Balochistan - Pakistan’s New Battle Front
Balochistan, the most backward province of Pakistan is facing troubles and miseries relentlessly since last decade, though it had been ignored by all the successive governments from the very beginning. Situation in this province has alarmingly deteriorated in recent times. However, rulers in Islamabad appear least bothered about the situation. Sentiments of heightened hatred, anger and dismay against state of are clearly visible among common masses of Balochistan. Now they are now not confined to a particular section of nationalist parties and groups. Earlier, there were few nationalists parties, which used to speak against Pakistan, but now the situation has become so volatile that politico-religious parties like Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) which never spoke against state Institutions seem changing their stance at least at provincial level. Understanding the pulse of people of Gwadar, JeI Balochistan Amir Hidayatur Rehman led the 32 days long massive Gwadar sit-in. Following Gwadar sit-in, JeI on Jan 31 announced a schedule of protest programmes from February 1 - March 1. JeI leader Hidayatur Rehman accused Pakistan government of not honoring the agreement signed with the participants of Quetta sit-in.
Anti Pakistan sentiments among people of Balochistan are on the increase. They have grievances in connection with missing persons, their development and CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). Main reason behind deteriorating situation of Balochistan is that Pakistan government and agencies haven’t evolved any clear and comprehensive policy on separatists and militants. Earlier, only those separatist groups which were affiliated to nationalist parties were active. Now other people, who are inimical to the CPEC, have become active. They are benefitting from the proxy war between China and the US. This proxy war is catching momentum day by day with Balochistan becoming the main battlefield. Provincial government as well as MNAs (Members of the National Assembly) and Senators from Balochistan have no interest in these matters. Even Pakistani politicians and media didn’t highlight the Kech incident (January 25/26) in which the militants killed several Pakistani security forces personnel including one major and one captain. Media also didn’t have any information about the killing of four people including three levies (paramilitary) personnel and cousin of former interior minister Sarfraz Bugti in a bomb blast at Sui on January 28. Pakistani media learnt about the incident only after Sarfraz Bugti informed and asked media to report the incident.
Presently, there is no prominent leader in Balochistan, who could genuinely do advocacy for Pakistan. The provincial government has nothing to do with what is happening in connection with protests and security situation. Pak media only used to show news about power tussle in Quetta between Jam Kamal and Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, who replaced the former recently. Power-hungry Baloch politicians are interested only in grabbing power. They have no interest in the grievances of their people, nor in the state of Pakistan. Pakistani security forces and intelligent agencies are allegedly involved in most sensitive issue of missing persons. Legally, Pak agencies and armed forces are not allowed to commit such acts of enforced disappearances and abductions. The missing persons’ issue is biggest problem of the province, but nothing seems happening on it. When the state and the government fail to evolve any clear policy, army or other security forces personnel engaged in fighting against militants in Balochistan, take revenge of any attack on them by the militants in form of enforced disappearances. There is complete mum in the govt and media on security forces repression in Balochistan.
At the one hand, Pakistani government didn’t address the issue of missing persons; while on the other hand, it didn’t focus on permanent problem of deprivations of the Balochistan’s people. Today when Gwadar is being debated upon the world over, because of its sit -in and protest, Gwadar is getting electricity from Iran. The people of Balochistan complain that the Pakistani government built power plants at Sahiwal under the CPEC, but it kept Gwadar deprived of the electricity. Even today, people of Gwadar are not getting drinking water. The third major problem of Gwadar people is related to illegal fishing by trawlers, mostly owned by Chinese companies. Crores of rupees are given to the rulers and influential people, sitting in Quetta and other cities of Pakistan for plundering sea resources of Balochistan.
These days, the Makran Division has emerged as main front of the conflict. Allah Nazar group is highly active in this division. Though, Imran Khan has made Shah Zain Bugti a minister in his cabinet for appeasing Baloch separatists, particularly Brahamdagh Bugti and others peace in the province appears illusive. The Imran Khan government ignored Pakistan’s loyalists like Sarfraz Bugti and in coming times, it is understood that they will not stand by the state. The morale of Baloch militants and separatists is very high and terrorist incidents are taking place on daily basis in Balochistan. No single day passes without any such incident but Pakistani media doesn’t mention it. Pakistani analysts and observers describe the Balochistan issue as biggest issue in connection with security of Pakistan and regretted that it is not included in media priorities. Pakistani intelligence agencies are also playing their role in this kind of media blackout. The Deep State in Pakistan is doing what it does best.
(Rishi Suri is a senior editor at The Daily Milap and has previously served as the Media Advisor to the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister).