Remembering the women of Balochistan

Published: March 7, 2012
The writer was a member of the Senate from 2003-08 and of the National Assembly from 1997-99. He tweets 

The writer was a member of the Senate from 2003-08 and of the National Assembly from 1997-99. He tweets @Senator_Baloch

The ongoing dirty war in Balochistan has affected society at all levels. Women — mothers, sisters and daughters — are particularly affected because of the magnitude of the so-called ‘missing persons’ issue. Hundreds of men — fathers, husbands and sons — have gone missing, presumably abducted, killed and dumped on roadsides in the province.

However, some tearless Baloch women are bravely pushing the cultural and traditional barriers and campaigning for justice and truth, taking part in sit-in camps outside the Quetta and Karachi press clubs and sometimes on Islamabad’s “Constitution” avenue.

Politically conscious and culturally well endowed, resource-rich Balochistan is Pakistan’s least-developed province with a high rate of maternal mortality, female illiteracy, unemployment and gender disparity. Inflexible social customs and practices are widely blamed for the plight of Baloch women but the reasons are different and have more to do with state-sponsored discrimination against women in the province.

Islamabad has always tried to blame the Baloch themselves for their appalling state. However, facts and findings on health, education, communication, political empowerment and economic development clearly indicate that human development in Balochistan has been deliberately ignored by successive central governments — so, to blame the Baloch themselves is not entirely correct.

Women are discriminated against in the country at large, but in Balochistan they are discriminated by the state. They have no access to enabling opportunities, required for empowering women in any modern and civilised society. Discriminatory policies are not only resulting in slowdown of gender empowerment but effecting the overall social and economic development process.

The most devastating consequence of underdevelopment in any society is a high fatality rate. As a separate region, Balochistan has among the highest infant and maternal mortality rates of many underdeveloped Asian and African countries. For example, the maternal mortality rate for Karachi is 281 per 100,000 lives birth compared to 750 for rural Balochistan. The increasing rate of preventable maternal mortality is a symptom of larger social injustice.

Let’s move on to education. Access to education is crucial for empowering women so that they can participate in the economic, social and political life of their societies. Education unlocks a woman’s potential, and is accompanied by improvements in well-being of their families. According to a national survey measuring living standards, only 27 per cent of students in Balochistan complete primary or higher education, compared to 64 per cent in Punjab. The province also has a high dropout rate and it is that way not because of any cultural barriers but because there aren’t that many middle and high schools for girls. Again, the figures are telling: only 23 per cent of girls in rural Balochistan are able to enroll in primary schools compared to 47 per cent in rural Punjab.

Interprovincial gender inequality in the employment sector is also significant with the province suffering from high levels of female unemployment, especially when compared to Punjab. The latter also has 11 women’s vocational and training centers which enable them to learn skills needed to gain decent jobs — Balochistan has only one.

No development policy can succeed unless it is based on the needs and participation of people in the process. In Balochistan’s case, what people need is socioeconomic development, political empowerment, clean drinking water, electricity, education, basic health facilities, roads and infrastructure. But Islamabad’s policies achieve quite the opposite.

Under Article 25 of the Constitution, of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), women are entitled to several economic and social rights, such as rights to food, social security, housing, education and healthcare. But policy commitments have hardly been translated in to practice. On this International Women’s Day, we should not forget the hapless and neglected women of Balochistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (21)

  • syed Ali
    Mar 8, 2012 - 1:18AM

    @Author! I agree with you that Blauchistan is the least developed part of country and I also agree about the state of women, health or education there that you have stated. But I do not agree with your assertion that central government has neglected human resource development there. Please correct me if I am wrong. Has any bloch sardar or nawab ever requested federal gov. to build a school, a college or university there and government has refused or declined that? Has any sardar or nawab ever asked government to send the brightest people from other province on deputation to blochistan so that they can train the natives? Has any Baluch sardar ever offerd a small piece of his land , where hospital for women health could be built by Federal Gov? Has at any point, any governemnet in baluchistan invited young and brilliant people from other provinces and asked them to train their baluchi brothers? Never Sir! on the contrary the little help the poor province was getting from Punjabi teachers and doctors is also gone becuase of ethnic vilolence. The sardars and Nawabs care less about the ordinary baluch. their sons and daughers study at Atchison College or becaon House lahore and after that take off to cambridge or oxford. They live a lavished life and feel nothing about the poor of the poor province.


  • Zulaikha
    Mar 8, 2012 - 3:10AM

    very informative and factual piece about state of women in Balochistan. @Senator baloch keep it up. Balochistan needs many more logical voices.


  • Zulaikha
    Mar 8, 2012 - 5:34AM

    @Syed Ali, did government asked Baloch when they built massive tunnels for Nuclear test in Balochistan ? Did government asked Baloch sardar or Nawabs when they built South-Asia;s most modern and costly Navel base at Ormara, Gwadar and Pasni ? Did government asked Baloch Sardars and Nawabs when Balochistan’s copper-gold handed over to Chinese ? Did government ascertained Baloch Nawab and Sardars when they tested the Nuclear bomb in Balochistan.

    This is a permenent excuse that Sardars and Nawabs are responsible for Balochistan poverty – when its come to Balochistan’s loot of wealth and strategic locations government doesn’t wait for Baloch conscent but when a Baloch leader like Sana Baluch logically confront state discriminatory policies, people like you are quick to blame Baloch people.


  • Baloch
    Mar 8, 2012 - 6:34AM

    @syed Ali: First of all, Sardars are elected by their tribe to resolve their minor issues, and guide the tribe in their day to day hurdles.
    These Sardars are not Paki GOVT representative.
    Areas like Makoran, Lasbela, Gwadar , Pasni, Jiwani, Panjgour, Turbat, Mand never had a Sardars. And they are most populated area of Balochistan.
    Who should have asked or donated their land to GOVT for those projects?

    When woman asked for clean drinking water in Jiwani, they were shot at by Para Military of Pakistan and 5 of them got killed including a child.
    When children agitated for better school condition in Turbat, again the brave FC agents fired at them and a 12 years boy got killed.

    Why you Pakistani feels so bad by accepting your atrocities toward Balochs?
    Are you all illinformed or just ignorant?


  • Nisar Hussain
    Mar 8, 2012 - 7:34AM

    nice doing very great job for the people of BalochistanRecommend

  • Usama
    Mar 8, 2012 - 7:48AM

    We agree that we have done great wrongs, but OVER STATING your case doesn’t help; in fact, it leads to lack of credibility.


  • Akhtarrao
    Mar 8, 2012 - 8:15AM

    Both the state central state and BALOCHISTN’s governments are responsible,now both should work for the common people.


  • Farhan
    Mar 8, 2012 - 10:33AM

    Notwithstanding the issues highlighted here, Mr. Sanaullah, Let us also not forget the plight of few women of Balochistan who upon marrying of their own free will were bitten by dogs and then buried alive by … not federal agencies or constabulary … but by their own people.

    Any article that highlights the plight of the women of Balochistan is incomplete without mentioning them.

    This act was also supported by a Senator from Balochistan as a “Baloch Tradition”.

    I think Mr. Sanaullah should acknowledge that the Sardari feudal mindset in Balochistan is also a bane on the women of this province.


  • Adi
    Mar 8, 2012 - 11:01AM

    what have people like Sanaullah and rest who have been repeated voted by the people of Baluchistan done for the province? what did bugti and gang do with the gas royalties? why doesnt anyone talk about the pakhtoon speaking people of baluchistan?


  • wonderer
    Mar 8, 2012 - 11:28AM

    @syed Ali:

    No excuse can be accepted for neglect of Baluchistan; not even the ones you have dug up. Pakistan will continue the neglect at its own peril.

    Forget everything; just get on with the job.


  • Balochh
    Mar 8, 2012 - 12:20PM

    @Zulikha – excellent couldnt have said it better.


  • wonderer
    Mar 8, 2012 - 12:44PM


    It is not the time to think about what others have NOT done.

    It is time for Pakistan to think of what MUST be done.


  • Naila
    Mar 8, 2012 - 2:24PM

    I wounder not a single liberal politician and men from rest of the country bothered to write a single sentence on women issues on international women day. We have to applaud Mr. Sanaullah Baloch efforts for highlighting plights of Baloch women. Pakistan needs to sincerely address appalling inequalities mentioned in this article.


  • syed ali
    Mar 8, 2012 - 5:07PM

    @Zulaikha: I agree with your sentiments but not your logic. Going by your logic, all provinces have grievances against center. Just to give you few examples: It did not ask people of Sindh before moving capital from Karachi to islamabad. It does not ask people of KP before jumping on to Afghan Jihad or now war against terrorism. It does not ask any provincial assembly or chief secretary before building a naval base, a military base, take land from land owners before building motorway, or build military farms in Okara, develop DHA or give ferile lands of Bahawalpur to Generals. The Center did not ask people of Chasma or Mianwali before building a nuclear reactor there. It did not ask people of mirpur in Kashmir before building dam there. The point is that federal governments do that all the time. Not just here but across the world. Even in US, Fed Gov uses desert of Nevada for nuclear tests and we do hear voices against it. I hope u understand mypoint.Recommend

  • Mehran
    Mar 8, 2012 - 8:02PM

    @syed Ali:
    This state owned propaganda has made you think that all mess and deprivation is Baluchistan is done by Feudals and while central Govt is sacred cow and moreover Punjabi settlers are there working as social change agent to educate Balochis. Pls come out of such fallacies and one sided rhetoric. Go and visit Baluchistan and verify ground realities. People of Sindh and Baluchistan is sick of such comments which are being pumped that Punjab-based establishment is holier than holy and all is worse in Baluchistan and Sindh due to feudal. The notorious feudals have always been friends of the very establishment which is kidnapping and dumping Baloch and Sindhi Nationalist.


  • Ayesha
    Mar 8, 2012 - 9:01PM

    According to 1973 ‘constitution’, education and health service delivery were and are provincial responsibilities. Sorry, I cannot agree or sympathize with you on this matter.Recommend

  • bozo
    Mar 8, 2012 - 9:04PM

    ‘The increasing rate of preventable maternal mortality is a symptom of larger social injustice.’
    If only the men would step back and think before impregnating their wives they might save a lot of lives. Its a ‘cultural norm’ to treat women as cattle in the Baloch culture. Why blame it on others?


  • Mehran
    Mar 8, 2012 - 10:31PM

    Since 1973, 20 years were under dictators, and Either Baluchistan was under governor rule or facing military operations. During civilian rule, Pro-establishment puppet fuedals were handpicked and put in power. Pls check facts before giving one liner.


  • voiceofsanity
    Mar 9, 2012 - 1:11AM

    wake up guys. come out of the mantra of putting blame squarely on SARDARS. was the govt sleeping all along in developing the province. it’s ultimately the state which is responsible for facilitating her subject, not a sardar or a nawab.


  • Hassan
    Mar 9, 2012 - 1:34AM

    Author’s gone through the entire article without once mentioning the Sardari system. Girls’ schools were set up throughout the province for the first time under Rahimuddin Khan, another general. To say opposite, is wrong and insulting.


  • Syed Farrukh Hussain Shah
    Mar 10, 2012 - 2:50PM

    If you have look on past history, who governed Balochistan, Bugties, Maries, Mengal,…is there anyone from outside?? and currently all of them are blamiing pakistan for all the misdeeds??? for balochistan if there is any problem, they are part of problem/ they only want free hand to supress the poor individuals, which they are exploitng from last 60 years. why they are demanding end to military operation?? just because their rental and hired killers will be exposed?


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