Saturday, September 30, 2017

Educated middle-class gradually assume the mantle of nationalist leadership

Unlike previous insurgencies, which remained confined to a few districts and were driven primarily by demands for provincial autonomy, the present insurgency displays pervasive violence and deepening nationalist fervour. This insurgency marks both the emergence of a middle class sympathetic to the nationalist cause, and the territorial expansion of Baloch nationalism. What was initially a localized movement, limited to the regions dominated by Marri, Mengal, and Bugti population groups, was diffused to other nontribal areas like the southern Makran belt. After Nawab Akbar Bugti‘s death, there was a pronounced shift in the geography of insurgency from the traditional bases of Dera Bugti and Kohlu toward Quetta, Mastung, and Khuzdar in central Balochistan and to Awaran, Turbat, Panjgur, and Gwadar in the south (Hasan 2014). The sphere of nationalist insurgency extended from Chagai in the west, between Iran and Afghanistan, and Gwadar, on Balochistan‘s southern coast, to Hub, the southeastern industrial city that borders on Sindh, close to Karachi. With substantial numbers of Baloch residing in Sindh and Punjab, the conflict also spilled over into these provinces, affecting three of Pakistan‘s four federal units (International Crisis Group 2006: 9). Not only did nationalist activity extend beyond the traditional strongholds of dominant Baloch tribes, its support base also grew, both geographically and numerically, with people from other tribes either aligning with the movement or joining it as active members. BLF‘s area of operations stretches largely across Awaran, Panjgur, Washuk, Turbat and Gwadar districts in southern Balochistan, the part of the province where the sardari system holds least sway. BLF‘s cadres include large numbers of Zikris13, as members of this sect are concentrated in the Makran belt (Ali 2015). BLA is mostly active in Bolan and Khuzdar districts. As educated middle-class residents gradually assume the mantle of nationalist leadership, the movement‘s territorial support base grows, stretching well beyond traditional tribal constituencies (with the exception of the Northern Pashtun belt and the border areas adjoining Afghanistan that were incorporated into Balochistan in 1971, which the Baloch do not consider part of Balochistan). It is therefore hardly surprising to find that the insurgency is most in areas like Turbat district where literacy rates in comparison to other Baloch majority areas are higher (Ali 2015). This educated class is more articulate in their assertions of self-determination,which has won them a much wider support base, including nationalist sardars whose positions they appropriated

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