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The truth about Balochistan, Part II

The present Islamabad-backed sardars follow the establishment’s efforts to perpetuate the centre’s oppressive grip on Baloch society. It is the responsibility of the state, not a sardar, to promote people’s welfare.

Part - II

The power-hungry sardars and nawabs widely visible on Balochistan’s political scene are a by-product of the establishment’s long-term policies. These sardars derive their legitimacy from the civil-military establishment, and they misrepresent the Baloch people’s political aspirations.

The present Islamabad-backed sardars follow the establishment’s efforts to perpetuate the centre’s oppressive grip on Baloch society. It is the responsibility of the state, not a sardar, to promote people’s welfare.

Islamabad accuses the Baloch masses and the sardars of creating hurdles in the launch and progress of development projects. However, not a single instance has been cited as evidence that the Baloch resist or oppose educational, public-health and development projects.

When it comes to social and economic services, Pakistani policymakers always use countless excuses for their lack of attention to Balochistan, including its scattered population in a vast territory. But when it comes to the looting of its natural wealth and use of its strategic depth, nothing stops Islamabad from constructing massive tunnels in RasKoh Mountains in connection with the nuclear programme, or building naval bases all over the coast, carrying out gas exploration in the remotest parts of the province, and building airfields and cantonments.

But Islamabad has a clear policy of ‘controlled development’ in Balochistan. They allow development at a certain level and when they see the Baloch have grown socially, politically and even economically beyond the set parameters, harsh policies are implemented, including massive destruction by the use of the brutal security apparatus.

The only thing that bothers the Pakistani establishment is human development. Schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and communication are perceived as a threat to the colonial rule that Pakistan inherited from the British and maintains it through the sardars.

There is an assumption concerning the current Baloch uprising that it is foreign-backed, and that the Baloch are happy with the current state of affairs. But the Baloch struggle for political, social and economic rights is much older than Pakistan itself. Before the Subcontinent’s independence, the Baloch people fought around 120 large and small battles against the British colonialists.

The current uprising is a grassroots movement organised by Baloch nationalist parties. It started when the military regime aggressively expanded its control through the construction of more military cantonments and intensified exploitation of the natural wealth of the province.

The movement aims to stop Islamabad’s harsh and oppressive policies, practices and measures that have affected every aspect of Baloch life. Inequitable distribution of resources, wealth and power among culturally defined groups, such as ethnic and religious communities, will provoke a higher level of unrest.

The anger generated by discrepancies in conditions and expectation shortfalls are the main causes of the violent political reaction. The increasing ‘horizontal inequalities’ are well documented by leading international and domestic organisations. Branding genuine Baloch leaders as ‘foreign agents’ is a short-term strategy to suppress Baloch aspirations. However, such a policy will have irreversible consequences for long-term peace.

Another myth is that Balochistan is fully empowered and the province’s security, development and political affairs are in the hands of the locals. In reality, the so-called provincial government is entirely managed by the federal government and its powerful security apparatus.

Empowerment is the direct opposite of what the people of Balochistan are experiencing: systematic marginalisation. If we compare what the Baloch people confront in socio-economic-political terms with what other ethnic and national groups in Pakistan experience, we discover appalling disparities between the two.

The establishment carefully manages the political process in the province and ensures ‘election’ of politically insensitive and religious elements for the smooth continuation of its invisible rule.

Why does the Pakistani elite make claims about empowerment of the Baloch when Balochistan’s security is completely managed by officials and personnel from Punjab, Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? The large-scale presence of ethnically imbalanced military, paramilitary organisations and intelligence agencies are a cause of multiple tensions. In multi-ethnic states, the security apparatus needs to reflect the composition of the population.

Balochistan shares long borders with Iran and Afghanistan and has a 700-kilometre-long coastline. However, border and coastal security is completely manned by non-Baloch paramilitary forces. Around 130,000 jobs in the Frontier Corps, the Coast Guard, the navy, the police and the Anti-Narcotics Force are occupied by non-locals and this leaves thousands of Baloch youth unemployed.

Unlike in Balochistan, paramilitary forces in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are locally recruited. Their strength and leadership structure represent the composition of the local population. However, the security structure, the civil bureaucracy and the senior management in Balochistan neither represent the Baloch, nor reflect the local ethnic composition.

For a genuine effort to resolve the prolonged conflict and stop the bloodletting, the government needs to look beyond fabricated stories about life and society in Balochistan.

Together with ignorance and negligence, there are multiple reasons that are hindering the conflict-resolution process between Islamabad and the disgruntled Baloch. As long as falsities about Balochistan are disseminated by state authorities and endorsed by the Pakistani intelligentsia, prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict will remain bleak.


The writer is a former senator from Balochistan. Website:


Faiz Baluch