Fiddling while Balochistan burns

Published: August 14, 2012

The writer is national editor at The Express Tribune [email protected]

It was Nero who played the fiddle while Rome burned. And from the looks of it, our government is doing the same on the issue of Balochistan.

At a security huddle last month, Balochistan’s chief minister made an incongruous statement: the security situation is not as bad as portrayed in the media. From the ruling cabal, this is a quintessential ostrich-like approach to Balochistan — a boiling cauldron of ethnic, sectarian, secessionist and militant violence, threatening to boil over at anytime.

Balochistan is a festering wound, which has bled for decades now. And instead of diagnosing the cause, successive governments in Islamabad have tried different dressings to heal the wound. In the process, however, the wound has become septic.

The province has been caught up in a time warp, literally. Official neglect and resulting underdevelopment of the province, rich in mineral resources, spawned a sense of deprivation among the Baloch, which has become endemic over the years because of a Stalinist approach of Islamabad (read: Rawalpindi). The local sardars cannot escape the blame, either. The disillusionment sparked revolts against the state. Since 1948, Balochistan has seen four uprisings and as many military operations. The current insurgency, the fifth one, is blamed on the imprudent actions of former dictator General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. The 2006 killing of Baloch chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti set off the current spiral of violence. This time around, however, sectarian extremists are also cashing in on the fluid security situation in the province. Military operations have done more harm than good. But we have not learnt from the past. The incumbent democratic government also appears to have bought the security paradigm of the military establishment. President Asif Ali Zardari did not follow up on his ‘apology’ to the Baloch people for the “excesses” of the past, though his party’s government did try to lure the Baloch with economic incentives. It was naive to believe the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan package or a few thousand government jobs would buy the government ‘hearts and minds’ of the Baloch. Detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings of political workers are rampant — mostly blamed on the security forces. Reprisals from vengeful Baloch separatists are becoming nastier and deadlier. The gravity of the situation is palpable. The Supreme Court, which is currently hearing a suo motu case on the security situation there, talks of a constitutional breakdown. Rights campaigners warn that the province is “slipping away”. But the chief minister finds no one else to blame except the media for “exaggerating” the conflict.

Looking the other way is not an option. Neither is ruthless use of force, even if we are convinced that ‘foreign powers’ are destabilising the province. Pragmatism demands dialogue, a constructive, all-inclusive dialogue. The government should announce a truce, offer a general amnesty, curtail the role of security forces and engage nationalists in talks in order to isolate the ethno-separatists, who are in the minority (I believe, most Baloch still see their future with Pakistan). A grand jirga should be convened of all Baloch tribal chieftains and nationalist, political and religious leaders to work out a solution. Remember the 1970s insurgency was not crushed militarily — it was put down with pragmatism and prudence.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012. 

Reader Comments (15)

  • Ejaaz
    Aug 14, 2012 - 10:37PM

    The foreign hand will not allow Baluchistan peace at the moment. We will start an action in Fata and will reap a response in Baluchistan from all sides.

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  • Gulzar Kandrani
    Aug 14, 2012 - 10:51PM

    Good effort to highlight Balochistan situation. But here I let you know that gluttonous ministers have no power and wisdom to sort out Balochistan issue. Another thing sir that the majority of Baloch don’t expect any thing good from Pakistan but I pray that may it be so. Anyhow, bone of contention is ” Deep State” and Sardars, who are supported by Deep State no by Baloch masses.

    Furthermore, Baloch are systematically radicalized and used as an apparatus for sectarian violence since there is growing number of unregistered Madrssahs in Balochistan and no one notices this development. If demagogues are sincere to Baloch nation then they must pay visit to the families who fell prey to Extra Judicial Killings and Kill and Dump policy. Don’t know when we wake up from deep sleep.Recommend

  • Gulzar Kandrani
    Aug 14, 2012 - 10:58PM

    Ejaz Brother@ Please stop blaming ‘ Foreign hands” as it has been our policy to ” Ignore Real Problem and Blame it on America, Isreal and India” to hide your head in sand. Sweep before your own door. Be pragmatic, accept reality, find out flaws and weakness, identify enemy within us and sort out the problems. No one can create situations unless it is created by internal enemies. In the time of Bangladesh same course was repeated with same policy and result is before us.Recommend

  • kashif saif dhillon
    Aug 14, 2012 - 11:14PM

    if due attention is not given to balouchistan then we will left with repentence only as in case of EASTpakistan bcx we have sown the wind and we will reap the whirlwind..,

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  • Ejaaz
    Aug 14, 2012 - 11:44PM

    Gulzar Brother: I agree with you. I am merely anticipating what we are going to be told by those who are ruling us. The reasons why nothing will happen in Baluchistan till it is way too late are way shrouded by the dark establishment of our land and not easily explained in a comments section. I pray along with you that Allah may listen. I do admit that I am not optimistic because I think we are seeing the inexorable sweep of Allah’s lathi.

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  • Zuliakha
    Aug 15, 2012 - 12:07AM

    Very well written piece – Baluchistan conflict is complex. Just a small exmple why Baloch feel alenated, discriminated and second class citizen in Pakistan ? Because Punjab ranger is 100% from Punjab, Frontier Constbluery in KPK is 100 % from KPK but all security forces in Balochistan are from other provinces. If State has no trust on Baloch, and deployed 250,000 Forces from outside, than why Baloch trust on Pakistan ?

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  • A. Nabi Baloch
    Aug 15, 2012 - 1:00AM

    The entire Balochistan government is not only corrupt but also power. FC rules the province, it’s soldiers are not local, nor they care about the population who lives. For God’sake stop blaming few sardars (it is always Marri, Mengal and Bugti)’ and India. It is your own follies that are burning the province, Today rest of the Pakistan celebrated independence day, there was total boycott, if someone still cannot read between the lines, they must be fooling themselves.

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  • shahzad
    Aug 15, 2012 - 2:54AM

    the chief minister him self is not even there…………. he spends most of his time here in Islamabad shopping all the time……. and he is so much afraid to go to Baluchistan and yet he says that there is no thing wrong as media is portraying it…… shame on him……… he is a nawab and he proved that bi his actions and words….. we don’t need any nawabs on the seats on a chief minister……and what will a person like zardari know how to run a country he even cant run his own house properly sham on all of them……. May ALLAH keep Pakistan alive and intact…..

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  • zahoor ahmed
    Aug 15, 2012 - 5:14AM

    i believe all the evil lies with baloch sardar who kept masses ignorant and enjoyed the perks and previliges of federation and now convincing the public for revolt and instead of taking the blame of poverty and backwardness on their shoulder have pointed to the federation of pakistan.. These idiot and so called leader of ignorant baloch commoner are now thinking of saperate state to live the dreamed luxury being fueled by india and america. They should realize that independent balochistan can,t survive even for a day.

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  • Raw is War.
    Aug 15, 2012 - 10:01AM

    Baluchistan needs autonomy.

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  • Randeep Sherpao
    Aug 15, 2012 - 12:24PM

    @Raw is War.:
    Baluchistan needs Independence

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  • KSU
    Aug 15, 2012 - 1:18PM

    Get modern …..build contemporary institutions and get rid of “grand jirgas”. They only perpetuate traditional power relations. This is 2012 not 1812!

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  • Irshad Khan
    Aug 15, 2012 - 4:58PM

    To create sense of ownership of Pakistan, the capital of the country should be immediately shifted to Baluchistan Province as swiftly as it was shifted to Islamabad from Karachi without any solid reason. This decision will result into solving 80% problem of Baluchees.

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  • Ozymandias
    Aug 15, 2012 - 7:40PM

    @Irshad Khan:
    And instead of Raja , why couldn’t we have had a Baloch PM?Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Ahmad
    Aug 16, 2012 - 5:26AM

    Gone are days to decide issues like Balochitan with guns, bullets and extra judicial murders, the only solution, in my opinion is the dialogue for the reconciliation with deprived population of Balochistan.

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