The Baloch Demands To Curb The Ongoing Insurgency Are Reasonable. But Is Anyone Listening?

The Baloch Demands To Curb The Ongoing Insurgency Are Reasonable. But Is Anyone Listening?
There has been spate of articles lately about the changing nature of insurgency in Balochistan, with the leadership gradually veering off from traditional tribal sardars to the disaffected middle and lower middle-class masses. These classes are aware and better, and have taken up cudgels independently in fight against socio-economic deprivation and exploitation at the hands of local and non-local masters. A careful peep into the Baloch struggle for autonomy and rights would yield the truth that the middle-class revolt is not a recent phenomenon rather an old quest for independence both from the tyrannical hold of tribal despotism as well as colonial bondage.

First stirrings of the middle-class revolt were experienced in 1931, when the educated middle-class formed Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Balochistan, making common cause with Khan of Qalat Azam Jan. The Anjuman later morphed into Kalat State National Party that was banned in 1939 due to its anti-British policies. Its reincarnation was Anjuman-e-Watan, allied to the Indian National Congress, while a new party, Balochistan Muslim League, was affiliated to the Muslim League. It is worth understanding that all subsequent Baloch uprisings against the state were spearheaded by the educated core of the middle-classes on the issue of political and economic rights. The perceived encroachment of those rights in 1948, 1958, 1960s, 1973, 2004, and at present, led the middle-class to challenge the writ of the state. The tribal sardars in each of the above cases assumed the leadership role due to the centuries-old tribal structure of the province, where the sardar personified the state.

It is being claimed by some writers erroneously that the latest insurgency in Balochistan is driven by the educated middle-class, and the sardars have been sidelined. The above is a partial truth as Balochistan is no longer a socio-political monolith with three clear distinctions -- people in Makran coastal belt, Jhalawan Sarawan areas, and the Pashtun areas corresponding to the erstwhile British controlled districts. In the Makran belt, a middle class, educated Dr Allah Nazar leads the BLF but in Jhalawan-Sarawan areas the insurgency is steered by commoners along with tribal leadership. Harbiyar Marri’s BLA and Brahamdagh Bugti’s BRA have subsumed into the BNA which along with the BLF have joined hands under the umbrella of Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS).

People like Aslam Achoo, Bashir Zeb and Rehan Himmal Baloch do not represent mainstream educated Baloch but a disaffected segment that has been generously funded and cultivated by RAW, and other foreign intelligence agencies whose interest is served through a destabilized Balochistan.

Bashir Zeb of the BLA is in fact Punjabi by origin. Majeed Brigade that includes Noor Buksh Mengal, Karim Marri, Captain Rehman Gul, Commander Nisar, Commander Gaindi, Commander Shaikhu, Commander Sharif, Commander Hamal, and Commander Munshi, Agha Sher Dil are all disenchanted elements that share only hatred and a stake in foreign largesse to keep the pot boiling in Balochistan.

Balochistan needs a scientific mapping of grievances through accurate field surveys. The most important thing to understand is the Baloch nature that differs from other communities in the province. Nothing matters more to a Baloch than respect and sovereignty. Baloch require engagement on equal footing. The legendary Baloch leader, Mir Chakar Rind, had agreed to support Mughal King Humayun while in exile in his quest to reclaim the throne of Delhi on the condition that the Baloch army would fight alongside Humayun under Baloch leadership and not under any Mughal commander. Humayun wisely respected the Baloch sensitivity.
It is being claimed by some writers erroneously that the latest insurgency in Balochistan is driven by the educated middle-class, and the sardars have been sidelined. The above is a partial truth as Balochistan is no longer a socio-political monolith with three clear distinctions.

Pakistani state could also learn from Humayun’s example to win over the Baloch by respecting their dignity. That dignity was unwisely compromised when Nawab Akbar Bugti’s meeting with Pervez Musharraf was sabotaged by some myopic advisors, while the venerable Nawab was waiting for the aircraft at airfield to fly him to a promised meeting with Musharraf. A tete a tete with the President and a few million rupees was a small recompense for a tribal sardar who was ready to bury the hatchet and had never spoken against the idea of Pakistan.

A similar act of affront to Baloch pride was the ham handed treatment meted out to Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri when he tried to enter his area of Kohlu after 30 years. His later incarceration on criminal charges sowed the seeds of the Marri insurgency.

A proper understanding of the Balochistan Student Organization is also essential to assuage grievances of the educated young Baloch. Dr Allah Nazar and Sana Sangat, both former BSO presidents, are the living testaments of the failure of the political system to mainstream the estranged.

While Nazar is leading the insurgency in the Makran belt, Sana Sangat died fighting the security forces. Before his death he had confessed to a colleague that he would gladly trade his path of violence for a settled life if he had a nice stable job and a secure abode. Such educated youth should not be left to wallow in self-pity and dabble in identity politics. The state should extend its reach to the deserving Baloch students and offer scholarships in educational institutions of other provinces.  The Baloch youth should be served a fresh narrative of national integration based on development, connectivity, and participatory governance instead of countering their narrative, which elicits resistance and antipathy. It is only through new narratives that the agitated middle-class could be weaned off the militancy.

Balochistan deserves a real democracy and not an artificially imposed leadership that thrives on corruption. Jobs and development funds that go to political elite should actually reach the people to satisfy their needs. The state should own Baloch people along with Balochistan by sharing the resource output of the province like gas royalties, mineral shares and the CPEC benefits with the people. Promises of roads and special economic zones under the CPEC project in the absence of clean drinking water makes no sense. If the state cannot reach the scattered rural areas of Balochistan, it should develop cities that provide adequate public goods to those migrating to the cities in search of a better life.

A jirga of Baloch influentials should be constituted to engage with the estranged Baloch along with improving the quality of governance through abolition of B areas. The capacity of civil administration and police should be improved to reduce pressure on FC and Army. Best bureaucrats, including IG Police and Chief Secretary, should be posted to Balochistan, who should be given adequate powers and held accountable for their performance. Special packages for economic activities should be provided to generate economic opportunities and jobs for the people. The state at the same time should not reward bad behaviour and have zero tolerance towards violence. The best civil and military intelligence human resource should be employed in the troubled province to map the grievance and help the state implement a well thought out and consistent ‘Balochistan Stabilization and Development Strategy’.

Dialogue, development and deterrence should form the leitmotif of any future national strategy for Balochistan with remedies matching grievances through a well mapped exercise to exorcise the ghosts of identity politics, ethno-political particularism and socio-economic deprivations

The writer is a PhD from NUST and Director Islamabad Policy Research Institute.