The Balochistan policy of the government ostensibly involves making the people of the province feel like they have a stake and sense of ownership in the country. Separatist sentiment, it is felt, can only be dampened by making the Baloch people feel that they are treated no differently than other Pakistanis. The government and military may want to rethink the execution of what they claim is their desired policy. On March 23 — a day loaded with symbolic value — patriotic Baloch were denied the opportunity to wish their family and friends as cell phone services were suspended throughout the province. Apart from it being yet another denial of the rights of the Baloch, this one-day suspension of services will only reinforce the widespread belief that there is one rule for the Baloch and another for the rest of the country.
As it is, there is less cell phone coverage density in Balochistan than in any other province; now we want Baloch in those few areas that are connected to the rest of the country through cell phones, to also feel alienated. This is not the most sensible approach. The PTA chairman’s explanation that this was done “to implement the national security policy” along with an official statement from the Governor House in Balochistan that this was an effort to thwart militant activities, is barely convincing. Forget the many political proposals that are on the table; what the people of Balochistan need right now is their dignity. They need the state to stop treating every Baloch as a suspect in his homeland.
Of course, the way things are going at present, would suggest that neither the government nor the establishment seem to have learnt any lessons from history, especially 1971. The sense of alienation and resentment is, quite understandably, rising with every passing day, especially as the body count of abducted Baloch men, who are then killed and dumped on the roadsides in the province, piles up. It is still not too late to try and set things right. But for that the solution has to be seen as not a military one but one that has to be done via politics and through heeding the demands of the people of the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.