How to make sure Baloch lives matter

A public policy analyst writes, "Enforced disappearances have long been a stain on Pakistan’s human rights record. Despite the pledges of successive governments to criminalize this practice, there has been slow movement on legislation while people continue to be forcibly disappeared with impunity."

Baloch lives

Fatima Ishaq‘s brother, Imam Ishaq Baloch, disappeared 2 years ago. Fatima used every platform to highlight her concerns and advocate for his release, however, she did not get justice in our Madina like welfare state. She lost all hope after continuous helplessness and eventually committed suicide.    

Such enforced disappearances have long been a stain on Pakistan’s human rights record. Despite the pledges of successive governments to criminalize this practice, there has been slow movement on legislation, and people continue to engage in this practice with impunity.

The Minister of State Affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, Nigel Adams said, “We are aware of reports of mass graves in Khuzdar, Turbat and Dera Bugti in Baluchistan. These would be of deep concern to the British government.”

Read more: Did previous governments neglect Balochistan?

Enforced disappearances plaguing Baluchistan?

Authorities have to understand that they can not bring about permanent peace while different forms of oppression still thrive. Military operations, enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings and stern action towards dissenters are the tools of a rogue state, which depicts the weaknesses of a state and its institutions. These acts violate our constitution and Human Rights Charter of United Nations.

To understand the significance of any problem or dispute, it is said that one must first understand its history and origin. The history of Baluchistan since Pakistan’s independence is marked with suppression and resistance. The matter could be resolved if tackled wisely right after independence. However, the Baloch people have been facing victimization and infringement of their basic rights for decades.

In the initial years of Pakistan, it was easier to resolve the conflict that, with time, became a die-hard resistance movement. Successive regimes have tried to quell this resistance in Baluchistan with military force again and again. However, this has only succeeded in hardening the alienation of the Baloch people. Hence the Balochi demand for liberation.

Read more: “Balochistan is the future of Pakistan,” COAS Gen. Qamar Bajwa

Enforce disappearances have become a norm in Baluchistan. Oppression and subjugation don’t address the menaces of the people. It can’t efface anger. Robust and stern actions always augment and infect quadruple hostility and belligerence. If extrajudicial execution and disappearance are the only available options, then why do we have a judiciary? Why do we have prosecutions and trials?

In a truly democratic state, no one is above the law, and whosoever commits a crime must be punished according to the state laws. A criminal whatever his crime and however gruesome it may be, has a constitutional right to the due process of law. Authorities have to understand the repercussions of oppressive acts. Such acts deteriorate the social fabric of society; weaken state institutions and trigger insurrection.

Armed groups rebelling against the state

The Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Baluchistan Liberation Front (BLF) are the armed groups in the rebellion and have previously claimed responsibility for several major attacks. They have targeted security forces and people from various ethnic backgrounds like PashtunsSindhis and Punjabis whom they consider outsiders.

Baluchistan is an integral part of Pakistan. Pakistan will never let it be lost at any cost. So its only an Indian fantasy that Baluchistan would ever separate from Pakistan. BLF, BLA and other tiny sections with the economic assistance of Research Analysis Wing (RAW) and secret agency of Afghanistan cannot turn their dream into reality.

People of Baluchistan are democratic in every sense; they take part in general elections, they believe in democratic norms and values. Baluchistan Awami Party (BAP) emerged as the largest party in Baluchistan as a result of the 2018 Pakistan’s general election, people give mandate to BAP along others parties that believe to seek rights of Baluch people through peaceful means.

Read more: 10th NFC Award: Will Javed Jabbar get Balochistan its due share?

The Gallup survey revealed that the majority of Baloch do not support separation from Pakistan. Only a handful of Balochs were in favor of it. However, a majority (67 percent) of Baluchistan’s population did favor greater provincial autonomy. They support political parties who use the legislature to address their grievances. Experts also claim that most of the nationalists in the province had come to believe that they could fight for their political right within Pakistan.

Reservations about CPEC

With the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the development of Gwadar Port, Baluchistan has already acquired greater importance. Baluchistan’s Assembly has expressed serious concern over less share of the province in projects launched under the CPEC and moved a resolution demanding the federal government to form a national commission to look into the alleged unjust distribution of CPEC projects.

Baluchistan nationalists oppose the CPEC because they think that it would turn the native Baluch into a minority in their own region. Construction contracts at Gwadar port were awarded to non-Baloch firms who hired technical and other staff from outside of Baluchistan. The Balochi also believe that China is merely interested in preying their resources without giving their due share.

According to a senior government official, the Baluchistan government is seeking 2.5% share in the Sui field for a provincial holding company and allocation of gas for its consumers in line with Article 158 of the Constitution. Under this article, the producing province has the first right over gas under the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The government must accept the legitimate demands of the Baloch and redress them at the earliest. Royalties from minerals, gas etc, should be spent for the betterment of Baluchistan and its poor people. It may take time to clear the mess inherited from the past, but the first steps need to be taken now.

Read more: Another attack in Balochistan raises concerns about insurgency

What fuels insurgency in Balochistan?

There are empirical pieces of evidence to illustrate that state actions indeed have a direct impact on the insurgency in Baluchistan; any reconciliatory move by the state results in a decline in insurgent attacks, whereas any state-backed hostility against Baloch correlates with a spike in insurgency.

In reaction to the military operation in December 2005, attacks by insurgents increased by 855 percent. A significant decline in insurgent attacks was observed in response to the economic packages announced for Baluchistan in October 2008 and March 2009.

The Pakistani security establishment should show greater respect for human rights in Baluchistan by disbanding death squads, stopping extrajudicial executions, and ending forced disappearances. Serious negotiations and political solutions are impossible as long as these violations persist.

PM Imran Khan, despite his tall claims, did not initiate multi-stakeholder dialogue to develop a framework to uplift Baluchistan from poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, deteriorating industrialization and vanishing agriculture sector.

Read more: Covid-19: Time to rescue Balochistan

The solution can be traced out by correcting flawed economic policies and defective political engineering in the province which raises a special class of the ‘political elite’. With little vision, they do not bother with socio-economic development and always emphasise on their personal benefits to maintain their political hegemony.

Moreover, the Baluch deserve various welfare schemes to improve public life such as education, healthcare, potable water, infant and maternal mortality, electricity and sanitation facilities.

The Chinese concept of “targeted poverty alleviation”, which refers to “better education, jobs, higher incomes, social insurance, medical services, comfortable living and healthy environment”, is a perfect blueprint that needs to be implemented in Baluchistan. 

For decades, the Afghan Taliban were considered terrorists over the globe. America has started to withdraw its forces from Afghan soil and signed a peace deal with them. Now sovereign nation-states are going to acknowledge their legitimacy. Pakistan has a glittering example in neighbor in this regard.

So a pacifist approach, negotiations, table talk and stable political and economic system with a justified allocation of resources are the best available options to efface the anger among dissenters and would reduce long term social and security risks in Baluchistan. 

The writer is a public policy analyst and has an interest in geopolitics. He tweets @OmerAliAwan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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