Perceptions are the eyewear through which we catch sight of realities. A wrong set of glasses further consumed in the tides of time create an aberration and transcend the realities into myths creating parallel existences. Balochistan is one province which is enveloped by these myths which have miserably mis-portrayed its socio-economic potential, political and social outlook and its cultural fertility. Together, we have created these myths and only together we can break them down and rediscover the soft Balochistan.
With such a sensitively significant geo-strategic location, Balochistan has always been seen in terms of its geopolitical significance. With such prioritisation, the approaches, methods and means in reproaching the province have thus been markedly security-oriented with the elemental presence and use of force. This rendered Balochistan a landlocked province for the entire country and as the law and order situation deteriorated, like in other parts of the country, Balochistan was perceived as a no-man’s land, unlike other parts of the country with similar law and order issues. The portrayal of Balochistan as a province governed by death squads and private militia resulted in the long shutdown of the province. The people-to-people interaction went to the lowest ebb amid this security hyperbole which increased the national social stratification by phenomenal quanta. Balochistan and security became synonymous terms and the myth that Balochistan was a no-man’s-land was embodied in completeness.
Another myth which contributed a major hindrance to the socio-economic development of the province has been its severely criticised tribal system without any comprehension of the feature and structure, and nature and nurture of this system. The tribal system, thanks to this myth, has been portrayed as tyrant, totalitarian and exploitative. In reality, the tribal system in the province is more facilitative than counterproductive. The people residing in Balochistan are tribal by virtue of their anthropological evolution as dispersedly populated, the tribes needed to develop strong bonds for their existential perpetuation. Their love and respect shaped by the standards of utmost civility towards their homeland is unquestionable. Their liberal psyche is something yet to be found out by us all. Their open-mindedness and their flexibility to accepting social change is the highest if measured in comparison with other parts of the country. The myth has gone a long way in distorting the real face of tribal Balochistan and the positive side of this tribal-deal has yet to be capitalised upon.
The twin myths in collusion shut down Balochistan in a state of socio-economic backwardness. Poverty, illiteracy, and other socio-economic indicators touched the most mortifying limits. The shutdown of Balochistan has sent adverse socio-economic ripples to the national economy while being the province with the potential to sustain and accelerate the national economic growth. With the tidal zones we could minimise our energy crunch at the national level. The rich coastline in marine life can be of international potential. The fisheries sector could add billions to the provincial economy and could have a significant impact on the national growth rate if these operations are executed through the latest scientific and technological advances. Similarly, the riches of the province in minerals such as copper and gold, if narrated, would seem like a fairy tale.
There are certain causes of failure in breaking down these myths. The role of the media is very critical in projecting a soft Balochistan. It is high time we showcased the real picture of Balochistan — one hued with love, respect and cooperation. Together, we have to re-discover and re-claim the lost opportunities of a soft Balochistan which is the harbinger of a prosperous Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2020.