Balochistan discourse: the tale of dominant narratives

Balochistan discourse

When it comes to the Balochistan discourse, there is always a built-in and dominant narrative that represents the ‘selected’ side of the matter — be it political, social or economic

By: Noor Ahmed Baloch

These days Balochistan is in news for two reasons. One, for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar, which gets a great deal of coverage in mainstream media; two, a combination of multiple problems, including the ongoing insurgency, which is a point of little discussion in media. Nonetheless, the historical background of Balochistan reveals much, and its current state of affairs is beyond how it is viewed. The other day in a discussion regarding Balochistan, a friend raised a very valid point saying that as much as Balochistan is rich in terms of natural resources, it is also rich in manpower and talent. There is much truth to that. But what really counts a great deal is how that is being utilised, facilitated and given the due space.

When it comes to the Balochistan discourse, there is always a built-in and dominant narrative that represents the ‘selected’ side of the matter — be it political, social or economic — that the region witnesses. For instance, the word ‘naraaz’ (angry) Baloch is used to describe the insurgents. This may have been used to spread misconceptions, or to put the real issues under the carpet. Recently, in a conference on the CPEC, in a university in Islamabad, a Pakistani PhD scholar from a university of France lectured, “Balochistan faces a civil war, which is a challenge.” Closely looking into this narrative of that academician one can come to a conclusion that either he knew very little about Balochistan, or that there was a set agenda behind such a presentation. The latter reason is the most probable.

Much political misunderstanding exists, and it will only intensify if political affairs are intentionally presented in a certain way. Like all others, the education section too comes under a dominant narration. ‘The most backward’, for instance, is the phrase mostly used in educational reports regarding Balochistan. Here, I do not undermine the statistics about out-of-school children and ghost teachers, the unfortunate reality about many schools in Balochistan. In creating this abysmal condition of the education sector, local political elites and government policies have played a collective role. The phenomenon of ghost teachers has the patronage of politicians, and it does not stop there. A huge number of headmasters are appointed because of their political associations, and the ultimate victims are the masses.

On the other hand, private sector has been doing well in many parts of the province, although its presence is limited in Balochistan on the whole. Notwithstanding that disadvantage, the efforts of the private sector have not been acknowledged either by media or by government.

It is essential to illustrate the example of the noted institution, the Delta Academy, which was established in 2001 in the district Kech. Introduction of English language teaching has been a great initiative, as it motivated students and teachers to pursue higher studies. A great number of students are in various universities across Pakistan. Many Delta alumni have opened their own institutes in different, far-flung, areas of the province, and the educational services are truly commendable. The truth is Balochistan is in dire need of good educational institutions.

Under these circumstances it is safe to say that Balochistan has been isolated from the mainstream media discourse. There is very little critical discussion, and only a narrow space is given to it. The presence of independent media outlets in the vast region of Balochistan, which stands for none except Vsh news (Balochi news channel), often goes off on account of lack of advertisements. The condition of journalists working in Balochistan is abysmal. The past record of killing journalists with impunity marks the region as one of the most dangerous zones for journalists in the world. Performing journalistic activities truthfully and dutifully means battling with life and death, as journalists face pressure tactics from many powerful quarters. The national news channels have limited the number of their reporters in Balochistan, and have offices only in the capital city of Quetta.

Therefore, that is how political, educational and media affairs take place in an environment of enforced silence. Hiding the true face of issues and setting a dominant narrative that is untrue, biased and agenda-driven is never the solution. With a view to dealing with grappling crises, it is necessary that there should be room for intellectual discourse, fair media participation, and a fully functional government. Distancing the people from their rights and truth will never bear any long-term benefit. And that is the simple truth the state of Pakistan must acknowledge to mitigate the deep-seated sense of isolation, discrimination, and persecution of the people of one of its provinces: Balochistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist

Courtesy: Daily Times

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