East Pakistan all over again?

Published: February 27, 2012
The writer is Distinguished Professor of Economics at FC College University in Lahore

The writer is Distinguished Professor of Economics at FC College University in Lahore

It happened in East Pakistan four decades ago, it is happening in Balochistan today: An emerging nationalism reaching ignition point, because of the failure to devolve power in time. The process leading up to it is sadly familiar. The people of a province were deprived of their political and economic rights for years within a national security-state paradigm. Consequently, a nationalist identity was mobilised by the oppressed for a struggle, fuelled by the narrative of grievances. The state then, and now, responded with brutal military power rather than swift political accommodation.

By its very nature, military action against the country’s own citizens involves characterising them as ‘traitors’, and agents of a ‘foreign conspiracy’. This ‘state against its enemies’ narrative reinforces the conflictual nationalist identity of the protagonist on the one hand and on the other, creates a paranoia within the dominant society that restricts the space for compromise by the state. Each side feeds off the actions and language of the other, in an escalating spiral of violence. At some point the suction of the fires within draw into the cauldron external powers who have their own political agendas.

The Baloch people have for too long been banished to the dark terrain of apathy within a national security state, which built cantonments and security outposts rather than schools, hospitals and check dams, to provide opportunities to the people. When they asserted their rights, they were repeatedly suppressed as some of their leaders were arrested or killed. Of course, the latest coercive action in Balochistan is not being conducted formally by the military but by the Frontier Corps and the Rangers, which are supposed to be in aid of the elected civilian government in Balochistan. In actual practice however it is reported that these organizations operate under the command and control of the GHQ. According to the latest HRCP report on Balochistan, “the security forces in Balochistan do not consider themselves answerable or accountable to the political government or judiciary…”.

The military action in Balochistan, involves extra judicial arrest, torture and killings. The same HRCP report finds that there “is strong evidence of involvement of the security forces in enforced disappearances and killings”. These events add fuel to the fire of rebellion which has now reached a point where Baloch leaders are publicly inviting the support of foreign countries. Brahmadagh Bugti, the chief of the Baloch Republican Party is reported to have “expressed support for any and all foreign intervention in the province whether it be by the US, NATO or India”.

It is in this context that it is possible to understand the resolution introduced by Congressman Dana Rohrbacher in the US House of Representatives earlier this month, that calls upon Pakistan to recognise the right of self-determination for the people of Balochistan. This move has quite appropriately invited a strong assertion of national sovereignty by Pakistan’s graceful and eloquent ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman. Of course the Obama administration has distanced itself from the resolution. Yet the fact that it was introduced, and the alacrity with which it was applauded by Bugti is indicative of the deepening crisis in Balochistan as it gets pulled into the vortex of the ‘Great Game’. In this regard three strategic features of Balochistan are relevant: (a) It has recently been discovered that Balochistan has the world’s largest deposits of copper, the world’s second largest deposits of gold, and as yet untapped deposits of gas and possibly oil. (b) This province is next door to Iran and its port overlooks the oil wealth of the Middle East. (c) Balochistan is key to the war against al Qaeda, and peace with the Taliban with the Quetta Shura being an important player in the game.

As I have been arguing in these columns, it is time now to set aside the national security state paradigm, and replace it with the democratic paradigm of human development and peace. The way the uprising in Balochistan is politically accommodated by Pakistan’s government will shape the future of the Pakistani state. It could also influence for better or for worse the politics of the region as much as global peace.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Falcon
    Feb 27, 2012 - 12:55AM

    Talking about strategic features of the Balochistan region, there are few places in the world that have invited such a complex matrix of local and foreign interference; China, Iran, Pakistan, India, US, Balochistan nationalists, Balochistan separatists, Al-Qaeda and its Quetta Shura, and all the big enterprises drooling over potential energy and mineral deposits. As obvious, at the bottom of this pyramid are poor Baloch whom nobody is thinking about, even their own Sardars.


  • Cynical
    Feb 27, 2012 - 1:47AM

    One more reminder (painfull) of 1971.
    Let’s move on and concentrate on Kashmir.


  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Feb 27, 2012 - 1:54AM

    Dr Akmal Hussain:

    Geographically, India was in between East and West Pakistan and that is one of the reasons that we lost East Pakistan which is now Bangladesh.

    But this not the similar case of Baluchistan. If some thing is going to be wrong from a foreign country to separate Baluchistan, the Government of Pakistan will not be having any other choice, expect to attack that particular country with an Atom Bomb and then every adventure will become a disaster for that particular country.

    We will not be repeating the same mistake again what has been done in 1971.

    Now Pakistan is an Atomic Power and Baluchistan Case will be the best opportunity to test our Nuclear Capability.

    We will teach such lesson that world would have not witnessed such an action from Pakistan before. Take my words granted.

    The whole Pakistani Nation is ready to die to save Baluchistan and our Motherland PAKISTAN.


  • yousaf
    Feb 27, 2012 - 1:58AM

    I doubt our politicians posses the knowledge or capability of tackling the prevailing Balochistan situation. SAD


  • Noor Nabi
    Feb 27, 2012 - 2:00AM

    Your paradigm, Akmal, might sound soothing to some ears. But, given the situation on the ground, it is too little too late.


  • Zulaikha
    Feb 27, 2012 - 2:09AM

    Very well said that “the Baloch people have for too long been banished to the dark terrain of apathy within a national security state, which built cantonments and security outposts rather than schools, hospitals and check dams, to provide opportunities to the people. When they asserted their rights, they were repeatedly suppressed as some of their leaders were arrested or killed”.


  • usman
    Feb 27, 2012 - 2:40AM

    If you look at rainfed(barani) areas it include Most of Baluchistan, North punjab and most Khyber province means that basic resources of these areas are same. But if you look at progress made by the People KPK which include Hazra, Swat,Banu, Deraismail Khan, in Punjab Mianwali, Rawalpindin Div. there is clear cut difference and why the difference that in these areas there is new feudal system no sardars so everybody is free to struggle. First they get education or move to midlle east and Uk and now their generations are far ahead. Same is story with interior sind that they never come out the clucthes of Wadera. This is one reason Why Sind—— Bulchistan are backward


  • Mir Agha
    Feb 27, 2012 - 4:37AM

    Except it’s more likely to be another failed “uprising”, just like the past five or six ones. Frankly the separatists don’t have the advantages that the mukhti bahini had. Whatever advantages they currently have will only diminish with the passage of time. Jahoon jumping is a favorite past-time for the writers in the english media.


  • Feroz
    Feb 27, 2012 - 6:47AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:
    Why do you want to kill and then subsequently be ready to die too. For God sake wake up, life is to be lived and enjoyed. Please live in the present and enjoy it, after life we can discuss when we get there.


  • MarkH
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:13AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:
    I dare you to launch a nuke on another country. Nobody would have to worry about Pakistan ever again.


  • AnisAqeel
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:20AM

    Any reasonable person could have visioned this but then how many reasonable we have!!!
    Only solution is to be humble without any arrogance towards USA, India, NATO and all those concerned and commit 100% to rid terrorism and abolish this policy. It is a repeat of East Pakistan tragedy that was mainly due to our army’s policies and it is a copy and our army has not learnt a bit. When we condone and be happy on any terrorists acts against USA or NATO and become hyper sad, protest killing of any terrorists that openly shows our intentions. We are throwing stones on others while living in a house made of glass.


  • Adeel Ahmed
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:29AM

    Difference between Dhaka and Quetta need to be understood. Very little similarities. How many percent of east Pakistan population want separation and how many percent of Baluchistan want separation.

    In east Pakistan one top leader to deal with, here many self proclaimed leaders. The leadership in east Pakistan have public support which reflects in 1970 election but no Baluch nationalist leader enjoys such support.


  • AnIndian
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:39AM

    @Feroz: Best Regards, indeed :)


  • antony
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:51AM

    @mohammed Ali, How do you plan to attack USA through atomic bomb when you dont have missiles or even a decent ship to carry the bomb till pacific ocean and by that time it will be tracked and in flames.. IF USA attacks what is the answer in your imagined arsenal ?


  • M
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:52AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:
    Where does all this bravado disappear when it comes to daily drone invasions & assassinations conducted by US?


  • Eric Kumar
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:03AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:
    It’s easy to write then do. Cosidering the size of Pakistan, it’s length , breadth etc. only 10 neuclear bombs will be sufficicent to anhilate it completly. Please , Sir India will still survive but Pakistan will be part of history. True it is not like east Bengal but still strategicaly Pakistan is very week country and has no depth to withstand enemy,s attack. These slogans we will die for country , easy to say then reality. You seems to be very naive and ingenuous. Wake up please . I totally agree with MarkH. In next war there will be no Pakistan.


  • wonderer
    Feb 27, 2012 - 12:00PM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:

    Hats off to your sense of patriotism, Sir.

    Do you really mean to say that because no other country can attack a Nuclear Pakistan, the Baluchistan problem can be ignored?

    Do you really mean to say that because Pakistan can drop a Nuclear Bomb, no other country can drop a Nuclear Bomb on Pakistan first?

    Do you really mean to say that because “The whole Pakistani Nation is ready to die…”, no other country can defeat Pakistan militarily?

    Do you really mean to say that because Pakistan can “teach a lesson”, it can not be taught a lesson?

    Please Sir, get down from the high horse and embrace your Baluch brothers the way you should have embraced your Bengali ones. Bravado does not behove a mature wise Nation.


  • wonderer
    Feb 27, 2012 - 12:04PM

    @Adeel Ahmed:

    Very well said, Sir.

    Ignorance is real Bliss!


  • I love Pakistan
    Feb 27, 2012 - 12:37PM

    Its high time for us to learn from 1971 episode. Nations who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed. There are innnumerable similarities between the two scenarios. Lets get rid of this blame game. Federal and provincial govts, bureaucrats, nationalists, sardars, security forces and agencies all have failed to judge where the faultlines lie. Poor Balochis are the only sufferers.
    Terminologies like national security, strategic importance of Balochistan in overall geo-political scenarios, strategic interests of global powers in energy reserves of Balochistan, etc etc have been coined to befool the nation. Lets not confuse the things. It is a straight forward problem. Address the sense of deprivation of Balochis. They will be with you. Turning a deaf ear, issue will boil out. Delay is not affordable. Actions have to speak louder than words.
    What has stopped the govt to take measures for overall economic development of the province? What stops provincial govt to spend the allocated chunk of funds other than their luxurious cars and bungalows? What is the hinderance in granting greater provincial autonomy to Balochistan? Why dont sardars, being so wealthy and powerful in their tribes, spend their wealth on their people? Why do they prefer to send their own children to prestigious institutions of the world and deny even basic education to their tribesmen? There is a never ending charge sheet. Govt has failed to reach out the masses.
    Balochis are a deprived nation. They have been used by everyone; sardars, nationalists, elected govts, administration.
    It is a “Now or Never” situation.


  • Alsahdiq
    Feb 27, 2012 - 1:28PM

    Well said “East Pakistan all over again”. But before that it was Pakistan. Did we achieve Pakistan? No.
    id the Bengalees achieve freedom etc. they wanted to achieve? No.
    Will the Bullochees achieve what they are striving for? No.
    They need a new and just system, not separation. Everyone whether they are in any country need a new and just system. A just system of the people, by the people, for the people.
    When will the people get this system?
    When they will be prepared to work for it.
    To work for this system people will have to come together very regularly in the localities where they live.
    When they will be prepared to come together to create a responsible, caring society, upholding justice at all the times, there is a strong chance that they will achieve what they want. To start with people at large must start practisisn doing justice. When people at large will start practicing justice, it is natural justice will become a very common commodity. So it goes. If people do not do what they need to do, they will endure perpetual injustices, turmoil and bloodshed. This is what they are enduring today. All because of peoples’ own inaction. Peaceful inaction.


  • yousaf
    Feb 27, 2012 - 4:16PM

    @ M.A.Siddiqui—Before I say something about your comment I want to make it clear that I am a Pakistani and love my country and her people.So far as your patriotism towards your country and your sentiments are concerned they are quite plausible.Its when you get carried away and start talking of atomic bombs as if they were toys and could be used at leisure,that worries me.Someone from India said about 10 A bombs can annihilate Pakistan??,I wish he knew what 10 A bombs mean.This number of bombs will annihilate the entire sub-continent.Please stop this child-talk and be reasonable.Japan in retaliation to the two A bombs she received during 2nd WW used her brain-bomb and today she stands in line with other super-powers because she used brains not bran nor AB


  • Nirmit
    Feb 27, 2012 - 4:19PM

    yes still concentrate on kashmir….concentration which costed half of the Pakistan in 1971 and the continuation is for sure going to cost it Balochistan…..bravo keep on concentrating on Kashmir…..it is good that you disintigrate on teh other side while solely focussed on your islamic agenda…..


  • Rsingh
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:10PM

    An article which every kashmiri should read.


  • Harry Stone
    Feb 28, 2012 - 10:38AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:

    The world can only hope that PAK would use a nuclear weapon. It would solve so many problems.


  • yousaf
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:34PM

    @ Mr,Harry Stone–From your name I guess you belong to some country in the west.Why do you not give this “precious” piece of advice to your own country if you think this is the only solution to “solve so many problems”.Why did any of the western countries not use this menace of extreme destruction during fifty (+,-) years of cold-war?


  • Naida Khan
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:21PM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Cant believe people with such point of views exisit. Wake up Mo and see the reality around you.
    Dr. Akmal put it very well by saying that the miltary has to back out and let democcracy do its wonder


  • gp65
    Feb 28, 2012 - 10:57PM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui: “Now Pakistan is an Atomic Power and Baluchistan Case will be the best opportunity to test our Nuclear Capability.
    We will teach such lesson that world would have not witnessed such an action from Pakistan before. Take my words granted.

    I appreciate your patriotism but your bravado is far fetched. Were your armed forces able to stop Nay seals on May 2? No. DId they have any retaliation after that? No. When Salala was happening. Where was the Pak airforce? Why did it not scramble and defend Pakistani soldiers? What about drones? Why does the airforce not shoot them down – even though Kayani has said drones will not be permitted?

    By the way, India had nuclear weapons too in 1999 when Pakistan stealthily attacked it in Kargill. India did not retaliate or even threaten to use nuclear weapons. In fact even befor ePak had detonated its own nuclear bombs, India hasd said there will be no first use. It is something India still says but Pakistanis do not guarantee No First Use.This loose talk around nuclear weapons that is frequently used by Pakistanis – not just awaam but even leaders is the reason, Pakistani nukes are viewed as unsafe by the world unlike Inida. That is why India got the nuclear deal and Pakistan did not. hink about it.


  • Jat
    Feb 28, 2012 - 11:17PM

    @Naida Khan: Very well said !


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