Guest Blog by Insouciant
Baluchistan, which earned the status of a separate province only in 1970, comprises of 44% of the land of Pakistan. Buried with vast resources of natural gas, copper and gold, it has a unique geo-political importance in the region. The landlocked Afghanistan and energy rich Central Asia is in its north, Iran and its fourth world’s largest oil reserves is in its West, and Strait of Hormuz – through which 40% of the world’s oil passes – only few hundred miles away lies in the South-West. One would wonder with this geography the area could have been developed as the energy corridor for the region, yet the province has been exploited in the name of federation for decades.
The dams that have been built, the Gwadar port that started functioning recently, and the gas fields that fire the kitchens of the rest of the country hold no meaning and no promises for the locals. To a Baloch development means dispossession, exploitation, migration, cattle never changing into motorcars, gidans never changing into houses and thumb expressions never into signatures.
To a Baloch protesting for rights means, being labelled as traitors and being picked up by the agencies.
The recent upsurge in violence is just another link in the chain. Protests started after three Baloch nationalist leaders were picked up by ‘unknown men’ and then were found dead in a deserted area near Turbat. According to their associates the victims had been receiving death threats from the agencies for long and they allege that the state agencies have been involved once again in this melodrama.
The talks of reconciliation that the government ostentatiously started with the release of Akhtar Maingal and few other leaders are again in the dustbin. Human Rights organisations claim that there are still hundreds of missing persons, if not thousands, who were once picked in the name of ‘security measures’, but the President in his recent interview refused to acknowledge that. He stated, “This is not true. There were 200 and they have been released. Yes, there can be one or two left in the prisons who will be released after a due process of law.”
One of the demands of BLUF (Baluchistan Liberation United Front), which was involved in the kidnapping of John Solecki, was to release all the ‘missing persons’ and they provided a list that enlisted thousands. President said another Parliamentary committee for Baluchistan issue is in the offing. There have been many committees in the past, Mushahid Hussein’s committee and Waseem Sajjad’s committee, but nothing came out of their proposals, even when they had the golden support of Baloch nationals.
What Baluchistan needs right now is not new committees but immediate address of all their grievances, and some substantive steps that can make Balochs believe that Islamabad is actually serious this time in addressing the issue. Even if Zardari apologize zillion times for the Centre putting foot on Baluchistan, the pain will not go away until the foot is lifted.