A burning kiln

Published: August 22, 2014
The writer was a member of the Senate from 2003 to 2008 and of the National Assembly from 1997 to 1999. He tweets @Senator_Baloch

The writer was a member of the Senate from 2003 to 2008 and of the National Assembly from 1997 to 1999. He tweets @Senator_Baloch

After the rigged and engineered elections of 2013, many ill-informed political commentators generated loads of optimism about a heaven-like future for Balochistan. This worrisome trend of fact-hiding and truth-making has continued to dominate Pakistan’s media and political landscape.

Many thanks to Islamabad and its elite as their long-planted seeds of sectarianism and extremism, including a very deliberate social reengineering of the moderate Baloch society, are now bearing fruits. Religious minorities in Balochistan are being targeted frequently. The tolerant Baloch society is witnessing the worst-ever exodus of the Hindu Baloch community — a community that had been the backbone of the traditional economic landscape. Rights advocates and liberal campaigners are abducted and killed on the pretext of a ‘war against separatists’. This is being done to slow down the process of progress and modernity in Balochistan.

The recent province-wide acid attacks are a deliberate assault by some elements. Indeed, a Fata- or Swat-like situation is being engineered with the help of none other than the powerful state apparatus.

Moreover, private schools and English-language centres are the prime target of extremists who travel from other provinces and preach extreme ideas with impunity.

Efforts are underway to deny what is actually going on in Balochistan. A few fancy camera shots are intended to cover up the dismaying facts about the province. A couple of sports events organised have been eulogised to depict the success and serenity of Balochistan as a whole. Nevertheless, the overall scenario and situation in this forgotten province is not well at all.

Credit certainly goes to the security apparatus for a short-term calm in the security situation — such as the reduced number of thefts, abduction for ransom, highway robberies and street crimes. Most of these acts were part of a larger policy of ‘controlled social disorder’ to deflect public attention from the political aspect of the Balochistan conflict.

I use the word ‘short term’ because the total dismantling of ‘good criminals’ doesn’t exist in the dictionary of those who call the shots. There is a great possibility of a re-arming and re-licensing of these gangs and groups in the near future to continue with their activities if the hapless, Quetta-confined Balochistan government fails to deliver the targeted benchmarks.

Since the dawn of the new millennium, the situation in Balochistan has reached its lowest ebb and on the socioeconomic front, the province has slithered backwards most shockingly. Identical to the war-torn African countries, the mounting upsurge in oppression, corruption, criminalisation and violence has shattered the lives of millions of inhabitants.

The conflict in Balochistan is complex, encompassing all critical political and socio-economic elements, including an unbalanced and biased security structure. For instance, in the 2013 elections, two Baloch-dominated provincial constituencies in Quetta district were won by the Baloch members of the Balochistan National Party, however, this result was changed by the powers that be and Pakhtun candidates of the PkMAP were declared winners. This has created immense frustration amongst the Baloch in Quetta and has created more and more sympathy for hardline Baloch groups and strengthened their belief in non-parliamentary politics.

Along with political and economic issues, the foremost concern of the Baloch people is their collective security. It’s a known fact that five prolonged conflicts between the Baloch and Pakistan were caused due to insensitive approaches and policies of a biased security apparatus.

Indeed, Balochistan is not in flames like Gaza, Iraq and Syria to cause global shockwaves but in reality it’s like a burning kiln, where Baloch progress, socioeconomic development and time-tested culture is being suppressed in slow process.

Simply, Balochistan is in a political crisis and needs a well-sequenced road map and good will to undo the damage and reverse the cycle of misery and pain. Short-term relief and reduction in the violence don’t mean that the province is back on track.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • mani
    Aug 22, 2014 - 2:29AM

    “Simply, Balochistan is in a political crisis and needs a well-sequenced road map and good will to undo the damage and reverse the cycle of misery and pain”

    is there even a way back now? I wish there was but I am not hopeful. I wish whatever is best for the Baloch and not what is considered best for National integrity by the wretched military.

    A punjabi.

  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Aug 22, 2014 - 2:31AM

    You need to fear Allah Subhana. Instead of telling the truth you always
    point about hopelessness. It is the BLA, which undoubtedly is being financed
    by India, that is responsible for all the unrest in Baluchistan. They are killing and
    kidnapping people, while a ton of Indian arms have been caught. Do not think like a
    nationalist. We are Muslims, first then Pakistani. By the type of writings I have seen
    from you, it seems you are behaving like a foreign agent.


  • Baloch
    Aug 22, 2014 - 4:00AM

    A very good analysis. East Pakistan like situation is prevailing in Balochistan.


  • ModiFied
    Aug 22, 2014 - 4:04AM

    Sorry, Pakistanis are too busy with Kashmir and Baluchistan is nothing just an India created problem. Rigged lections in Pakistan often lead to the break up of country. Hope people in power remember this bitter truth.


  • A J KHAN
    Aug 22, 2014 - 9:10AM

    Politics in Pakistan in general & Balochistan in particular is means for promoting personal businesses & vested interests.
    Sana Ullah Baloch represent BNM (Mengal). Like other violent parties,, BNM too has a militant wing by name of Lashker e Balochistan headed by brother of Akhtar Mengal, President BNM(Mengal).
    Lashker e Balochistan is involved in terrorist activities in Wad & Khuzdar areas of Balochistan. One cannot rule out the involvement of this group in mass grave case of Totak.


  • Sindhi_Pakistani
    Aug 22, 2014 - 9:11AM

    Naya Pakistan verus Roshan Pakistan is in fight for power and seats. Balochistan and Sindh is not in the agenda of PMLN and PTI. Both provinces are neither power center, unlike Punjab and KPK, nor they are in priority list of our powerful Establishment.


  • huma
    Aug 22, 2014 - 12:20PM

    We need a more balanced analysis of the situation in Balochistan. Mr. Sanaullah has strong ties to the insurgency and his views cannot be deemed impartial.


  • Zarg
    Aug 22, 2014 - 1:13PM

    This is very true Balochistan is being ignored since beginning. The province is run on Ad-hoc basis. The problems here always pushed under the carpet, but till when?
    The attitude of running Balochistan on emergent basis just adds fuel to the fire. There are separatist movement in Balochistan. But the question of why such movements exists needs to be addressed at first place.
    The sincerity of governments to improve the socioeconomic problems always doubted because real efforts never made this led to dysfunctional behavior.


  • goldconsumer
    Aug 22, 2014 - 2:51PM

    Miseries of Balochistan started up with the Sardari system and will end up with it. You need to have investment in your land of Baloch if you want prosperity of your people. But again, whome am I talking to??


  • Hassan Khattak
    Aug 22, 2014 - 3:41PM

    Very sad. Balach mass grave to nave greater Pakistan, where is the world conscious sleeping.


  • Zarina
    Aug 22, 2014 - 4:24PM

    I think key message from Mr. Baluch is that “The conflict in Balochistan is complex, encompassing all critical political and socio-economic elements, including an unbalanced and biased security structure.”

    As an expert – i agree unless flawed and faulty structure that is prevailing since colonial time is not replaced with modern ideas will continue to haunt Islamabad. FC, Police and Intelligence apparatus and their approach towards ethnic Baloch need major cghange. They see each and every vocal Baloch as a threat.

    Embracing corrupt polical class and branding them as pro-state is one of the major anti-state act that is being ignored in Balochistan.

    Sana – thumbs up for keeping us awake –


  • A citizen of Quetta
    Aug 22, 2014 - 6:23PM

    Dear Senator,

    I do sympathise with BNP-Mengal for having been targetted by the ”good criminals” and totally support you on this issue. Your party was attacked by good criminals and bad separatists equally during the election. The prevailing insecurity in Baloch belt of Balochistan further limited BNP-Mengal’s ability to mobilize people. However, as far as Quetta is concerned, I would politely disagree with your allegation of election rigging in two constituencies in the capital city. While analyzing the result of 2014 election in Quetta, one has to consider the complex political dynamics of this ethnically diverse/divided valley, the evolution of these dynamics in the last two decades and the impact of separatist insurgency on these dynamics. Traditionally, Quetta has been the battleground for ethnic based politics of BNP-Mengal and PkMAP although there has been a sizable vote bank of settlers and the Hazara’s. I believe that PkMAP’s success in Quetta in 2014 has more to do with its success in winning the ”settler” and partly the Hazara vote in addition to clean sweaping the Pashtun vote in the city. PkMAP has been more vocal in condemning ethnically motivated attacks and sectarian violence against non-Baloch population of Quetta (Punjabi’s and Hazara’s in particular). BNP-Mengal, on the other hand, has maintained a rather vague stance on this issue and for this reason could not penetrate the non-Brahvi voters of Quetta. I would say BNP-Mengal has been as much vocal on settlers attacks as PkMAP has been on the extra-judicial killing of Baloch insurgents. Unfortunately, the opinions of both parties are heavily influenced by their ethnic bias and prejudice towards each other.

    I have been a supporter of nationalist politics in the past and I still sympathise with Baloch and Pashtun nationalist parties of Balochistan (my right and wrong reasons for this support require a complete essay). However, I sometime feel that the nationalist parties in Quetta have tried to fuel ethnic tensions and racism and take political advantages out of it rather than honestly trying to dissolve ethnic tensions and promote a multicultural and tolerant environment in the valley (and I blame both BNP-Mengal and PkMAP equally for this). Politically, both sides have genuine greviances but they dont try to keep aside their ideological and racial prejudice and communicate honestly.


  • Aug 22, 2014 - 7:09PM

    At least there are signs of improvement and this.is a right step and positive step forward. Though lots needs.to be still done on electoral reforms bringing them to mainstream politics.


  • Rational
    Aug 22, 2014 - 7:24PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir: Can you reply to Mr. Sanaullah rationally instead of going into some convoluted rant about Muslims, Pakistanis, BLA and hopelessness? It is precisely this sort of attitude that leads to hopelessness!


  • the truth
    Aug 22, 2014 - 10:21PM

    Stop playing the ethnic card and stop blaming Punjabis and the army for everything, just cause Hindus in Baluchistan are being killed that doesn’t mean the army is supporting it, look around the Muslim world and non Muslims are being killed everywhere, even if Baluchistan was independent you still can’t avoid radical islamists or political Islam, because the whole narrative of a ‘secular’ baloch is actually a myth, the baloch aren’t anymore or less religious than the average Pakistani but of course the truth obfuscate their agenda of portraying Pakistan as ‘islamist’ and baloch as ‘secular’ but in reality Muslims aren’t much different in nature.

    Conspiracy theories and blaming other people for your cultural and social failings doesn’t work; blaming Punjabi for acid attacks in Balochistan is ridiculous because acid attacks and honor killings are widespread across Pakistan and the baloch aren’t any less misogynistc, so stop portraying yourselves as the Scandinavians of the Pakistan.

    I also know many Baloch who blame British agents of ‘creating’ the sardar system completely absolving themselves of any blame and this is the problem of every Pakistani – blaming others for their problems/failings unfortunately the Baloch aren’t immune to passing the buck and conspiracy theory, the only way to change is to introspect.


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