Gloomy picture of Balochistan
Posted on 11 months ago
Balochistan, the southwestern province of Pakistan is taking on increased importance in regional affairs because of its overwhelming geopolitical placement and magnificent underground wealth and natural resources.
Being the largest among Pakistan's four provinces, Balochistan carry 43 per cent of land area of the country but only six per cent of Pakistan's population or around 8 million people inhabit Balochistan of which Baloch make up 54.7 per cent of the population while 29 per cent are Pakhtuns.
Despite being the richest province in terms of energy and mineral resources, Balochistan remains one of the most backward and under-developed provinces with its people living in abject poverty and shabby circumstances.
The Baloch therefore have long been demanding greater autonomy and a larger share of the dividend from natural resources. Such mousy squeaks were listened throughout the course of time but denial was always clued on the part of successive governments of the state that's what today's ongoing conflict leads to.
It had candidly been stated in the 1973 Constitution that the concurrent list determining the quantum of provincial autonomy would be revised after every 10 years. This has never been done and the objective was never perceived in practical way.
The current unrest in Balochistan although pre-dates General Pervez Musharraf's military regime, it still remained unaddressed. Upon assumption of Presidency in October 1999, General Pwarvez Musharraf pledged to, among other things, work towards "strengthening the federation, removing inter-provincial disharmony and restoring national cohesion". However, seven years later, nothing was changed and the conflict was more intensified.
Presidency in Musharraf's time was determined to develop the area's oil and gas fields and launched mega projects and established new army cantonments in the province without taking into account local and provincial sensitivities.
General Musharraf, throughout his tenure adopted the 'carrot and stick' policy to augment the military presence in the province and at the same time increase the pace of development to weaken the resistance in the province.
In January 2005, military operation was carried out to quell the armed protests by tribal militias. The crisis intensified after Pakistan government launched full-scale military operations in December 2005 following firing of eight rockets at a paramilitary base on the outskirts of the town of Kohlu, a stronghold of the Marri tribe during President Musharraf's visit to the area on 14yh December.
The killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, President of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), in a massive military operation in the Bhambore Hills between Kohlu and Dera Bugti districts on 26th August, 2006, further escalated the spate of violence.
In 2005, Baloch leaders presented a 15-point agenda to the government that included greater control of resources, protection for Baloch minority and a halt to the building of military bases. However, President Musharraf showed little regard for their concerns. In 2006, Rs 4 billion share under the interim National Finance Commission was eaten up by additional expenditure on law and order, reduction in oil and gas production and higher pay and pension bill imposed by the federal government.
The government of Pakistan claimed that the ongoing development projects will benefit the Baloch besides creating job opportunities for them. But previous track record does not evoke any confidence.
On 28th August 2006, General Pervez Musharraf warned that the elements opposed to Balochistan's development would be crushed. Monitoring cells have been established in the Planning Commission in Islamabad and Quetta to monitor the projects.
Several mega projects in Balochistan, including Gwadar deep seaport, coastal highways between Karachi and Gwadar, Mirani and Subakzai dams, costing more than Rs 135 billion were started.
However, the Baloch fear that most of the jobs being created by the new port city of Gwadar and Saindak copper mining project will be given to non- Balochs and they alleged that 75% of their land have been acquired by serving military officers at throwaway prices.
Besides, the Baloch have not been benefiting from the huge reserves of mineral resources despite Balochistan producing about 36 per cent of natural gas of Pakistan.
Balochistan also faces high illiteracy problem with the average literacy rate of the population aged 10 years and above being only 36 per cent. On 10th July, 2006, the Government of Pakistan signed a US$ 22 million agreement with the World Bank for financing the Balochistan Education Support Programme (BESP) to improve access to quality primary education, in particular for girls.
The failure to implement the recommendations of the parliamentary subcommittee is another cause of estrangement of the Baloch. On 29th September 2004, a Parliamentary Committee headed by President of Pakistan Muslim League (Q), Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was formed to examine the current situation in Balochistan and make recommendations thereon.
The committee was subsequently divided into two sub-committees - one headed by Wasim Sajjad mandated to examine the question of provincial autonomy and the other headed by Mushahid Hussein Sayed mandated to address the immediate crisis in the province.
On 13th July 2006, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz after attending a meeting to review the status of implementation of the recommendations of the subcommittee on Balochistan led by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed stated that the government had started implementing 30 of the 35 recommendations made by the parliamentary sub-committee on Balochistan relating to political issues. However, he did not elaborate precisely which recommendations were being implemented. The sub-committee on constitutional issues headed by Wasim Sajjad had failed to submit its final report.
A fact-finding team of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which visited Balochistan in December 2005-January 2006, reported disappearances, torture, and other rights violations by the security forces.
Political leaders and party activists were often the targets. According to a report released on 12th December 2006 by the Balochistan National Party - Mengal faction, around 4,000 Baloch youth, mainly political activists were in custody of Pakistani intelligence agencies, although the government has reportedly admitted that a few Baloch have been detained.
It is pertinent to mention here that the case of missing persons in Balochistan is presented in the media with bluffing its part always. The issue must be subjected to a huge discourse to find out the facts and genuine information regarding the number of missing people and who the detainers are?
Balochistan crisis is a political problem which could only be resolved through dialogue. By using brute force, the Government of Pakistan has been trying to bulldoze provincial autonomy. It's high time for the government to move towards the resolution of Baloch conflict.
comments powered by Disqus
More Opinion NEWS
- A game changer in Pak politics
- Free media: blessing or curse
- Dar may link economy with politics
- Democracy,terrorism and uncertainty
- Prospects of Sino-Afghan cooperation
- Major challenges facing new rulers
- Janata Party neither united nor untainted
- Pakistanís electoral equation
- Taliban are inside our hearts
- Lets close fronts and make peace