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Balochistan- Problems & Solutions

By Azhar Aslam & Shaista Kazmi

Balochistan history since the time of the formation of the country represents an unending narrative of the incessant conflicts unfortunately. The long standing resentments dating back to its merger with Pakistan have led to the present crisis in the province and the whole country.

 This paper analyses the issues and factors, which gave rise to the conflicts which have continued to fester and periodically given rise to the revolts and insurgencies resulting into the present crisis, highlighting the recommendations for the urgent action in order to eradicate the root causes of the long standing conflict


Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces by the geographical area.  It is the least populated and resource-rich province.  It has common borders with all the three provinces viz. North West Frontier Province (NWFP) through Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in the north, Punjab in the extreme north east and Sindh in east. Balochistan has a long costal line with Arabian Sea in the south. In the West it has 814 km long border with Iran; and finally in the west and north-west it has a border of 1096 km with Afghanistan.

At 5 %, about 8.5 million Pakistanis reside in the province. Balochistan is home to roughly half-a-million ethnic Punjabis, or nearly six percent of its population, and to an even smaller percentage of Urdu-speakers. About 35 % of the population is Pashtun. Ethnic Baloch population (including Brahui) is about 6.8 million. Of these about 5 million reside in Balochistan accounting for about 55 % of its population. About 27 % Baloch live outside Balochistan, mainly in Sind.

At the time of creation of Pakistan, Baluchistan was divided into two parts: the British Baluchistan comprising Quetta, Pishin, Zhob, Loralai and Lasbela and the native Baluchistan constituting Kalat, Kharan and Makran. Makran became a district within the province of Baluchistan, minus an area of 800 km around Gwadar, which was then still part of the Sultanate of Oman.

In 1783, the Khan of Kalat had granted suzerainty over Gwadar to Taimur Sultan, the defeated ruler of Muscat. When the sultan subsequently retook Muscat, he continued his rule in Gwadar by appointing a wali (or “governor”). This wali was then ordered to subjugate the nearby coastal town of Chah Bahar (in modern-day Iran). Until 1958 Gwadar was part of Oman. Pakistan purchased it in Septmeber 1958. The money for the purchase was generated by way of taxation and donations. It was made part of the Balochistan province in 1977.

Baluchistan province itself, as we know it today, came into being on July 1, 1970, with the abolition of One Unit in West Pakistan. The administrative divisions of Quetta and Kalat were merged to form this province. Balochistan is the abode of different people mainly populated by Balochis, Barohi and Pathans. A great number of settlers from around Pakistan, particularly Punjab, and northern India have also been settled in the province for generations. They are ironically still known as ‘Settler Balochis’.

British Era & Sandeman System

In Late 1800s there were four princely states: Makran, Kharan, Lasbela and Kalat. In 1876 Sir Robert Sandeman concluded a treaty with the Khan of Kalat and brought his territories – including Kharan, Makran, and Las Bela – under British suzerainty.

The boundary of western Baluchistan was fixed in 1872, when Iran conquered it in the 19th century. After the Second Afghan War of 1878-80, the Treaty of Gandamak concluded in May 1879, the Afghan Emir ceded the districts of Quetta Pishin,Sibi, Harnai, and Thal Chotiali to the British. In 1883 the British leased the Bolan Pass, southeast of Quetta, from the Khan of Kalat on a permanent basis. In 1887 some areas of Balochistan were declared British territory.

This brief summary of events is crucial to note, as it severely undermines the claims made by Baloch nationalists. In summary, Balochistan that existed in 1947 was minus the British Balochistan as noted above as well as minus Gwadar, which was part of Oman. Even more importantly these areas had been ceded ‘legally’ by then Baloch rulers to other rulers and empires. The other important event that happened during that period was increase in direct autonomy and power of Sardars. The consequence of this was that it undermined the traditional social system and helped deepen class divisions and deprivation.

The Sandeman system of administration that was introduced in Blaochistan gave the chiefs complete autonomy with respect to their power over their subjects. They were themselves subject to British supervision who paid their salaries. The Khan of Kalat had no direct power to run the affairs of Sardars under the system. He could not even approve the developmental projects. This was supervised by the British political agents only.

This new administration changed the character of the jirga (adjudicating assembly) altogether: Whereas the Jirga used to be a communal court to dispense participatory justice in the past, a new shahi (royal) jirga was introduced instead. In this new jirga only the Sardars and the aristocracats could sit. This gave the British a powerful weapon to control any rebellions against them, broke the last remaining institution of a purely tribal character, reinforced class conflict and gave the Sardars immeasurable powers over the lives and belongings of the masses. The new jirga could impose taxes not only in property but also labor and could expropriate women; the decisions could be reviewed only by the Political Agent. [The National Question-Ejaz Ahmed]

The role of Sardars was extended greatly to the extent that they could make decisions independent of the will and benefit of people. They were made responsible for organizing the law-and-order situation. For this levies corps was established, which recruited tribal personnel under the power of the Sardars. These Sardars used to pay the tribal personals the subsistence salaries and kept in their own pockets what was given for the purpose by British Army.

In 1893 after fighting two wars with Afghanistan, Sir Mortimer Durand negotiated an agreement with Amir of Afghanistan to fix the Durand Line running from Chitral to Balochistan to as the boundary between the Afghans and the British. The border was drawn to divide the Pashtun and Baloch tribes of the area into the international borders of Iran, Afghanistan and what later became West Pakistan.

The British continued to formulate laws and regulations from time to time to keep their hold on the population. [The history of Baluchistan 1947-90] The British Imperialism also tended to strengthen the dependency of Balochistan and stagnate its system.

Since 1947

Balochistan history since 1947 represents an unending narrative of the incessant conflicts unfortunately. The long standing resentments dating back to its merger with Pakistan have led to the present crisis in the province.  The issues and grievances, which gave rise to the previous conflicts and present crisis relate to demands and aspirations about the economic, ethnic and political rights of and for the people of the province. The reasons of the present crisis have been known to the politically aware people all along. But little or nothing has been done to address and resolve these matters by the successive governments. Consequently the wounds have continued to fester and periodically given rise to bleeding insurgencies and revolts.

There have been five insurgencies in Balochistan since the creation of Pakistan. According to the official estimates, these have resulted in more than five thousand deaths among the insurgents and almost three thousand among the Pakistan army. The recent violence which started in 2005 took a serious turn at the end of year 2009 and became a potential threat to the stability of Pakistani state, as the insurgents spurred and inflamed, and in all likelihood aided and abetted by the outsider international players in the area, gave rise to the separatist movement in the province.

The present government has recently initiated certain measures to address these complaints and grievances. For past two years there is a democratic set up in the province. But the resentments still persists, as no practical steps have yet been taken to actually tackle the problems. According to the nationalist groups, the government has only provided a lip service to their problems so far. In fact, despite the promises to resolve the problems, the trust deficit between the nationalists and state has not narrowed. It is essential to understand that the crisis is grave and requires serious and urgent action by all stakeholders, at all levels in order to eradicate the root causes of the long standing conflict.

Reasons for the Conflict

Conflicts in Baluchistan historically have several underlying reasons. The fiercely independent Baloch sardars have resisted state interference, mainly to protect their continued influence and wealth and to seek rent from the state ; the grievances of the masses relating to political, economic and cultural rights, that have given rise to nationalist movement; absence of problem resolution mechanisms, even in the democratic set ups; continued negligence of the well being of the masses that has been the hall mark, though out Pakistan since its creation; religious extremism, and perhaps most importantly continued mishandling of these issues by the Central governments, who on occasions have resorted to brute and unrestrained use of force.

The most recent surge of violence in Baluchistan is mainly a recurrence of the longstanding state-periphery tension. The turn and shape, the present conflict has taken, has a lot to do with two sea change factors within Pakistan and the due also to international geopolitical situation. First there has been a tele-media revolution in Pakistan, which has resulted in not only heightened awareness of the situation, but also paradoxically heightened the situation like a positive feedback loop, by providing the insurgent leaders, media exposure that many rightly claim is out of proportion.  Internet has also helped internationalise the problem. Second, with nearly two third populations under the age of thirty, the immediacy and acuteness of the problem and its economic root has assumed new and deeper meaning and significance.

Finally, the conflict has had an unintended catalyst in the form of the present global geo-political conflict that rages across the border in Afghanistan. Taking advantage, certain well known external players have continued to provide aid, in the form of money, shelter, ammunitions and weaponry to the separatist element. However the attention outside interference gets in the media is far out of proportion to its real contribution to the issues that underlie the whole conflict.

Provincial Autonomy & Ethnic Culture

The grievances of Baloch people are manifold. The martial policy of the centre in dealing with the recent insurgency has added fuel to the fire. The main complaint of the Baloch Nationalists has always been that the provincial autonomy promised in the 1973 constitution has not been recognized and practically nonexistent till today. The Baloch people have demanded the right of self administration to the province through a process of complete decentralization of powers.

Moreover, the silent but visible war by army and paramilitary in past few years has raised the level of resentment in ordinary Baloch. The action of the government against the Baloch nationalists has also been seen as the imperialism of the state. The setup of military cantonments was also seen as a way to suppress them.

Balochistan like the other three provinces of Pakistan has its unique cultural identity. This, some nationalists complain, has not been given due representation in the centre. Therefore whenever people from different ethnic groups feel their desertion on national levels, they feel being neglected and this creates frustration among such groups. Resultantly they resist any new ideas of development or modernized lifestyle due to the fear that they will lose their traditions and cultural identity.

Resource Exploitation

Baloch nationalist’s main gripe and grumble relates to Pakistan’s domestic natural gas industry. They complain that the gas industry’s well-paid managers and technicians were almost invariably drawn from outside Balochistan; local Baloch, inevitably viewed with some suspicion, were mainly employed in low-end jobs as day laborers. No efforts were made to remedy the shortage of technically skilled Baloch such as providing government funding of technical training institutions in Balochistan.

However the strongest dissatisfaction is about Balochistan’s lopsidedly deficient share of revenues from the government’s sale of natural gas. Balochistan receives proportionately only about one-fifth as much in royalty payments as the other two gas-producing provinces. This means that poorest province actually subsidises the richer provinces. The nationalists also maintain that historically very little of the huge earnings of the central government in natural gas revenues was ever returned to the province in the form of development expenditures.

Deprivation and Lack of Development lag

The complaints and issues of the local people in Balochistan, about the situation of development or the lack of it, are absolutely genuine beyond doubt. There is no doubt that the province has been neglected for six decades and has taken a back seat in the minds of the ruling elite. The basic facilities of life including health, education, communication sources and infrastructure are in poor condition.

Balochistan is much less developed, and in several aspects least developed province according to the statistics of Economic Survey of Pakistan. It has the lowest literacy rate among both males and females, the lowest ranking in the Gender Parity Index (GPI) and the smallest presence of private educational institutes in the country, according to the recently issued National Economic Survey (NES).

Poor transport and communication infrastructure is a big hurdle in the progress of the province. Illiteracy, injustice, oppression of women, ignorance of the individual rights are the socio-political evils that prevail. The Social Policy Development Centre 2005 report discovered, that the percentage of the population living in a high degree of deprivation stands highest in Balochistan as compared to the other provinces [88 percent in Balochistan, 51 percent in the NWFP, 49 percent in Sindh and 25 percent in Punjab]. According to poverty-related reports, the percentage of the population living below the poverty line stands at 63 percent in Balochistan. This again, is the highest among all other provinces [26 percent in Punjab, 29 percent in the NWFP and 38 percent in Sindh]. These factors are mutually reinforcing and continue to aggravate the situation. The province has smallest number of educational institutions.

The resources wealth and developmental projects have never benefited the people of Balochistan. The example is the Natural Gas of the city of Sui. Huge royalties are paid to Sardar of Sui, but the money fails to reach the general public of the province. The federal government gives only a fraction back to Balochistan from what it earns through gas extracted from the province. And that fraction too is not properly planned and spent. There is no disagreement that over the years, the income from natural resources in the province has neither been properly paid nor fairly distributed and beyond doubt, the common Balochi people have not benefited from it.

Gwadar is a classic example of development project that has suffocated in the clutches of a land-grab mafia of Pakistan. The Baloch nationalists claim that it would ultimately favor the Punjabis and not Balochis. They also allege the government that these projects have largely bypassed local communities and have been set up to marginalize them.

A senior journalist Yar Mohammad Badini speaking at the recently held seminar in Quetta, asserted that Balochistan had been “rewarded” with five military operations over the past sixty years in return of the massive resources it has provided to the whole country in the energy sector. He called for an end to the economic exploitation of Balochistan which he insisted it was the biggest source of discontent and disillusionment in the volatile province3. In our recent conversations with a prominent academician (Dr Waheed Baloch) and a prominent businessman belonging to the ‘settler Balochis’, they both reiterated these aspects.

Dr. Waheed Baloch said while giving his view about the current situation in Balochistan, that the province (Balochistan) has been deprived of the basic development needs for more than 60 years. He said that the young people on mountains are those, who once had trust in democratic forces for their welfare, but the dilly-dallying on the part of the successive governments has brought the resentment in people to the present level. He said that political solution of ending the crisis is in the hands of the government and it is simple: deliver the promised rights to the people of Balochistan.

Robert Wirsing in his very perceptive study, ‘Baloch nationalism and the Geopolitics of Energy Resources’ says, ‘two important facts should be kept in mind with regard to Baloch demography. One is that many Pakistani Baloch, 23.9 percent of the total if we extrapolate from the figures above, live outside of Balochistan, especially in Sindh. The second is that the Baloch may already be a minority in Balochistan, or they are almost certainly heading in that direction. The fact is that modernization, globalization, Pakistan’s steadily rising population, and the massive forces of change unleashed by economic development are threatening to leave the Baloch far behind. They are among the poorest, least educated, and least urbanized of Pakistan’s population; and they are too easily passed over or pushed aside in the highly competitive social and economic environments now gaining traction in Pakistan.’

He further adds that while this is in part, of course, ‘a structural problem, not lending itself readily to policy manipulation, circumstances did not arise unassisted by the government, whose policies have almost never been designed to give serious attention to Baloch problems’.

And this is where, in our opinion, lies the crux of the problem.

Government’s Neglect

The central government’s inability and reluctance to identify and tackle the problems for a long period is the major reason for the prevailing situation. But the government in Balochistan has also never represented the genuine interests of the people of Balochistan. The elected representatives of the province have also shown an apolitical and non democratic attitude instead of highlighting the genuine needs and interests of their people. Conversely the people’s representatives supported the criminal’s activities in the region through dictating their orders to the local police.

Pakistani central governments on the other hand have attempted to establish a strong centralized state. And in the process they have neglected the basic development rights of people and their peculiarities. The checkered history of Pakistani democratic government has also proved a hindrance in the way of addressing the grievances politically; instead the army rule has almost always favored the military solution over political ones.

It was this attitude that led Musharraf to declare about the insurgent that ‘ they will not know what hit them’. How sad a commentary on a Nations’s fate that such remarks are made by the president of the country. In his time, Islamabad adopted a ‘virtually zero-tolerance’ model, allegedly consisting of psychological warfare, public diplomacy, political harassment and intimidation; decapitation of separatist leadership; co-option of tribal leadership, increased deployment of security forces and reliance on military repression.

The failure of the model is clear as a day light. The harassment and hounding of the Baloch,  without any tangible benefits to the masses on the ground, only led to increase in the popular support and helping to prove the claim made by the insurgents that  the government’s real aim is to marginalize them and to reduce them to second class citizenship in their own land.

Role of Sardars

In 15th century Mir Chakar Khan Rind became first king of Baluchistan. Balochistan subsequently was dominated by empires based in Iran and Afghanistan as well as the Mughal Empire based in India. Nadir Shah and then Ahmed Shah Durrani won the allegiance of the rulers of Baluchistan. Later these areas were dominated by Baluchs and Pashtun tribes.

The period between eleventh and fifteenth century was important for the transition of Balochi community from clan units to the development of chieftaincies which is the predecessor of present day Sardari system. The history of Balochi people in this phase went through a fundamental social transformation. Ejaz Ahmad in his article ‘The national question in Pakistan’  writes:

“Permanent chieftaincy was instituted and the chiefs began gradually to accumulate at least a primitive kind of capital, not only through acquisition from outside the resources of the tribe, but also in form of expropriation of labor as well as commodities from members of the tribe itself.” This gave rise to the class conflict in Balochistan.

The system of sardarkheli (chieftain’s clans) was essentially a feudal system, where sardar was the feuadal lord and the other members of the clan were relegated to a secondary position. They then worked for sardars as well as collected revenues for them.

Gradually the interests of the Balochi people ceased to be in alignment of the interests of the Balochi Sardari system as it existed then. Ejaz Ahmad further says ‘The great wealth, power and conspicuous consumption of the ruling elite found, at the bottom of the society, its exact equivalent in unspeakable poverty and powerlessness of the great mass of serfs, slaves and labouring peasants.’’

This subjugation and exploitation was veiled over by ‘myths of tribal solidarity and brotherhood’.  As this state of affairs got worse for the ordinary Baloch, the myth of tribal classlessness was propagated with loud noise. It remained a myth nevertheless and ‘worked as an opiate on the masses’.

In reality, Baloch people have been crushed between the state and the Sardars. The grievances about social and economic backwardness have escalated due to the entrenched sense of tribalism and deprivation. The Many different Sardars who rule their respective tribes, have a very poor record of protecting the rights of the tribal people themselves.

The problem started with Prince Karim’s invasion from Afghanistan. It was repressed by the state. Since then foundations for mistrust were laid down. The neglect and exploitation continued, with sardars playing their role of appeasing the establishment and never taking any part in the development of Pakistan or Balochistan. For example Bugti Sardars have been paid billions of Rupees. How much of that has been spent on their own tribesmen?

There is certainly weight in the argument that the federal government in Pakistan has neglected the development of Balochistan, but equal responsibility lies with the Sardars of Balochistan who enjoy immense power in their tribes. These very sardars have been part of the ruling elite in the province, both under the military and civilian rulers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the same Baloch leaders have censured the development plans which were likely to bring immense opportunities for the progress of their people. Even the horrific human rights atrocities taking place in the province have been defended by the tribal chiefs in the name of their cultural norms.

Prof. Mukhtar Ali Naqvi writes that the demands of a “Fair Deal” have also been set forth by these sardars and not by the elected members. They are unwilling to come into the main stream society, have monopoly over the laws and regulations of the state, while they themselves sit in provincial and national parliaments, yet they don’t work for the development of their own people. Through brutal customs, and practices, they target their own people. Their opposition to the development plans stems from the apprehensions that employment opportunities and consequent change will liberate people from their bondage.

Prof Naqvi further pointed out that “Since the situation in the province has been the subject of discussion in the country, the news media has presented views of all shades of opinion. Many interviewees belonging to the same tribe exposed the tribal leaders. They gave first-hand information about how people are oppressed and how despicable methods are used to keep them in bondage. The details of captivity in private jails are simply harrowing. The leaders are running a parallel government and consider themselves to be above the law.”

Religious Extremism

The state of deprivation has made the people of the province vulnerable to the aggravation and militant tendency promoting religious extremism in Balochistan. Lack of education and awareness, sense of deprivation and acute poverty gave space to terrorist activities by both external and internal enemies.

Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal, former parliamentary leader of the Pakhtunwa Milli Awami Party also alleges that government itself promotes the extremist activities in the province. He pointed out when speaking to a seminar that “This policy had previously radicalized the Pashutn areas of the province but now it had also expanded to the Bravi-speaking belt of Balochistan where scores of young people were being inclined towards sectarian militancy and violence.”

External  Factors and Geo Politics

Despite being a major factor, the backwardness and development lag is not the sole explanation of the insurgency in Balochistan.  According to Global Research scholar, Michel Chossudovsky:  “In the current geopolitical context, the separatist movement is in the process of being hijacked by foreign powers. British intelligence is allegedly providing covert support to Balochistan separatists (which from the outset have been repressed by Pakistan ‘s military)…Ten British MPs were involved in a closed door session of the Senate Committee on Defense regarding the alleged support of Britain ‘s Secret Service to Baloch separatists (Ibid). Also of relevance are reports of CIA and Mossad support to Baloch rebels in Iran and Southern Afghanistan .”

In a 2006 research article on Balochistan which was published in Pak Tribune in 2006, Farzana Shah, a current affairs analyst for BrassTacks, highlighted the role which is being played by a British think tank against Balochistan. Shah writes:

“In this regard the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) United Kingdom arranged a seminar on Balochistan province of Pakistan in collaboration with the so-called Balochistan Rights Movement on 27th June 2006 in the House of Commons, London. It was highly disappointing as it was abashedly a one-sided cheap propaganda rather than discussing the real situation. By a mere look at the panel of the participants of the seminar one could easily figure out that it consisted of only anti-Pakistan elements and some self-styled activists advocating terrorism in the province. There were no representatives from government of Pakistan or even from the elected provincial government of Balochistan in the seminar. It is just unfortunate that the Foreign Policy Centre which is expected to present fair suggestions to the British government to engage a country of their concern for important issues, indulged in such a blatant one-sided propaganda against Pakistan through the said seminar.”

The question is that what is the role of international players in Balochistan quagmire and what is at stake for these countries?  Baluchistan is situated at a geostrategic location. It provides corridor to the warm waters of Indian ocean, overlooks strait of Hormuz and major trade and oil routes. It is also full of natural resources, including gas, oil and precious and rare minerals.

One of the objectives for such interference is to destabilize Balochistan by stimulating insurgency and creating violations for its detachment from Pakistan. Gwadar has a key strategic position for shipping gas and oil from Turkmenistan to Arabian Sea via Afghanistan towards western shores. US sees Gwadar as port way to the land route through Balochistan into Southern Afghanistan.  China is interested in a gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan into Western China, which US will not likely to accept. US wants to secure the Indian Ocean and its strategic routes, and Gwadar lies at the opening of Strait of Hormuz through which over 40% of world oil passes.

Iran views it unfavorably, since it does not want Gwadar to become prominent and Chabahar to be sidelined, especially since Iran is isolated in the world at the moment. Iran has huge reserves of gas and it would like to extend the trade with India. Iran is also afraid of Jandullah’s (the terrorist group of CIA) covert operations against Iran, from Baluchistan.

Russia would not like trade from Central Asia shifting southwards and therefore would like to keep Afghanistan and Balochistan turbulent. [Michel Chossudovsky]

Afghanistan’s soil has been used again and again to cause trouble inside Pakistan. Currently BLA is reported to be operating from Kandahar in Afghanistan. BLA enjoys support from Indian RAW in terms of finances, logistics, and weapons. In a recent report Christine Fair of RAND Corporation says” Kabul ‘s motivations for encouraging these activities are as obvious as India ‘s interest in engaging in them.

India is at the moment chief regional ally of US, and NATO. India believes that Pakistan is at the brink of break up and India must focus on building its relationship with Central Asia, Iran , and Afghanistan , and capture oil and gas reserves from Central Asia and Iran , through Afghanistan and Pakistan . India also believes that an independent Balochistan will likely become a proxy of Iran, India and Afghanistan [ Michel Chossudovsky]

Capt (r) Bharat Verma of Indian Defense Review, writes,  “With Pakistan on the brink of collapse due to massive internal as well as international contradictions, it is matter of time before it ceases to exist. Multiple benefits will accrue to the Union of India on such demise.”

History of the conflicts

Controversies involving the areas comprising Balochistan date back to the establishment of the Durand Line in 1893,  that divided Pashtun and Baluch tribes living in Afghanistan from those living in what later became Pakistan. Afghanistan vigorously protested the inclusion of Pashtun and Baluch areas within Pakistan without providing the inhabitants with an opportunity for self-determination.

Since 1947, this problem has led to incidents along the border, with extensive disruption of normal trade patterns. The most serious crisis lasted from September 1961 to June 1963, when diplomatic, trade, transit, and consular relations between the countries were suspended.

Baloch nationalists demanding greater political rights, autonomy and control over their natural resources, have led four previous insurgencies – in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-77. The fifth conflict between the Baloch nationalists and the Centre started in 2005 and this time the insurgents have gone a step further and demanded for seccession.

Divided in the nineteenth century among Iran, Afghanistan, and British India, the Baloch found their traditional nomadic life frustrated by the presence of national boundaries and the extension of central administration over their lands. Moreover, many of the most militant Baloch nationalists were also vaguely Marxist-Leninist and willing to risk Soviet protection for an autonomous Balochistan.

In 1947, When India and Pakistan eventually gained independence from the British, princely states were given the choice of either joining Pakistan or India or being independent. Initially Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan declared Kalat’s independence. However, in 1948 the princely state of Kalat was annexed to Pakistan. According to the then ruler of Kalat, the agreement had been to accept the unique status of the state by incorporating it into Pakistan as a sovereign, independent and autonomous unit. But he then signed an accession agreement ending Kalat’s de facto independence, which he later claimed he had only done under duress. However Khan was never an absolute monarch. He was required to act under the provisions of Rawaj and was undoubtedly under the influence of British empire.

In 1948, Prince Karim Khan, the younger brother of Khan, decided to conduct a rebellion and guerrilla warfare against the Pakistan army basing himself in Afghanistan. It is said that he had a personal grievance in that Pakistan recognized Sardar Gichki as Makrans’ ruler instead of accepting him as a governor. This ended with the arrest of the prince, who was imprisoned in Quetta Jail. He was later sentenced to ten years of rigorous imprisonment.

After  this  Nawab Nowroz Khan (1958) took up arms in resistance to the One Unit policy. He and his followers were charged with treason and arrested and confined in Hyderabad jail. Five of his family members (sons and nephews) were subsequently hanged. Nawab Nowroz Khan later died in captivity.

Later on the more serious insurgency happened in 1963-69 led by Sher Mohammad Bijarani Marri against he establishment of Pakistan Army’s garrisons in the troubled areas of Baluchistan . And the fourth conflict in 1973-77 was led by Nawab Khair Baksh Marri. Undoubtedly this was provoked by Mr Bhutto’s arrogance and federal impatience, high handedness and undemocratic conduct.

The Current Insurgency and Baloch Nationalism

The current scenario for the conflict in Balochistan started building up when the federal authorities in Pakistan started developing Gwadar Port with road and rail links. The development projects of the coastal highway and the Gwadar port have been also opposed tooth and nail by Baloch nationalists. Balochi resistance to defy government’s efforts to start Gwadar was based on the charge that it will change Balochi ethnic culture.

Balochi disaffection grew more in the aftermath of the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan and the establishment of US bases in Pasni, Gwadar, Dalbandin and Jacobabad in Sindh. This was not so much because of the US military presence, but because the then administration decided to establish some army cantonments in Balochistan.

During the eight years of Musharraf’s military rule in Pakistan, the absence of political process that is necessary to deal with the insurgencies resulted in the further alienation of even moderate Baloch nationalist from the Federation of Pakistan. It shut the doors of negotiation process with the Baloch Leaders.

This conflict became more intense, in 2006 when Nawab Bugti, the Baloch tribal leader and ex chief minister and governor of Baluchistan was killed in an army operation. He had been accused by Pakistan’s government for series of bomb blasts, killings of his own people and mainly the rocket attack on the then President of Pakistan. He was lauded as a leader of Baloch by the nationalists who had died fighting for their cause and was turned into a hero.

During this time the political parties did not play their role to raise the issues of deprivation and neglect at the serious level. This was not limited to the ruling parties; unfortunately opposition also ignored the Balochistan issue. In the All Parties Conference that was held in 2007, to plan a collective line of action to deal with the different problems faced by Pakistan, the Balochistan problem was not even included in the agenda.

Close analysis tell us that the Baloch nationalist movement is not a unitary force that it may appear. There is not much love lost between the leading tribes involved in the insurgency. There is no single voice which can claim to speak for all. There is no coherent second tier middle class leadership, despite increased support in the Baloch areas. In fact the middle classes may still be on the side of moderate federally inclined Baloch politicians. For some Baloch nationalism only means tribal identity such as Marri or Bugti, at best. Some Baloch nationalists demand complete independence. Most, still believe that 1973 Constitution is the most workable basis for a ‘reconstructed and strengthened’ federalism, and all they want is greater autonomy.

Therefore while it is true that anti-state violence has been the chosen tactic of some, for the great majority, federal framework stays the chosen method to address grievances. And it is this that Pakistan government must capitalize on to.

The danger as we mentioned earlier are two-fold. The educated middle class in Baloch towns has started rallying behind nationalists and even Sardars. These sardars will never deliver but like all other Pakistanis, they are being fooled into utopian idealism. Second various vested local, national and international interests are trying to take advantage of this situation.

Steven Metz has persuasively argued that contemporary insurgency has undergone fundamental change in its strategic context, structure, and dynamics. He assert that this requires Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments to adopt “a very different way of thinking about (and undertaking) counterinsurgency.  The real threat posed by insurgency, he observes, is the sustained conflict leading to political destabilization and related socio political pathologies. ‘Protracted conflict,” he declares, “not insurgent victory, is the threat.

To summarise the nationalist’s complaints are mix of old and new. Older complaints consist of lack of autonomy, exploitation of resources and lack of development. In addition since then, the new complaints are that hundreds of people are missing in action and there has been a silent war that nationalists allege state is waging upon them.

Above analysis make two things absolutely clear. One that there is virtually no chance that the problems confronting Islamabad arising from the current resurgence of Baloch nationalism can be swept aside. While the actual scale of the rebellion may be a matter of considerable controversy, the danger is present and clear; and the reasons underlying it are genuine and real. Second, there is considerable avenue of hope with majority still willing to work within the state framework and through political methods.

Insurgency and ‘Geo-Politics of Energy Resources’

 Selig Harrison writing in his book  ‘In Afghanistan’s Shadow’ in 1981, predicted ominously ‘ A glance at the map, quickly explains why strategically located Balochistan and the five million Baloch tribesmen who live there could easily become the focal point of superpower conflict.’

With the present energy crisis it should be no surprise that energy security in Pakistan, now stands at or near the top of national priorities. Pakistan’s economy is one of the world’s most natural gas dependent. Natural gas, accounting for about 50 percent of Pakistan’s total energy consumption, is currently the country’s principal energy source. Out of Pakistan’s proven natural gas reserves two thirds are located in Balochistan. But while Balochistan accounts for about 40 % of Pakistan’s natural gas production, but consumes only a modest 17 percent of it.

Pakistan’s current annual consumption of natural gas is about 1.2 trillion cubic feet and fast increasing. This means that there are extreme pressures on Pakistan’s natural gas resources coming from industrial, commercial, transport, and residential consumers. But any more aggressive efforts for domestic exploration and extraction risk militant strikes. The remedy is to get the ordinary Balochs out of militant mindset and back to political grounds. As long as Pakistan has gas supply, there will always be a flash point for a sharp controversy between Islamabad and Baloch nationalists. Therefore the security of this supply for Pakistan is top of the agenda.

Baloch insurgency directly threatens this energy security. Robert Wirsing points out that this context is related to Baloch nationalism in at least three ways. One is that Balochistan is rich in energy resources. The most persistent and long-standing grievance that nationalists have is that these resources have been exploited by the central government without adequate compensation to the province. Second, Balochistan is a transit route for major proposed natural gas pipelines from either Iran or Turkmenistan to Pakistan and from there potentially to India. Baloch militant attacks are a major threat to any such undertaking. Third, Gwadar is the site of a major port facility and energy hub.

He further elaborates that this energy context also exerts a powerful threefold impact on Baloch nationalism itself. First, it vastly increases the importance of Balochistan and Baloch nationalism to the central government. Second, the changed energy context simultaneously incentivizes the Baloch insurgents to claim control of Balochistan. Third and most important however, he states that ‘to both sides’ advantage, the changed energy context, which includes the potential for major increases in Pakistan’s revenues and dramatic improvements in Balochistan’s economy and Social infrastructure, also supplies novel and abundant opportunities to address Baloch nationalist demands in a positive and mutually acceptable manner’.

Therefore to conclude, as in the previous section we again see that the danger and the avenue of hope exist side by side. The choice remains for the Pakistan’s government in how to deal with these matters. Being swift, decisive, fair, just and transparent are key to success in the political engagement, which is the only option available to Pakistan. Baloch nationalism has to be accommodated in good faith. The Baloch need to become partners of energy development, not its enemies.  There are no two ways about this.

Insurgent Groups in Balochistan

According to government sources, presently there are five militant outfits operating in Balochistan. Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) is the most prominent amongst them that seeks separation of Balochistan from Pakistan. Besides BLA, four other militant organizations including Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Balochistan Republican Army (BRA), Lashkar-e-Balochistan and Jhalawan Baloch Tigers have emerged to challenge the writ of the government. These outfits have claimed the responsibility of various sporadic attacks on gas pipelines, power transmission lines, power pylons, security check posts, FC forts, security forces, railway tracks, oil tankers, government offices, pro government tribesmen, official residences and civilians etc. BRA is the most prominent among the newly emerged Baloch militant groups. [Khurram Iqbal: Counter insurgency in Balochistan Pakistan’s strategy, outcome and future implications]

Despite the violent resurgence of the nationalists it is still an almost certainty that the voice of Bloch nationalists is not really the voice of all Balochis. While, unfortunately the fact is that general Balochi people are the ultimate victim of exploitation in the war between state and insurgents. Insurgent groups, in the opinion of many moderate Balochi people, do not represent the whole of province’s population. They do not have majority’s support as they too do not have any record of serving common people’s interests. In fact there is hardly much love lost between different insurgent groups and unity across these is tenuous.

Settlers issue & current situation in Balochistan

The term settlers is used in Baluchistan to describe those ‘ Baluchis’ who are ethnically neither Baloch nor Pathan. These ‘settlers’ in Balochistan have been living in the area for generations. We find this term extraordinary. Ethnic Balochis are also themselves settlers under one definition, and so are Pathans, as both ethnic groups arrived a few hundred years earlier and are not indigenous to Baluchistan.

The migration of settlers has been going on for at least two centuries. Their first migration took place when Punjab in late 1700s.  And the second flow of immigrants was started in 1800s during developmental movements in education, social services and journalism people of Balochistan invited various scholars from UP (Northern India) and Punjab to settle in Balochistan. [Historical perspective of Balochistan-p.8] By the end of nineteenth century majority of the government employees was Punjabi.

The professional entrepreneurial middle class composed of the non-indigenous communities in the province has been an asset to Pakhtuns and Balochs for a number of decades. For generations they have provided skilled manual labour from hairdressers and tailors to professional middle class including teachers, educationists, bankers, lawyers and scuh.

According to Assakzai, the contribution of Punjabis in the education sector in Balochistan is tremendous. A number of other journalists in Balochistan, Pakhtun and Balochs alike, have been trained by Punjabi- and Urdu-speaking journalists.

During the current wave of violence in Balochistan, the settlers have been particularly targeted and have suffered immense violence at the hands of  the insurgents. In a recent visit to Quetta we met with Baloch, pathan and ‘settler’ political workers, professionals and settlers. They present a gloomy picture of the situation in city and whole province. The targeted killing of the Punjabi-speaking minority has been going on since the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. It has been described by nationalists as revenge kiiling  to avenge the killing of Balochs by the “Punjabi” army during the operation.

There has been a series of target killings of settlers. Nationalist militant group in Balochistan are targeting and killing ‘settler’ educationists, doctors, professionals and such like. The people from other provinces who had come to work as low earning wage workers are being forced to migrate. This violence is pushing the province to further backwardness through skill and brain drain. These settlers in Balochistan all over Pakistan stand for the ethnic unity of all communities who are being targeted to destabilize the provincial capital.

In general, people are terrorized to the extent that they do not go out freely. Women and children are scared and feel themselves insecure. The major fallout of Baloch militants’ violence to be mass migration from Balochistan of Punjabi- and Urdu-speaking people, who mostly live in Quetta. The already deprived province will not be able to fill the gap. Recently, over 70 professors in Balochistan University applied to be relieved so that they can work in other provinces, following the brutal killing of Prof Nazima Talib. In other words if this happens, Balochistan University will simple shut down.
The insurgent groups and their supporters are brain-washing the general people through negative portrayal of the role of state against Balochi people. The Chief Minister of Balochistan Aslam Raisani sees incidents of target killing and bomb blasts as an aim to damaging Balochistan’s economy. He has also linked the recent deteriorating law and order situation in the province to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Pakhtun Factor


While Balochistan’s Pakhtuns may have sympathy for Baloch grievances, they have shunned away and occasionally condemned the violence by the nationalists. Some Pakhtuns claim that there is a fundamental difference between Pakhtun and Baloch political forces, in that Pakhtuns have never used violence as a method to resolve political problems, despite their equally serious grievances.

Pakhtun leaders in Balochistan point out that despite being 30 percent of the population, Pakhtuns have no quota in jobs. Even the convention of a Pakhtun being governor of Balochistan if the chief minister is Baloch has been broken this time. They complain that the Pakhtuns of the province have received no attention from the federal government because, they have never resorted to militancy. The recent Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package has nothing for Pakhtuns, who are nearly half the population of Balochistan.

Pakhtun political forces have opposed the target killings and held some active demonstrations. Many settlers it is said, are moving to Pakhtun areas. And some have actually joined Pakhtun political parties. Historically, Pakhtuns have been the main stay of the business community in Balochistan and have enjoyed excellent relations with the ‘Settler Balochis’ as well as Persian-speaking Hazara community. It has been reported that there are more Pakhtun-Punjabi intermarriages than Pakhtun-Baloch matches.

With the new naming of Paktunkhwa-khyber and a growing movement for smaller provinces, it is likely that Balochi Pakhtuns may become more vocal in creation of a province for themselves. They increasingly point out that while Baloch political forces want more powers for themselves they are not prepared to give the Pakhtuns of the province same rights.  Any ethnic problem this may lead to will worsen the socio-political situation in the province.
Liberation and Viability: Is independent Baluchistan viable?

Possible consequences for independent Balochistan and divided Pakistan

A very important aspect of the problem of the Balochistan is to see whether the independent Balochistan, as demanded by some groups in the province, is viable? For this case we need to look at the viability in terms of wherewithal to survive as a small state. Moreover, what are Baloch nationalists willing to do? Are they willing to take on their own sardars? Is the middle class educated? Are there enough educated, settled and politically conscious people, willing to take on the political lead?

At about 400,000 km sq, Balochistan will be 60th largest country in size, followed by 150 countries Population wise it will be somewhere between 155 to 160 on the list of the world’s population list.

With this new status will this state be competitive enough to survive as an independent state? What is the plan of action to run and sustain the state? Has anyone thought about this most fundamental question? Are the tribal chiefs, with their track record, capable of running an independent state in the interest of its own people? How well-prepared and well-planned are the separatists and their supporters to promise the survival of poor people of the province in the current age of globalization and international trading activities based on the vested geo-political and economic interests of the big economies?

In the times of dismantling boundaries between the countries of the world, small countries need to be competitive in all aspects. They need skills for resource development, viable economic plan; skill and technology; social, intellectual and human capital; capable leadership; and effective state structure to implement the plans. The way skilled people are deserting and being forced to migrate under the pain of death, it would be impossible for any state to survive. Only the other day, the Vice chancellor of Balochistan University held a press conference to state that his qualified staff wants to leave and at this rate the university may close.

Ziauddin Sardar in his article “Can small Countries Survive in the Future?” asserts that “In conventional development literature, small countries are distinguished by their physical size. Countries like The Gambia or Guinea-Bissau are described as facing ‘small-country problems’, i.e they are unable to sustain themselves. But small doesn’t necessarily mean unsustainable. Singapore, by contrast, has one of the highest standards of living in the world. This article argues that geographical or population size is less significant factors in determining viability than social, economic and cultural conditions. The future for ‘small’ countries will only be viable if they can come together on the basis of mutual help and respect.”

This is also important to note in the case of Balochistan. The conduct of Balochi tribal chiefs is that of oppressing and terrorizing the common people. With this situation will the sardars be able to prolong the basis of mutual respect and help with people?

The common Balochi people are biggest stakeholder in this problem. So they may raise themselves to the situation and question those who demand separation, about their rights of safety and survival. The Balochi people may ask:, how will the sardars and nationalists ensure an independent state without any bloodshed and any further violence? How will they ensure the provision of welfare services to the common Balochi people?

Russel Longcore on the state secession writes that only the nations with vibrant economies can survive or the regional cooperation can increase the potential of economic viability. With their target killing policy of educated ‘ settlers and Balochis’ own low development index and the general lack of visionary leadership, the viability of an independent Balochistan that can serve the interests of its own people, without becoming a vassal state of great powers, remains seriously suspect at the best and impossible in reality.

In theory even if one was to envisage such as scenario, Baluchistan will be in no position to choose its neighbours. Sandwiched between Pakistan and Iran from who it would accede, it is unlikely to gain any favours on the issues of food and water and even selling its ‘natural wealth’. Considering these realities and whether these may or may not have been assessed by nationalist struggling for ‘Greater Baluchistan’, it seems unlikely that they have the best interest of Baluchs at heart. If they really want to develop their people they may find it easier doing in the present federal setup of Pakistan, rather than some imagined unrealistic proposition.

Questions for Baloch Nationalists and Insurgents

 The analysis presented above should make a Baloch nationalist question the insurgents and those claiming to fight for a separate Baloch homeland. The strategy of the violence, target killing of other ethnic groups, especially skilled and educated, disruption of development projects and killing of those working on it especially non Pakistanis and the dim prospects for realization of these gas pipeline projects, especially in the near term, and a non functioning Gwadar, has had only negative consequences for Balochistan and Baloch nationalism.

For one, any material gains to development-starved Balochistan province have been lost. Further starvation of already starving population, may in the short term, be blamed upon the centre. However it would be a matter of time when this will be seen through. Stalemate at Gwadar has resulted in loss of opportunities for development both socially and economically. No pipeline through Balcohistan means no construction and maintenance jobs, for instance, or the possibility of a provincial share in gas transit fees, or wider distribution of natural gas within the province.

Brain drain and shortage of skills is already showing through. The premier institutions of Balochistan province, Balochistan university and Bolan Medical College are already creaking under severe strain due to shortage of educated and skilled. How does that benefit ordinary oppressed Baloch is beyond comprehension. It has been reported that such local trades as hair dressing or tailoring or even primary school teachers are rapidly becoming a scarce commodity in smaller Baloch towns.

Baloch Sardars continue to live abroad or in Karachi, in luxury. Those in power continue their unrelenting pursuit of power and luxury with least attention being paid to the law and order situation, peace and security, and mitigation of economic woes. Recently in an interview with daily Dawn, Mr Hiarbayar Marri, who along with Mr Bramdagh Bugti claims leadership of insurgents, when asked about his future plans about an independent Balochistan, completely fudged the issue. His response was that it was a matter for Baloch people to decide whether they will want democracy or Sardari system. One does not have to speculate much to understand what his own preference would be. While living in United Kingdom, his comments can only reflect his un-repentant ego and brought up. But it does provide food for thought for people who hold any hope from him and his compatriots.

Balochistan Package (see appendix 1)

The recently announced Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Baluchistan package and the passage of the 18th amendment in the constitution include most of the measures for reviving a good relationship of the state with Baloch people. But to eliminate the trust deficit of baloch people the most important thing for the government is to act now for the implementation of the devised measures.

The package has five dimensions. These relate to actions and measures in Constitutional, Political, Administrative and Economic matters and finally the Monitoring Mechanism. Here is the summary:

The basic points of this package include withdrawal of Army from Sui and Kohlu area, halting the cantonments in the areas, replacing of Army by F.C;

Inquiry in the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti and also into the murder of other Balochistan leaders such as Lala Munir or Ghulam Muhammad and fact finding in the ongoing current target killing in the province.

It also includes settling the royalty issue worth Rs 120 billion which goes back to 1954 and will be paid on a period of 12 years, and a better formula development in the current NFC award.

The release of missing persons in Balochistan, bringing the missing persons to courts, especially the ones that are involved in crimes would be provided with lawyers in assistance by the government, the issue of missing persons will be sorted within 7 days of the bill.

It also includes the working and mechanism for the development of the Gawadar Development Authority; which will be under the supervision of the Chief Minister and seven other members from the province will form the board of governors that will nominate a Chairman.

The package also announces the creation of extra 5,000 jobs for the Balochistan people in the government, semi-government and other such organizations.A free economic zone will be created in Gawadar; where all the posts will be filled by the locals from 1 to 16 scales on merit. And for the development of the Gawadar most of the local qualified contractors will be given preference.

There shall be uniform price of gas throughout the country for calculation of the gas development surcharge. Special incentives would be given to the local tribes in the Kohlu district to facilitate the exploration of the gas in the area.

The federal government would provide one billion rupees for rehabilitation and settlement of the IDPs from Dera Bugti.

Unfortunately this much awaited package did not bring in any immediate relief to the people struck with turmoil and strife. It took government good one and a half year to bring this out and yet within 24 hours it had been rejected by most of the Nawabs and local leaders of the Balochistan.

Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal, former parliamentary leader of the Pakhtunwa Milli Awami Party, speaking at a seminar held recently in Quetta on the socio-political situation in Balochistan, said that “The 18th amendment bill has come very late but still provides some hope for the improvement of relations between the province and the Centre,”. He added “Had a similar initiative been taken much earlier, confrontation between the federal government and the provinces could have been avoided. Some people are still viewing the constitutional package with skepticism, saying that it is too little being offered too late. If the government fails to truly work on empowering the provinces, the country would experience another epoch of dismemberment.”

An important business figure in Quetta, talking to us on the factors leading to the crisis said that the province, having enormous strategic significance in the country, has been the victim of neglect by the government [provincial and federal] for its indifference and tribal sardars for their own vested interests. He said that the recent announcements by the government can give a ray of hope to the people but only if materialized in time. In his opinion the separatist elements in Balochistan do not have a popular following and their cause is to secure their authority over the people.

The gentleman is of the view that the bureaucracy in Islamabad till today, is not bothered about what is happening in Balochistan which is disappointing.  He further asserted that the prosperity of Pakistan is linked with the prosperity of Balochistan as it is the strategically located province, which enhances Pakistan’s geopolitical importance in the region.

As Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bazenjo rightly puts it, ‘Empower the locals. How can this be achieved in the present set up is hard to fathom.  Even in the democratic setup it is not the lower or middle classes who have come forward, but rather the nawabs and sardars continue to rule the roost. Unless and until the tribal system is broken down and dismantled or the tribal leaders are willing to be less powerful which is absolutely unimaginable.

Usman Zahid opines that ‘the current package is a disappointment in a number of ways because the outcome as compared to the time taken by the government is not much; the points mentioned in the package provide no short-term relief to the province; it does not end target killing over-night nor it gives any relief to the masses in one way or the other.’

He further adds, ‘ What could have been done by the government was to announce short-term goals along with long-term goals which could have included emphasis on the current law and order situation; provision of electricity in far flung villages of the province; declaring economic and industrial zones in the region so that through private firms employment would had been created; special subsidies for the area that would had developed an economic cycle for the region sparking change through short-term goals that would had lead to long-term goals and would had made the success ratio of any such package much high then as compared to the current package’.

Governor Balochistan Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi has recently said while speaking to a seminar held to discuss the current situation in Balochistan that the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan package was not the solution to the province’s problems. Speaking to journalists at the Governor House, he said Balochistan’s issues could only be addressed through complete provincial autonomy.

In I A Rehman’s opinion , ‘the main responsibility for an inauspicious start of the Aghaz-i-Huqooq exercise lies with the federal government. It should have been aware of the Balochistan people’s distrust of reform proposals that began with the dismissal of the report of the reform committee of 1949. They are completely fed up with reform proposals because of a long history of failure to implement them.

He goes on to say, ‘unfortunately, the episode of the package has again exposed Islamabad’s inability to grasp the seriousness of the Balochistan crisis. It does not seem to realise that vague proposals for removing Balochistan’s grievances accumulated over six long decades can make no impression on its Young Turks nor can they attract elements that are prepared to entrust their future to the Pakistan federation. The latter need to have something tangible in their hands with which to negotiate with the angry young people of Balochistan.’

Solution: What needs to be done?

Under the circumstances what does one do. This is not the problem of one class, section, province or one dimensional. Therefore the response needs to be wholesome. The most fundamental and urgent requirement is for trust building. And the only way this can even begin is, by governance measures from the centre that are urgent, transparent and reach the door step of the ordinary masses.

For its part, Pakistan needs to learn that the problem of Balochistan must be given urgent attention and top priority in good faith and measure. The governing elite in Pakistan have to be sensitive to the genuine demands placed on the federal government by the Balochis. These demands are protected and guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan.

The government has to adopt a multi-pronged anti-insurgency strategy to placate the Baluch poeple. The use of force will not lead to a peaceful solution. History is witness to the fact that suppression further ignites such movements. The situation calls for strongest possible political will to deliver and implement the solution among all concerned.

It is true that insurgency still does not command the majority support. This fact must be capitalized on. By taking serious and urgent socio economic measure and by providing justice and fair play as basis of governance, the back of the insurgency can be broken. There is still an attitude among the Pakistanis establishment led by military that insurgency depends on some individuals. This is no longer the case and grass root support has widened in past few years. This can only be countered by urgent and fair governance.

This can be achieved if the federal government, in conjunction with the provincial government, applies the will to ensure that the legitimate rights of the people of Balochistan are granted and delivered immediately.

In this regard following steps can be considered;

  • Government should draw out a clear cut policy giving due share in natural resources to the province.
  • The revenue from the developmental projects in Balochistan must be spent on its development.
  • Development work should be carried out in the fields of infrastructure development, water for irrigation and drinking, education, health, energy and productive economic activity.
  • The delivery system of basic social services like health, education, water and sanitation needs to be strengthened and easily accessible to common people.
  • Royalties, duties, development surcharges and other levies owed to the province by the centre must be paid on fair basis.
  • Pakistan Army should also make its image better in that province. The government must implement the plans of canceling the constructing cantonments away from the border region. There must be no unnecessary presence of military forces in the province.
  • Pakistan Army should run a recruitment drive for Baloch.
  • On the political level, the government must involve the political and nationalist groups in the mainstream politics. The Baloch leaders must be engaged by the political leadership to neutralise the extremist/separatist segments of their groups.
  • The Baloch must be given due representation in state institutions.
  • Balochistan’s cities, towns and villages should be given priority and preference for Sui gas, minerals, and other basic necessities of life.
  • Judiciary should play its role- SC must act as to ensure justice in the province and the provision of basic national rights to the Baloch people in capacity of equal Pakistanis.
  • Action is needed on the missing persons form federal executive and judiciary
  • Peace and rule of law must be ensured. As an ancillary point this must not be used as an excuse to perpetrate state sanctioned crimes.
  • Governance and Economic Management Programmes should be developed and implemented.
  • Budgetary controls should be given to Local Bodies, with nominated Official in order to ensure the benefits reaches at the grass root levels.
  • Provincial government should tackle, education, health, housing, law and order, security, communication, roads and transport as top most priority.
  • The long-held fear of the Baloch people that investors may take their resources away needs to be addressed by the safeguard investment policies of assurance by the government.
  • The Baloch Nationalists, if sincere with a peaceful resolution of the years old conflict, must negotiate the issues with the political leadership in order to resolve the conflicts.
  • By creating major opportunities—specifically, by turning Balochistan into an important energy conduit in the region—to address Baloch nationalist demands in a positive and mutually acceptable manner.

The central government and the establishment should stop seeing this as a foreign instigated phenomenon only, as was done in the case of East Pakistan.

This mind set will surely lead to more destruction. The need now is to acknowledge the grievances and deal with them directly, immediately and effectively in a political framework delivered by transparent and fully empowered political forces.

While there can be an opinion about whether such a solution is a tall order or not, there can be no two opinions that this is the only way out of the Baloch insurgency. On their part the moderate Baloch forces need to create clear blue water between them and nationalist insurgents and need to challenge the militants’ search for an “ideal Balochistan” where ethnic minorities would have no place or which brings death and destruction at an unimaginable scale just to satisfy egos of certain arrogant sardars or fulfil dreams of certain international powers.  .


The history of relationship between centre and Balochistan shows a long story of political inaptitude, economic exploitation and unfulfilled promises. State, being the major runner of the national affairs, is to be held responsible more than any one else for causing the crisis. Centre in its successive policies and measures have overlooked the sociological and anthropological peculiarities of Balochistan people and harsh economic realities under which they pass their lives and which over 60 years have given birth to deprivation.  Above all, the negligence of the development needs created massive despair in Balochistan people.


This deprivation has made the masses more vulnerable to the appeal by the extremists of all hue and colour. Federal government despite its claim remains unable to design formal conflict resolution mechanisms. One of the main reasons for their failure to cope with the problem has been the weak democratic history of the country, which created the basis of deep polarization due to which the general masses can no longer identify themselves with the state.

It has been said Pakistani government has had its constraints. Robert Wirsing observes that ‘the energy related and other strategic forces impacting on that

part of the world join together in shaping Pakistani perceptions of their policy requirements, in some instances narrowing options, in others practically dictating Islamabad’s actions. He further states ‘these forces have demanded that the central government more strongly exert its authority in Baluchistan.’

However we will still assert that international situations and constraints can never be an excuse for any nation or state to neglect, oppress or deprive its own masses. During the past few years, the debate on this issue in media has reinserted the ignored Balochistan into general consciousness of people. This debate has opened a new discussion on the different dimensions of the crisis. In the international media, however, the nationalist movement in Balochistan has also been exaggerated and propagandized. The historic tribal rivalries and the tension between Balochi people and settlers have also been exploited to create and further internal divides and conflicts in the province.

Only recently the government has taken a few of the long awaited initiatives to address the reasons of provincial conflict. After the introduction of Aghaz-e-Huqooq e Balochistan package and the passing of the 18th constitutional amendment and abolition of the military cantonments in the province, the separatist movement seems to have ebbed slightly. Although even in this period of lull the target killing has continued, and socioeconomic problems continue to simmer. Although people are hopeful but they are still skeptic about the promises due to the trust deficit between province and state.

To solve various problems of national interest through wide consensus, government should work on creating and implementing concrete policies that will lead to socio-economic development and problem resolution. Provincial and ethnic autonomy could enhance the participatory approach which will help to have wide consensus over national affairs. The legitimate grievances of Baloch people must be addressed as of all the other deprived areas.

For the broader peace and security program in the region, the government must invest in human development, and politically empower the people to take part in economic development through modern but decentralized governance mechanism. The strong and accountable democratic setup of governance can serve as the best means of conflict resolution.

The real solution lies in the strong political commitment to implement independent policy decisions in the best interest of Pakistan. Good governance and the stamina and patience to build institutions and reconciliation, magnanimity and humility on behalf of federal political elites, efficient and uncorrupt public service, independent and efficient judiciary, disciplined police force, and political will to execute the plan, can end this crisis.

Creation and implementation of Governance and Economic Management Programme (GEMP) with nominated officials at local levels to deliver health education, energy supply transport and social transformation agenda will bring relief, peace and security.

The establishment must come forward and wholeheartedly demonstrate its willingness to grant self-rule and political autonomy to the province in order to build a new social contract. It remains to be seen if the government is up to the task.

In Short there are three components to the comprehensive solution to Balochistan problem.

One, recognition of the legitimate demands of Baloch people and assessment of the ground reality

 Second developments of sound policies and plans that would address the economic deprivation and sociopolitical issues and empower people;

 Third and final, immediate, direct, accountable and transparent delivery through provincial and local governors.


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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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