Baluchistan and its problems

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By Samuel Baid

This is what I do believe while studying the overall situation in Balochistan that Pakistan has two unique ways of trying to deal with its domestic problems: (1) create them if they do not already exist and try to solve them with military action – even if it means bombing its own people, as in Baluchistan, East Pakistan in 1971 and its tribal areas in 2010 (2) Blame an external power for its domestic problems and thus create a smokescreen of hysteria to hide its own mischief and incompetence. In the past one decade or so Pakistan has found a third way, enforced disappearances as in Baluchistan and Sindh.

An old-age woman is displaying picture of his missing relative Mohammad Hassan Qamrani during a demonstration on Ist August 2020. (Picture courtesy Baloshitan Times. According to the newspaper, families of Baloch missing persons organised a rally in Quetta today against enforced disappearances. The BBC in a report yesterday quoted rights group @HRCBalochistan as saying at least 20,000 Baloch activists have been “disappeared” since 2000, and about 7,000 of them are dead. But the government sources have denied these figures.

The focus here is on Baluchistan where the Army resorts to all these three methods – create a problem, deal with it with military action, and blame India, Afghanistan and even its own benefactor, the United States for trouble in this province. That Pakistan first creates a problem and then tries to deal with it militarily may sound an exaggeration to some readers. But see how the Baluch problem was aggravated.

The Baluch did not want to join Pakistan in 1947, but creator of this country Mohammad Ali Jinnah assured them that their culture and language would be safeguarded, although in East Bengal he would tell the Bengali students that in Pakistan there would be no language other than Urdu. In Sindh, his government would not even give respect to Sindhi language. Thus he created three problems in one breath – one in Baluchistan by making a false promise, two, in East Bengal by hurting Bengalis’ sentiments about their language and, three, in Sindh.

It is now all history what happened in East Bengal. In Baluchistan the military had no patience with Jinnah’s policy of negotiating with Baluch leaders. It bombed Kalat and occupied Baluchistan. Since then Pak military actions have become this province’s fate. Whatever Pakistan’s constitution may say, this province and its people since then have been treated as conquered territory and conquered people. As such, they have no right to their natural wealth, so much so that they have no freedom to rule their own province.

Former Governor of Baluchistan Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed along with his followers in the bombing from the Army from demanding Baluch right to the province’s natural resources. Now a son of province’s former Chief Minister Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal has made the same demand.  Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal has questioned Pakistan’s right to earn from leasing out Baluchistan’s gold and copper mines without sharing the money with the province. 

He is the President of the Baluchistan National Party (BNP). His demands in fact target China’s exploitative interests in his province. China has been taking away gold from Baluchistan. A few years ago, Provincial Assembly members protested that China had been digging gold more than it had contracted for. Sardar Mengal demands that 50 per cent profit from any agreement on the Reko Dig Gold Mine should be given to Baluchistan otherwise the province would not accept any agreement.

QUETTA: The members of Balochistan Union of Journalist (BUJ) protesting in front of Quetta Press Club against the killing of senior TV journalist Athar Mateen in Karachi last week. The alleged killer has reportedly been arrested from Khuzdar in Balochistan.
(INP photo Ahmed Bhatti)

In this demand of Mengal lurked the whole gamut of Baluch grievances. He said the province supplied 46 per cent (now only 15 per cent) gas to the entire country but Baluch women still gather firewood to cook food. China has been taking copper from the Saindak Copper Mine Project. He said work on this project started just to loot natural resources of the province instead of providing jobs.

He said his party had opposed the Rat-Dero-Gwadar highway project in 1999 because it would exploit the province. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was launched with so many promises to Baluchistan but the fact is that there is no drinking water, electricity and jobs, in Gwadar. On the other hand, foreign vessels were exploiting resources of Baluchistan, he said.

The above facts show that the problems of Baluchistan are not the creation of its people but of the government to create insurgency-like situation to find an excuse for frequent Army operations and for its intelligence activities involving enforced disappearances and killing.

We come to the second point of this article: blame an external power for the self-created domestic problems and build a public hysteria. In the first week of January 2022, the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) reacted ferociously against an Army camp in Punjgur which, the BLA said was responsible for enforced disappearances and killing of Baluch young people. The BLA claimed it killed 70 army men. In other claim, it said 100 security persons were killed in another raid on a camp in Nauski. The Army said 20 militants were killed and the militants had links with India-Afghanistan.