It is an irony that despite being home to abundant natural resources, such as coal, copper, and gold, Balochistan is still lagging behind other provinces in terms of social and economic development. An egalitarian and democratic state knits different sections of society with an unbreakable bond to stay united but Pakistan seems to lack such bond. There is a growing disparity between the provinces in terms of political instability, education, security, infrastructure, provincial and territorial human rights.
Such great of a gap between provinces jeopardizes the solidarity that is the hallmark of a democratic country. Despite massive geo-economic and geostrategic importance, Balochistan has always been discriminated against in terms of wealth distribution from the centre. Democratic and leadership crisis have kept plaguing the province since it’s annexation to Pakistan in March 1948.
Balochistan is an ethnically diverse province with a mixed ethnic stock, distinct languages, cultures and attires. The Baloch and Pashtun people constitute the two major and most distinct ethnic groups. The other ethnicities like Hazara are also living in Baluchistan with a population estimate of 1.1 million. Balochistan was established as a separate province in its present form in 1970. It is the largest and most sparsely populated province in Pakistan with Quetta as its capital.
Balochistan has always been discriminated against in wealth distribution from the centre. Democratic and leadership crisis have kept plaguing the province since its annexation to Pakistan in March 1948.
One of the key failings of every government is their criminal indifference towards the concerns of the Pashtun and Baloch communities and their inability to address the questions of Baloch nationalists. The State’s negligence towards the people of mineral-rich province is deplorable and may engender harsh repercussions. The panacea for Balochistan’s historical conundrums, if there’s any, lies only in addressing the concerns of its people and granting them their due rights.
Despite what we’re being told in our history books, the incorporation of Balochistan in the state of Pakistan was not at all a smooth process and all Baloch stakeholders were not in favour. Due to the forced annexation and blatant abuse of power by the Pakistani state, the Baloch nationalists resorted to giving voice to their grievances by picking up arms against the state machinery in a bid to reclaim their identity and rights.
Hammering and dismantling Baloch with military have not yielded any positive outcomes but have made the nation more hostile towards the country. The Baloch have suffered enough and have buried thousands of their people due to the unabated state violence since its annexation.
Educational institutions have become the major military hubs in the province and since the State deployed FC in universities, the line between educational institutions and military barracks has been blurred to eventually disappeared. State-installed military personnel in educational institutions like the University of Balochistan, are a threat to the education of youth.
Their presence is unwanted and scary because it is imbued with an atmosphere of violence and fear. Presence of Military and FC personnel in educational institutions is an attempt to push back the already underdeveloped nation into an abysmal darkness of ignorance. The unwanted queries of military persons on entrances, with G3 machines swinging on their shoulders, and their furious gaze, are disgusting to the peaceful youth.
Moreover, the violations of human rights have further aggravated the situation in Balochistan. The daily cases of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings are alarming and adding insult to injury. Degrading and manhandling Baloch protestants will give impetus to violent attacks like that on Karachi University, Karachi Stock Exchange and inter alia which will definitely mar peace and harmony in the country. The blazing rage of Baloch nationalist movement is intractable and will be impossible to subdue if not addressed and surmounted within time.
History is witness that no one in the province has been given rights easily without going on hunger strikes or blocking roads for many days. Protests of teachers demanding hike in salaries, students against administrative injustices, and the families of Baloch missing persons, have always been met with brutal torture. Kidnapping, threatening, torturing, jailing and killing is now a normal response to protesters who have genuine grievances.
Quality education is indispensable to the progress and prosperity of every nation. But unfortunately, education has never been a concern for the government of Pakistan. The educational sector of Baluchistan is in shambles because of dearth of resources, poor infrastructure, absence of teachers, lack of separate schools for girls, and dysfunctional policies. Oblivionaires are intentionally silent and don’t want to equalise education standards because it would defy their perks and privileges.
According to All Pakistan Labour Federation President, Sultan Muhammad, over 15,000 underage children in Balochistan work at the construction sites, coalmines, garbage collection, and automobiles workshops.
The State has also failed to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years to war-torn province which is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan. According to All Pakistan Labour Federation President, Sultan Muhammad, over 15,000 underage children in Balochistan work at the construction sites, coalmines, garbage collection, and automobiles workshops. They are either orphans or belong to poor families, who force them to work out of abject poverty. The evil of patriarchy is another problem that has reduced women participation in education. The male dominated society has reduced female space in educational realm and confined them to four walls. Literacy rate of women in Balochistan is only 29%, far behind from the literacy rate of women in Punjab, which is about 54%.
Right to life is one of the unalienable rights of the citizens according to Article 9 of the Constitution, which has been taken away from Pashtuns and Baloch, who have been victims of constant killings and disappearances. The mysterious deaths are not coincidences but there are cunning motives and strong hands behind them. With the passage of time, we see the growing targeting of activists who raise their voices for the marginalized communities. Shaheed Usman Kakar aka Usman Lala, a great anti-imperialist, was killed in cold blood inside his home in Quetta.
He remained a vibrant voice of Baloch-Pashtun concerns since his entry in politics. In his untiring political struggle, he played a vital role in upholding the banner of democracy, supremacy of constitution and rights of the oppressed nations.
Karima Baloch, living in exile, was very concerned with state atrocities towards Baloch nation. She fought against the ruthless state machine and against a deeply segregated patriarchal system that leaves no role for women outside the four walls. Her voice was allegedly silenced by the country’s Intelligence in Toronto, Canada.
Political engineering by the state, unrestrained military intervention in the province, lack of civilian supremacy, depoliticization of youth and precluding them from entering and participating into political spheres, are the major causes of systematic instability in Balochistan. Due to these factors, Balochistan has plunged into an abysmal chaos.
To establish lasting peace in Balochistan, there is a dire need for a holistic strategy that moves beyond rhetoric; the solution lies in a complete re-think. An experienced and truly democratic government at centre that handles the question of Balochistan justly and with great sensitivity is the panacea for all woes and not the blatant abuse of military power that suppresses all dissenting voices.
Sami Ullah Kakar is a student of Law at Gillani Law College Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan. He is a social analyst and mostly interested to highlight social and international issues related to Balochistan.