Balochistan — more than a crisis

Published: February 21, 2012

The writer was Pakistan’s ambassador to the EU from 2002-2004 and to the US in 1999 [email protected]

Recent hearings in the US House of Representatives, followed by the introduction of a bill calling for Balochistan’s right to self-determination, have set the proverbial cat among the pigeons in Islamabad!

It is not only the government that has gone into high gear, describing it as “an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty”, but everyone else has joined the fray too. So, we have near unanimity, at least on one issue!

This hearing and the ‘self-determination’ bill were the initiative of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, long known as having rather skewed views about Pakistan. The invitees to the hearing, in particular Colonel Ralph Peters, who has long advocated the break-up of Pakistan, was also indicative of the Congressman’s thinking.

Nevertheless, the State Department characterising it “a complex issue” and calling upon “all the parties to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue”, cannot be seen as a ringing endorsement of our position, which left the impression that while not endorsing Rohrabacher’s initiative, the administration may not be unhappy with it either. Understandably, given the current state of Pak-US relations, anything that could add to American leverage and enhance our worries would not be unwelcome to the administration.

Moreover, human rights issues have long been a favourite US tool, used effectively even against powerful states, including China. Lest we forget it, the issue of human rights, popularly known as Responsibility to protect, has become a litmus test of a state’s credentials. Consequently, there is near universal unanimity against shielding human rights violations on the plea of ‘interference in internal affairs’.

Be that as it may, there can be no excuse for the long, wilful neglect of Balochistan and the brutal tactics employed there against expressions of dissent. These have convinced the Baloch youth that they have no future in the Federation. But credit for the intensity of their anger and outrage against Pakistan should go to General Pervez Musharraf, who treated them with contempt, coupled with ruthlessness that would have done Saddam proud. The public celebration of Sardar Akbar Bugti’s killing was deeply disgusting to most Pakistanis, but more so to the Baloch, who felt humiliated at the treatment meted out to the venerable Sardar. Ever since, the situation has deteriorated to a point where some of the Baloch are convinced that the only option available to them may be armed insurrection. Is there any surprise that this should have encouraged some of our American ‘friends’ to suggest the province’s separation?

Given its strategic location and its huge proven resources, Balochistan has long attracted the interest of major powers. In the seventies and eighties, Moscow spent a lot of time and resources cultivating the Baloch. Today, if others are interested in taking advantage of our follies, we can only blame ourselves. After all, there is undeniable wisdom in the adage that ‘those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ and this is most true of today’s Pakistan. Admittedly, many factors contributed to the country’s break-up in 1971, and we can hold some foreign powers complicit in it, too, but the primary responsibility has to be ours, particularly the politicians, as well as civil and military officials. In fact, each one of us had a role in the enactment of this tragedy.

It is not enough for us to claim that our common faith is enough of a glue to keep us together. Modern states have to be based on shared burdens and shared benefits, in an environment of adherence to law, respect for rights irrespective of caste, creed or ethnic origin, and a commitment to good governance. In short, every citizen must have a stake in the future of the state. The time for apologies and political ‘packages’ has long passed. A radical shift in our thinking and a national resolve to see the Baloch as ‘us’ and not ‘them’, is needed urgently.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.

Reader Comments (29)

  • abdullah
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:35PM

    the matter is time barred now only solution is redemarcation on ethnic grounds and pledge to live as friendly neighbouring muslim state with un conditional apology from punjabi/pashtun elite of islamabad

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  • Abishek
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:16PM

    Pakistan if has to survive as a country then it has to take the following measures

    1) Reservation for Baluchis in all Government jobs say appx 15 %.see Indian Example

    2) Reservation in all colleges 10 % see Indian Example

    3) Scholarships to Balloch students.see Indian Example

    4) Setting up of a national commission to inquire/ identify the most backward communities in Pakistan and going ahead then with affirmative action like is the case with India.

    5) Creation of more states like India

    7) Stop supporting Jahedi outfits.

    8) Neutralizing of the Jahedis in the Pak Army.

    9) Setting up of World class educational institutes atleast one in each state rather than spending in Defence like India

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  • abdullah
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:22PM

    @Abishek:
    its inter muslim problem btn baloch iran pak and afghan no need of advise balochistan is geographically middle east not sub continent so thank you Recommend

  • The Baloch
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:25PM

    Good article sir. 60 long years wasted to lay blame on others, now when some people in power corridors are realizing it was their responsiblity to solve the issue, its too late.

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  • Zalmai
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:15AM

    @Abhishek and @ Indian

    Advice is for people willing to learn and change not for the rigid, inflexible and unreasonable.

    When will Pakistan learn that sharing a common faith is not the glue that binds people together. Pakistan did not learn from their recent past, does anyone remember Bangladesh? I think Einstein had Pakistan in mind when he coined this term referenced below.

    “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
    ― Albert Einstein

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  • yousaf
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:31AM

    @Abishek–I as a Pakistani OBJECT to the introductory line of your comment.How-come you assume first and then give “solutions”.We know what is good/bad for us to do,no lectures needed by outsiders.Do not tell that you said “if” before the comment,it is not acceptable

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:42AM

    The Pakistani establishment lacks foresight. If they were not blinded by the “India is the enemy” paradigm – they would have clearly seen what they are setting Pakistan up for by inviting the Chinese to operate a naval base in Gwadar and by allowing them to harvest the mineral resources of Baluchistan.

    The overall aim of the US is to be the top dog in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean – and also deny an adversary quick access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

    To achieve this aim, the US used Pakistan to defeat the Soviets – and now what do you think their strategy will be to prevent Chinese access to the Indian Ocean ?

    Separate out Baluchistan as an independent nation. And that will be punishment for Pakistan’s double dealing as well.

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  • gp65
    Feb 22, 2012 - 1:57AM

    @Author ” Recent hearings in the US House of Representatives, followed by the introduction of a bill calling for Balochistan’s right to self-determination, have set the proverbial cat among the pigeons in Islamabad!”

    Dana Rohrabacher HAS NOT introduced a bill. HE has introduced a resolution. A bill, if passed becomes an Act and has the force of law behind it. A resolution is just a sense of the house. Even if it passes, there are no next steps for the executive branch to follow up on.

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  • raza hasan
    Feb 22, 2012 - 2:26AM

    oh yes….. the ‘venarable sardars’……. and the balochs who are metted with the kind treatment by their own sardars…. and then those ‘venerable sardars’ sit in the provincial assemblies, national assembly and senate….. then even become prime minister, chief ministers, governors etc etc….then they have real estate and businesses in major urban centers of the “enemy” province where the junior sardars and daughters live an absolutely different life…… and then when they kill each other for land control, they seek the punjabi army’s help to settle the deal…… he he he….. what a funny story…… and those who say that all of the balochistan is one, they better talk to the pashtuns, balochs, brohies etc etc living there…. their various claims to quetta and beyond …… and how and when they will be able to ‘chalk out’ a balochistan by snatching the land from afghans and iranians……. to attain freedom as “balochs” first please become one nation on the basis of ethnicity or whatever…….. otherwise without becoming true to one’s self it will be mere fooling around, whether you get a piece of land or a piece of someone’s mind…….. so let us not become deaf and dumb….

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  • Mirza
    Feb 22, 2012 - 3:43AM

    The arrogance and brutality of General Mush had no bounds. He told 80 years old Akbar Bugti before bombing him “we would hit you so hard you would not know what hit you”. Most Pakistanis did not stand up against that blatant murder of an old man. Even if Mr. Bugti had gone mad he should not have been killerd this way and tried in a court of law.

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  • gp65
    Feb 22, 2012 - 8:47AM

    @Mirza: “The arrogance and brutality of General Mush had no bounds. He told 80 years old Akbar Bugti before bombing him “we would hit you so hard you would not know what hit you””

    True. And what about the way he buried Bugti? The man had been an elected chief minister after all/

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  • Reality
    Feb 22, 2012 - 9:55AM

    @abdullah: @yousuf

    I am Pakistani and truly belief that Abishek is right. Please dont see who is advising just see what is being advised. The volume of hate in your comment shows that you are extremely unpatriotic and the people belong to your school of thought responsible for the seperation of East Pakistan and now working to seperate Balouchistan.

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  • gt
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:54PM

    It is extremely dangerous to invite a superpower (China) & essentially give Gwadar over to its control. For now, things may be “friendly” between the 2 countries, but that could change in the future. Remember, countries function on self-interest, not altruism. Unlike the US, it would be very difficult to dislodge the Chinese, because their interests are close by.

    Colonialism took hold in the subcontinent when various competing local princes invited one or more foreign powers to establish strongholds to help them defeat rivals. Perhaps history is once again repeating itself. And maybe ALL the people of the subcontinent work smoothly, tirelessly, and loyally under a foreign hand, than as their own masters!! That is the destiny of our choice!!

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  • chacha
    Feb 22, 2012 - 1:00PM

    From Author “It is not enough for us to claim that our common faith is enough of a glue to keep us together. Modern states have to be based on shared burdens and shared benefits, in an environment of adherence to law, respect for rights irrespective of caste, creed or ethnic origin, and a commitment to good governance.”

    This is a direct rebuttal of two nation theory that says that religion defines nationhood. Perhaps that may be in medevial times, However author says that “modern” states have to based on other things. So as per Authour either two nation theory is itself a flawed theory, or is a medevial one not applicable to “modern” times.

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  • well-wisher
    Feb 22, 2012 - 1:24PM

    GOP and the military should review its present policy of using an iron hand against the Balochis and thereby creating another Bangla Desh. Unfortunately, military who has no clue and a pragmatic policy to deal with this this extra-ordinary situation has brought the province on the brink as well as under international scrutiny.

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  • wonderer
    Feb 22, 2012 - 2:31PM

    A very well articulated article by a writer who is wise and experienced. It is fortunate for Pakistan that such thinkers exist in the Pakistani society.
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  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 22, 2012 - 3:59PM

    The Sardars have long kept the people deprived of their rights, and the State has usually bribed the Sardars to keep their loyalty. Musharraf’s approach is laudable, as he tried to break the power of the Sardars and develop Balochistan. But of course, in Pakistan we paint our heroes as villains.

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  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 22, 2012 - 4:00PM

    @Abishek:
    Yes, we get it. India is the shining beacon of hope and the role model for all other states.

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  • ahmed
    Feb 22, 2012 - 5:39PM

    @chacha: Good observation.

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  • Feroz
    Feb 22, 2012 - 7:32PM

    It is a very good article with sensible suggestions. The humility of the writer for taking joint responsibility for the current status must be lauded and appreciated. With humility enemies can become friends, with arrogance and ego friends will become enemies..

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  • Mohammad
    Feb 22, 2012 - 8:49PM

    Pakistan and India need to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir and Balochistan to allow the people to decide their respective futures.

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  • An_Indian
    Feb 22, 2012 - 11:30PM

    US does things only when they are in their national interest. US wants to dominate the world. They need to be in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan to do that in Asia. This region is kind of a buffer zone in between some of the largest countries in the whole world and most of them are hostile to the US model per se. But Pakistan is a problem for the US now. So they need to tame Pakistan. Balochistan from here on will be the American beating stick for Pakistan.

    I, for one, do not think USA wants an independent Balochistan in South Asia. They just want to use Balochistan as the soft part of Pakistan to tame it down.

    I think they accomplished their first objective of rattling Pakistan enough to convert this issue into their trump card. Now every time Pakistan shows the finger ( for example after incidents like Salala, Drone attack etc., USA will play the Balochistan card.

    This, i think, is the real plan.

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  • yousaf
    Feb 22, 2012 - 11:51PM

    @Mr.Reality–You say you are a Pakistani,I accept it,You say that I am “extremely unpatriotic” I beg to disagree because I am not,repeat not at all.I do not like Abishek saying “if Pakistan has to survive”.Pakistan has come to survive and she will,who is A. to address us like this?He does not even know that Pakistan is one STATE not many as he has mentioned while talking of academic institutions,of what authenticity his advice can be?.Mr.Reality you are wrong when you say that it is people like me who caused separation of East Pkistan.Please read history carefully because it was INDIA which conspired from day one of the creation of Pakistan and it were her cronies and her conspiracy that culminated in the EP mishap and now she is after Balochistan and even rest of the Pakistan.Recommend

  • Reality
    Feb 23, 2012 - 10:51AM

    @yousaf:

    Mr Yousuf India didnt initiate the sepration movement of East Pakistan neither she is reponsible for all the wrong doing in Balouchistan it is our Army who is sloley reponsible for all the wrong doing in East Pakistan and then Baluchistan. India just took advantage of the situation and grab the oppertunity.

    Secondly ‘A’ just gave the neutral opinion in huminaterian ground as evident from his comment.

    Third, if you read his whole comment his is 100% right and the steps gave the right suggestion.

    It is not India who is responsible all the time, It is our corrupt and incomeptent government and army who always want to make money by indulging in unnecessary war. Why Gen Musharraf sided with US in Afghan war ? what he gets in return ? some dollars!.

    Your type of people always open mouth agaisnt India but maintain silence in wrong doing of your own people. Its simply disgusting and unpatriotic in nature.

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  • Reality
    Feb 23, 2012 - 10:56AM

    @yousaf:

    One more thing. I am a Pakistani Lives, born and work here but this is a reality and universal fact that considering the current situation in Baluchistan, Northern Area, Target killing in Karachi and emerging of talibanisation in Punjab, Pakistan will not going to survive for long.
    I pray that i will prove wrong.

    How could we survive if we could not even defend drone attack. Accept the reality and think by brain not by heart.

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  • Dr Azhar mukhtar sindhu
    Feb 23, 2012 - 12:03PM

    Agree mr ambassodor.
    Us resolution should be considered as eye opener not an eyewash.
    Strong reaction was given to usa! Ok thats good,but that not enough and not substantial.
    Americans are doing what they were to suppose to do as world power .
    We must deal our house in order

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  • Nirmit
    Feb 23, 2012 - 1:48PM

    @abdullah:
    Intermuslim problem!!! no need for advise!!!! I am sure it is an arrogant behaviour; if Abhishek is a pakistani Hindu than you mean to say he being a Pakistani Netional can not have an opinion to improve the situation!!!!…..will you ever rise above religion and be professional in running the affairs of a nation…..isn’t too bad to bring religion in every sphere and force people to think about the politicization of God……Recommend

  • Nirmit
    Feb 23, 2012 - 1:51PM

    @Zalmai:
    Great respect to you my friend….there is hope as long as there are intellectuals like you who sees things from an objective and logical viewpoiint; it people like you my friend who will bring glory to your religion…….most of the poepl are not against Islam but the brockers of islam and Allah who have a habit of exploiting Allah’s name for their own silly agendas……because of people like you we still believe Islam is a religion of Peace and sanity…….

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  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 23, 2012 - 8:40PM

    The us vs them is not our view of the Baloch people, its our view of the Sardars.

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