The liberal, secular, democratic aspirations of the Baluchs must be supported, even at the cost of antagonising a belligerent, eternally hostile, rouge neighbour
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concluding remarks at the recent all-party meeting where he mentioned atrocities meted out by the Pakistani State in PoJK and Baluchistan against its own people come at a crucial juncture. All efforts of bilateral dialogues between India and Pakistan have gone in vain. Instigation and open blatant support of the jihadi terror outfits from across the border has emboldened the Kashmiri separatists who have taken the Valley for ransom. With connivance of the Pakistani state, leaders of the terror outfits Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin and their ilk are busy organising open anti-India demonstration along the border and elsewhere, collecting donations to wage jihad in Kashmir. In this backdrop, we need to see the relevance of PM Modi’s remarks. Of course, it is game changer in relation with Pakistan. Supporters of Baluch movement felt reassured by Modi’s remarks that Pakistan is bombing its own citizens using fighter planes and committing atrocities against the people in Baluchistan and PoJK. India’s official stand on Baluchistan and PoJK may now change the narrative of South-Asia’s geopolitics and make a strong case for the legitimacy of Baluchistan’s decades long freedom struggle. No wonder if Pakistan hurriedly offered to reinitiate talks on Kashmir.
By raising the issue of Baluchistan India has now indicated its sympathy to the Baluch cause. The British, Americans and Iranians may also follow the suit as they have their own strategic interest in the region. The then British Prime Minister Tony Blair had
convinced the Americans that an independent Baluchistan will give America the strategic depth into Afghanistan by solving its overland route problem. An independent Baluchistan may help Iran extend its influence among the Shia population in the region. As per an
estimate by the Home Department of Baluchistan the Shia Hazara population in the capital city Quetta is some where around 5,00,000. They have been
frequently targeted by the Sunni militant groups of Pakistan. 758 Shias were killed by the Deobandi millitants (Sipah Sahaba Taliban) during 2008-2012 in 478 incidents. This banned organisation keeps targeting the Shias throughout Baluchistan. The sectarian divide among the Muslims of the so-called Islamic Ummah is beyond comprehension.
In the modern political system the idea of nationalism doesn’t only emanate from the desire of a large group of people sharing common culture, history, faith and language to form an independent nation of their own. It also depends on the share of each one of them in the power structure. Pakistan has deprived the Baluchs of their constitutional rights. Baluchistan which
covers 134,0154 sq. miles equivalent to 42 per cent of Pakistan’s area has only14 seats out of 340 in the National Assembly in Pakistan. The Baluch
representation in the armed forces is not even 1 per cent though there is a full regiment named after it. It is predominantly represented by Punjabis but not by ethnic Baluch. Same is the situation in the Pakistani administrative structure.
The pathetic socio-economic indices indicate years of exploitation and deliberate neglect of Baluchistan and its people by the Punjabi dominated Pakistani establishment. Baluchs have benefited little from the natural resources that have flown out of their lands. The region produces much more natural gas than it consumes. It contributes nearly $1.4 billion per year through gas revenues, but the royalty it receives from the federal government is only $116 million. As per the UNDP report on Pakistan almost half of the bottom 30 districts in terms of human development were located in Baluchistan. As against that, 60 per cent of the top 31 districts in human development were located in Punjab.
Besides these, what is agitating the Baluchs most is the rising incidences of state led killings and disappearances of the people. Pakistan receives huge economic and weaponry support from the US in the name of its so-called war against terror. But a great deal of it is being diverted to curb the Baluch national struggle for independence, killing
innocent people. There is a long list of oppression which the Baluchs are facing and which give legitimacy to their demand of independence. Today Baluchistan has become a victim of internal colonisation. Its resources are being mercilessly exploited, environment being destroyed, demography being altered and people being left
impoverished and powerless. A nation cannot be created and held together in the name of religion alone. Bangladesh and Baluch nationalism have amply vindicated it. Pakistan was created out of this tragic illusion. Now it must pay the price.
(The writer is an academic and a socio-political commentator. Views are personal)