Balochistan — point of no return?

Published: January 12, 2012
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The writer has served as a former bureau chief of the Daily Times in Quetta and is currently a freelance journalist based in Washington DC. He was granted asylum in the US after threats to his life in Pakistan.

The writer has served as a former bureau chief of the Daily Times in Quetta and is currently a freelance journalist based in Washington DC. He was granted asylum in the US after threats to his life in Pakistan.

Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Balochistan’s first chief minister, recently said after a meeting with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif that the situation in Balochistan had reached a “point of no return”, adding that he had “no control” over the disillusioned Baloch youths who had taken to the hills to wage a war of liberation. The Baloch are angry with Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and the Jamaat-e-Islami. The above three, they complain, organise marches against US foreign policy or in support of Palestine but they do not stage similar long marches in major cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi to condemn the military’s violation of human rights in Balochistan.

The Baloch feel betrayed by the judiciary’s silence over the ‘kill and dump’ operations going on in the province. Although the Chief Justice of Pakistan is a native of Balochistan, the apex court seems to have abstained from playing a proactive role in halting the killing and dumping of those who disappear in the province. Perhaps, the army chief should sanction an independent inquiry into the cases of the missing persons.

The federal government should undertake a comprehensive list of confidence-building measures to bring Balochistan back from the ‘point of no return’. These should include economic and constitutional packages and will have to be implemented over a long period of time.

For instance, the federal government should make sure that no Baloch activist is arrested or killed for at least one year. This may look difficult at this point but it is extremely important for both sides to prove their commitment to a durable peace within a specified time frame. Another possible breakthrough can come forward if the military announces a unilateral end to its operations in the province.

Here are some responsibilities the Baloch nationalists should also own. They should remain assured that they have a genuine and convincing case of being subjected to oppression, therefore, they do not need to exaggerate these injustices. Exaggeration can hinder the resolution of political disputes through peaceful negotiations. The Baloch could have presented a strong case on any forum without foolishly resorting to killing unarmed Punjabi settlers in Balochistan. These killings have tremendously undermined the legitimacy of their struggle. A lot of Baloch leaders and activists justify these killings by terming them as a ‘reaction’ to the military’s brutalities.

Anti-Punjabi rhetoric can serve as a catalyst to garner support from disgruntled political activists but it cannot serve any long-term interest for a political movement. National movements need more sophisticated philosophical and ideological foundations. An intrinsic element of the Baloch culture is the centuries-old concept of bahot (protection) which means to protect the life of a ‘settler’ or an ‘outsider’ who comes to a Baloch area. Throughout Baloch history, we have not seen such brazen attacks on ‘outsiders’ on Baloch land as witnessed after the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti. These attacks clearly contradict the Baloch code of conduct, known as Balochiat¸ and they also alienate supporters of Balochistan who live outside the province and the country. Will the real progressive Baloch leaders stand up and apologise to the families of Punjabi settlers who were unjustly killed?

Today, criticising certain Baloch leaders is considered almost blasphemous and this closed the doors for dissenting ideas. The young Baloch believes his leader can’t err. Yet, in my judgment, the very leaders who galvanised the middle class Baloch youths, lack the political acumen and the vision to provide their followers and the rest of the world a clear roadmap for maximum autonomy or an independent Balochistan. When leaders are caught up in a situation where they have maximalist demands but no vision of how to achieve their goals, they end up getting all their soldiers arrested or killed.

Lastly, the Baloch and the centre need constant and long-term engagement. They must, at least, be clear about what they stand for instead of eternally and fatally fighting without making an inch of progress toward their desired destinations.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (41)

  • abdul basit
    Jan 12, 2012 - 12:42AM

    what about the thousands of punajbi and urdu speaking civilians murdered in balochistan because of their ethnicity? there is never any mention of their deaths on any forum.what about the ethnic cleansing of punjabi civilians in balochistan who’ve been living there for over 40,50 years? punjabi civilians were taken off buses after their identity cards were checked and then shot to death after their names revealed they were punjabis.why no interviews with their families,why no condemnation of their murders? is the murder of a punjabi not a crime?

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  • The Missing Baloch
    Jan 12, 2012 - 12:49AM

    Mr Siraj, we expect much better than this from you. I agree with you on the acumen of the nationalists but you should have elaborated the situation.

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  • Samir
    Jan 12, 2012 - 1:07AM

    What a brilliantly written piece. I am so sorry for the author that the Deep State in Pakistan made it impossible for him to write and speak the truth and live in Pakistan. Keep spreading the truth brave author. Sadly, I doubt anyone in Islamabad or Pindi is listening.

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  • yousaf
    Jan 12, 2012 - 1:35AM

    IS any body listening? Balochistan sure is not a vassal state so those who matter may heed before history repeats itself.If the writer of this article is wrong then may the actual facts be made known to the people of Pakistan.What is the hitch in telling the truth?

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  • K B Kale
    Jan 12, 2012 - 1:46AM

    Tribune also deserves kudos for publishing these brave & critical articles!

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  • Saleem Khan
    Jan 12, 2012 - 1:58AM

    what Pakistani peoples knows about Balochistan ? Read this article for more read the book

    http://www.balochwarna.com/modules/mastoppublish/?tac=BalochistanAreaandLocation

    Great work Malik Siraj..

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  • Baloch
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:36AM

    I, as a Baloch, render my apology to any non-Baloch (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun, Hazara) that have been murdered by these Baloch terrorists. They resort to such terrorism because they are frustrated from the fact their divisive untenable demands are unreasonable. They also commit acts of terror because they know they will never get what they keep harping about. There terror only prolongs the situation and invites subsequent security actions. It, however, will require the nation to forgive and forget these terrorists acts in order to move on to the more important issues such as local governance, resource utilization, development and the curse of tribal politics. Solution to these problems can also provide a template for all of Pakistan.

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  • Punjabi Pakistani
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:38AM

    I see pictures of little Baloch girls holding photos of their loved ones who have gone missing and I wonder who would be monstrous enough to do this? Stop it! Please!

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  • muhammad fajim
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:57AM

    @abdul basit:

    yes,it is strange that one never gets to see any talk shows on the deliberate killing of punjabi settlers in balochistan,no editorials on this,no blogs,no tweets.there is absolute silence on this killing which has forced nearly 150,000 punjabi civilians to flee balochistan,no one covered their plight.in today’s pakistan,punjabis it seems are fit only to be portrayed as the evil usurpers of the rights of other people,their murders not worth condemning,their systematic ethnic cleansing not worth talking about.

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  • Observer
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:59AM

    Isn’t it highly hypocritical of Pakistanis to demand right to self-determination for the Kashmiris and advocate the rights of Palestinians while denying the same to the Baloch and oppressing them and killing tens of thousands of the Baloch? Then there is the oppression of former East Pakistanis that led to the creation of Bangladesh.

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  • sidrah khan
    Jan 12, 2012 - 4:27AM

    there should also be articles about the murders of thousands of settlers in balochistan by the militants.doctors,teachers,businessmen,labourers all have beern brutally murdered for being of punjabi descent.these murders deserve media coverage as well.

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  • Zalim singh
    Jan 12, 2012 - 7:04AM

    Dear sir

    kudos. first article on Baluchistan which does not blame India for the mess.

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  • Ahsan Raza
    Jan 12, 2012 - 7:10AM

    I believe that the state of Pakistan should grant a general pardon and then take a step only against those who have blood on their hands. We cant go on like this, by treating Balochistan as our colony. And the development projects are a long time coming, as it will be benefcial not only to the Baloch but the whole of Pakistan.

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  • Indian
    Jan 12, 2012 - 8:41AM

    “Balochistan — point of no return?”

    Its high time Pakistan starts bothering about its western border and internal states than the eastern border, Kashmir, Muslim Umma and other stuff.. That if Pakistan intends to stay in the current physical structure…

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  • Taji
    Jan 12, 2012 - 9:00AM

    Great article. There is no such thing as point of no return. We need to have a truth and reconciliation commission, and should give the Baloch the right to control their resources. The tribal chiefs should share the resources with the natives and don’t point all the fingers at ‘Punjab’ only; although, I wonder once Punjab is divided (and I hope it is soon), who will they point their fingers at? Also, we must not forget that there are lots of Pashtuns living in Balochistan, and there are lots of Balochis living in Sind and Punjab. An Independent Balochistan is not viable; however, a Balochistan with full control of it’s resources and respect for the life and liberty of Baloch is possible. The sooner it is done the better it is.

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  • K B Kale
    Jan 12, 2012 - 10:09AM

    @Zalim singh:
    Dear Mr Singh,
    Mr Malik’s previous article “Balochistan – a human rights free zone” which I translated in Marathi with the permission of both the author & “Express Tribune”, also didn’t blame India. Mr Malik is a Baloch & hence probably knows the truth more closely and so not likely to blame India for nothing!
    Incidentally the translation was published on the web edition of e-Sakal and received excellent responses.
    I plan to translate this article also!

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  • hafeez.indian
    Jan 12, 2012 - 10:46AM

    Ha…Ha…Ha…Ha…Ha…Ha… Good…

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  • sidjeen
    Jan 12, 2012 - 11:58AM

    we should think why our armed forces are conducting operations in its own country i.e baluchistan fata etc. is there a possibility that something is wrong with our security policies?Recommend

  • Ali S
    Jan 12, 2012 - 12:34PM

    @abdul basit:

    True, but two wrongs don’t make a right. This type of justification only promotes more hatred and murder.

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  • RH
    Jan 12, 2012 - 1:11PM

    @abdul basit: did you even read the article? he clearly calls on the Baloch leaders to stop killing settlers and to apologise. it seems you had made up your mind to post your comment regardless of what was in the article.

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  • IZ
    Jan 12, 2012 - 1:22PM

    Very sensible article. Lets hope both the army and Baloch nationalists listen.

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  • Asma Baloch
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:22PM

    I agree with the article ,but being more responsible the state or the Army should initiate and extend olive branch to Baloch SURMACHAR . Of course I am not pointing towards cosmetic and obnoxious measures such as Baluchistan Package.

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  • Ali Baloch
    Jan 12, 2012 - 3:59PM

    Good Article but not according to the expectations required by the people of balochistan……..Mr Siraj Akber, being a baloch of Panjgoor better knows the situation of Balochistan but still he is not covering the whole story, however, we expect more from him in future

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  • K B Kale
    Jan 12, 2012 - 4:25PM

    Dear Zalim-ji,
    You are not correct. Injus previous article “Baluchistan: A human rights free zoneZ”, there was no adverse or favourable mention of India’s hand in that internal conflict.

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  • Khan
    Jan 12, 2012 - 6:54PM

    Balochistan Zindabad, Pakistan Paindabad!

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  • Jan 12, 2012 - 8:50PM

    An average article based on hearsay and written while sitting in a cozy room.

    Baloch Sardars are afraid of the process of evolution in Balochistan due to education and media beside unprecedented developments introduced in Balochistan during Musharraf Regime under direct Army’s Monitoring. I was, then, part of the system and witnessed this in the remotest part of Balochistan.

    Sardars only want their control back and they want help from rest of Pakistan to harness yoke of slavery around the neck of common Balochs once again.

    There are armed struggles mainly against Pakistan initiated by these angry Sardars with the help of RAW and Afghan Int etc but most of you will be surprised to know that there are numerous Anti-Nationalist Armed Movements exist in Balochistan who are fighting against these separatists.

    Most of recent killings and kidnappings are being done to set their personal scores and later Int Agencies are blamed so conveniently.

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  • Balach Baloch
    Jan 12, 2012 - 8:58PM

    @Khalid Masood: You are very much wrong with this baseless argument.I hope, a time come when only true comments will be published.

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  • Mardako Khan
    Jan 12, 2012 - 9:04PM

    @Khalid Masood:
    did you read the article or just pasted it from one of your old comments?

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  • Jan 12, 2012 - 9:06PM

    @author

    No matter hw grave the crisis may be……dialogue is the best way forward.
    The idea of the article is very right, injustice from both sides should be addressed to move forward…………………….
    A common Pakistani sitting in Islamabad or Lahore respects and feels d pain of Balouch……………….and justice should and must be done…………Long Live Pakistan!!!!

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  • hamza khan
    Jan 12, 2012 - 9:40PM

    how much of a role does india and RAW have in inflaming baloch sentiment? lets have an article on that? what about the massive development work, to the tune of 200 billion rupees, that took place under a military regime over the past 10 years?

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  • Apple
    Jan 12, 2012 - 10:17PM

    Yep, so I read it between the lines: Balochistan needs a new leader, and perhaps our freshly become ‘Baloch-American’ friend is ready to lead the movement from D.C. It is surprising no one mentions what President Zardari mentioned about Baloch people on BB’s barsi, any comments on that?

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  • sadhu
    Jan 13, 2012 - 11:02AM

    Punjabis want all the power and resources. They will soon gift another country to the world like Bangladesh and in the same manner.

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  • Hafeez Baloch
    Jan 13, 2012 - 1:55PM

    Pakistan cannot hijack The Balochs anymore in the name of Islam. They did what they could in the last 60 years. I am against the killing of any innocent nonetheless we baloch should stop mediating with Pakistan. AZAD BALOCHISTAN is echoing throughout and InshAllah we will get it be it a hunderd years away.

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  • ali
    Jan 13, 2012 - 6:32PM

    Seems most people comment on ET articles without ever reading them.

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  • Zalim singh
    Jan 13, 2012 - 8:34PM

    @ K B Kale

    dear sir, thanks for informing me. Can i get the link?

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  • Homa
    Jan 14, 2012 - 4:20AM

    If balochistan merges with india after its approaching liberation, they can be a new unit of a great nation where they will be loved and respected. I encourge baloch futurists to consider establishing a “sandhi” with india for a progressive merger.

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  • Baloch Agony
    Jan 14, 2012 - 6:31AM

    @hamza khan:
    What development of Rs. 200 billion are you talking about? Name one major hospital or school that was built or industry that was created which employed Baloch youth. Money spent on developing gas fields and gas pipelines that supply Balochistan’s gas to Punjab don’t help the Baloch people. Neither does construction of naval bases or the roads linking the naval/army/air force bases to the rest of the country. In fact, even the laborers for this construction come from Punjab. So what use is this development to my people.

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  • K B Kale
    Jan 14, 2012 - 7:38AM

    @Zalim singh:
    Dear Mr Singh,
    I made a mistake. The earlier article was published in DAWN (and not TRIBUNE) & the link is given below:
    http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/10/balochistan-%E2%80%93-a-human-rights-free-zone.html
    If you understand Marathi or have a Marathi friend, you can see & enjoy the readers’ responses to my Marathi translation from this link:
    http://www.esakal.com/eSakal/20111219/5184638963117369683.htm
    All of us (both Indians & Pakistanis) should try our best to bring our countries together into a friendly atmosphere to stop all the silly future wars so that our people can live in prosperity. I try to do my bit.

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  • Straight_Talk
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:05PM

    The problem the Balochs are facing in Pakistan are well known. Let us now try and understand how we treat this problem. To a Baloch the treatment meted to him would appear to be humiliating, discriminatory and a betrayal. To an ordinary, well-wishing Pakistani this will look like a shame at the personal level and an issue to be fixed as quickly as possible. To the Pakistani establishment these atrocities is doable and manageable. For an Indian it is another example that the Two Nation Theory was a farce and that no nation can be formed in the name of Islam alone. There may be many other individual perceptions all of which may have some meaning and weight as well. But all of us have failed to realise that above everything else, the Baloch problem is a human tragedy of a huge scale. We get sensitized about human tragedies like Fukushima, Tsunami, Earthquakes, floods. Why can’t we all see that this has now become a human disaster ?

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  • Jan 16, 2012 - 5:24PM

    Western and Eastern sides of Indus river have different culture.Western Side is Iranian culture while eastern side is Indus valley culture. Pakistan was hurriedly made in the name of Religion. Religion cannot bind people everywhere and on everyday (else all Islamic countries would be one nation) but There will be always issues if there are fundamental differences among culture, language etc. Baluchistan and Pakhtun areas are different than Punjab,Multan and Sindh (and Kashmir). Pakistan have resourceful land, it had potential to develop faster than India, but it couldnt. Pakistan always kept herself involved in ‘other issues‘ namely anti India, Islam , missiles , nukes… Though I wont say Baluchistan should get freedom (with all due regards to sovereignty of Pakistan) , But I would say that if Baluchistan and Pakhtunistan are separated, Pakistan can prosper, because then, Pakistan can better focus on development, and stop using name of ‘Islam’ and Allah (SWT) for small political issues. Islam should be personal faith… not fate of country… Countries are made of, for, and by human beings.

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  • Jan 17, 2012 - 2:51PM

    sir, u are presenting the baloch issue in a very very wrong way. i think u don’t have any knowledge that whats going on balochistan from 1836..ans whats happening now u should spend there few weeks with baloch so u can umderstand who are baloch what they are doing why they are doing and from when they are doing.. and ofcoarse whats ur security agencies are doing there ??Recommend

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