Sunday, 25 October 2009

On Balochistan

Gibran Peshimam has a good peice in the News on the still-unresolved Baluchistan issue and how it is becoming increasingly vital, and increasingly difficult, to attempt to bring it to some kind of just resolution.

Last year there was some mumbles from the PPP government about righting the wrongs done to the Baluchi people, apologies and trying to find the whereabouts of the over 1,100 disappeared in the Province, but when it came to taking concrete measures, little seemed to be happen. The disappearances continued as did the simmering insurgency which targetted police, army, infrastructure and gas and mining operations, as well as non-Balochis civilians. As Asma Jehangir of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan points out on this segment from a talk show on Geo, the government's control over its Balochistan policy seems non-existant.

Certainly at a time where the democratically elected government was being smacked down by the army over issues such as control over the intelligence agency, the ISI, drone strikes on the ISI-friendly Taliban groups such as the Haqqanis in North Waziristan and so on, it was not keen on trying to wrangle control of the country's Balochistan policy from them.

But what has been the result of this? The insurgency has only grown worse. As Murtaza Razvi has pointed out in this article, Why keep on bleeding Balochistan? With the rolling up of the local government system and the economic troubles of the Balochistan government, it seemed as if whatever few crumbs were being allocated to try and redress the province's greviances were also being taken away. Continued military repression, including the closure of Baloch newspapers, a move unmentioned by the TV news media that at the time were trumpeting the violation of press freedom when journos were beaten up at a lawyer's rally, added salt to the wounds. It should be noted that the BLA (Baloch Liberation Army) has also murdered journalists who have written articles they did not like.

Reccently Zardari and co have once again started speaking of Balochistan, announcing that there will be a massive socio-economic uplift package for the province. This was part of a wider effort to once again engage with the Balochistan issue, but it has been met with sckeptisim on the part of Balochi nationalist leaders.

The military's fears have been stoked by the contacts between various Balochi nationalist leaders and India, including alleged material support for the militants. Various military apologists like to point out this website for something claiming to be the Government of Balochistan in Exile which announces itself to be based in Israel - looks like 1 guy whose funding by whoever was pulled before the year was out! I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually some sort of idiotic Pak military "psy-op". Because who thinks there is actually a World Baloch Jewish Alliance Building in Jerusalem, ISRAEL? (And why the capitals?) Alternately it could be one idiot trying to take the Chelabi route to influence in the US.

Anyway, despite the military's fears, the need to do something concrete rather than cosmetic is dire. While relatively moderate politicians may be participating in the democratic process and willing to work with the Pakistani govt., we should also heed their warnings that the more this insurgency drags on the more radicalized the next generation of Balochis are going to get. Now is the time to act.

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