Spinning half-truths on Balochistan

Published: July 9, 2011

[email protected]

Balochistan is quite fashionable these days, especially amongst the establishment wallahs, some of whom have been visiting the place, writing about it or even getting research grants to figure out ways to make the Baloch patriotic. There are two state-friendly narratives available. The first is, that all violence in Balochistan is a foreign conspiracy. Therefore, what is required is greater show of force. The second, and one that is extremely unkind to the Baloch, says that people have died in the conflict and that this must end, and reconciliation be made possible by providing a few thousand jobs. Both these approaches denote the state’s stick and carrot approach.

It is believed that carrots will work because tribal leaders who have no support amongst common people primarily drive the insurgency. Interestingly, recent newspaper reports on the issue heavily cite sources that are Rawalpindi’s agents in Balochistan. Mostly, these are non-Baloch who fail to highlight the fact that the presence of the Frontier Corps (FC), which is pre-dominantly manned by the Pashtun, is nibbling at communal harmony in the province. Instead, these agents are engaged in fanning fear amongst ordinary Pakistanis of Baloch people and nationalists who seem to be killing Punjabis. These nationalists, thus, have to be dealt with a heavy hand just as the state treated the pro-autonomy politicians of former East Pakistan. Even then, the ordinary soldier was taught to brutalise the Bengalis under the false assumption that all were Hindus. Why be overly critical of the reactive violence of non-state actors when this is the only lesson that the state gives them? People are not told that there is angry reaction from the other side too, especially when violence is the main lesson given by the state. From the perspective of the state’s responsibility in encouraging reactive violence, there is little difference between Kashmir and Balochistan. In any case, there is no hard evidence to prove that all killings of non-Baloch are the work of Baloch nationalists.

The media has failed to highlight the fact that the latest round of the Baloch insurgency is not really a child of tribal leaders living outside the country, or is led by the clients of these leaders. Instead, the insurgency is now located in areas such as Makran that have not experienced a tribal system in a hundred years. Moreover, the insurgency is increasingly dominated by the Baloch middle class which has not only reacted to the state’s brutality but humiliation pulled upon ordinary folk by the FC stationed in Balochistan. The origins of the present insurgency date back to 2005 when the agencies arrested and tortured a few doctors and engineers.

An excessively powerful and brutal establishment often forgets that victims of violence also have honour and self-respect. Moreover, an angry victim will return to avenge the death of his loved ones or damage to his/her own pride. Just because the Baloch have lived in unbearable conditions of underdevelopment for the last 64 years does not justify their humiliation and killing at the hands of state forces. The abundance of FC check posts, picking up of people by security and intelligence agencies and their disappearance and killing are wounds which will not disappear with a few jobs.

Not that the state did not have an option to befriend the Baloch middle class, especially when Gwadar was being developed, through distributing land amongst the educated, professional, working class Baloch. However, the state adopted the age-old formula of going through the tribal stakeholders and putting some of the land at the disposal of its handpicked chief minister for further distribution amongst his clients.

Sadly, the state is still engaged in building a counterproductive narrative the same way it did in East Pakistan. Surely, the situation of the 1970s is not comparable with that of Balochistan where the Baloch do not have the same control of the territory as the Bengalis had then. But then we can continue to live in a condition of terrible suspicion of each other.

Though the time is fast running out for peace, any forward movement must begin with removing the FC, finding the missing people and taking responsibility for those that are dead. Spinning half-truths will not take us far in solving the Balochistan problem. The security apparatus must realise how its agents are misguiding it.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2011.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (28)

  • Mir Agha
    Jul 9, 2011 - 10:09PM

    And your fanning unfounded myths and propoganda. Keep blabbering about an all-powerful mythical establishment. It’s very conspiratorial. Less obsession and more reason please.


  • Khan Lala
    Jul 9, 2011 - 10:15PM

    “An excessively powerful and brutal establishment often forgets that victims of violence also have honour and self-respect. Moreover, an angry victim will return to avenge the death of his loved ones or damage to his/her own pride.” That applies to you and the leftist ilk who are bathing for pashtun/muslim resistence blood. Would love an article by you which calls on the brutal and powerful US establishment to stop its terror. Don’t hold any hope on that, you’d suddenly turn all ‘nuanced’ and ‘pragmatic’.


  • Jul 9, 2011 - 11:00PM

    Thanks Ayesha for penning your thoughts on the very crucial debate about Balochistan.
    The mainstream media and writers kept silence on Balochistan for a long time, but this time they came up with an interest in writing on Balochistan but unfortunately it was not for any good reasons but they started misinforming people with distorted facts and twisted logic.
    The arguments of Sardar system is very senseless as two big tribal chief are part of the Govt and political process and now the insurgency is no more led by Sardars.
    In fact Baloch intellectual history is full of disgust and agony against these sardars. The poetic works of Mir Gul Khan Naseer is a good example of this, who opposes Sardars and obsolete Jirga system and consider it the reason behind the worst conditions of their people. But it was the state which has punished progressive people and embraced the icons of Baloch tribalism. Now putting the blame on their own allies and friends is shameful.


  • khan
    Jul 9, 2011 - 11:14PM

    All kudos to Ayesha Siddiqa for cutting through the Deep State’s lying flim-flam and getting to the heart of the matter.

    The Baloch insurgency is not a creation of tribal chiefs (living in or out of Pakistan) but led by a deeply angry Baloch middle class. These people have every right to have honour and self respect instead of being treated as treacherous second-class subjects in their own country.

    It is time the blinkered and brutal establishment realised that it is they who are the culprits behind the chaos in Balochistan.


  • Mirza
    Jul 9, 2011 - 11:15PM

    You wrote:
    “Even then, the ordinary soldier was taught to brutalise the Bengalis under the false assumption that all were Hindus.” Sad to say, the more things change the more they stay the same in Pakistan. Even today in Pakistan every criminal act of Taliban and other Islamist terrorists is attributed to Indian and American agents to protect the real culprits. Muslims are killing Muslims in Afghanistan for over 30 years and now in Pakistan but it is not their fault at all!
    Once again thanks a lot for being right on the target and in time. We have to take care of Baloch people and it is way overdue. We cannot continue the slaughter of young Baloch men forever. It is the duty of all patriotic Pakistanis to stand up for the rights of Baluchistan.

  • Nosheen
    Jul 9, 2011 - 11:28PM

    Brilliant piece, thanks for your writing.


  • Max
    Jul 9, 2011 - 11:33PM

    Ayesha Siddiqa Sahiba,
    It looks like that you have something to say but are little hesitant to do so. I can understand your fears given that you live in a “mukhbar” state and it is not easy to say things. I agree with your analysis that injustices have been done to Baluch population in recent years. Please know that it is not new. In the God Gifted bureaucratic- authoritarian State of Pakistan, this has been a norm since the days of its inception. The sahibs (many of them from UP and CP and with a typical colonial mind-set) mistreated the local population in the formative years of Pakistan. The language riots of 1951 in E. Bengal were in response to this arrogance. Aziz Ahmed, the Chief Secretary of the province (read Godfather) ran the province as a pakka sahib bahdar than a civil servant. The same happened during the Qalat insurgency in 1958, and then in Sindh in 1950s, and in 1970s. Bureaucratic arrogance supported by the twin sibling (the military) resulted into the dismemberment of country in 1971. Enter a populist Islamist-Socialist/autocrat and his policies of dislodging JUI/NAP government lead by Bazenjo, and we antagonized the Baluchis to the maximum. I do not know if Nawab Kasuri was assassinated on the orders of this Sindhi wadera, but this much I know that thousand of Baluchis were killed as were the large number of military personnel during the insurgency of 1970s. I knew several of them who never returned home. Things did not stop there; a new breed of military high command, ( trained in the tradition of” go and get them”) took over the reins of the state and never let them lose.
    The point is that display of military might have never been a solution. Neither is unfair distribution of scarce resources or barra sahib attitude.
    I understand that you were associated with the civil service once. Mr. Aziz Ahmed’s son is also a regular reader of the columns in this newspaper(I see his comments on and off). Please know it is not something personal but we should speak up: what is wrong is wrong. I am a Punjabi and come from a family with a very long tradition of military service. But do I support their arrogance in internal state matters? Absolutely NO!
    But if my comments offended you or anyone else, my sincere most apologies.


  • irshadmemon
    Jul 10, 2011 - 12:26AM

    I dont think that establishment realy wants to resolve the issue. But for moment we presume,they do,then baloch element wdnt do so bcoz of lack of trust as past witnessed.It could be resolved by pure authoritarian civil democratic govt ,which doesnt exist and hopefully no chance of its existence in near future.so the situation get worstened,.US and india are the beneficiaries of the future outcomes.pakistan military and ISI must have to understand the future scenario of region.they should take lead to reconcile with baloch elements with sincererity without any hypocricy.r future.so the situation get worstened,.US and india are the beneficiaries of the future outcomes.pakistan military and ISI must have to understand the future scenario of region.they should take lead to reconcile with baloch elements with sincererity without any hypocricy.


  • Shade
    Jul 10, 2011 - 12:48AM

    Rahimullah Yususfzai’s piece in The News today is on similar issue albeit in reference to FATA. I believe and subscribe to him as an honest and informed journalist when it comes to matters of North West of Pakistan. No difference in the way ordinary people are dealt with by the Army between FATA and Balochistan. Although we must recognise Army’s efforts for bringing peace to some parts of FATA/KP, it is the humiliating attitude that triggers a middle class rebellion. We are told that The Intifida of 90s was initiated by nothing but excessive and humiliating checking of Palestinians by the Israeli security personnel;sisters whisked more thoroughly in front of brothers. I appreciate the challenges in maintaining security in a situation like we have in FATA/KP and Balochistan but with the kind of resources they have at their disposal I expect a more scientific plan than checking everyone and his mother every 500 yards.


  • MKD
    Jul 10, 2011 - 2:00AM

    Half-truths are the stock of trade for both the politicians and the media.
    Truth lies with the dead ones and their loved ones.Who cares?


  • Conscious
    Jul 10, 2011 - 3:04AM

    Sorry Ayesha, You let the standards down, it is poorly researched and badly formatted piece. The subject matter is very important and it is very important,and it deserves a careful attention and verifiable accounts to elaborate the role of establishment. On the other hand, it gives Baloch tribal system a benefit of doubt, without verifiable accounts and proper research. If Akbar Bugti, an Oxbridge graduate was determined to keep rest of his folks as backward as he did, there is genuine need for more understanding of their tribal culture. A tribal Pushtoon has his respect from his sardar as a bare minimum, a tribal Baloch does not even demand that. Yet he truly believes that his Sardar is master of his will. How would you counter this attitude?


  • Amjad
    Jul 10, 2011 - 4:05AM

    You seem to forget that a sizeable educated Baluch community lives outside of Baluchistan in Karachi and Punjab where they are fully part of mainstream Pakistan. If you were to ask these people they too echo the so called “establishment” line that much of the current problems are limited to a small group of anti state actors on foreign payrolls. It may seem fashionable to speak of establishment practices but you ignore the reality that so many people in FATA as well as Baluchistan are in fact part of the so called “establishment” and they agree with the current government policy of treating criminals firmly. We all agree that more should be done in FATA and Baluchistan to bring them into mainstream Pakistan. Why not get these establishment Baluch and Tribals to do it by encouraging them to take up employment and businesses there? Look at how many thousands of Baluch lined up to join Pakistani army. That tells you that the majority is firmly pro Pakistani despite the efforts of anti state agencies. Incidentally my cousin is married to a resident of Quetta and like many settlers there, they are Pashtun and very pro Pakistani.


  • Azad
    Jul 10, 2011 - 5:35AM

    And where does the so called baloch middle class lives, not in Balochistan. They all live in Karachi and run their mouths as if they are leading some armed struggle for national rights. There is no baloch middle class in khuzdar or dera bugti. Any one go out there and check it out. The whole insurgency is controlled by a few sardars. Sardar Bugti worked with the establishment all his life and was the first person to oppose the baloch struggle in 1973-77. He later on took up his own cause in the guise of baloch national rights. the Pakistan state has maltreated the baloch, and baloch sardars are not behind in their misdeeds. Who leads the baloch insurgency now? They are the sons of Akber bugti, mangal, and sardar Kair bux marri.
    They wouldn’t open school and colleges in the area, would not allow girl schools in their fiefdoms and khair bux marri for a long time posed as Leninist. He carried some books in red jacket and called himself a Marxist and what he did in his area? No school, no colleges. Any baloch who gets education in Karachi wouldn’t go back to Balochistan and fights imaginary battles for Balochistan on face book. This is just ridiculous. Sardar are using some poor peasants to fight battles for them and the sardars are allowing them to be killed by agencies. They preach isolationism, they tell folks to not take part in politics and not make alliances with anyone and expect that the US would come and free Balochistan from the Pakistan state.
    Sorry, this baloch struggle is a hoax to fool baloch and some baloch are giving their lives so that the sardars can cut deals with the Pak army and the united states.


  • Nasreen
    Jul 10, 2011 - 7:04AM

    Baluchi people have been neglected for the last 64 years by the state elites and also by their own elected represenattives, Baluch politcians have been enjoying and glorified political power/s.Why did n’t they pay attention toward their own peoples. Blaming the state for Balch pathetic condiction only is not fair.
    Baluchi leaders were strong enough and they have been able to chnage the Baluchi/middle class people’s fate,unfortunatly they did’nt.Baluch leades have been compromised with the central government/s at the cost of their own people who still are ignored. All resources whatever paid by the central government/s have been spending by the few Baluch Bourgeoise.
    Now, the only way to ger rid of the old greivences is to speedup the human development.The governnment or state policy cannot ignore Baluchi’s grievneces for a long time,and should not blam the freign hands,if freign hands are there again its a failure of the state which cannt protect its people from invaders.Incompetent and an ineffecient governement has no right to rule ( centarl and provencial).


  • Ani
    Jul 10, 2011 - 8:25AM

    She is brilliant as ever.
    Pakistani leaders are bred on insularity and self congratulations. They refuse to learn from their mistakes in East Pakistan. Balochistan is on the same trajectory and the spin is the same. So will the consequences.


  • Hafsa
    Jul 10, 2011 - 10:14AM

    I see a lot of misinformed comparisons between Balochistan & FATA. Some people have even extended this comparison to Karachi by saying that “People are dying everywhere”. All these comparisons arise from ignorance at best & lack of better understanding at worst. I’d say later is even worse because an incorrect diagnosis of a problem leads to incorrect treatment & that might kill faster than no treatment.
    -Baloch demand is either maximum provicial autonomy or secession from Pakistan. A small subset of Baloch has been blamed to target settlers. From what I’ve read in the news, Baloch reactionary elements for some reason think of settlers to be representatives of State & hence target them. But they haven’t been involved in attacks outside Balochistan.

    -FATA, & in fact KP, is a totally different issue. Some non-state actors there (TSNM,TTP, Lashkar-e-Islam etc) want to establish their rule in that region. Since these terrorist groups do not have enough support to win elections & be legitimate rulers, they have adopted ruling-by-fear strategy. They threaten violence to make people accept their rule. In regions where they established their rule, they blew-up schools & prevented access to health & education. Swat is one example where army action removed these elements. In FATA, as well as other places of KP, even in suburbs of Peshawar, locals have formed laskars to fight terrorists since the State has failed to protect them. Even if no drones are dropped in FATA, these terrorists will continue to threaten the locals & damage the state infrastructure. Locals in FATA are mostly coerced to join the terrorists in order to buy safety for their families. Also, some join them for the money but since its a high risk job, its mostly the former reason. Then there are young teenagers who are brainwashed into joining them. Pakistan needs to give FATA proper status, establish state structures there and invest into the region. Army’s help might be needed in the begining because police, judiciary etc do not exist in FATA. But army needs to be trained for urban law enforcement so that it does not treat its own people as enemies of the state

    Whoever attacks unarmed, innocent civillians, whether they belong to Army, BLA or TTP is a terrorist but while there is a foreseeable end to the atrocities commited by the former two, there is no end to that of TTP. Appeasing Baloch would bring an end to BLA but there is no appeasing terrorists. In fact, why should we even be talking of appeasing terrorists at the expense of citizens of Pakistan?


  • Jul 10, 2011 - 11:01AM

    For God sake put your veil of biases off and tell this nation what is correct. if army is making the picture distorted then what you are doing respected scholar. you are also treading on the road of contempt for army. In fact you people have personalized the journalism and information. how can a balance and truth worthy narrative come out with conflict of two bias opinions. we are fed up with this discourse of you people in which you hide your inefficiency and lack of research under the rhetoric of establishment. if you have something to say different then please share with us and if not, then please don’t make us bore with your orchestra of establishment.


  • Sanjith Menon
    Jul 10, 2011 - 11:03AM

    One should go to Oman to find out the work, that’s getting done there. Our intelligence, Omani intelligence and Americans working together. The sultan, has great faith in us, and little regard for Pakistani`s. The day, Baloch break free we need to present an award for the great Sultan Qaboos.


  • Feroz
    Jul 10, 2011 - 11:31AM

    Such an article will have the poodles of the Establishment calling you a CIA agent. It is a dangerous time to be a Journalist, more so an honest one. Take Care !


  • pakistani lover
    Jul 10, 2011 - 11:35AM

    why dont you say something about all these sardars and balochi leaders once they were governors,chief ministers and even prime ministers.why did not they raise their voices at that time.was it difficult for akbar bugti to establish colleges and even university in dera bugti.if akram durrani can stablish everything in bannu and hoti establishes everything in mardan being ordinary politicians then akbarbugti could have done this very easily.but they dont want to do that.an educated balochi will go against the sardari system.u have ignored all these points.its the army under gen kiyani that is trying to bring them into the main stream.balochs are specially inducted in the army in officers rank these days.and please dont give it a baloch/pushtun touch.the country already have a lot of problems.please dont create on more


  • Nasrat
    Jul 10, 2011 - 11:48AM

    Really great!!!!!!!


  • Im Hussain
    Jul 10, 2011 - 2:33PM

    excellent article..


  • Mk Lodhi
    Jul 10, 2011 - 4:06PM

    The best solution of Baluchistan issue is to give opportunity to local residence to use their natural resources. Natural gas is majorly produced in Baluchistan and is distributed in all areas of pakistan, but unfortunately it is not yet provided to local residents. Second thing is illiteracy and poverty. If we provide equal opportunity to Baluch youth to educate themselves especially in technical and skilled education, then it would be a great achievement. To provide and create more job opportunities, govt should announce interest free loans to local people to invest sheep and goat farming that is an open field and ideally suitable business for Baluch unemployed youth. We should encourage investors to establish industries in Gawadar and cibbi area. It is responsibilty of all stake holders like Baluch tribe leaders, middle class, youth and politicians to show some serious and effective steps to tackle this issue, in my opinion pakistan’s future is directly related with Baluchistan’s development and Peace in the region.


  • Hmmal
    Jul 11, 2011 - 12:08AM

    Thanks a lot, Ayesha, I wonder if every one could also understand the issue from your perspective, where things are totally different. The media, which is so far unsuccessful to highlight the Balochistan issue is simply ignorance intentionally rather the do hide the Baloch perspective, in fact not to bring it up at least to the common Pakistani-it is so sad. I really appreciate your thaughts, Thanks


  • saad shaukat
    Jul 11, 2011 - 12:41PM

    Has the writer ever visited Baluchistan personally? The claims that she tends to make in her article, does she have any backing for them? Or is it just the usual drawing room talk? Sitting here in Islamabad, lahore, karachi, we can make all sorts of assumption regarding this grave issue that faces our country but noone seems to be ready to take the pains to actually visit these areas and understand the roots of the problem firsthand. All such debates will go in vain eventually and it’ll be long before we realize what hit us!


  • Umer
    Jul 11, 2011 - 1:49PM

    Saad Shaukat: I wonder if you have heard about Dr Allah Nazar. If not then I don’t think you have any links with Baluchistan either. I don’t understand what you are trying to say? Are you suggesting, like the establishment does, that all insurgency is in tribal areas in Baluchistan or that the middle class is not central to the struggle? or that the agencies don’t kill people?


  • A J Khan
    Jul 11, 2011 - 1:51PM

    This author appears to be spinning half truths herself and looks a great sympathizers of the insurgents. She has a peripheral knowledge of Balochistan, its demography and political aspiration. All her writings are against Pakistan Army. She has launched a psychological war against the armed forces of Pakistan which appears to be a prelude to open aggression. Her timings perfectly suit our adversaries.
    There is no distrust against the army. We are not a nation of selfish people. I remember, just two years back, when the terrorists were knocking at the doors of Islamabad and North West of Pakistan was almost lost, it were these troops who laid their lives and recreated the spirit of Pakistan. Friends of Pakistan value the sacrifices of all the Law enforcing institutions and Pakistan Army FC and Pakhtunkhwa Police.
    The corporate interests of some journalists, newspapers and channels notwithstanding, Pakistan Army is held in high esteem by the people of Pakistan.
    Our country is in the midst of civil war with two front war scenario actually materializing . It is right time to impose emergency and limit some of the civil liberties. Zero tolerance should be shown towards the terrorists and their supporters


  • Kanpuriya Tangeywallah
    Jul 11, 2011 - 10:48PM

    @Sanjith Menon:
    Shhh! Why give the game away?
    The Baluchi biryani is (almost) cooked.
    And you are shouting, ‘It’s RAW!’


More in Opinion