Tuesday, Jan 23, 2018 | Last Update : 05:28 AM IST

The elephant in the room... Balochistan

Veteran Baloch journalist who lives in Washington DC.
Published : Dec 31, 2017, 7:12 am IST
Updated : Dec 31, 2017, 7:15 am IST

Despite Balochistan’s vast riches, majority of Baloch people live in abject poverty.

The army boys need to realise the insurgency will continue until they take corrective measures instead of barking at India, and sometimes, Afghanistan.
 The army boys need to realise the insurgency will continue until they take corrective measures instead of barking at India, and sometimes, Afghanistan.

The fairy tale spun by the Deep State in Pakistan, the fifth largest country with the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world, is that the country is set to become an Asian tiger thanks to the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor. But like in any fairy tale there has to be a villain that is hell bent upon destroying all the goodness: India.

Islamabad accuses New Delhi of fuelling a 12-year-old low level insurgency in France-sized southwestern Balochistan province, citing the case of arrest of Indian national Kulbushan Jadhav. The Deep State, that compromises the army, security and intelligence services and religious clerics, like in the case of Bangladesh in 1971 is in complete self-denial of their wrongs in Balochistan, which continue to fester like a bleeding wound.

A jolt to the Asian tiger dream came last week when Pakistan newspaper Dawn reported that China has stalled funding worth nearly one billion dollars of two key road projects of the CPEC passing through Balochistan.

Frustrated over the Chinese meiyou (no in Chinese), the retribution from the Pakistan army was swift. Pakistan soldiers kidnapped more than five dozen Baloch women including Noor Khatoon and Sher Khatoon, sisters of freedom leader Dr Allah Nazar, chief of the Balochistan Liberation Front. Those abducted by the army, which is spear headed in Balochistan by former spokesman for the Inter Services Public Relations — the army’s spin doctor — Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, include Baloch babies whose ages range from six months to three years.

The Baloch grievances against Islamabad dates back to March 28, 1948 when Balochistan was merged with Pakistan, even though Pakistan founder M.A. Jinnah had recognised Balochistan as a sovereign state.

One of the most glaring examples of killing, coupled with rapacious loot and plunder is Dera Bugti, stronghold of more than half a million Bugti tribesmen. A military operation began there in spring 2005, under orders of former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf; overall 35,000 Baloch civilians have been killed all over Balochistan since then, while the fate of at least 8,000 victims of enforced disappearances is still unknown. The dead among the Bugtis alone number 20,000, including former Balochistan governor and chief minister Nawab Akbar Bugti, whose family was not even allowed to attend his last rites. Pakistan courts have absolved Gen Musharraf, one of the main brains  behind giving Gwadar Port to the Chinese, in the Bugti assassination case while Bugti’s successor Brahumdagh Bugti lives in exile in Geneva, though his asylum petition was denied last month.

The heart wrenching story is more than half of the urban Baloch population have no access to gas while giant pipes of a gas transmission system that extends nearly 5,000 miles (7,756 KM) have been taking the gas away from the town of Sui in the Bugti area to Pakistan capital Islamabad, and other Pakistan cities for more than 60 years. To this day 80 per cent of the half million strong Bugti tribesmen in the same area still cook their food by burning wood and animal dung, according to Noor Bugti, a local leader of the Balochistan National Party. The operation of Sui gas supply is controlled from Lahore, capital of Punjab, and Karachi.

The same is true for gold and copper from Balochistan being exploited by a MCC of China in Saindak, located in the same region where Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests —against the wishes of Baloch populace. In the last 15 years of gold and copper exploration, Balochistan got barely 0.0001 per cent of the money, according to former senator Sanaullah Baloch, while the Saindak area does not have a single school or college. “This is called Day-Light Robbery,” the former senator tweeted. Two months ago, the contract to the MCC of China was renewed for another five years, in the backdrop of Baloch protests.

There is a stark difference between how the fifth largest army of world, which still calls the political shots, treats Punjabi and Baloch civilians. Pakistan is using gunship helicopters and burying Baloch in mass graves, but when Punjabi Islamists took over capital Islamabad recently, Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa refused to take action saying the army will not hit its “own people.” Instead, those arrested during the protest were rewarded with cash.

“DG Punjab Rangers Maj-Gen Azhar Naveed is seen distributing money to Islamabad sit-in protesters while same forces distribute bullets to Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun. This is the real shape of justice in Pakistan,” Dr Allah Nazar of the BLF tweeted from his mountain hideout in Balochistan, bordering Afghanistan and Iran.

Despite Balochistan’s vast riches, majority of Baloch people live in abject poverty. Hence, the anger against both Islamabad and Beijing. The army boys need to realise the insurgency will continue until they take corrective measures instead of barking at India, and sometimes, Afghanistan.

Tags: china pakistan economic corridor, balochistan