October 09, 2012

Analysis of Balochistan’s situation

Analysis of Balochistan's situation — Sheikh Asad Rahman

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Baloch political parties have always demanded the political, socio-economic, cultural rights within the federation as enunciated in the Lahore Resolution of 1940

The State of Kalat (Balochistan) declared independence under the 'Standstill Agreement, August 11, 1947' on August 15, 1947. After negotiations that lasted about six months, Balochistan acceded to Pakistan on March 27, 1948 under an Accession Document signed by Mr Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat and verified by A S B Shah, the joint secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Subsequently in 1955, Kalat lost its autonomous status when all states were amalgamated into the provincial and federal administrative setup. West Pakistan came into being, with all provinces amalgamated as one unit to gain parity with East Pakistan. Balochistan was ruled under the 1901 FCR regime, and in 1970, Balochistan wrested provincial status for itself.

Pakistan is not a homogeneous nation state and in reality is a multi-national one. This factor has never been recognised by the Pakistani state machinery, and instead a unitary political, cultural, socio-economic structure and policies have been forcefully imposed. These policies have proved to be the genesis of the problems faced by Balochistan since 1948 just as it happened in East Pakistan, which led to the dismemberment of the country. Ethnic nationalities have a distinct socio-economic and political history, geographic affiliation and most importantly, culture, and thus human, cultural and socio-economic rights accrue to the federating nationalities. These rights were denied to East Pakistan and Balochistan to date.

The 1948, 1958, 1962-68, 1973-77 and the ongoing violence and civil war were not only expressions of the Baloch resistance to imposition of an alien culture and politico-administrative structure but a very emphatic movement for their fundamental, human, cultural, social, political and economic rights. Balochistan's political elite have been continuously excluded from policy and decision-making forums, or under-represented due to the population basis used for electing political representation in the National Assembly. While the Senate has an equal representation for all provinces, it is not the final policy/decision making forum as it has no fiscal or political decision making powers. These are the functions of the National Assembly where Balochistan has only 14 seats out of 340. Balochistan has 30 districts but the division of constituencies on the basis of population restricts the seats to only 14, thereby denying the Baloch any real say in national politics or even adequate representation.

It should be noted that primary education is universally accepted to be the most productive if it is in the mother tongue. In Sindh, primary education is in Sindhi while in some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pashto is the medium of instruction at the primary level. Balochistan and Punjab do not have primary education in the mother tongues and, therefore, it is a violation of cultural rights.

These resistance wars were also against the economic exploitation of Balochistan's strategic and natural resources by the state with no benefits accruing to the local population of the district or province. In 1952, gas was discovered by Burma Shell in the Bugti area. Pakistan was operating under the India Mining Act 1935, which gave five percent of the net revenue for local area development to the place where the resource was being extracted. When Nawab Akbar Bugti, the then defence minister of Pakistan, demanded this five percent, overnight legislation denied them the right with the stipulation that all resources above and underground belong to God and the state. On the resignation of Nawab Akbar and the agitation by Bugti tribesmen, Burma Shell, with the knowledge of the government, signed a land rental deal for land under installations with Mr Bugti, which continued until 2005 when Musharraf stopped Pakistan Petroleum Limited from paying this rent, leading to further tensions between Mr Bugti and the state (especially Musharraf).

Musharraf took it as a personal affront when Mr Bugti demanded a stake and majority shares for the Baloch and provincial government in all mega projects (Gwadar, Reko Diq, Saindak, oil and gas exploration). Musharraf leased the Saindak gold and copper project to a Chinese company with a share distribution that is not understandable and has no logic: 75 percent to China, 23 percent federal government and two percent to the Balochistan provincial government. The outstanding payments of gas royalty to the provincial government have not been made and the finance minister of Balochistan claimed Rs 800 billion as payable in 2010. The Pakistan People's Party government announced Rs 12 billion in installments over 10 years to be paid to Balochistan. The Reko Diq project was leased to the Tethyan Copper Company but the Supreme Court has since stayed this deal.

It is to be noted that Balochistan was peaceful with no ethnic, sectarian violence or civil war from 1977 to 2002 when the province had Baloch/Pashtun coalition governments. It has been reported that the IB, ISI and MI have manipulated most of these elections except for the historically fairest and free 1970 elections in which the nationalist National Awami Party (NAP) won the majority and formed a coalition government with the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam. The government lasted only nine months when it was dismissed on trumped up charges by Z A Bhutto at the behest of the Shah of Iran and the NAP was banned and all its central leadership incarcerated in the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case.

The Baloch political parties have always demanded the political, socio-economic, cultural rights within the federation as enunciated in the Lahore Resolution of 1940. It is only in the past 10 years when they have been pushed to the wall by the genocidal tactics of the military and its agencies that the demand for secession has taken root with calls for the right to self-determination. The military's interests in Balochistan are strategic and exploitative. The Balochistan coastline has three naval bases and the Gwadar Port sits on the mouth of the Hormuz Straits, through which all the oil exports from the Gulf pass. Balochistan also has borders with Iran and Afghanistan. But more importantly, the vast uninhabited lands of Balochistan and the strategic resources attract the military. The military thinks of Balochistan as a second line of defence against India; uses the uninhabited lands as testing grounds for nuclear and conventional weapons; and wants to control the areas where Uranium deposits have been identified.

The military's mindset is anti-people and it behaves like a colonial power in Balochistan. All civilian governments (good or bad) have had to suffer at the hands of the military through interventions that have derailed the country's socio-economic, political and democratic institutional development and framework. Even today in Balochistan, the military is the real ruler.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal's recent submissions to the Supreme Court and his six points all point to the military having usurped the fundamental and human rights of the inhabitants of Balochistan. This situation is untenable and could be a harbinger of foreign direct intervention of powers like the US, which has certain strategic interests in the region. Can this situation be resolved and Balochistan set on the path of peaceful socio-economic, political development? A million dollar question that can only be answered by GHQ!

The writer is the Executive Director of the Sungi Development Foundation

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