Balochistan blues

The fact that many Baloch do not favour a complete breakaway from Pakistan is encouraging.

Editorial August 15, 2012

Some three days ahead of the rest of the country, the people of Balochistan marked what they said was their independence day. According to some reports, the flag of Pakistan was burnt at some places on this occasion and calls were made hailing an independent Balochistan. August 11 marked the day the state of Kalat announced its independence from British India with its parliament stating that it would be acceding neither to Pakistan nor to India. This was accepted by the British rulers of the colony. Kalat makes up 23 per cent of the population of the territory of Balochistan. The state joined the federation of Pakistan on March 27, 1948 as a result of what the Baloch say was severe military pressure. The Khan of Kalat had acknowledged this.

Since then, dissatisfaction with the federal government’s treatment of the province has resulted in major fallouts, with the insurgency in the early 1970s for greater autonomy readily coming to mind — which was put down ruthlessly through military force. This time, too, arrests were made during the August 11 celebrations, which have been severely criticised by some forces. The problem is that there appears to be no solution in sight. Naveed Qamar, the head of the government’s Balochistan committee, has said that not all Balochs are insurgents and many are patriots. He does not, however, state what has been done to offer development and a sense of belonging to the Baloch people, who have been angered to a considerable extent due to the lack of progress in the province and the failure to share resources equally with them. It is only when these issues will be tackled that we can hope to make any dent in the nationalist uprising in Balochistan.

It is also a fact that the majority of Baloch and Pashtun people living in Balochistan favour far greater provincial autonomy than they enjoy right now, according to a recent survey organised by the British aid agency Department for International Development. The fact that many do not favour a complete breakaway from Pakistan is encouraging and should be used by the centre to bridge the existing trust deficit. This is something to build on. But the process must take place quickly. Too much time has already been lost which is why we face the dire situation that confronts us today.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2012.

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