The armed struggle in Balochistan is between the haves and have-nots of Pakistan. On one hand are the Baloch tribesmen who belong to the most impoverished parts of Pakistan and on the other hand are the Pakistan’s armed forces that come from the most developed parts of Pakistan.
The contrast between the Baloch tribesmen and the armed forces from Punjab is not merely metaphorical. The UNDP sponsored Pakistan National Human Development Report in 2003 ranked Dera Bugti in Balochistan as the least developed district in Pakistan with a human development index (HDI) of 0.285. On the other hand, Jhelum, a district in Punjab known as army’s primary catchment, was ranked first in human development (HDI=0.703) in Pakistan. The socio-economic disparities in Pakistan are quite evident from theUNDP report, which revealed that despite being only 8.0 million strong; almost half of the bottom 30 districts in human development were located in Balochistan. In comparison, 60% of the top 31 districts in human development were located in Punjab. These disparities certainly do not bode well for Pakistan’s federation.
The past six decades of neglect have resulted in a large gap in human development between Balochistan and the rest of Pakistan. A 2002 report by the planning and development department of the Government of Balochistan (GoB) put the literacy rate in the province at a dismal 26.6% compared to 47% in the rest of Pakistan. Since its inception, the University of Balochistan has awarded fewer than 50 doctoral degrees. Universities of Punjab and Karachi, in comparison, have awarded over 1500 doctoral degrees each. Furthermore, only 25% villages in Balochistan are electrified compared to 75% in the rest of Pakistan.
Adding insult to injury is the breakout of violence in Balochistan where Baloch youth are kidnapped and later their mutilated bodies are found dumped in remote parts of the province. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) sees Balochistan smouldering. According to the HRCP, mutilated bodies of 225 missing persons were discovered between July 2010 and November 2011. In 2011 alone, another 107 additional cases of disappearances have been reported in Balochistan.
Pakistan’s armed forces have repeatedly denied any involvement in the atrocities committed against the Baloch tribesmen. However, media reports suggest to the contrary. Writing in the Guardian in March 2011, Declan Walsh reported about Kachkol Ali, a lawyer, who fled Balochistan and took refuge in a small Norwegian town after he spoke about how security forces removed three persons from his office in April 2009 who were found dead five days later. And what about the submission by Balochistan’s advocate general, Salahuddin Mengal, to the Supreme Court in which he held Frontier Corps (FC) responsible for disappearances in the province. “We are recovering dead bodies day in and day out as the FC and police are lifting people in broad daylight at will, but we are helpless. Who can check the FC,” the frustrated advocate general was quoted in March 2011 in Dawn.
The armed forces also have to explain their involvement in the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. General Pervez Musharraf in a televised interview declared that the army’s action against Nawab Akbar Bugtiwas “absolutely 500% justified.” The veteran politician was killed by the armed forces when he took refuge in mountains after being forced out of his ancestral town, Dera Bugti. Nawab Akbar Bugti, the 19thTumundar of the Bugti tribe, had the honour of serving Balochistan as its 13th governor and its fifth chief minister. Balochs and many others wonder if the elderly Bugti was indeed guilty of crimes against the opposing tribes, why was he not brought to justice decades earlier when these allegations first emerged, and how can the State justify extra-judicial killing of its own people?
Nawab Akbar Bugti greeting Quiad-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Ethnic Baloch are not the only victims in the violence-stricken province. Balochistan has also seen targeted killings of its intellectuals, professors, professionals, non-Baloch workers and other minorities. HRCP reported that in 2011 alone 80 members of the Shia Hazara community were killed in Balochistan. Five academics (mostly non-Baloch) at Balochistan University, province’s oldest institution of higher learning, have been killed since 2008 including the pro-vice chancellor, Professor Safdar Ali Kiyani,who was gunned down near his home in Quetta. Later BBC reported that Baloch separatists claimed responsibility for murdering the academic who originally hailed from Jhelum in Punjab.
Earlier in November Professor Danish Alam, a Shia hailing from Gilgit, was shot dead on his way to the University. Other murdered academics include Professor Saba Dashtiari (a Baloch intellectual whose real name was Ghulam Hussain), Professor Nazma Talib, and Professor Khurshid Ansari. Media reports put the number of additional school and college teachers killed in targeted killings at 14. To date, no one has been brought to justice for killing professors and teachers in Balochistan. At the same time, those responsible for the extra-judicial murders of Baloch nationalists have also remained free from any prosecution.
Given the unfair treatment of Balochis over the past six decades, it is no surprise that Balochs may not seem welcoming to the non-Baloch immigrants from other parts of Pakistan, especially Punjab. However, given the sorry state of Balochistan’s human capital it may not be possible for the province, at least in the short-run, to provide a highly skilled workforce to run its hospitals, universities, colleges, and other public sector institutions. Similarly, the demand for highly qualified professionals in the private sector to manage the mineral wealth of the province will largely remain unmet unless trained professionals from other parts of Pakistan are inducted in Balochistan to accelerate the development of human capital.
The armed struggle by the Baloch tribesmen against Pakistan’s armed and security forces is not the only challenge facing the province. Also vying for Balochistan’s riches are the global conglomerates who have been busy exploring in the resource rich, yet poverty-stricken province. In this game of international intrigue, which has pitched western corporations against each other as well as against the Chinese state-owned firms, the truth about the extent of Balochistan’s resources has become a matter of debate. The international firms that are awarded mining leases try to underreport the size of gold and copper reserves to limit payment of royalties to the people of Balochistan. Those who fail to win mining rights exaggerate the extent of reserves made by others in the hope that the existing contracts will be breached and re-awarded to the companies that lost initially.
Consider the dispute over Reko Diq between GoB and Tethyan Copper Co. Pakistan Ltd., (TCC), which is a subsidiary of Barrick Gold of Canada and Antofagasta Minerals of Chile. After the Supreme Court of Pakistan established Balochistan government’s dominion on mining in Balochistan, the province refused TCC’s application for a mining license. TCC has filed for international mediation in the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington and at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
According to the feasibility report prepared by TTC,GoB would have received $13 billion in royalties over a 56-year period amounting to fewer than $235 million per year. It is not clear why GoB with only 25% of the shares would receive 52% of the after-tax profits and TTC, despite being a 75% shareholder, would receive only 48% of the profits.
Such disputes require highly trained professionals to first determine the extent of mineable reserves and their quality and then to devise a financial and legal strategy to gain the most out of the project for the benefit of the people of Balochistan. As the GoB prepares to defend its decision in Washington and Paris, it relies on the expert advice of the Balochistan Development Authority (BDA). However, BDA’s claim for fame is not its highly skilled technical workforce. Instead, BDA is known for its chairman, Sadat Anwar Kambrani, who recently extended his own contract as chairman for an additional three years! The chief secretary of Balochistan has reportedly termed his extension “illegal”.
With such self-serving executives in place, one wonders who will guard the interests of the people of Balochistan. One may think that provincial legislators in Balochistan can be trusted with the task of safeguarding Balochistan’s interests. After all, the people of Balochistan have elected the members of the Balochistan Assembly for the very purpose of looking after their welfare.
It appears that such a trust in provincial legislators will be rather misplaced. According to the reports by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), provincial legislators in Balochistan could not be bothered even to attend sessions in Balochistan Assembly. On December 26, 2011, only two legislators showed up for the ongoing session of the sixth sitting of Balochistan Assembly. The session was adjourned after only 10 minutes for the lack of quorum. On December 23, the session lasted for only 30 minutes and was again adjourned with only 12 members of assembly present. On December 20, the session was adjourned after 52 minutes again for the lack of quorum with only 13 members present. On December 17, the session was adjourned after only 20 minutes for the lack of quorum with only 14 members of the provincial assembly present. December 15 was slightly better when the session lasted for over an hour with 15 members present in the assembly.
With provincial civil servants busy extending their own tenures and the provincial legislators missing from the legislature, it appears that the people of Balochistan are increasingly vulnerable to unwelcome interventions from Islamabad, Lahore, and now Paris and Washington.
For Balochistan to prosper it needs much more than gold and copper reserves, which remain buried underground. Balochistan is in desperate need to improve its human capital. It needs indigenous expertise in engineering, mining, economics, international and business law, and social sciences, to name a few, to be able to realize the full potential of its natural endowments. Without the indigenous expertise the province stands little chance of getting a fair deal for the riches that lie under the feet of Balochis.
In a 2007 doctoral dissertation defended at the University of Karachi, Dr. Jan Mohammed highlighted the need for improving human capital in the public sector in Balochistan. “All other resources can affect development initiative to some extent, but under developed and low quality human resources has [sic] greatly impeded the development process in Baluchistan,” wrote Dr. Muhammad. The “mineral wealth of the province can only be harnessed if its human resources are developed,” he further added. I couldn’t agree more with him.
* Mohammed, Jan (2007). Training, development and supervision of human resources in the public sector of Baluchistan (a case study ). University of Karachi, Department of Public Administration.
Drawing parallels between Balochistan and Kashmir
This is the second in a three part series on Balochistan. The first part appeared on December 28, 2011. The third part will appear next week.
The insurgencies in Balochistan, in Pakistan and in Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) in India have much in common. An armed struggle by the youth has taken root in both places. The 2000-plus bullet-riddled bodies recovered from the unmarked graves in four districts in Indian occupied Kashmir as well as the mutilated bodies of hundreds of Balochi youth left to rot in the desert in Balochistan are examples of how violence is destroying the social order and the moral fabric of Balochs and Kashmiris alike.
While the establishment in India and in Pakistan may argue that Balochistan and Kashmir have nothing in common and thus no lessons could be learnt from each other’s experience. I would argue just the opposite. The unfortunate circumstances in Balochistan and the Kashmir valley share several common traits, which make it necessary to learn from the past and present mistakes.
Since the partition in 1947 Muslims in J & K and the Balochs in present-day Balochistan have campaigned for greater local autonomy. A large part of Balochistan was under Kalat Khanate, a princely state similar to the greater Kashmir, whose fate was left undecided at partition. Sixty-four years hence, Balochs in Pakistan and Muslims in the Kashmir valley are still vying for a resolution.
In both Balochistan and the Kashmir valley, the Indian and Pakistani establishments have responded with brute force to counter the legitimate grievances of their people. Thus violence has erupted in the streets. Thousands have died in the insurgency in Balochistan in separate spats of violence that peaked at various points in time in the past six decades. The Baloch insurgency during the 70s reportedly caused the death of 5,000 Baloch insurgents and 3,300 troops when 55,000 armed Baloch insurgents faced off against 80,000 Pakistani troops. Even the Iranian air force joined in to bomb Baloch insurgents. The Shah of Iran was wary of the Baloch nationalist movement spilling into the Iran’s Baluchistan and thus dispatched his air force to pound Baloch targets.(1)
Hundreds of Balochs have died in the current wave of violence, while hundreds of thousands of Baloch tribesmen have been forced out of their lands to take refuge in Sindh and Punjab. Analyst Alok Bansal estimates that as much as six brigades of Pak Army are currently deployed in Balochistan. Similarly in India, the violence in J & K peaked during the 90s when reportedly 60,000 to 80,000 Kashmiris were killed. The resulting violence has forced thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs to flee Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir valley.
The establishments’ propaganda machines have also worked the same way in both places where the insurgents have been labelled as anti-state militants and terrorists. Those in the media or academia who dare question the State’s version are also dubbed as traitors and terrorist sympathisers. In Pakistan, the State also affixes the anti-Islamic label to the insurgents. Meeran Gichki while researching the conflict in Balochistan at the University of Arkansas argued that news media were used “to channel popular nationalism by the military-bureaucratic elite, which tends to exclude political minorities like Baloch nationalists as foreign conspirators, while using Islamic symbolism to create a sense of national unity within different nationalities in Pakistan.”(2) He further writes that “the segmentation of the media market in Balochistan, portrays the Pakistani government and its military as an occupying force.”
Despite being diametrically opposed to each other on almost all matters related to foreign and domestic policies, Islamabad and New Delhi have surprisingly adopted identical high-handed approaches in dealing with insurgencies in Balochistan and Kashmir valley. Not so surprisingly, both establishments have met failures of equal proportions. Notice also the similarity in how Islamabad and New Delhi accuse each other of fanning the separatists’ flames in each other’s territories. The official versions from both establishments hold foreign elements responsible for insurgencies rather than seeing those as indigenous struggles.
Democracy, in its narrowest manifestation as electoral politics, exists in both Balochistan and J & K such that a provincial assembly in Balochistan and a state legislature in Jammu and Kashmir is in place. However, electoral politics have not helped resolve the disputes because the marginalised groups have shunned electoral politics after witnessing no progress toward addressing their key demands over the years.
The sham democracy in Balochistan deserves a closer scrutiny. The Baloch nationalist parties boycotted the elections in 2008 in protest against the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. The void left by the nationalists was filled by those who enjoyed the support of the establishment. However, the resulting provincial assembly has been mostly ineffective in asserting its writ in the province. Balochistan’s chief minister and the advocate general are on record accusing the Frontier Corps of running a parallel government in Balochistan.
The coalition government in Balochistan has no one else but to blame itself for its ineffectiveness. The poorly cobbled together coalition has put PPP in control of an assembly of 51 members that had to lure 45 members with ministries to win their support for the coalition. Not being a minister must be quite a distinguishing trait in Balochistan Assembly. How can one explain PPP occupying the chief minister’s office with only 7 seats and a fewer than 52,000 votes cast for the seven PPP parliamentarians. Even with 15 seats in Balochistan Assembly, the Musharraf backed Pakistan Muslim League exerts no influence in the province because it no longer enjoys establishment’s unconditional support.
Party standing in 2008
Average votes Total votes
Pakistan Muslim League 18,797 281,949 15
Independents 9,615 115,374 12
Mutthida Majlis-e-Amal 10,540 84,317 8
Pakistan Peoples Party 7,373 51,612 7
Balochistan National Party Awami) 11,465 57,327 5
Awami National Party 18,229 36,458 2
Grand Total 12,295 627,037 51
Source: Election Commission of Pakistan
Even a bigger scandal, which puts in questions the very legitimacy of the Balochistan Assembly, is that of the bogus votes that were instrumental in electing the sitting parliamentarians from Balochistan to the provincial and national assemblies. A review of the electoral rolls by Pakistan Election Commission and NADRA has revealed that 65 per cent of the registered 4,520,766 voters in Balochistan were fake.
Balochistan’s total population in 2008 was estimated at 8 million. The 18-years and older cohort, as per 1998 census, accounted for 46.2 per cent of the population. This puts the population of eligible voters in Balochistan around 3.7 million voters. How then did the voters’ list include 4.52 million voters in Balochistan? Furthermore with 65 per cent fake votes, the verified voter list in Balochistan shrinks to 1.58 million voters. The Election Commission in 2008 recorded 1.493 million votes casting the provincial elections. With 1.58 million real voters, the voter turnout in Balochistan was miraculously high at 94.3 per cent! That’s quite a turnout considering that the nationalist parties had boycotted the elections.
Apart from similarities between the insurgencies in Balochistan and Kashmir valley, significant differences do exist as well. For instance, education is free up to College and University levels in J & K. This has contributed to higher literacy rates in J & K as well as in Kerala, which is the most literate state in the Indian Union.
Another marked difference is that the Indian constitution, under Article 370, grants special autonomous status to J & K. One implication of Article 370 is that it prevents non-Kashmiris from buying land in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, the existing law and traditional practices discriminate against even those Kashmiri women who marry non-Kashmiris. While these women could inherit land, however their children would not inherit immovable property from their mothers.. These constitutional stipulations have helped maintain the ethnic mix in J & K to a large extent. However, Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs, who were forced to flee the Kashmir valley, have obviously been disadvantaged by the same law.
Perhaps Balochistan is also in need of an Article 370 to protect the territorial rights of the indigenous peoples (Balochs, Pashtuns and others) of Balochistan. Without such protection, the territorial rights of Balochs may not be respected or safeguarded. An example of property right violations could be observed in Gwadar. Adeel Khan, while writing in Asian Survey references a scathing report published in Herald about the “great land robbery” in Gwadar.(3) He quoted Herald as follows:
“Some observers share the view that the Gwadar project is one of the biggest land boondoggles in Pakistan’s history…[T]he local people owned the land through generations but lacked documents of ownership. The elite have bribed revenue clerks to register Gwadar land in their names; the land was then resold at rock-bottom prices to developers from Karachi, Lahore, and other major cities…illegally allotted to civilian and military bureaucrats living elsewhere. …[T]he poor and uneducated Baluch [i.e., Baloch] population had been shut out…Gwadar became a lightning rod for Baluch hatred of Punjabi-ruled Pakistan.”
Between the construction of new cantonments in Balochistan and land being acquired through other means, Pakistan Army is expanding its foothold in Balochistan. Balochs, Pushtuns and others are weary of the expansion of garrisons and housing schemes, which the locals believe will turn them into a minority on their own soil. Herald in June 2008, as quoted by Adeel Khan, further stated:
“The Pakistani army is the biggest land grabber…It is giving away the coast of Baluchistan [Balochistan] for peanuts, to the Punjabis…In Gwadar, the army is operating as a mafia, falsifying land records. They say we don’t have papers to prove our ownership of the land, though we’ve been there for centuries.”
The real crisis in Balochistan is that of trust. Since the partition in 1947, Balochistan has been a reluctant constituting member in Pakistan’s federation. The establishment, and the rest of Pakistan, has done precious little to win their trust. Instead, several military incursions in the province have turned successive generations of Balochs against the federation. At the same time, Balochs have benefited little from the resources that have flown out of their lands. Balochistan produces much more natural gas than it consumes. Even when it is constitutionally guaranteed a greater share of natural gas for domestic consumption, Balochistan is still denied a fair share in the very riches it produces. With the land grab in Gwadar and elsewhere, it is no surprise that Balochs see no incentives in staying within the federation.
An immediate and complete withdrawal of the Frontier Corps from Balochistan is a necessary prerequisite for trust building. Also needed are constitutional reforms, similar to Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which recognise and guarantee indigenous control over resources in Balochistan.
Furthermore, judicial intervention is urgently required to reverse all land transactions in Gwadar and elsewhere to ensure that developers only acquire the right to develop (by paying royalty or user fees) while the ownership of the land remains with the indigenous peoples of Balochistan.
Pakistan’s establishment has to demonstrate genuine interest in the welfare of ordinary Balochs by embarking on an honourable and just partnership with Balochs. The past six decades of military incursions have shown that brute force has failed to subdue Balochs. It is time to give justice and respect a chance.
(1) AlokBansal (2008): Factors leading to insurgency in Balochistan, Small Wars & Insurgencies, 19:2, pp. 182-200.
(2) Gichki, Meeran (2010). Baluchistan: Democratization and national conflict in Pakistan.Masters thesis in Journalism. University of Arkansas.
(3) Khan, Adeel (2009). Renewed Ethnonationalist Insurgency in Balochistan, Pakistan: The Militarized State and Continuing Economic Deprivation. Asian Survey, Vol. 49, No. 6, pp. 1071-1091.
Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. He can be reached by email at email@example.com
Resolving Balochistan’s grievances
Two dominant theories attempt to contextualise the decades-long crisis in Balochistan. The Islamabad theory suggests that the state and its agencies are responsible for the lack of development, separatist movements and the resulting militancy in Balochistan. The Baloch theory holds the Baloch Sardars and foreign elements responsible for Balochistan’s woes.
Major Gregory Pipes of the United States Army has explored these theories in great detail.(1) He argues that denying democracy to Balochs, the economic exploitation of Balochistan’s natural resources, and military incursions are examples of state actions that have turned Baloch’s against the establishment. He presents empirical evidence to illustrate that state actions indeed have a direct impact on insurgency in Balochistan; any reconciliatory move by the state results in a decline in insurgent attacks, whereas any state-backed hostility against Balochs correlates with a spike in insurgency.
He uses data from 1,277 insurgent attacks reported in Balochistan during 2003 and 2009 to demonstrate that time and again Balochs have reacted rationally to the carrot and stick policies of the state. For instance, a 216 per cent increase in insurgent attacks was observed in response to the army establishing a military base near Sui. Similarly, attacks by insurgents increased by 855 per cent in reaction to the military operation in December 2005. At the same time, a significant decline in insurgent attacks was observed in response to the economic packages announced for Balochistan in October 2008 and March 2009.
The evidence presented in the table below explicitly illustrates Baloch willingness to resolve the conflict. If the propaganda against the Baloch insurgents is to be believed, which argues that the insurgents, while being supported by the foreign elements and Baloch sardars, are determined to secede from Pakistan, then one should not see any decline in violence in response to reconciliatory moves.
Source: Pipes, Gregory (2010)
The Baloch theory, which accuses Baloch Sardars for Balochistan’s troubles, does not only enjoy the state’s blessings but is also favoured by many in print and news media in Pakistan. For instance, Shumaila Jaffery recently argued on Dawn’s website: “[b]eing a journalist I have worked at places like Sui, Dera Bugti, Turbat and Youb. [The Baloch] Sardars have exploited the local population to the extent that we people with urban backgrounds cannot even imagine.”
Is it really true that the separatist Baloch Sardars have been instrumental in stunting the economic and social development of their people? For this to be true, one would expect to see lesser human development in areas under the influence of separatist Sardars and higher human development in areas under the influence of state-friendly sardars. For example, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, a former Prime Minister in General Musharraf’s regime, is one such Baloch Sardar who has been friendly with the state for decades. Let us compare Jamali’s district of Nasirabad with Dera Bugti, which is the ancestral home of slain Baloch statesman, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, who died in a military action in August 2006. If the Baloch theory holds, Nasirabad should enjoy significantly higher levels of development than Dera Bugti.
Statistically speaking, Nasirabad is marginally better than Dera Bugti in access to piped water and literacy rate (see the table below). At the same time, Dera Bugti reports significantly higher number of medical facilities, i.e. hospitals, basic health units, etc., and higher contraceptive use than Nasirabad. These comparative statistics illustrate that all areas of Balochistan are significantly underdeveloped regardless of the political persuasions of the dominant Sardars in the region.
|% of households with electricity
|% of households with piped water
|% of literate population (10 years & older)
|Contraceptive prevalence rate (%)
Source: Population Census, 1998 (latest data available)
The marked difference, however, is observed in access to electricity where 61 per cent households in Nasirabad compared to only 16 per cent households in Dera Bugti are electrified. The difference in electrification is a result of state patronage that benefitted Nasirabad, and not Dera Bugti. How would then one hold separatist Baloch Sardars responsible for under development when the state’s investments have favoured some and disadvantaged others?
The urbanised middle class and real estate magnates in Pakistan may continue to hold the Baloch Sardars responsible for Balochistan’s misgivings. However, given an opportunity, Pakistani urbanites may not hesitate in harming Baloch interests. Consider, for instance, the great land grab in progress in Gwadar where the indigenous of Gwadar have been left at the mercy of the big land developers from Lahore and Karachi.
The Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) lists the names and addresses of land developers who have been awarded development rights to date for developing 59 sq km of land in Gwadar. The list confirms suspicions of Baloch nationalists who had always feared that development in Gwadar will be hijacked by the powerful developers (and land mafias) domiciled elsewhere. According to GDA, Balochistan-based developers are in minority while developers whose addresses are listed in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are holding the stakes for 90 per cent of land development in Gwadar (see the graph below).
GDA has granted development rights for 12,533 acres of housing schemes alone. Once built and populated, the housing schemes will likely shift the demographic makeup of Gwadar, whose current population is a little shy of 200,000. Even at a low density of 50 persons per acre, once built the 12,533 acres of new housing development will attract roughly 600,000 new inhabitants to Gwadar, thus fundamentally changing its ethnic complexion.
The bigger question to address is why GDA has granted development rights to house a population that is likely to be 3-times the size of the current population of Gwadar. Has GDA or other agencies of the Balochistan government studied the socio-political implications of such a massive influx of people in a province whose population base is smaller than that of Lahore?
Given the potential for ethnic and social discord in Gwadar and the rest of Balochistan, there is a greater need for the establishment to ensure that any land development in Gwadar and its surroundings contributes primarily to the welfare of the people of Balochistan and not to the land developers from Lahore and Karachi or to the Baloch Sardars who may not be readily willing to share the spoils with the have-nots in their tribes.
Land is not the only source of grievance for Baloch nationalists in Gwadar. Analysing the greed, creed and governance in Balochistan, Professor Rabia Aslam revealed that despite being heralded as a game-changer in regional trade, the Gwadar port is unlikely to make a significant contribution to the provincial economy.
Professor Aslam revealed that the federal government will receive 50 per cent of the profits from Gwadar port and the Chinese firm responsible for operating Gawadar port will retain 48 per cent of the profits. A mere 2 per cent of the profits from Gwadar port are to accrue to the people of Balochistan. At the same time, most construction contracts at Gwadar port were awarded to non-Baloch firms who hired technical and other staff from outside of Balochistan.(2) Prof Aslam also noted that “in Balochistan the major source of revenue is natural gas. The province contributes roughly $1.4 billion per year through gas revenues, but receives only $116 million from the federal government in royalty.”
If the establishment in Pakistan allows the status quo to prevail in Balochistan, others would seek to profit from the ever-growing mistrust, and the resulting indiscriminate violence. The calls to secede Balochistan from the rest of Pakistan will come from all those who could benefit, even in the short term, from the chaos that prevails. Consider for example M. Chris Mason who called for an independent Balochistan in an op-ed piece in Canada’sThe Globe and Mail in December 2011. Mr. Mason, who is a former US Naval officer and has served in the American foreign service, tries to exploit the Baloch grievances by pushing for an independent Balochistan as a solution (sic) to Pakistan’s problems. Calling Pakistan a rogue state, a term favoured by the American neo-cons, Mr. Mason sees an independent Balochistan merely a supply line to feed and support Nato’s troops in Afghanistan via Gwadar.
While Mr. Mason’s optimism for an overnight solution for the “region’s most intractable problems” is wishful thinking at best, however, those who favour an outright separation of Balochistan from Pakistan fail to recognise that ethnic Balochs (Balochi and Brahui speakers) in Balochistan represent a bare majority of 55 per cent. The rest comprise Pushtuns (30 per cent), Sindhis (6 per cent), Punjabis (3 per cent) and others. Haris Gazdar, a renowned economist, believes that such ethnic diversity “adds a dimension, prima facie, to political fragmentation.”(3)
The majority of Pushtuns and others in Balochistan do not share the same enthusiasm for an independent Balochistan. Furthermore, non-Baloch ethnicities are concentrated in the northern districts of the province (see the map below), which further complicates the viability of an independent Balochistan within its current boundaries. In the worst case scenario, an all-out war for an independent Balochistan may lead to a civil war rather than a war between Balochs and Pakistan’s armed forces. It is therefore imperative that a negotiated settlement for the Baloch grievances be found at the earliest to avoid any further hardship for Balochs and other ethnicities in Balochistan.
The way forward
Major Pipes, who wants “to see the Baloch integrated into the mainstream of Pakistani social, political, and economic life,” offers several recommendations towards resolving the Balochistan’s grievances. He wants Pakistan’s establishment to ensure that “democracy is a fixed element of Baloch society” to achieve Baloch integration.This may even require a plebiscite for the Balochs to determine their own future. He advises Pakistan’s establishment to work with Baloch Sardars rather than fighting with them by encouraging a “dialogue between the center and the periphery.” He further recommends ending all military incursions because this approach has consistently failed in stemming Baloch separatist movements in the past. Lastly, he asks for a fair share for Balochs in royalties for the natural resources extracted from Balochistan so that the economic base of the province could be fortified.
Major Pipes advises the United States government to recognise that attempts to enfranchise Balochs through true democracy have resulted in a decline in violence. Thus he advises the US government to avoid backing military incursions in Balochistan, which have harmed the democratic forces in the province. He asks the US government to focus on eradicating the narcotics trade in the region that has helped fund the insurgency. Major Pipes also asks India and Afghanistan to cease any operations in Balochistan that may promote instability in Pakistan.
It is not for the lack of solutions that the Baloch insurgency has lasted over six decades. It is the lack of willingness to work towards an honourable and just resolution of Baloch grievances that has turned successive generations of Balochs against the idea of Pakistan. Balochs have responded positively to reconciliation in the past. They will do so again if an honest and earnest effort is made.
(1) Pipes, Gregory D. 2010. The Baloch-Islamabad tensions: Problems of national integration. Master’s thesis. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.
(2) Aslam, Rabia (2011). Greed, creed, and governance in civil conflicts: a case study of Balochistan. Contemporary South Asia. Vol. 19, Iss. 2.
(3) Gazdar, Haris (2007). Balochistan Economic Report, Background Paper on Social Structures and Migration.