Be strong, not hard

Published: February 21, 2012
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The writer is Executive Director, Jinnah Institute. The views expressed are his own

The writer is Executive Director, Jinnah Institute. The views expressed are his own

First, a hearing on Balochistan by the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee and then a resolution introduced by the sub-committee chair, Dana Rohrabacher, in the House calling for the right of self-determination of the Baloch people.

Pro forma, we have gone ballistic. Analyses, démarches, TV talk shows. The Great Game theory reverberates. The Yanks have been told that Balochistan is Pakistan’s internal issue so they better take a hike. The US administration, given how the system works there, has distanced itself from both the hearing as well as the House resolution.

What should one make of this?

Balochistan is indeed Pakistan’s internal issue. Those who want Balochistan to secede from Pakistan will get the state’s full reply. That too, given how states behave, is a foregone conclusion. Hell, states don’t even let go of disputed territories and care even less about whether or not people in those territories want to live with them. Guess one such case close by. Right. Kashmir. Let’s park this thought for now and move on.

Rohrabacher, a Republican who once called Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Osama bin Laden great freedom fighters and then supported the inclusion of warlords into the Afghan government in 2003, wants to both embarrass a Democrat administration and put pressure on Pakistan. There’s much domestic politicking involved here. This too is a fact.

The US administration, in no position to either open another front or allow relations with Pakistan to nosedive any further than they already have, and while distancing itself from the move, nonetheless, would not mind a bit of squeeze on Pakistan. States play the game in complex ways. This too is a fact.

If Pakistan can be managed, given US and Indian interests and the competition with China, that would be great. It would work in favour of the US-India duo and would help score a point on China also. And if managing Pakistan means reshaping borders, assuming that can be done without too many unintended consequences, in theory that would be great. Possible?

Worth trying given the energy and mineral resources in the area now dubbed as the Asian Middle East. A former US Army colonel Ralph Peters was also at the hearing. He is the author of the (in)famous Blood Borders article, recommending changing borders in the general area of the Greater Middle East. Back in April 2008, Robert G Wirsing wrote a paper for US Army’s Strategic Studies Institute detailing the importance of Balochistan for Pakistan’s energy and transit needs.

Does all this add up to a grand strategy? Is there a plan to deprive Pakistan of Balochistan, decidedly a crucial part of Pakistan and one with which Pakistan’s vital interests are linked? These are questions one can debate ad nauseam. But there’s another way to look at this.

States, ultimately, are as strong or brittle as their acceptance by the people that make them up. Nazih Ayubi’s thesis comes to mind, distinguishing between ‘hard’ and ‘strong’ states. Ayubi argued that the authoritarian Arab states had little ability to control populations, trends and changes which is why they could not enforce laws and break traditional structures. The hard state coerces; the strong state achieves its goals because it is accepted by its people. By this definition, the Arab states were/are weak states.

Not entirely, but increasingly, Pakistan may be taking the route of a hard state. That would be terrible. And that is where, and when, things begin to spin out of control and external strategies come to work, giving the impression of a grand plan.

Interest the world and it ignores even your excesses. Worry it and you are equally in trouble. This is where Kashmir comes in, the thought we parked earlier. When the US president comes to India looking for jobs, America has to ignore the killing by Indian security forces of teenage Kashmiri boys asking for rights and merely pelting stones. No Rohrabacher in the US would be taking up human rights violations in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. The legal-normative, in the interaction between states, always ends up holding the finger of the political and the practical.

Yet, for reasons both of the legal-normative as well as the political and the practical, the Pakistani state has to deal with Balochistan. Not because the world is focusing on the issue but because we need to focus on it. Our imperative flows from the appreciation that human life is important both in and of itself as well as because that is the only way for a state to take, to become strong instead of falling headlong into the pit where hard states reside, both present, unable to deal with their problems, and past whose epitaphs were written in much the same way as Shelley’s Ozymandias.

So then? The president should immediately call for a dialogue with all the Baloch factions. A census should be held in the province to determine the exact demographics. The president should also appoint a special envoy dealing with Balochistan. This envoy should be based in Quetta and be responsible for the correct and speedy implementation of the Balochistan package in collaboration with the provincial government. The security forces must be directed in their work by this person and while it is important to facilitate their work, thankless for the most part, there should be strict accountability of their actions to ensure that no one steps out of line. The courts should remain cognisant of any misdemeanour.

This is not to be sequential but simultaneous. All the Baloch leaders who want to negotiate with the Centre must be protected against assassination attempts. Balochistan needs its rights, fair and square and in right earnest. Giving that confidence to the Baloch is the state’s responsibility. This will help isolate those elements who are in the pay of foreign forces. They will have to choose: participate or perish. But that requires making participation attractive, honourable and beneficial. Let’s begin the honest work of a strong state.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Feb 21, 2012 - 11:16PM

    “The president should also appoint a special envoy dealing with Balochistan. This envoy should be based in Quetta and be responsible for the correct and speedy implementation of the Balochistan package in collaboration with the provincial government. The security forces must be directed in their work by this person and while it is important to facilitate their work, thankless for the most part, there should be strict accountability of their actions to ensure that no one steps out of line. The courts should remain cognisant of any misdemeanour.”

    Another epic fail in the making? As Saint-Simon recounts in his memoirs Louis XIV used to try to address provincial injustices the same way. These efforts often failed because the system was accountable only to one man so the opportunities to secretly corrupt it prevailed as the incentives and ease of doing so were so great.

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  • John B
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:17PM

    Even when her house is on fire PAK won’t let go of her obsession with India.

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  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:20PM

    The president should also appoint a special envoy dealing with Balochistan. This envoy should be based in Quetta and be responsible for the correct and speedy implementation of the Balochistan package in collaboration with the provincial government. The security forces must be directed in their work by this person and while it is important to facilitate their work, thankless for the most part, there should be strict accountability of their actions to ensure that no one steps out of line.”
    Doesn’t it sound exactly like colonial way of addressing the problem? A sort of Viceroy looking after the administration on behalf of His Majesty’s government. One wonders for how long this person will handle the Baluchistan affairs. Only way to handle Baluchistan problem is to make Bloch people feel that they are joint stake holders in Pakistan and their interests are best protected by the state. Nothing else is going to work.

    Now let us compare Kashmir and Baluchistan. Unlike Pakistan, India takes nothing out of Kashmir. Kashmir has no mines or anything. Kashmir has universities, medical colleges and some of the best hospitals. Kashmirs are key players in Indian politics. Most of the trouble in Kashmir valley is of Pakistan’s creation and whole world knows about this.

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  • Arifq
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:23PM

    Let’s start by evicting the Quetta Shura followed by FC and state paraphernelia in the form of agencies. People of Baluchistan, citizens of Pakistan have fundamental rights protected by the constitution, we need to respect these rights and allow the Baluchis take ownership.

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  • Organisation of Pure Profit
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:55PM

    Let’s learn how to cook a political sajjee and not get our hands dirty at the fragile calculus of this situation. It’s true we need to create a short term incentives and dis-incentives system with regards to acceptance by common people of Balochistan.Simply integrate Balochistan w.r.t. Pakistan and focus on common good while differentiating w.r.t. non-cooperative leaders which i guess is a constant so the differential is equal to zero inevitably. Problem Solved!

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  • Feb 21, 2012 - 11:57PM

    Actually, Dana Rohrabacher did present a bill related to Kashmir, similar to the one he has proposed related to Balochistan:
    See: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d104:16:./temp/~bdSzLR::

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  • alijan
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:57PM

    Evading the main issues

    No Baloch faction wants to negotiate unless the operation is halted and those responsible for hundreds of missing persons and bodies of young men (and now women) thrown away at roadsides are brought to justice.

    Negotiations with everyone (even those armed against the state) should be the approach – which is something that all nationalists are arguing for. Recommend

  • Babloo
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:51AM

    Is Baluchistan now the new jugular vein of Pakistan ? Mr Ejaz’s opinion is hilarious.
    States crumble when their economies crumble and the centre is not able to mustre the resources to handle those areas by means of force , which requires lot of money.
    It happened to Rommans, Ottoman, British and Soviet. How long can Pakistan afford to hold on to Baluchistan against the will of its people ? It can do so for 1000 years, as long as it has a economy to sustain it. bBut will Pakistan have an economy to sustain it when its economy is already crumbling under the weight of military/agency expensiture ?

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  • Jalib
    Feb 22, 2012 - 2:22AM

    Absolutely brilliant sir. As always you remain one of the sanest and most intellectually sound voices in the opinion section of this paper!

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  • Observer
    Feb 22, 2012 - 2:34AM

    I have found that in Pakistani media the moderates (Pervez Hoodbhoy et al), know what they are talking and where they stand of things so do the extremists (Zaid Hamid…though these are more like ostriches with their heads firmly buried in sand). It is people like Ejaz Haider who come across as a confused lot. They do not seem to be sure about where they stand or what line they ought to be taking. I have found some of this stems from a sense of insecurity and a identity crisis in the competitive world of political commentary for these folks

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  • Feb 22, 2012 - 3:31AM

    All the wrong recommendations. Your prescription for Balochistan treats like the colony that it already is.

    What’s the point in only talking to Baloch leaders who are not secessionists? They are not the ones who are taking up arms; nor are they being systematically targeted in the kill and dump operations of security forces. How then will talking only to moderate leaders solve the problem?

    No amount of “grants” from the federal government will alleviate the feeling of the Balochis that their resources are being exploited. If are serious about addressing grievances, Pakistan must transfer the ownership of resources mined from Balochistan to the provincial and local governments. Today we discriminate against Balochistan even in the price of gas we pay them – the federal government pays Punjab $2.35 per tcf, Sindh $1.65 and Balochistan $0.29. Is the federal govt willing to let go of this lucrative revenue stream? Until the answer to this is yes, all initiatives to address Baloch discontent will flounder.

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  • Feb 22, 2012 - 3:31AM

    The “truths” being told by many “analysts” and “embedded” western & Indian commentators and media about Balochistan are highly selective.

    Almost as many ethnic Baloch people live outside of Balochistan province in Pakistan (in Sindh and Southern Punjab) as in Balochistan itself, according to Anatol Lieven (Pakistan-A Hard Country)….and they are quite well integrated with the rest of the population in Pakistan.

    Asif Zardari, the current president of Pakistan, is an ethnic Baloch, as was former President Farooq Laghari.

    As to the grievances of an ethnic minority, they are unique to Pakistan.

    Kashmiris and the peoplein North East Indian states are fighting for their rights.

    And the Adivasis are joining the Maoists in large numbers as they are being dispossessed of their lands by Indian government for commercial mining and other resources.

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/02/are-india-and-pakistan-failed-states.html

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  • perplexed
    Feb 22, 2012 - 4:21AM

    I am surprised by the writer’s argument that ‘when US President comes to India for jobs he has to ignore Kashmir’. His implication that India gets a nod and a wink to do as it pleases because of its economic growth.
    India’s economic growth is recent history. Not too long ago, India was in the Soviet camp during the cold war. Besides India, just like past and present pakistan, was begging for food and aid from the US and other countries. Even under such circumstances, I don’t remember the US taking up the Kashmir issue with any great vigor.

    Could it be that the whole world expect people and the Govt. of Pakistan know fully well that what is happening in Kashmir is a terrorist uprising aided and abetted by Pakistan and no amount of Pakistan’s posturing is going to result in a US congressional hearing like the one on Balochistan?

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  • ASHOK
    Feb 22, 2012 - 6:44AM

    Ejaz,

    Entire Kashmir state (including parts under the control of Pakistan and China) is mere 7% of the total geographical area of India and 1% in population;

    However, Balochistan is almost 50% (half) of the total geographical area of Pakistan. and makes almost 5% of the population of Pakistan.

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  • Pakistan
    Feb 22, 2012 - 8:14AM

    Rational and sane analysis. The current President of Pakistan who is an ethnic Baloch is well-positioned to help bring people together around some kind of solutions.

    Make this issue the top priority or see it slip out of your hands. Address Baloch grievances now. Killings and counter-killings are not the solution nor is the target killing of ethnic Punjabis settled in Balochistan.Recommend

  • ashok sai
    Feb 22, 2012 - 9:22AM

    Dear Mr.Author, I am sure you know very well about the Jihadi factory working at POK’s Muzzaffarabad and constantly pushing terrorists across the border to India, in such a scenario, no body in the world will aside with Pakistan views on Kashmir.

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  • Amma
    Feb 22, 2012 - 9:49AM

    @TsunamiLota:
    The non-secessionists Baloch leaders/ Sardars can make their people understand in a better way. As far as the Baloch grievences are concerned, well those are certainly needed to be addressed. No shortcut will work.

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  • MilesToGo
    Feb 22, 2012 - 10:09AM

    Forget Kashmir, pretty soon you might have to fight for a Muslim homeland in USA and Europe.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Feb 22, 2012 - 11:05AM

    @Author,

    states don’t even let go of disputed
    territories and care even less about
    whether or not people in those
    territories want to live with them.
    Guess one such case close by. Right.
    Kashmir. Let’s park this thought for
    now and move on.

    Does this mean that you accept that Pakistan does to Balochistan what it accuses India of doing in Kashmir?

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  • joy
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:27PM

    **@ Riaz Haq
    “Kashmiris and the peoplein North East Indian states are fighting for their rights.
    And the Adivasis are joining the Maoists in large numbers as they are being dispossessed of their lands by Indian government for commercial mining and other resources.”

    Sir, with due respect to ur "in-depth" knowledge about India...why don't you learn from our mistakes and put ur own house in order. I would just say one thing.. its time you wrote more about Pakistan than India in your blogs.

    Regards

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  • Abhi
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:33PM

    good to know that president is ethnic baloch, is this the reason he is most hated person in Pakistan?

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  • Maryam
    Feb 22, 2012 - 4:52PM

    Dear Author The baloch right to self determination is equal to any other people right to self determination. You can say Participate of Perish. You cannot Perish 7 to 8 million people through a ‘strong’ state. You have to give them what they want. Recommend

  • Wasim
    Feb 22, 2012 - 8:08PM

    @John B:
    This “obsession” is mutual.

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  • Omar
    Feb 23, 2012 - 1:28AM

    It’s very disappointing to see some people never learn. We thought Bangaldesh was a very goo example otherwise we have South Suda, East Taimor and Ertieria to learn from.
    Occupying other peoples land didn’t work for the biggest colonial states, it definitely will not work for Pakistan, then why bloodshed. It’s live as good friends and neighbours rather than trying to rule others.

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