The Current Situation of Balochistan

The current scenario in Balochistan has been building up for quite some time now, especially since
the federal authorities in Pakistan started developing Gwadar Port with road and rail links as part
of an ambitious project to provide a surface trade link with Central Asia through Chaman,
Kandahar and across Afghanistan into Central Asia via the Silk Route. This was a fashionable idea
during Nawaz Sharif's tenure in the late 1990s. Chinese patronage further boosted this initiative
and it continued after General Musharraf's takeover.
Balochi resistance to defy efforts by the federal government were initially limited to the nationalist
fringe that came out with the traditional interpretation that even if it brought development to
Balochistan, it would ultimately favour the Punjabis. However, the Balochi resistance submerged
in the Islamist fervour that surfaced in the wake of post-9/11 'war on terror' in the neighbourhood.
The current Balochi disaffection grew in the aftermath of the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan
and the establishment of US bases in Pasni, Gwadar, Dalbandin and Jacobabad in Sindh. This was
not so much because of the US military presence, but because the Musharraf administration
decided to establish some army cantonments in Balochistan, under the pretext of contributing to
the war on terror.
This was part of a larger plan to consolidate the army's position in the border provinces. The army
as well as the MMA-led government in Balochistan could not effectively counter the Balochi
nationalist argument put forth by the Pakistan Oppressed Nations' Movement, that the building up
of cantonments would help the Punjabis in strengthening their control over the Balochis and their
territory. The imperiousness with which the federal administration dealt with the legitimate
demands of the Balochis, that they should be given preferential treatment in recruitment for the so-
called developmental activities, hardened their sentiments further. In a way, General Musharraf
obliged Balochi nationalists with a cause they were desperately looking for to resuscitate the
nationalist resistance.
The problems that the resistance movement may encounter in the coming weeks could, however,
come from within. It will be difficult to sustain the tenuous pan-Balochi unity, cutting across
divisions on the lines of tribes, clans and even ethnicity (Baloch-Brahui). At another level, the
Islamist enthusiasm of the majority Pushtuns in northern Balochistan, which seems to have
infected many Balochis in the Balochi-dominated corners in the western, central and southern
Balochistan, is also diluting the nationalist position and making the army intrusion in the name of
anti-terrorist operation look more legitimate and creating more enemies than friends for the
movement outside. In the Pakistani media, the insurgency in Balochistan is not given the attention
it deserves. However, according to Pakistani sources, there is a suspicion in Pakistan that the army
is deliberately provoking the Balochis, fully aware of their sense of disaffection, to prepare the
case for the ouster of the MMA government in the province.
It has been a constant refrain of many analysts close to the Pakistani establishment to try and drag
India into the internal troubles in Pakistan and invent an Indian hand even behind the sectarian
killings on the occasion of Muharram in Quetta. Such inventions have hardly helped to bring down
the temperature in Balochistan. The authorities in Pakistan will have to be sensitive to the genuine
demands placed on the federal government by the Balochis, rather than seeking to quell any show
of resistance through force alone. History is witness to the fact that suppression kindles such
Balochistan as a whole has been spared the bloodshed, terror and brutalisation of civil society
witnessed in Sindh and Punjab until the recent rocket and bomb attacks over the past few months.
From all the reports appearing in the press, the local administration and security forces seem to be
at a loss as to the identity of the perpetrators. This confusion is a reflection of the apathy of the
internal security agencies towards law and order in a province that has seen four civil wars.
The federal government too needs to play a positive role in deescalating the tension between the
provinces and centre, while the provincial government needs to patronise and help the forces that
are demanding development, and groups that oppose the dismemberment of Pakistan. As
suggested by Kamal Matinuddin, the feelings of deprivation, discontent and marginalisation can be
mitigated with a concerted effort at both the federal and provincial level. Royalties, duties,
development surcharges and other levies owed to the province by the centre must be paid.
Development work should be carried out in the fields of infrastructure development, water for
irrigation and drinking, education, health and productive economic activity

Sami Baloch (Noshki)
Azat Foundation Balochistan