The flayed province

Published: February 24, 2012

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There is a rather telling sentence early in Anatol Lieven’s book, Pakistan: A Hard Country, by now familiar with most of those who comment on the state of this nation. In discussing the fact that Pakistan is not a truly failed, or failing state, of the likes of Somalia, the Congo or Afghanistan, he remarks: “That doesn’t mean that Pakistan always smells nice (though sometimes it does); and indeed, some of the roughest creepers holding the rotten tree of the Pakistan system together are at one and the same time parasites on that tree, and sometimes smell bad even by their own standards.”

One of the noxious smells, amongst the many, now emanates from Balochistan — or rather from the Islamic Republic’s attitude towards this member of the so-called federation. It has been on the boil forever, since the creation of Pakistan and on occasions has spilled over as it did for the umpteenth time since 2006. And we all know the reasons why, so to repeat them would be futile.

Much has been written on Balochistan, of late, provoked by a bill submitted by a US congressman over that conflict and crisis-ridden province — the latest diversion from the iniquitous doings of this present government.

Dana Rohrabacher’s resolution calling for Balochistan’s right to self-determination might have sunk into oblivion (as do many bills put before Congress), but it was leapt upon by the Pakistani media — and described by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US as a provocation that “will severely impact Pakistan-US relations”. Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN termed it contrary and in infringement of many UN charters, quite forgetting how the state of Pakistan itself has shattered dozens of US charters and international laws in its treatment of the province of Balochistan.

The government and media have jumped up and down in righteous indignation at the temerity of a lone Congressman to voice his position on one of the many foreign affair issues in which the US is involved. And the government, media and the foreign office have gone into overdrive — the last mentioned twice summoning the deputy US ambassador to vent its wrath.

Strange, that for one, none seems aware of the workings of US Congress. The US embassy in Islamabad tried to explain that members of Congress are in the habit of introducing legislation on all sorts of topics and such legislation in no way implies US government endorsement.

Now, rather than indulging in high dudgeon and indignation, Pakistan, its government and all those who have any say should have been deeply shamed — thoroughly shamed — by the fact that the treatment meted out to the people (probably less than 10 million) who inhabit 43 per cent of the land mass of Pakistan, has been so foul and cruel that it is attracting the attention of international human rights organisations and members of the legislature of Master USA.

We await the next diversion, but meanwhile, nothing is likely to happen to alleviate the plight of the unhappy province of Balochistan. The Balochistan package was an eyewash. The APC, if it comes into being, will be but another useless flash in the empty pan that is Pakistan’s political situation.

To end, a paragraph from Lieven’s book, from his chapter on Balochistan: “The Pakistani approach has generally been the same in essence but different in form. It is summed up in the remarkable fact that, as of 2009, out of sixty-five members of the Baloch Provincial Assembly, sixty-two were in the provincial government as ministers, ministers without portfolio of advisers with ministerial rank. Nor did the remaining three deputies constitute much of an opposition. Two had not occupied ministerial chairs by virtue of being dead …. The third cannot visit Quetta because of the blood feud with the chief minister… This is the sort of thing which has led me to place the word ‘democracy’ in this book in inverted commas…”.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • John B
    Feb 24, 2012 - 11:39PM

    Rohrabacher’s bill at least made PAK to wake up and talk about the plight of Balochistan. The talk of amnesty, APC and media coverage and all that follow are a good thing overall. In that sense it did something good for PAK.


  • Falcon
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:03AM

    Amina Sahiba-
    Good article but let’s not paint a doomsday scenario. Thanks God this event has brought the issue of Balochistan to the forefront. With frail establishment fighting on multiple fronts and old politicians threatened by new political challengers, it is the right time for us to keep the pressure on and let it not subside. Let’s give issues like NRO and Memogate a break for now and ensure that Balochistan stays as a top priority in policial, media, civil, and judiciary circles.


  • Parvez
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:17AM

    Interesting as always.
    On the Balouchistan issue what comes to mind is that ‘ it takes two hands to clap ‘.


  • Mirza
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:34AM

    Thanks for expressing so clearly. I could not have said it better.


  • javed sahibzada
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:47AM

    we know our political leaders are corrupt, the intellectuals who contributes in media have to belittle their nation before spitting their wisdom………..


  • Khan jr
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:48AM

    The question that no one bothers to ask iis: Why did it take a foreigner, namely US Congressman Rohrabacner, to make Pakistanis take notice of the barbarism being inflicted on Baloch (non- insurgent) civilians?

    The fact is that that these brutal kill and dump operations have being going on for several years now.

    It is an indictment which exposes our national callousness.


  • Cynical
    Feb 25, 2012 - 1:49AM

    Make no mistake.Balochistan belongs to Pakistan as does KashmirRecommend

  • Uza Syed
    Feb 25, 2012 - 3:05AM

    If you practice enough, you can!


  • Max
    Feb 25, 2012 - 4:37AM


    Nothing is set in concrete. History has shown that permanant occupation of foreign land is not possible. One day it will come to haunt Pakistan and India.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 25, 2012 - 4:42AM

    We should not be ashamed of the treatment of the Baloch, we should be ashamed that we have allowed the Sardars to exploit them and continue their tyrannical rule over them for so long.


  • Amjad
    Feb 25, 2012 - 5:31AM

    @Khan jr: Whether or not one pro India Congressman wants to create an issue should not concern Pakistanis. Pakistan should work to improve Baluchistan as well as other undeveloped areas of the nation. What does matter is that Baluchistan is on the border with Afghanistan where anti state agencies are involved in criminality. If you speak to the majority of Baluch, they are staunchly pro Pakistani – otherwise why else would they be signing up for the Pakistani military in record numbers. A few anti state Sardars who are paid by anti state agencies won’t change the reality. Talk to Baluchis in Punjab or Karachi- they are all pro Pakistani and we should not be swayed by propaganda or criminality.All areas of Pakistan deserve to be developed but don’t fall for he hype promoted by anti state criminals. The majority Baluch and the large Pashtun population in Baluchistan want the nation to be even more integrated within Pakistan and that’s what should be done.


  • MarkH
    Feb 25, 2012 - 7:37AM

    Matter of opinion. Those border lines are not real. They’re put in place and acknowledged by a majority feeling it’s beneficial at the time of its inception. It usually originates to stop or prevent some kind of clash. It can disappear in the blink of an eye the moment the majority of people start thinking respecting it does more harm than good. It’s also about land. You do not own the people to do whatever you want to them just because they’re within those borders. It’s like saying you can round up all the children and torture them and it’s nobody else’s business and to stay out of it. Humans all over the world gave you that sovereignty. Start abusing them and they’ll start rethinking their decision. Keep abusing them and you’ll end up worse off than when you began, ending up with less than what you had before. It doesn’t help that you also talk very loudly about the issue which draws attention to what you’re doing, waving it in front of the world’s face. Even if people were ok with turning a blind eye, you completely kill that ability by being so open about it that they can’t be seen accepting it.


  • Geo Neighbours
    Feb 25, 2012 - 11:59AM

    Make no mistake, sooner rather than later, nothing may belong to pakistan.
    A country in delusion is decieving itself and its people. A country that glosses over reality, is unlikely to dig its way out of the deepening hole.


  • Truthbetold
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:12PM

    @Khan jr:

    Very astute and honest observations/

    “The question that no one bothers to ask iis: Why did it take a foreigner, namely US Congressman Rohrabacner, to make Pakistanis take notice of the barbarism being inflicted on Baloch (non- insurgent) civilians?

    There, that says it all about the self-denia and lack of honest introspection of the Pakistani public and intelligentsia.


  • Truthbetold
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:19PM

    @Mustafa Moiz:

    “We should not be ashamed of the treatment of the Baloch, we should be ashamed that we have allowed the Sardars to exploit them and continue their tyrannical rule over them for so long.”

    I am afraid you are living in self-denial. It is the state of Pakistan that has been exploiting the Baloch. Blaming the Sardars doesn’t work anymore.

    Drawing a parallel, weren’t West Pakistanis blaming the East Pakistan problems on a few elite Bengalis such as Mujibur Rehman? You know the real truth now, that is, if you want to know the truth. The Balochistan situation should be a dejavu to all intellectually honest Pakistanis.


  • Andrea
    Feb 25, 2012 - 5:50PM

    @Truthbetold: Most sardars are in fact supportive of Pakistan. Only a few are against the government.


  • Tanuja
    Feb 25, 2012 - 6:59PM

    Pakistan has created so many untruths about their ownselves that now they believe only their own lies as truth!! When one watches the hamid guls and zahid hamid spinning one tale after another great tale, one can only sigh and pray to almighty to show them the truth.

    Bangladesh is truth that you need to unravel so that Pakistan remains a strong united country. No body separated bangladesh you ejected your own kin out of the house. You are now making your other members so unwanted that they seek separation. Embrace them, love them and undo the injustice that you have done believing your own lies about baloach brothers.

    Don’t despair with democracy! Work for alternatives and god willing you all will have a nation that is strong and peaceful.

    Only truth shall liberate you.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 26, 2012 - 9:39PM

    There is no parallel. It is in the interests of the Sardars to keep their people uneducated and deprived of their rights, so their rule remains strong. And you will find Sardars who have admitted this. Meanwhile, the State is trying to make the Baloch educated and make them less dependent on the Sardars. This is precisely what Musharraf was trying to achieve. He tried to break the power of the Sardars while at the same time encourage investment and create jobs in Balochistan. But the Sardars saw this as a threat to their power and are fighting against the Centre since.


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