The situation in Balochistan is now so grim that its seems as if all sides have decided that they have little option but to pursue wanton violence as a primary tactic. The massacre of 18 people — most of whom were from Punjab — in Turbat as they were trying to make their way through Iran to Europe, reflects similar incidents where ethnic Baloch and Hazara Shias have been attacked for no reason other than their ethnicity or sect. It is unfortunate that the Baloch have been made to feel so unwelcome at home that they are now trying to intimidate, murder and drive out those they consider ‘settlers’. A little-known group called the Baloch Liberation Tigers claimed responsibility for the attack, which follows a steady build-up of rhetoric against Punjabis in the province that was invariably going to turn bloody.
The most unfortunate aspect of such attacks is that it ends up blaming civilians for problems not of their making. The fact is that the province is being run not by the elected provincial government, but by the military and the FC, whose head is a senior military officer. Historically, too, the grievances of the Baloch date back to previous military operations. Blaming all Punjabis, several of whom have lived in Balochistan for decades, for a situation many blame on the Punjabi-dominated military is counterproductive and unlikely to win any new converts to the Baloch cause. Essentially, those who carry out and condone such attacks are guilty of the same mistake as the oppressors of the Baloch: they group all people according to their ethnicity and then hold them collectively responsible for their woes.
Saner minds need to prevail. The military’s role in Balochistan needs to be curtailed and replaced with a policy of negotiation by the civilian government. Baloch groups that employ violence need to be cast aside. Keeping Balochistan a part of the federation must be the centre’s primary objective. However, if the Baloch continue to feel like strangers in their own land, separatist sentiments will continue to rise and lead to further violence. The government has shown a distinct lack of urgency to even begin implementing its four-year-old Balochistan package. The violence in Turbat should finally catalyse their efforts and prompt a change in this state of affairs.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2012.