A snapshot of Balochistan
Balochistan faces a multitude of problems, including worsening human rights violations, economic stagnation, Talibanisation, sectarian targeted killings, political assassinations, abductions for ransom, mass migration, deteriorating health and education infrastructures, mismanagement of natural resources, skyrocketing corruption, bad governance and institutional breakdown. These issues combined have brought the province to the verge of total collapse.
Balochistan is the victim of a deliberate disorder – a crisis that is no longer under the control of the authorities. The intention was to poison the social, political, cultural and ethnic fabric of the province.
In the past the province witnessed frequent conflicts with the central government on issues pertaining to the Baloch identity, political rights, economic exploitation, and over-involvement of government agencies in its affairs. Politically focused Baloch groups never used criminal tactics to harm civilians. An unwritten Baloch code, known as rawaj, has been the guiding principle for tribes and individuals. A Baloch violating the code during times of peace and conflict is no more regarded as a trusted and loyal individual in Baloch society.
It is evident that the root causes of the current wave of criminality and sectarian killings, and the rise of cases of kidnapping for ransom are not due to the political conflict between the Baloch and Islamabad. The source of social chaos is the government and its appendages.
During the resurgence of the conflict, Islamabad’s powerful elite hampered and discouraged any conflict resolution efforts, opting for a conflict escalation mechanism. This misguided policy was used to intimidate people and silence dissenting opinions. Failing to achieve its objective through brute force, Islamabad invented a new policy to create massive social disorder to bamboozle Pakistanis and the international community concerning the Baloch people’s genuine political grievances.
Events that occurred after 2005, and particularly during the PPP’s tenure, are a grim reminder of a state-sponsored policy of organised chaos.
Let us start with journalists. During the past four years as many as 24 journalists have been killed in Balochistan, and none of the perpetrators been apprehended. Almost all the journalists killed were local ethnic Baloch reporters and cameramen covering the missing persons’ issue, and highlighting corruption and other illegal activities of state agencies. The Vienna-based press watchdog IPI said that “impunity is fuelling the murders and, tragically, the likelihood that the perpetrators will be brought to justice is close to zero.”
Balochistan is well-known for its worsening health infrastructures and indicators. The recent surge in killing and in kidnapping of doctors in the province will worsen the health crisis in the impoverished province. A senior official of the provincial doctors’ association recently revealed that “twenty seven doctors have been killed and 12 more kidnapped for ransom in the past five years in the province. Dozens of senior and junior doctors have left for Europe and the Middle East.”
Kidnapping for ransom has become a profitable business for government-backed criminals and political aspirants, including religious extremists. Not a single perpetrator of these gruesome crimes has ever been arrested and tried. The provincial home minister once claimed that cabinet members were involved in criminal activities, but no action has ever been taken. Since government agencies abduct or kidnap political dissidents with the assistance of criminal gangs, the criminals then feel secure while abducting Hindu traders, doctors and businessmen. Unchecked kidnappings compelled hundreds of Hindus and members of other minority communities to migrate from Balochistan to neighbouring provinces.
Target killings and victimisation on the basis of religion have skyrocketed. The Hazara community has been persecuted ruthlessly. Had the perpetrators been apprehended, the killings would not have escalated.
In the total absence of moderate political elements, Talibanisation is in progress and could destroy Balochistan’s centuries-old moderate political culture. According to the May 2012 fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Balochistan, Talibanisation is increasing in several areas of the province and in some cases security forces are perceived to be patronising extremism, turning Quetta into a haven for militants. Afghan militants have encroached on government land to the east and west of Quetta. The huge compounds, provided with basic amenities, are seen as a clear indication of the government’s support to these elements.
The Islamabad-based Conflict Monitoring Centre’s report released recently revealed shocking facts about the Taliban’s presence, activities and threats in the province. The report said that “Talibanisation has touched a dangerous level in Balochistan.”
Human rights violations have assumed epidemic proportions. A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2011 exposes the brutal and inhumane tactics used by Pakistan’s security agencies to suppress Baloch nationalists. It documented widespread use of enforced disappearances in Balochistan and reveals how the security forces use kidnappings, torture, and extrajudicial killings to terrorise the long-suffering Baloch people into submission.
HRCP’s fact-finding report, titled ‘Balochistan: Blinkered Slide into Chaos,’ depicts a horrifying human rights scenario in the province. According to the report, the state is victimising political activists, doctors, intellectuals, poets, teachers, students and other members of Baloch society.
Balochistan has suffered immensely in the past six decades. It is time to redress its grievances and end systematic oppression and exploitation of the Baloch people through a genuine and credible process. Genuine peace – one not enforced through the security apparatus – will produce an assortment of positive outcomes.
The writer is a former senator from Balochistan. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Political revolt is our right’ Sana Baloch
‘Political revolt is our right’
KARACHI, June 29: When there is extreme oppression, discrimination and human rights violations, the reaction to that also becomes extreme, said the self-exiled central leader of the Balochistan National Party Sanaullah Baloch via a video-conferencing system from Geneva, Switzerland, while explaining the causes of insurgent movements in Balochistan to an audience at The Second Floor (T2F).
Mr Baloch and Mir Sohaib Mengal, the London-based Baloch Students Organisation-Azad central executive committee member who is studying accountancy there, joined the informal talk, which was a second session of the Balochistan discussion series, on Thursday evening.
Author and journalist Mohammad Hanif moderated the session.
Giving a short overview of the Balochistan issue, including the problem of lack of representation of ethnic Baloch in the politics of that province, Sanaullah Baloch compared the policies of the Pakistani establishment to those of the British.
He said: “This new colonialism is not going to work. You are no better than us. Let us solve the problems of our own people.”
When Mr Hanif asked what separated the current insurgency from the previous ones, Mr Mengal responded: “Armed struggle by the Baloch started in 2000 when the military dictatorship took over.
“Now communication technology and the media have made it possible for people to communicate news and create awareness. The movement has shifted from the villages to the cities.”
Then the moderator sought their opinion on the fact that there seemed to be two schools of thoughts regarding the Baloch insurgency — one fighting for fair representation in the government and the other wanting absolute independence from Pakistan.
The BNP leader said: “Even when the nationalists are non-violent and moderate, the establishment isn’t willing to accept them. And their strategy is to eliminate them. The ground for the Baloch is being squeezed and has become narrow. There isn’t a lot of space for them to
express themselves politically.
“These two movements will eventually merge and become one,” he opined.
Asked what in their opinion the establishment hoped to achieve through a policy of kidnap and murder, Mr Baloch said: “I really don’t think anybody in the establishment is really bothered or loves Balochistan. They are after the economic resources of Balochistan.
“Establishing ‘Strategic Depth’ by force in Balochistan is of no use,” he added.Mr Baloch said that things would have been different if the establishment had changed their policy and brought about educational, political and economic empowerment in Balochistan.
Over the past 20 years, according to him, Balochistan has developed an aware and educated class that doesn’t base its ideologies on emotions alone. “They are aware of what they have and what they are being denied and how they are being mistreated,” he said.
“Political revolt is our right. They take our resources and establish army bases and cantonments… there are no proper schools, colleges or hospitals. There are more madressahs in Balochistan than there are schools though historically and culturally, Balochistan has never been religious.”
When Mr Hanif asked if they believed their movement would be able to bear fruit without foreign funding or support from other nation states, Mr Mengal responded: “If there had been foreign funding, this movement would have been on a very large scale.”
Mr Baloch added: “We’ve lost what we had to lose. We don’t want any more bloodshed. If the Pakistani establishment wants, it can present peaceful solutions, but it must adopt a proactive approach to do that before it’s too late.”
Understanding Baloch Insecurity in Pakistan
Thursday, June 07, 2012
A high-level meeting on Balochistan has been chaired by the prime minister and attended by the top military and intelligence officials. There was the same rhetoric: “Balochistan’s concerns will be resolved through dialogue, the issue of missing persons will be thoroughly reviewed and concrete steps will be taken for its solution.”
The meeting also reinforced the position that no military operation is underway in the province, missing persons are reunited with their families and the IDPs already resettled, and that the Frontier Corps will be placed under provincial control.
In fact, all is not well in Balochistan. Baloch professionals, political leaders, students, journalists, professors, doctors and lawyers are being killed and dumped. Human rights organisations, the Supreme Court and all the victims point a finger at the non-Baloch security apparatus, composed of the Frontier Corps, the Coast Guard and intelligence agencies for human rights crimes. There is a systematic policy under implementation in the province of eliminating Baloch nationalists.
The Baloch-state gulf has widened during the last six decades. There hasn’t been any genuine and sincere effort to address Baloch insecurity in Pakistan. Along with political and economic issues, the foremost concern of the Baloch people is their collective insecurity. The major problem is the large-scale presence of an ethnically imbalanced military, paramilitary organisations and intelligence agencies. In a multiethnic state, the security apparatus needs to reflect the composition of the population.
Balochistan shares long borders with Iran and Afghanistan and has a 700-kilometre-long coastline. However, border and coastal security is completely manned by non-Baloch paramilitary forces. Around 130,000 jobs in the Frontier Corps, the Coast Guard, the Navy, the police and the Anti-Narcotics Force are occupied by non-locals. Unless this very genuine concern of the Baloch is addressed, no initiative and dialogue will prove productive.
During his visit to Quetta in August 2011, Gen Kayani defended the much criticised role of the intelligence agencies and the military and paramilitary forces and said that the armed forces were not involved in killings and dumping of mutilated bodies in the province. He said that “the army has nothing to do with mutilated bodies being recovered in Balochistan and no military operation is being carried out in any part of the province.” In July 2011, Quetta Corps Commander Lt-Gen Jawed Zia also defended the military. This is a dangerous state of denial. Despite well-documented cases of crimes against the Baloch people, the military and paramilitary forces repeatedly disown their involvement in any such human rights violations.
The repressive behaviour of the non-Baloch security apparatus is acceptable as long as its actions are directed against the Baloch, rather than the population at large. Excuses are made for the rouge behaviour of the security forces because the establishment and the elite in Pakistan feel that Baloch consciousness is a major threat to “national security.”
In fact, the conflict in Balochistan is complex, encompassing all critical elements, including the imbalanced security structure. It’s a known fact that five prolonged conflicts between the Baloch and Pakistan were caused by the security forces, and particularly due to the bad behaviour of the Frontier Corps towards the Baloch people.
Since the 1980s the FC has been granted powers under the Customs Act to control and monitor the economic, trade and border movements of the Baloch – a duty which is being performed by the customs authorities in other provinces. Across Balochistan there are more than 1,500 FC check posts. The heavy deployment of forces and their harsh attitude towards the population have made it impossible for the Baloch population to grow economically, develop socially and perform politically.
Many Baloch rightly question that if the Frontier Corps is going to perform all state functions such as policing, customs and border security, what is the need to have the police, provincial governments and other state institutions? The biased structures of the Frontier Corps, the Coast Guard and the police indicate serious discrimination against the local population. Apart from Balochistan, the structure and composition of the paramilitary forces in the rest of the country is fairly balanced.
In spite of the terrifying law and order situation in the rest of the country, the number of security personnel and their check posts are very few elsewhere in Pakistan. But, even during the pre-conflict period, Balochistan witnessed extraordinary presence of non-Baloch security forces, with hundreds of check posts.
For instance, the Rangers in Punjab and the Frontier Constabulary in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa predominantly consist of members of the local population. The FC in Balochistan has around 60,000 personnel, largely drawn from Fata, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
Moreover, since the very creation of Pakistan, the Baloch people have been demanding that the FC’s colonial structure be replaced with a security model of multi-ethnic federal countries, where paramilitary or civil-armed forces belong to the respective regions and represented by the local population to create a sense of security.
Sensitive, responsible and unbiased security forces can play a role in mitigating conflicts and facilitating peaceful solutions without damaging the ethnic, social and cultural fabric of society. However, the role of the Frontier Corps indicates otherwise. Historically, they have been the cause of the conflict.
The writer is a former senator from Balochistan. Email: email@example.com
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