Let’s Address Baloch Grievances

Balochistan issue has been in the highlights for the past couple of months now. Why is Balochistan being given so much importance?
Why is it so important for us to find a solution to this problem now? How the issue of Balochistan can be resolved? These are a few typical questions which cross the minds of a common Pakistani when they see a bulletin or a talk show on Balochistan.Balochistan-though being the largest province of Pakistan-is yet the most backward and underdeveloped of all. Although at present the separatist elements of the ongoing insurgency in Balochistan do not enjoy absolute support amongst the Baloch population of Pakistan yet the feeling of resentment and the grievances are growing with each passing day.

The main factors responsible for this feeling of resentment are the alienation of Baloch people from the main stream politics, the socio-economic underdevelopment, the issue of the ownership of resources, the due share of the Baloch people in the benefits of their own resources and the unfortunate underrepresentation of Baloch in the civil-military bureaucracy at national level.

To add to all of these grievances has been the frequent use of brute force by the military, the non-committed and non-serious attitude of the political leadership towards the resolution of Baloch issues. The ‘kill and dump’ strategy adopted by the intelligence agencies and the paramilitary forces to counter the recent wave of insurgency has done nothing but aggravated the whole situation. As Habib Jalib has once said:

You are sowing love with bullets,
And washing country’s face with blood,
While you are busy justifying the means…
I am sure that you are losing the end!

One of the many factors behind socio-economic backwardness of Balochistan is the tribal structure of its society. Since the time of British rule, the tribal chieftains have been in a partnership with the country’s ruling elite; the Sarkar and the Sardars have joined hands at the expense of the common Baloch people.

The solution of the Balochistan issue lies in dedicated political will and a pragmatic approach with both long and short term means to address the root causes of the insurgency and to gradually transform the conflict. Political dialogue with all the major stake holders of Balochistan is imperative in order to resolve the issue. However a combination of different CBMs is a prerequisite to bring these stakeholders to table talks.

An effective solution to the missing persons issue and an immediate stop to the ‘kill and dump’ policy would be the first milestone towards confidence building amongst the people of Balochistan.
Secondly the perpetrators of Human Rights violation shall be brought before law and justice on effective and immediate basis in order to reinstate the lost trust of a common man in institutions of state.

These steps would ensure law and order in the province and would have a positive impact on the entire society.

Establishing a task force aimed at transforming the protracted conflict comes under the umbrella of the long term approaches. The task force shall be invested with power and capacity of monitoring the effective implementation of constitutional reforms and the management of development projects like Gwadar, SANDAK, REKODICK, along with construction of dams, roads and other infrastructure, and shall put these projects on a fast track. These developmental endeavors could bring about a change in the tribal system of Balochistan only if the local people are a part and parcel of such projects. Being employed would allow the local common Baloch to become financially independent relinquishing their dependence on Sardars who have been so far controlling their fates.

The development activities along with continuation of the democratic setup, preservation of the parliamentary and federal structure of Pakistan and re-shaping the foreign policy would help amongst other factors to transform the conflict gradually over time. The political leadership and establishment must ensure participation of all the nationalist parties in Balochistan in the upcoming polls along with a promise of free and fair elections. Democracy is crucial for sustenance of the federal structure of Pakistan and strengthening of the federating units. The policy of supporting and encouraging any sort of destabilizing elements and forces across the border must be reviewed, reconsidered and redefined by keeping in view the national interest of Pakistan.

The counter insurgency strategy must be based upon ‘carrot and stick’ formula. The insurgent elements with secessionist tendencies must be dealt with might and force however there is a need to ensure that the just grievances of the rest of the Baloch people have not been left unaddressed. Otherwise the distressed Baloch masses would not hesitate in joining the ranks of insurgent organizations if they are not given any rightful alternative to get their demands fulfilled.

It is time for the civil and military leadership sitting in Islamabad to realize that military might alone will do nothing good except for pushing the Baloch nationalists over the edge towards the demands of independence, and that is the least what Pakistan would want considering its survival and national interest would be at stake.

Hence this time the need is to mainly change the approach of looking at the Balochistan issue; the need is to change the typical colonial mindset and to go for a different way to address the issues at hand.


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