The Balochistan government has offered general amnesty to the warring youth in the province. Cash rewards were offered to entice those who are ready to renounce violence. This generous offer reminds us of an even rosier package of Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan a few years ago. Hardly anybody knows any tangible outcome of the much trumpeted package.
Amnesty and appeasement packages will not yield results until a multidimensional course correction approach is adopted. Violence in Balochistan has refused to subside. The provincial government led by a nationalist party has taken pains to fetch militants from the mountains to the negotiating table but without any significant fruition.
Sporadic news of capitulation by a few beleaguered commanders could not drastically alter the overall security landscape of the province.
The current spell of insurgency is now almost a decade old. No one has accurate figures of fatalities and disappearances. Inflated figures are a norm in such situations. However, the severity can easily be gauged even without digits. In fact, numbers only partly narrate the convulsion and gravity of the situation on ground.
Balochistan is no more a local or national issue. It has become a chessboard of regional game players.
Involvement of foreign hands is not a mere canard that can be debunked as rhetoric. In a country that has remained a surrogate battlefield for decades to serve interests of global powers, any conflict of this ferocity cannot be a purely localised phenomenon. However, it would be equally inept to dismiss the deplorable local realities. Use of force can be a double-edged sword. If triggers of conflict are not addressed, suppression by gun power will prove ephemeral. This is not the first insurgency in the province. Each time triggers of the insurgency were ignored amid the euphoria of triumph, the conflict resurrected after a brief hiatus of few years.
Foreign hand is not the only factor shaping the current state of affairs. It is rather an accumulated indignation of several decades that has ostracised the local population from the mainstream business of the state. Bringing them back to the national fold needs remedial and not repressive measures.
The province had been an energy basket of the country since early 1950s that spurred industrialisation in the country, but regrettably people in the province continued to live in primitive ages.
In May 2014, a startling disclosure was made in the upper house of the parliament. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources revealed that out of the 32 district headquarters of Balochistan, only 13 towns had the natural gas facility and 59 per cent of the urban population in the province was without the basic energy commodity. Successive governments have failed to divert a fraction of accruing benefits to the province from where these precious resources were being extracted.
For decades, the province has been deprived of basic necessities like education, health and drinking water. The state abdicated its responsibility and the people were left to toil in an anachronistic tribal society.
The vacuum created by state institutes was occupied by tribal chiefs. Eventually musketeer sardars became janitors of the society and people of the provinces were virtually made subservient to them. A protracted colonial treatment with the province resulted in complete alienation in the ensuing years.
Rather than understanding and addressing the root causes of disgruntlement among the Baloch, almost every government resorted to contemptuous measures that enraged the aggrieved people. Had the province been treated with a modicum of sagacity and had the local population been given judicious treatment of compatriots, no foreign hand would ever have found foothold in Balochistan.
One important role of a responsible state is to act as an equalizer and provide level playing field to all citizens. Balochistan is trailing behind on all development indicators and people find little reason to own the system that has failed to fulfill their genuine constitutional rights as a citizen. It would be outrageous to blithely shrug it off by just accusing a handful of sardars. A state that claims to squash insurgency with its insurmountable might should have veered a minuscule of its muscle for the benefit of dejected masses.
According to the national report on Millennium Development Goals-2013, the country has performed poorly on vital targets of human development — Balochistan’s indicators are even grimmer. Net enrollment ratio in the province is 53 per cent against the national average of 57 per cent.
The mother mortality rate in the country is 276 (per 100,000 live births), whereas Balochistan’s mother mortality rate is 758 which is alarmingly high. 78 per cent children are fully immunised in Pakistan compared to only 43 per cent in Balochistan.
Pakistan Demographic Health Survey reveals that an estimated 111 children of every 1,000 births are dying before their fifth birthday in the province. Ninety-seven of these children do not make it to the age of one year. Additionally, Unicef found that there is no vaccination centre in 39 per cent of union councils in the province. Developing Balochistan would have cost much lesser than a series of military operations.
Balochistan deserves a legitimate share in provincial as well as federal array of power web. Sindh and Balochistan have been continuously underrepresented in the federal government departments and institutions. Many instances can be cited to substantiate this argument.
According to a newspaper report in December 2012, Balochistan was grossly underrepresented in postings at foreign missions. 209 officials were assigned for diplomatic missions since the government came into power and Haji Mira Jan was the only official from Balochistan who was serving as a driver at the Pakistan High Commission in London. Quoting an official document, the scribe claimed that that out of 209 in foreign mission postings by the current government, 130 people were appointed only from Punjab.
According to another newspaper report in January 2014, over 4,000 posts reserved for Balochistan in 52 departments were lying vacant. A special committee tasked to deal with issues pertaining to Balochistan also identified that around 272 of these vacancies were BPS-17 to BPS-21 positions.
In March 2014, the provincial government approached the federal government to fill the vacancies as per the share allocated to the province. In response to the request, joint secretary (Admin) informed the principal secretary to the chief minister that as of September 12, 2013 a total of 3,692 positions were vacant in the federal ministries/divisions/autonomous bodies/corporation against the provincial quota, however the government has imposed a ban on all recruitments.
Simple measures like ensuring due recruitment from Balochistan would enhance the province’s representation in the federal government and create a reasonable amount of goodwill among the people.
More importantly, the provincial government has little say in the strategic matters of the province. In February 2013, the Balochistan government in a statement said that ports and shipping the subjects handled by the federal government and the provincial government has no role in the award of Gwadar Port contract to China. Gwadar Port is purportedly a game-changer project in the region. Apprehensions of the local population are not mere refrains.
The Baloch expect visible and measureable measures and not mere statements. They expect that history of Sui gas will not be repeated in Gwadar. People in power ought to adopt saner means to address this anxiety which has roots in bitter experiences. An enhanced role of provincial government to safeguard local interests would be a right beginning.
Law and disorder is a major challenge that has imperiled stability in the province. Inexorable violence is impeding strategic development initiatives including trans-boundary gas pipelines, economic corridor and the Gwadar Port. Only an inclusive political solution can guarantee sustainable peace and prosperity.
Missing people, extra-judicial killings and targeted ethnic murders of non-local communities are major stumbling blocks in resolving the conflict. Since the provincial government is not at the steering, credibility of the ongoing operation is murky. Law enforcement agencies are operating without any oversight of the provincial government.
On January 30, 2014, the Balochistan government conceded before the Supreme Court about its handicap in recovering Baloch missing people saying it has no effective control over the Frontier Corps which is accused of detaining people. The provincial government should be given an enhanced role in handling security challenges and taking responsibility of local affairs.
The establishment needs to revisit its strategy of solving the Balochistan conundrum. Kill and dump tactics may trounce militants but cannot win back people. Empathy would be better than apathy to salvage the bleeding Balochistan.
The parliament should play a meaningful role to resolve this protracted conflict. An all-party parliamentary committee should be constituted to develop and execute a comprehensive healing plan of political, administrative and developmental measures to bring back Balochistan into the national fold. Credible representation and swift implementation of the healing plan can create space for a political dialogue — to end insurgency and restore peace in the province. A peaceful and harmonious Balochistan will open up new vistas of economic development and stability for the country.