We have lot of resources and will have a life of plenty. We don't want Punjabis to rule us.

Nobody other than Balochs understands us including this article. We want freedom to do as we please. This is our motherland and not Punjabis land. We are not Pakistanis and hate to called as such.

LEAVE US ALONE IN OUR HOMELAND AND GET OUT.

Shahbaz Mastan, Pakistan - 12 March, 2006

Mega development or Mega exploitation?

Pakistan never ever been sincere to develop Balochistan. as pakistan annexed Balochistan By force, treated and treating Balochs as thier slave and Balochistan as colony.
It is the place of shame for Pakistanis and tthe above writer by calling Army Garrisons mega development projects. I want her to explain the meaning of development first before accusing Baloch Nationalists and intellectuals for being anti development. Punjabi's pakistan has exploit and made people fool in the name of Islam. It is over now.

Ali Hassan, - 29 July, 2006

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