Violence in Balochistan


Mir Mohammad Ali

The specter of violence looms large on the horizon of Balochistan and threatens to once again engulf this historically volatile province. The portents are ominous and gloomy because the opposing sides have adopted intransigent attitudes and do not even seem willing to have serious discussions regarding the contentious issues that continue to widen the rift.

The position and the stance of both the sides have become more inflexible since the failure of half-hearted attempts by half-baked, essentially rustic politicians of the ruling party to promote dialogue between the Baloch and the rulers. The promises and assurances, though doubted from the start, were given a reluctant try by some Baloch, but unfortunately even these were not kosher with the powers that really matter in this equation. This has only helped in creating more misgivings in the minds of the Baloch people, who always have been wary of promises and assurances.

The recommendations of the parliamentary sub-committee headed by Mushahid Hussain regarding the gas royalty, the NFC award, concurrent list and provincial autonomy were rejected by the nationalist parties. The more important sub-committee headed by Wasim Sajjad to address constitutional issues with a view to suggest required amendments in the Constitution, is still in limbo. No wonder some important Baloch leaders who really matter had not even deemed them worthy of trying.

A few days ago there was a news item in a national daily reported by Sarfaraz Ahmed in which Akbar Bugti said there is a buildup of troops in Sui and Dera Bugti and they want to encircle the area. He added that there was no contact between him and Tariq Aziz, the close aide of General Musharraf. He termed the latest developments as a second round of action against him. Last July’s clashes in Dera were termed by Bugti as an attempt to eliminate him. This development is a cause for serious concern for all the Baloch, regardless of the fact whether they support Akbar Bugti or not. It should be understood that although Akbar Bugti considers actions in and around Dera Bugti as actions against himself, the Baloch consider these actions as aggression against all Baloch people. Consequently any renewed violence in Dera Bugti and Sui will evoke an adverse reaction from all over Balochistan.

The above development may have been seen as just another ham-handed attempt to cut the Baloch down to size as is frequently done, but for another news item in the same daily. It is a press release by the Frontier Corps stationed in Dera Bugti. It is more than a routine press release and contains ominous overtones of the mindset that is calling the shots in that blighted province. Alleging harassment of people by Akbar Bugti and others, it says that people are migrating from Dera Bugti and children are facing difficulties in receiving education because of the ban imposed on children by Akbar Bugti and others on their attending the FC school.

More significantly it adds that some people of the area wanted to include their donations for relief supplies in the “Karawan-e-Mohabat Train” set to depart from Quetta, but were forbidden by Akbar Bugti and others. It then says: ‘The elements who remain selfish and avoid helping their compatriots at such a critical time are not at all mourning the incident.’ This release ends on a laudatory note for Pakistan Petroleum Limited, which sent two trucks of relief goods. It considers two truckloads of relief goods from those who earn billions from Balochistan as a great contribution.

Things aren’t too rosy on the action front as well. A national daily reported that in the Dilband area of Mastung, the installation of Bolan Mining Enterprises, which cooperates with PPL and Government of Balochistan in extracting iron ore, was attacked by some people who after disarming the security guards destroyed machinery worth 50 to 60 million rupees. The reason behind such violence is that the rganizations carrying out these economic activities are suspect in the eyes of local people as no benefits trickle down. Turbat too has seen increased activity and very recently there was an explosion in a house which left three persons dead. There has been sporadic violence and a convoy too was attacked; claims for these actions have been made by clandestine organizations with the titles of Balochistan Liberation Front and Balochistan Liberation Army. They certainly aren’t a figment of someone’s imagination but a natural result of the real and perceived injustices against the Baloch people.

The arrests and detentions of Baloch political and other persons on flimsy pretexts have become widespread in the province. The increasing influx of non-locals into Gwader and other mega-project areas has increased the sense of alienation and deprivation amongst the already embittered people. The provincial government, instead of safeguarding the rights of the people is more interested in serving and perpetuating itself. It is not only a passive onlooker of the violations but actively connives with the Centre to deprive the people of their rights and submits to every indignity including the appointment of a non-local Governor as long as it is allowed to remain in power.

The Baloch leadership, who are conveniently termed as warlords to present them as villains of the piece, cannot be wished away into oblivion by supposing that they simply do not exist or that the people do not support them. A meaningful dialogue needs to be initiated, the demands of the people met, and their fears addressed in a just manner. This will only be possible when there is a change in the mindset of the rulers.

If peace, tranquillity and stability are desired for Balochistan and are to become a permanent part of the social and political scene there, then hard choices will have to be made by the rulers. As a beginning, detainees held incognito without charge should either be brought before a court or released forthwith. Concrete measures are required to put the doubts of the Baloch people about Gwadar and other mega-projects at ease.

No one should expect the Baloch to submit meekly to the injustices and indignities that they are made to suffer in the name of national interest. There has always been overt resistance to the high-handedness and callousness of the past and present governments. Similar resistance cannot be ruled out for the future. Balochistan has always been a powder keg with a very short fuse and this fuse keeps getting shorter with the passage of time, thanks to the casual manner in which its people and their aspirations have been treated.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

This article was first published in The Post on 09 July 2007

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