Post Mortem of Grievances of Balochistan


by Asif Haroon Raja


When East Pakistan was part of Pakistan, it was much smaller in size than West Pakistan but was more populated. Common complaint of the Bengalis was that they being in majority were deprived of political empowerment and economic benefits and that West Pakistan was prospering at the cost of East Pakistan, which was rich in jute. Federal government and Punjab were projected as the villains who had made East Pakistan its colony. In March 1971, when full blown insurgency erupted, the Army was demonized and termed as an occupation Army involved in genocide and rapes. Bengali leadership sought Indian help to gain independence December 1971.

After four decades of that catastrophe, Balochis in Balochistan are now complaining that irrespective of the fact that the population of their province is the lowest as compared to other three provinces, it is the largest province and given a raw deal since budget allocation is done on the basis of population and not on area. Dissident Sardars keep referring to East Pakistan to convey their future designs. Federal government, Punjab and Army (mischievously called as Punjabi Army) are held responsible for their woes and demonized. Ongoing insurgency is in continuation of earlier insurgencies in Balochistan. It is raging since 2005 and is graver than the earlier ones since the three major Baloch tribes together with several nationalist Baloch leaders are taking part and it is supported by several countries. Wrath of the dissident Baloch is falling upon the unarmed innocent non-locals settled in Balochistan since ages.

Grievances of Baloch nationalists and dissidents have revolved around political and economic deprivation, provincial autonomy, control over natural resources, detention of political workers, bigger share in NFC, special quota in federal jobs, enhancement of royalty for gas, taking back decision to build cantonments in interior Balochistan, reducing Army’s presence, curtailing intelligence agencies role, attrition of Baloch identity and Balochis being reduced to minority due to heavy influx of outsiders. Later on, emphasis shifted towards missing persons, mutilated bodies and trial of Musharraf. Encouraged by foreign powers, the fugitive Baloch leaders are now demanding independence.

Economic and political deprivations, poverty, lack of education and justice because of exploitative rich class are common to all developing countries and are present even among the developed world. If interior Balochistan is a backward and neglected region, so is rural Sindh, southern Punjab, FATA, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir. Punjab with a better industrial base, communication network and business opportunities at the time of partition was better placed to make rapid progress as compared to other under developed provinces. Central Punjab is relatively more prosperous not because it is eating up major share of the federal budget but because Punjab is blessed with five rivers, agriculture is its backbone because of fertile land and people are very industrious. This dissimilarity is there in India as well as in all other developing countries. Poverty in some of the eastern states of India where insurgencies are raging because of the discriminative attitude of the Brahman rulers is far greater. Even in the economically and militarily strongest country USA, there are 99% poor and only 1% rich.

In Bangladesh, the poor segment of Bengalis that was poor in 1971 has gone poorer while the rich have grown richer. Most of the grievances aired by Mujibur Rahman and his cohorts proved to be perceived and false. Only 9% of Bengalis had sought independence while the rest were terrorised and quietened. Once they realized that they had been duped and had falsely been promised moon, and also saw the real face of India, they killed Mujib and his entire family and buried the whole lot in an unmarked mass grave. Hasina Wajid survived because she was abroad. Today, over 70% of the Bengalis are pro-Pakistan. Their love for Pakistan and hatred for India can be seen on the occasions of cricket matches taking place in Dacca, or when interactions take place. We in Pakistan do not curse them for treachery but understand that they had been misled and we love them and wish them well.

If Balochistan is backward and the Balochis cannot qualify in competitive exams, fault is of their own leaders who have intentionally kept the province backward and the people uneducated. Why so much of hullabaloo on Balochistan where the Sardars are tyrannical, repressive and averse to development? Isn’t it true that the Baloch Sardars are real exploiters and oppressors of Baloch people? I may like to remind Khan of Kalat Daood Sulemen Khan in exile that historically Khans of Kalat are Ahmadzai Pathans and not Baloch or Brahvis. Kalat was awarded by Ahmad Shah Abdali to Khan of Kalat in exchange for commitment to provide 9,000 troops for his Army. Later on, when the British captured India, they created Nawabs and Sardars all over the occupied country including the four states of Balochistan called Turan, which went under their suzerainty in 1854 through a pact for Rs 50,000. The titles were given to enable them to keep their respective tribes in control. Present day Balochistan came into being in 1970 after the breakup of One-Unit Scheme by Gen Yahya’s regime. Quetta and Kalat divisions were merged and named Balochistan.

All chief ministers of Balochistan have been/are Baloch Sardars? What have they done for the uplift of Balochistan? Have they not been receiving development budgets and gas royalty every year? Rs 250 million are being allocated to each minister in Balochistan Ministry for development each year. Where has all the money vanished? Nawab Akbar Bugti used to receive Rs 9 crores annually from the government but he didn’t spend a penny on his tribe. Isn’t it true that the Sui Gas Company employed 2000 Bugti tribesmen on paper and their salary including fake medical bills used to be pocketed by Akbar Bugti? He had shunted out Mastoi tribe from Dera Bugti since it had defied his oppressive policies. Long ordeal of the Mastois ended in 2007-08 when they were brought back and rehabilitated. None can deny that the Sardars and Nawabs are at the centre of the problem. They have been usurping development funds and kept their respective tribes illiterate and backward to keep them dependent upon them and to maintain Sardari system. They maintain private armies and jails to keep the people terrorised.

Power hungry and greedy Sardars instead of developing the province have remained engaged in inter-tribal war since ages. The most powerful tribes of Bugtis, Marris and Mengals were daggers drawn till as late as 2003. The US brought the warring Sardars together and made them turn their guns of hostility towards Pak security forces. Morally corrupt Sardars accepted the US offer to betray their country after they learnt that the US had made up its mind to convert Afghanistan into a permanent military station and had evinced keen interest in Balochistan. They sold their souls to the highest bidder in the hope of sharing the riches of the province with the US and its allies.

Why the uproar when there is general acceptance of neglect by the rulers and efforts are in hand to gradually remove the inequities of the province? Isn’t it a fact that with only 4.7% of Pakistan population, it is receiving 9% of the total federal budget? Haven’t Balochistan got the best share in NFC Award at the cost of Punjab? Isn’t the socio-economic package in the form of Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan a good beginning to address their inequities? Aren’t the Army, FC and Navy wholeheartedly engaged in bettering the lives of the rural Balochistan and inducting thousands of Baloch youth in armed forces and paramilitary forces? So how is it given a raw deal? Given the internal and external challenges faced by Pakistan, state of economy which is virtually on the verge of collapse because of the US imposed war on terror, sense of deprivations in several parts of Pakistan, it is humanly not possible to change the fortunes of Balochistan overnight, particularly when law and order situation in that province has almost broken down and performance of provincial government as well as of federal government is deplorable. How can worthwhile development works take place when a handful of insurgents working on foreign agenda have made the peace of Balochistan hostage to their acts of terror?

If the Baloch are complaining about military operation, the fact is that Gen Musharraf had ordered an Army operation in 2006 when the writ of the provincial government had been challenged and law and order had got seriously disturbed. The operation lasted for six months after which the Army withdrew and ever since the Frontier Corps assisted by Frontier Constabulary and Police have been assigned the task of maintaining law and order. The Army has no role to play in their employment. The Army is engaged in development and welfare jobs only. The FC is undertaking security duties and hardly a day passes without a skirmish with armed Baloch militants in interior Balochistan and its men getting killed or injured in the process. Foreign trained and equipped Baloch militants are involved in laying ambushes, attacking security check posts, laying explosive devices, abductions and target killings.

Military operations in actuality are being conducted by the Army in FATA and PATA since 2003 without a pause. The responsibility of security of FATA and other disturbed regions has been handed over by the federal government entirely to the Army. The rebellious tribesmen are fighting the security forces but are not demanding separation, or openly inviting foreigners to come to their rescue and make FATA independent. In Swat, the locals assisted the security forces in freeing the tourist resort from the clutches of terrorists. Operations in Balochistan were carried out in the past in response to open rebellion against the state and foreign powers had got involved. Isn’t it true that the history of Baloch is replete with treachery against the state? Haven’t they been hobnobbing with foreign powers and seeking their support to harm the interests of Pakistan? Moreover, the big question is who started the trouble in Balochistan in 2004? Haven’t the Baloch rebels been sabotaging gas pipelines, electric grids, railway lines and other installations causing loss of billions of dollars to Pakistan? Wasn’t Sui gas pipeline sabotaged 273 times causing loss of billions of dollars to Pakistan? Which government in the world would tolerate mutiny against the state and that too supported by foreign powers?

The other complaint is about target killings. It is not specific to Balochistan. Karachi has become notorious for target killings and not a single target killer has so far been punished. About the issue of mutilated bodies, phenomenon of dead bodies wrapped in jute sacks has remained in vogue in Karachi since 1986. Trend of abductions and missing persons is common to all provinces. Who started the process of ethnic cleansing of settlers and Hazaras? Haven’t the BLA, BRA and BLF been ruthlessly target killing non-local doctors, teachers, professors, businessmen, bankers and other professionals in the name of Baloch nationalism? BLA, BRA and Brahamdagh Bugti himself have been proudly claiming to have killed Punjabis. None including our partisan media talk of the horrors faced by the non-locals. Is blood of the non-locals thinner than the Baloch?

Hypothetically, if we accept that the FC or ISI is involved in murdering anti-state Baloch, the question is why they should mutilate the bodies and then dump them on the roadside for the public to see and fill their hearts with revulsion? It is like showing a red rag to the enraged bull and creating more problems for themselves. Logically, should they not be getting rid of the poison secretly and burying the dead in inaccessible areas? Public display of bodies and that too in mutilated form is done by those vested groups who want to rouse up emotions of the public and instil deep-seated hatred even among neutral and patriotic elements. There is no denying the fact that this grisly practice is the handiwork of foreign agencies with ulterior motives, or BLA/BRA. Vested interests are killing two birds with one stone by terrorizing the militants desiring to give up militancy and arousing Baloch nationalism by blaming security forces and agencies.

Concerning military cantonments, it is a fact that these help in bringing prosperity as in the case of cantonments in interior Sindh. Pannu Aqil Cantonment is a case in point. Quetta city, Hannah and Urak picnic spots owe their prosperity to Quetta Cantonment, and so does Sibi city to military garrison. Planned military cantonments in Sui and Kahan were not meant to benefit the Army but to remove sense of deprivation of those backward regions and also deter foreign adventurers. The plan has been abandoned and now Sui and Kahan are being developed as education cities by the Army. The suggestion to withdraw FC from undertaking counter insurgency is preposterous and mischievous. Have the rebellious Baloch leaders shown any flexibility or softness from their agenda of separation or agreed to talk? If not, why Balochistan should be handed over in a platter to the small band of separatists?

If the rebellious Sardars are daydreaming that the US would happily hand over the riches of Balochistan to them, they are sadly mistaken. So far there is not a single instance to quote where imperialist powers benefited the colluding traitors. They take away the lions share and leave the crumbs to the loyalists to chew at and in most cases they get rid of them and induct fresh lot of loyalists. Like the parasitical Sardars in Balochistan, Waderas in Sindh, Chaudhris in Punjab and Maliks in KP and FATA are also blood suckers. While Maliks and Chaudhris have to a large extent been bridled by the middle class, absence of this class in Sindh and Balochistan has enabled the Waderas and Sardars to retain their exploitative hold over the poor.

Apart from wholesome socio-politico-economic package directed towards uplift of the province to address genuine grievances of the Baloch, the foremost requirement is to break the cycle of insurgency. The first is to effectively seal all routes of supplies to insurgents from Afghanistan, India and Iran and their sources of funding dried up. Diplomatic pressure should be exerted on countries providing safe havens to Baloch leaders involved in terrorism to either extradite them or restrain them from indulging in anti-Pakistan propaganda. As long as funds and weapons keep pouring in, insurgency will not die down. From among patriotic Baloch which are in majority, nationalistic leaders should be lionized and through them the disgruntled Baloch leaders discredited. Urgent steps should be taken to abolish Sardari system. I am surprised as to why our media is only encouraging dissident Baloch leaders to explain their anti-Pakistan agenda in TV talk shows and not inviting patriotic Baloch which are in majority. From among the three million Baloch living inside Balochistan the rebellious elements are not more than 2500. Why no opinion has ever been gathered from 3 million Baloch living in Balochistan and 14 million Baloch residing in Punjab and Sindh by so many organisations like Transparency International, Pew etc? The great majority of Baloch, who are highly patriotic and honourable people, must be given all what they want, while the disgruntled elements should be sidelined with the help of patriots. Media will have to step forward and play its nationalistic role rather than playing to the tunes of foreign powers. If our federal and Balochistan governments have failed to expose involvement of foreign agencies, the media should do so. The police should be depoliticised and held responsible for allowing the target killers to play havoc and for failing to collect enough incriminating material and witnesses to get the arrested terrorists convicted by law courts.

The perception among the Baloch that Gen Musharraf had murdered their hero Nawab Akbar Bugti has sunk deep into their psyche. A murder case has been registered against him in Balochistan High Court and nothing short of his trial will satisfy them. Musharraf who disagrees with the charge should voluntarily appear before the court to clear his position. A fair and free trial will help in removing the misperceptions and mollifying the high tempers of the Baloch. It may be recalled that the Baloch insurgents had given up violence in 1978 after ZA Bhutto was unseated by Gen Ziaul Haq and charged with murder of Ahmad Raza Kasuri, and socio-economic uplift programs were initiated in Balochistan. We will have to find another Gen Rahimuddin type honest and dedicated administrator to sort out the mess of Balochistan.

Aslam Raisani and his corrupt and inefficient team members are involved in massive corruption, nepotism, car lifting and kidnappings and have no time to tackle the problems of the province for which they had been elected. Balochistan government’s apathy can be gauged from the fact that so far it has not passed a resolution to condemn the US Congress controversial bill seeking right of self-determination for the Baloch people. It is part of the problem and not the solution.

About the writer: Asif Haroon Raja is a freelance columnist and a historian. Email: [email protected]


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Brig Asif Haroon Raja an Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces WarCoursequalified, holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously. He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently. He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready. He is a defence analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defence and political matters for numerous international/national publications.