• Thursday 28th May 2020

Balochistan Quagmire Amit Ranjan

Objectively, this is not a situation in Balochistan only; most of the post-colonial states either have faced this sort of a problem or are still facing it

Balochistan is Pakistan’s restive province, where a movement for the right to self-determination and independence is going on since 1948. Last month in a hearing of a US Congressional Committee on foreign affairs, focusing on Pakistan, at least five members of the US congress belonging to both the Republican and Democratic parties supported the demands of the Baloch. That led to a war of words between Islamabad and Washington. Pakistani spin-doctors came out to defend the state establishment, blaming the US for interfering in Pakistan’s internal matter, which they considered as an attack on its sovereignty. Contrary to the Pakistani state establishment, the Baloch welcomed the attention paid by the US and the international human rights organisations to their plight.

Who is right and who is not and what is happening and what is not, would take pages after pages to discuss, argue and counter-argue, with no conclusion. However, of course, one thing everyone, including the establishment’s spin-doctors, has to accept is that the Baloch have tons of real grievances against their state. People from that region have fought five real wars against the Pakistani army and are still at virtual war with the establishment. The separatists’ leaders from that region never miss a chance to express anti-Pakistan sentiments from any platform they get. They want to have a sovereign Balochistan by taking the province out of Pakistan.

Objectively, this is not a situation in Balochistan only; most of the post-colonial states either have faced this sort of a problem or are still facing it. The reason for this is what Hamza Alvi said, “Overdeveloped state, underdeveloped civil society.” The colonial states after their independence came out with hefty promises but failed to fulfil them, which led people to rise against their ruling elite. Also at that time, the decision to choose people’s nationality was forced upon them by the colonial powers and the colonised native elite, without any consideration given to their choices. As independent countries came into being, the responsibility to build a nation fell on the shoulders of the ‘constructed’ majority, who took minorities for granted and instead of addressing their grievances, carried out atrocities to silence their voices. A lucky few, after making sacrifices and with the help of outside powers, got independence – erstwhile East Pakistan and now Bangladesh is a good example.

Coming to Balochistan, what options does the Pakistan government have to address the current impasse there? The incumbent government has done the right thing by formulating the 18th amendment to the Pakistani constitution, which has granted provincial autonomy by devolving 39 concurrent subjects to the provinces. Also under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, the share of Balochistan in the national resources has been raised to 10 percent from 4.3 percent. These are positive steps but not sufficient to address the decades-old grievances of the Baloch against their ruling elite.

That would require a tremendous amount of psychological and physical redress to the persistent anti-state feelings in the minds and hearts of the Baloch. The crimes carried out by anyone on anyone’s instruction must be taken seriously and the guilty must be punished for his crime. The Baloch are still seeking justice for the lady doctor who was raped by an army officer posted in the Sui area. That was just one reported case; many cases remain unreported and unknown, and justice remains elusive.

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