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The real Balochistan (Parts I, II and III)

By Sanaullah Baloch

Part I: The real Balochistan

Pervez Musharraf’s article ‘Understanding Balochistan’ was not only misleading, it was full of distortion of facts about Balochistan and the Baloch people. As could be expected of him, he failed to acknowledge in his article the folly of his misplaced military policies (which among other things resulted in that shameful defeat at Kargil). Nor, of course, did he apologise for the loss of lives in Balochistan. Instead, the Commando – who appears to believe that spreading of misconceptions and malicious propaganda can continue to mislead the people of Pakistan on the Balochistan issue – made a crude attempt at disinformation. He thereby sought to acquit himself, the army and the FC of the countless charges of killings, human-rights violation, disappearances, ethnic-cleansing and systematic suppression of the Baloch people.

Today Balochistan is a virtual prison. With thousands of check-posts dotting the province, the Baloch are a society under siege. This land of despair, death, and violence in numerous forms, had largely been peaceful before Musharraf launched an aggressive campaign of what can only be described as “colonisation.”

His policies and actions devastated millions of lives in Balochistan. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, and in the process lost their regular means of livelihood. One tragic result of their displacement was the deaths of countless children from malnourishment in the scattered inaccessible camps. Meanwhile, thousands of Baloch students were deprived of education because they were unable to go to colleges and universities for fear of abduction and murder.

In his article, Musharraf also touted the old “foreign hand” theory, saying, “I have always warned of a known foreign hand trying to destabilise Pakistan through Afghanistan and Balochistan.” Therefore, for him the mass violation of human rights in Balochistan is a planted notion. Similarly, there are no disappearances and no missing persons in Balochistan, according to him; to believe otherwise is promotion of anti-Pakistan by agent provocateurs. His article was a vain attempt to take Pakistanis’ focus away from the tragedy of Balochistan. “It is a pity,” he said, “that human rights violations are not being noticed in Kashmir or Assam in India, but are visible only in Balochistan.” He blames TV anchors and writers in the print media for damaging the solidarity and unity of Pakistan.

As a true Baloch-hater, he believes in dealing with the Baloch people and their leadership with an iron hand. There is no doubt in the minds of the Baloch that the Pakistani establishment, to which Musharraf belonged, has a policy towards the Baloch people of using the “Iron-hand”-for control over Balochistan by force and for the endless exploitation of Baloch wealth. It is this arrogant, brutal mindset which is the cause of all human rights violations in Balochistan, where non-Baloch forces rampantly kill and intimidate political activists.

Musharraf’s pathetic ignorance about Balochistan clearly shows through in his version on the Baloch-Pakhtun divide. On the one hand, he certifies the patriotism of some ethnic communities and tribes by calling them pro-Pakistani, and on the other he accuses others of being anti-state. The Pakhtuns are peace-loving fruit-growers and traders, in his view, and the Baloch are foreign agents.

His knowledge of Balochistan’s geography, tribes, regions, and languages only reveals the extent of his ignorance. According to his deconstructed Balochistan, the Mengal tribe inhabits eastern Balochistan, in areas neighbouring those regions where the Bugti and Marri tribes. In fact, the Mengals inhabit central and south-western Balochistan.

The Baloch-Pakhtun divide and inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflicts in Balochistan are results of the establishment’s deliberate policy of divide and rule. The Baloch and Pakhtuns in Balochistan are well aware of the fact that, although tensions and differences are part of human societies, particularly less-developed ones, these are always inflamed by the establishment in pursuit of its divide and rule policy.

In overemphasising the element of tribal differences and existence of militants the former dictator has deliberately tried to take readers’ attention away from Balochistan’s genuine political demands. Nowhere does he mention the fact that Balochistan has a history of progressive nationalist political parties and movement.

Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was head of the Jamhoori Watan Party and he confronted Islamabad as a Baloch nationalist politician, not as a tribal chief. Nawab Bugti in his political capacity helped many settlers reach Pakistan’s top positions. He chose many settlers to represent his views in parliament. Non-Baloch jurist Muhammad Zafar was elected to the Senate in 1994 as a member of the Jamhoori Watan Party. In 1997, Nawab Bugti chose two Pashto-speakers, including the well-known political figure Khudai Noor, to represent his party in the Senate. Mr Bugti was an open-minded political figure, and not just a tribal chief.

Musharraf mentioned Mengal tribal elders without mentioning their immense role in Baloch politics. Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Akhtar Mengal are not followed by thousands of Baloch for tribal reasons, but because of the two leaders’ commitment to and sacrifices for the Baloch cause. Their views represent Baloch aspirations and dreams and their legitimacy is derived from the Baloch people, not from government agencies. Akhtar Mengal heads one of the largest and most popular political organisations of Balochistan, the Balochistan National Party, and his views represent a strong segment of moderate Baloch political activists of the province. Likewise, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri is respected by the Baloch and neighbouring people because of his policies and his political standing, not because of his tribal position.

Since Balochistan’s democratic voice has always been neglected and ignored by short-sighted ruling elite in Pakistan, Baloch political frustrations accumulated over a long period. Musharraf’s aggressive introduction of military and paramilitary garrisons in Balochistan raised apprehension among the more conscious segments of Baloch society. The political reaction to these exploitative, suppressive and demographic threats was understandable.

Musharraf and the anti-Baloch clique within the establishment hold the Baloch people and their leadership responsible for Balochistan’s underdevelopment and miseries. Yet how can a region develop when it has more soldiers than teachers, more garrisons than universities, more naval bases than institutions devoted to science, technology and research?

In Balochistan, cantonments of the Frontier Corps (FC) outnumber colleges. There are more police stations than vocational training centres and more check-posts than girls’ schools. Is this what Musharraf and his ilk call development?

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Part II: The real Balochistan

Musharraf’s statement about Balochistan’s “A” and “B” areas is highly misleading. In his article he emphasises that only three sardars with a tiny number of followers are the cause of the troubles in Balochistan. Then, how come these few sardars use the Levies force against the powerful Frontier Corps and the military in Balochistan? The establishment in Islamabad has never been able to substantiate its claim regarding the Levies’ involvement against the FC.

Despite international demands, repeated resolutions and domestic pressure, Islamabad is unwilling to change the status of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), replace the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) with modern laws and dismantle the Khasadar force. But when it comes to Balochistan it is always eager to extend its influence by any means.

The distinction of “A” and “B” areas is not due to the police and the Levies. The reason is that the “A” areas cover cities and towns while the “B” areas consist of the rural parts of the province. This division was made in 1883 by the British government. The former areas were put under the jurisdiction of the police and the latter were assigned to the Levies.

Despite their immense resources and a strength of 19,145, the police in Balochistan were consuming Rs2 billion just for maintenance of law and order in the four-percent “A” areas. However 96 percent of Balochistan’s crimes were documented and reported in the policed “A” areas – not in the “B” areas controlled by the Levies.

Data available for 2002 indicates that Balochistan had 89 police stations and 286 Levies thanas (stations). The sanctioned strength of police is 19,145 and that of the Levies is 13,357. The area under police jurisdiction is spread over 14,251 square kilometres (four percent of Balochistan’s territory) and the Levies have charge over 332,929 square kilometres (96 percent).

The Levies, with their meagre resources and a budget of Rs1,77,743,900 and 11,153 personnel, were responsible for maintenance of law and order in 96 percent of Balochistan’s territory. In an ironic inversion, however, the crime rate in the rural 96 percent of the province during 2001-2002 was just four percent, compared to 96 percent in the areas controlled by the generously financed police force.

Many Baloch, and Pakhtuns, argue with substantive facts and figures in support of the Levies. “The primary reason for the comparative effectiveness and efficiency of the force in the “B” area is that the concept of Levies is based on the principles of community policing which is recognised universally as the ideal model. The Levies, by all definitions, are a community police force which functions within the parameters of the customs and tradition of the tribes. Their strength is the community which assists them in the prevention and detection of crime.

Since Islamabad and its proxies in Balochistan never encouraged a fair and democratic system based on justice and equality, many saw Musharraf’s Rs6 billion spent on the policing of the “A” areas as a tool of suppression. This amount should have been used for the development and revamping of the appalling the education system and infrastructure. Balochistan needs more education, not more policing.

In fact, Balochistan is virtually controlled by the army, the FC, the navy, the coast guard and several federal and provincial agencies with countless cantonments, naval bases, paramilitary garrisons and thousands of check-posts. Any further expansion and increase of force is clearly a means of suppression, not development.

Instead of mentioning Dr Shazia’s rape by a uniformed soldier, Musharraf writes about rockets attacks on gas installation and justifies his inhuman and disproportionate use of force against Nawab Bugti and his people.

After the Sui incident there was an informal ceasefire and a parliamentary committee was formed to look into the real issues and causes of resentment among the Baloch people. Nawab Bugti’s two representatives were part of the negotiations. I myself was a member of the parliamentary committee on Balochistan and my first presentation was adopted as a comprehensive agenda on Balochistan.

Meanwhile, Musharraf visited Kohlu and, using as a pretext the rocket attacks on his gathering in Frontier Corps’ fort in Kohlu, he sent regular troops to eliminate Akbar Khan Bugti. The forces, using fighter jets, bombarded the entire area and forced Nawab Bugti to leave his hometown. In a planned operation, involving dozens of military helicopters and SSG troops, he was surrounded in Kohlu’s mountains and killed.

Musharraf writes that “this is a clear case of a self-inflicted casualty.” If that is so, why was his body not handed over to his family? Who locked his coffin? Or was it a “self-inflicted” decision by Nawab Bugti for his corpse to be locked in a wooden coffin?

Humiliation of even the dead is a deliberate policy. No respect is shown to elders, women, children and political dissidents. A Baloch with legitimate demands is regarded as a grave threat to Islamabad’s colonial policies in Balochistan and he is worth humiliating, jailing and killing.

Musharraf’s established rules of dishonouring the Baloch are still in practice by his military and paramilitary followers. Bullet-riddled mutilated corpses are evidence of that continuing mindset.

* * *

Part III: The real Balochistan

Musharraf admits “there is no doubt that Balochistan is the most backward and most deprived province of Pakistan. Successive governments since our independence are responsible for the neglect suffered by Balochistan.” On the other hand, in a glaring deviation from this statement, he simultaneously holds the Marris, Bugtis and Mengals responsible for Balochistan’s underdevelopment.

He gives the certificate of pro-Pakistan loyalty to the inhabitants of Makran, Khuzdar and areas up to Kalat. Ironically, although Musharraf does not see this, districts in Makran, including Lasbela, are listed as Pakistan’s least-developed districts. In other words, they suffered because of their pro-Pakistan loyalty?

Balochistan’s contribution to the country’s development bears no comparison. However, Balochistan’s immeasurable natural wealth and strategic significance proved to be a curse rather than a blessing for the Baloch people. Balochistan’s sufferings are shared one way or another by all sections of Baloch society. From workers of its political parties to its educated youths, down to the masses, all experience discrimination, oppression and injustices in everyday life.

Each region, town and village has its own story of neglect and exploitation. Balochistan’s miserable social and economic conditions are evident everywhere in the province: from the Baloch coast that has the three modern naval facilities, the Jinnah Naval Base at Ormara, Chaghai and Kharan (facilities from which the Baloch are excluded, though), to strategically significant regions such as that where the nuclear tests were conducted in 1998, to areas where copper and gold are mined, to the industrial town of Lasbela, to Sonmiani, where the facilities of the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) are located, to Dera Bugti, known for its high-quality gas production since 1953, to Quetta and Bolan, where coal is mined.

Ironically, all these areas host sophisticated military, paramilitary and naval facilities, but none has modern education, healthcare, electricity, gas, or opportunities of regular livelihood.

Having little participatory role, the people of Balochistan derive no benefits from the extraction of copper and gold deposits in their own province; nor from the mega-projects launched in Balochistan in the name of development, including those for gas, coalmining, Gwadar Port, Mirani Dam, and the coastal highway.

Balochistan fuels the national economy and helps save billions of dollars in foreign exchange in terms of energy import. But nearly 97 percent of Balochistan’s population lives without gas supply, 78 percent without electricity, and 62 percent without safe drinking water. Just 3.4 percent of the inhabitants of Balochistan are gas consumers, compared to 64 percent in Punjab – which happens to produce only 4.75 percent of Pakistan’s natural gas.

Balochistan, despite being the country’s major coal-producing province, is deprived of the benefits of the use of coal. During the One Unit days of the 1960s, when Lahore was the capital of what was then West Pakistan, 98 percent of coalmines of Balochistan were allotted to people having no affiliation with the province. Today local labourers in regions where coal is mined live without water, electricity, education or healthcare. However, Sheikhs and Parachas are immensely benefiting from the wealth generated by Balochistan’s coal.

The MoU signed by Islamabad with a Chinese company for the Saindak Copper-Gold Project is a glaring example of the misuse of Baloch wealth and of discrimination against the Baloch. Islamabad and the Chinese company are taking 50 and 48 percent of the profits, respectively, leaving only two percent for Balochistan. The Saindak project is no-man’s land for local Baloch youth and is guarded by non-Baloch Frontier Corps (FC). Gold-producing Chaghai is Balochistan’s poorest region.

Countless MoUs of such exploitative nature are inked with foreign and local companies for the exploitation of Baloch resources. These include the Duddar lead-zinc project and the Reko Diq copper-gold project. Oil and gas exploration licenses are given without regard for Baloch needs and demands.

Behind the mounting tension and mistrust between the Baloch and the federal government is Islamabad’s desire to get complete control over Balochistan’s strategic land and its energy resources without the participation of the Baloch.

The oppressive policies are not just confined to exploitation of Baloch wealth. The establishment is also engaged in constant efforts to marginalise the Baloch. Its support to religious parties is harming the social fabric of Baloch society.

Lacking political vision and a democratic culture, Islamabad’s establishment is governing Balochistan through a system that can only be described as “control.” This control is based on the approach of one ethnic group taking over the province, imposing its culture on Baloch society, allocating to itself the lion’s share of Balochistan’s resources and taking various measures, including military operations, to prevent the Baloch from organising politically.

Control works through three interrelated mechanisms: (a) divide and rule, through creation of rifts and division among the non-dominant groups; (b) economic dependence: making the inhabitants permanently dependent on the dominant group and central government for their livelihood; (c) co-option: involving sections of the non-dominant elite like greedy tribal chiefs and other feudal elements, intellectuals and politicians through partial dispensation of benefits and favours.

The military’s crackdown against moderate Baloch nationalists, intellectuals, students, poets, anti-establishment tribal elders, businessman and civilians is a reflection of a “zero tolerance” policy against ethnic Baloch.

An unemployed Baloch feels more deprived and victimised when an unskilled soldier on Balochistan’s soil is employed from another province to fill the position that is legally, naturally and constitutionally the right of a local Baloch youth.

Balochistan shares long borders with Iran and Afghanistan and has a 1,700-kilometre coastline. But border and coastal security is 100 entirely controlled by non-Baloch paramilitary forces. Around 70,000 jobs in the FC, the coast guard, the police, in maritime security and the Anti-Narcotics Force are occupied by non-locals, which leave thousands of qualified Baloch youths unemployed.

Therefore, Baloch bitterness is genuine; the continued plunder of Balochistan’s natural resources, its economic and political marginalisation and militarisation are the major causes of its rising instability and the mounting tension between the Baloch and Islamabad.

Islamabad’s reliance on brute force may help the central government create cosmetic, short-term calm, but unrest and frustration will remain and lead to still more distrust between the Baloch and Islamabad. Already the brutalities inflicted on Baloch political activists have resulted in a permanent fracture in Baloch-Islamabad relations.

Balochistan’s brimming resources, its strategic coastline, its huge territory and its location are central to the establishment’s strategic vision. However, in the rapidly changing geopolitical scenario, Islamabad’s overlooking the genuine concerns of the Baloch and its utter disregard for the interests and feelings of the people of the province will result in irreparable loss to the establishment itself.

The writer is a Baloch leader who resigned from the Upper House in protest against Islamabad’s discriminatory policies against Baloch people. He can be reached at

Faiz Baluch