Poverty, Ideology And Resistance — In Balochistan By Ayesha Siddiqa
What a chance for people like Dr Allah Nazar to make peace, get a cushy job as a senior executive in a pharmaceutical company and live life happily ever after.
The writer is a social scientist and author of Military Inc.
A fairly popular notion in Pakistan is that poverty drives people towards violence and militancy. There are at least a couple of research papers that seem to have given wind to such an argument. A study by the Sustainable Policy Development Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with the World Food Programme
found linkages between food insecurity and militancy. Another one by the Pakistan Institute for Development Economics (PIDE) found linkages between food insecurity, landlessness and violence. In both cases, Balochistan was seen as a place where this link was seen as being obvious.
Although the Balochistan chief minister might not have seen either of the two studies, he seems to have responded to the popular notion that poverty drives war and so offered jobs to the Baloch insurgents in the mountains. He has asked them to come down from their hideouts, lay down arms and that they will get jobs and a state pardon. What a chance for people like Dr Allah Nazar to make peace, get a cushy job as a senior executive in a pharmaceutical company and live life happily ever after. However, there are flaws in Aslam Raisani’s offer and the underlying argument that links poverty with militancy.
First, assuming that poverty was the main driver to have sent the Baloch up the mountains to resist the state, what is the mechanism for them to return given the fact that there is a huge trust deficit between the insurgents and the state? The fact of the matter is that the federal government has
failed to honour its own initiatives in the form of the Mushahid Hussain and the Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain missions. In fact, the state went ahead and killed Nawab Akbar Bugti even after pretending to talk. Today, there is no single neutral arbiter that both sides would trust.
Second, how can trust begin to develop as long as Balochistan is being flooded by other kinds of violent agents of the state like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD). The LeJ, in particular, is
going around killing the Hazaras and sowing seeds of discontent in a land where different communities did coexist much more peacefully in the past. The formula that one kind of militant may be allowed and not the other is not going to impress anyone.