There is lot of space between existing circumstance and the point of no return. Through national unity, seriousness of purpose, faith in the aspirations of our people for peace and progress and their ability to persevere and overcome any and all challenges, political space lost to the dissidents can be reclaimed. 

By Air Commodore ® Khalid Iqbal        

Historically Baluchistan has been an area of interest for major world powers. Erstwhile USSR aimed at reaching the warm waters through Baluchistan and its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was the first step in this regard.  In the wake of 9/11 America has also become interested in this part of Pakistan, but for different reasons. It wants to block Chinese access to Arabian Sea, and create unrest in Iran. After losing the war in Afghanistan, America is keen to keep Baluchistan on the boiling pot to prevent use of Central Asian gas and oil by Asian countries. A conglomerate of foreign intelligence agencies are cooperating to further American interests. Task of carrying out physical disruptions is assigned to India, which through its consulates in the Afghan territory adjacent to Baluchistan is faithfully recruiting, training, financing and equipping the resident dissident elements as well as inducting non-resident mercenaries into Baluchistan.

The province has become an epicenter of foreign interference in Pakistan. Traditionally the elements from within, who earlier danced to Soviet tunes, have aligned themselves to their new financiers. While residing in the comforts of Europe, three scions of leading tribes have opted to give an international dimension to the issue while, back home, their kin and kith continues to reap the fruits of a policy of appeasement by provincial and federal governments. 

Pakistan is striving to bring Baluch people into mainstream through various ways, but the progress is slow. Phenomenal funding has gone into Baluchistan during the last four years, but instead of manifesting into public welfare projects, major chunk of money has been siphoned off by political opportunists, and the federal government is going along with this process of political appeasement.

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Hence, for a common Baluch, ‘Aghaz-e-Haqqoq-e-Baluchistan’ has not gone beyond mere rhetoric. Civil bureaucracy mostly comprising of PCS cadre lacks the will for speedy and efficient implementation of developmental projects, DMG cadre is not keen to serve this part of Pakistan. Political leadership is indifferent to the situation. Political appeasement through doling out of developmental funds to provincial assembly members, without any accountability suits the quest of ruling clique for prolonging their rule. Man on the street continues to be high and dry.

Apparent dysfunction emanates from the procedural flaw, whereby the federal and provincial governments are trying to reach out to the common people of Baluchistan through discredited Chieftains who have traditionally been a major obstruction in the development of infrastructure in their respective areas. Common man, especially the youth, has no faith in majority of these chieftains who carry a huge baggage of betrayal.  This provides space for the detractors to attract the youth, more so in the Brahavi belt.

The phenomenon of target killing is not new in Baluchistan. Favourites for target killing are the Punjabis, followed by Hazaras. A similar action was taken by the Baluch youth when Attaullah Mengal was the Chief Minister. With a stroke of pen, Mengal had terminated the services of 25000 Punjabi settlers, working as primary teachers, clerks, laborers etc; they had to flee. Ironically, these Punjabis are children and grand children of those who flocked Baluchistan for voluntary relief and rehabilitation services in the aftermath of the earth quake disaster of 1935.

The urban centers of the province are ethnically homogeneous. Pushtun belt that accounts for 50% of the population of the province is calm. It is only the tribal “B” areas (where police does not have a jurisdiction) of Mengals, Bugtis and Marris where the unrest is visible. Real threat is losing of Baluch youth to the secessionist ideology.

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During the past decade, the influence of Baluch Nawabs and Sardars has diminished incrementally. However, federal and provincial governments continue to live in yesteryears by resurrecting their influence with a hope to rule through them. In the meanwhile, the baton of struggle for basic rights has passed on to the new generation. Youth with humble origin is struggling for their access to basic amenities. The foremost reason for their unrest is unemployment, lack of opportunities, backwardness and the lack of infrastructure in the remote areas. Foreign settled scions of chieftain origin are trying to portray it as a movement for independence.  

A year ago the National Assembly Standing Committee on Inter-Provincial Coordination had expressed its dissatisfaction over the pace of implementation of the packages for Baluchistan, observing that a lot of work had been done on paper and nothing on the ground. The situation continues to be same.

Federal government has to put its act together and enable the provincial government for speedy implementation of the package. Human resource intensive, Chamalang like, development projects should be planned and implemented quickly. Each new job would mean that Pakistan’s detractors will have one less youngster to recruit. To snatch the youth back from the jaws of insurgency, job opportunities have to be created for each one of them. They should be liberally inducted into law enforcing agencies.

Pakistan Army took a prudent decision to revise the induction criteria; 5000 Baluch youth have joined the army; additional 10,000 would be recruited by end 2012.  A military college was inaugurated earlier this year, while the Army Chief announced the establishment of an “Education City”. Over 4,000 students are benefiting from ‘Chamalang Beneficiary Education Program’. ‘Baluchistan Institute of Technical Education’, run by Pakistan Army, has trained 1,673 individuals; the ‘Gwadar Institute of Technical Education’ would also start functioning in due course. Police and FC Baluchistan need to follow the suit and give a Baluch face to these organizations.

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There is a need to infuse a sense of security amongst the public. Thumb rule of ‘policeman per number of people’ needs to be modified for Baluchistan to link it with per square kilometer. Presence of a local policeman all around Baluchistan is essential to radiate a resolve to protect the people. ‘B’ areas need to be abolished. There is a need to launch a campaign to check the mine laying by the miscreants, these mine have caused enormous loss of innocent lives. Mine menace is a single major factor that radiates a message of insecurity. Law enforcing agencies must co-opt community participation to eradicate the proliferation of this weapon of fear.

Media needs to play positive role. Unfortunately our electronic media is glamorizing the elements that articulate separatist trends. At times it appears that some of the TV channels are a veritable arm of foreign media operating in Pakistan.

Nevertheless, it is not a dooms day scenario. Sardar Attaullah Mengal has recently pointed out that ‘Baluchistan has rich resources, warning that any other force could trap us into another quagmire and we have no other solution except to keep the country intact’. Chief Minister Raisani had also made similar remarks sometime back that the world was eyeing on Gwadar port and natural resources of the province but we will not let the province  become part of any great game.

There is lot of space between existing circumstance and the point of no return. Through national unity, seriousness of purpose, faith in the aspirations of our people for peace and progress and their ability to persevere and overcome any and all challenges, political space lost to the dissidents can be reclaimed.