In the name of the Baloch

Basil Nabi Malik May 30, 2010

To say that the Baloch have been given a raw deal in Pakistan would be an understatement. Subjected to at least three military operations, oppressive policies, and the plunder of natural resources to the detriment of the indigenous population, can one really blame them for being disgruntled?

The Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package was announced with a lot of fanfare. In addition to the package, financial autonomy was given to the provinces, with special emphasis on Balochistan. Autonomy in governance was also given in the form of abolishing the concurrent list. Many hoped these measures would begin to heal the wounds of the Baloch. However, none of the measures have been fully implemented and the Baloch have no reason to believe that the “forces that be” will allow them to be enforced. This, however, is the tip of the iceberg. The real issue is that the Baloch feel that they are being wronged by the federation.

Other than Balochistan, all the provinces have some stake in the integrity of the country. Sindh has an undeniable stake in the politics of the nation, as can be observed from the successes of the Sindhi-led PPP and the substantial presence of Sindhis in parliament. The denizens of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have great influence not only in the bureaucracy but also in the army. And Punjab, quite unremarkably, has a presence in pretty much every institution in the country by virtue of its sheer population.

However, the same cannot be said of Balochistan. Its representation in the National Assembly isn’t enough for it to get its way or even nudge the other stakeholders into taking it on board. It has a negligible presence in the army, and the situation is unlikely to change anytime soon in light of repeated army operations.

Their presence is negligible in the bureaucracy, and they have been consistently forced from national politics to ethnic-based fringe politics. A case in point would be Akbar Bugti, who started off as a supporter of the federation and ended up as a nationalist fighting the Pakistani army and its “oppressive policies”.

This is why the Baloch feel so aggrieved. When it comes to issues important to them, national politics don’t seem to have the time to accommodate their concerns, and they don’t have the capability to forcibly agitate the same on their own. A telling example would be the missing persons case. The issue has a special significance for the people in Balochistan but due to their lack of representation in the corridors of power they are helpless in having the issue addressed. The executive doesn’t seem to care too much about those missing, army actions are still taking place in Balochistan, and all this is happening whilst political parties are quibbling about whether the president should hold one post or two. All in all, the Baloch have no real forum where their grievances can be addressed.

The government and other stakeholders should advance the concerns of those unable to do so themselves. And this is exactly what was expected of the relevant officials in the missing persons case. One had felt that even if national solidarity and integrity was too hollow an idea to force officials into action regarding the various injustices being committed, surely the thought of a family weeping in despair and dying a bit everyday in anticipation of the return of their loved one would do the trick. Well, clearly, one thought wrong.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 31st, 2010.


Kaleem | 13 years ago | Reply Thanks for writing this interesting article. I, however, feel that some relevant issues have been overlooked by the writer. Considering the Indo-Pak history, I don't think that we are dealing with a new issue here. India faced partition because muslims felt they were being denied their rights, Paksitan's east wing became separate because Bengalis reached the conclusion that they were not being treated fairly, now we have the same situation developing in Balochistan. Even if the BLA succeeds in its intentions, we will certainly see Pakhtuns, Balochis and Brahwis fighting one another. Whatever grievances Balochistan might have, nothing justifies target killing of so many Punjabis in Balcohistan who have been serving the public for decades, many born and brought up in Balochistan. Not even a single finger is being pointed at Sardars who have deliberately denied the development of much needed facilities in the province and Federal government always felt that it was important to keep them happy as they controlled the masses. The real problem is not of Balochistan and Pakistan but of ruling elite, irrespective of whether that is Punjabi or Balochi and common people who are unable to find any element of social justice in the current system. It is not the Balcoh only that is angry, this feeling is shared by everyone in Pakistan who does not form part of this ruling elite and is not strong enough to make his might the right. Unfortunately, the Sardars being part of the same ruling elite feel its easier to point finger at Pakistan rather than addressing the rotten sardari system. Until the country becomes a true welfare state based on equality and social justice with all psuedoreligion out of the politics and constitution; these problems will continue to surface.
Atiq Rehman | 13 years ago | Reply My only problem is, why dont the baloch people target their anger against the sardars that have denied them education, health and jobs, rather than becoming angry with the federation as a whole. My understanding is that education, health and numerous other ministries are controlled at a provincial level.
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