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The Baloch face a very uncertain future. The fifth uprising, while still
continuing, is faltering. The balance of power is just too loaded against the
Baloch. Militarily, the Baloch are no match for the Pakistan Army. Economically,
the Baloch freedom struggle has been virtually running on empty. It is just the
passion and commitment of the Baloch that is keeping the struggle alive.
Without solid external assistance and intervention, it is unlikely that the Baloch
will ever be able to win their independence from Pakistan. Surprisingly, despite the fact that the so-called strategic location of Pakistan is almost entirely because of Balochistan—take away Balochistan, and Pakistan loses whatever little strategic relevance it has—yet the strategic aspect of supporting the
Baloch has been completely overlooked and neglected by not only the Great
Powers such as the US, but also by mid-level powers such as India.
More than the lack of international support, it is the failure of the Baloch
to forge a united front against Pakistani occupation that has been a bigger
problem. Most of the sardars are too pliant, too easy to bribe, too effete, and
too egotistical to forge a common front. The Khan of Kalat’s efforts had some
potential, but soon ran out of steam, partly because he himself was trying to
run things by remote control from his base in the UK, and partly because the
Pakistani state bought many of the big sardars—Raisani and Zehri, to mention
just two—and outmanoeuvred the Khan. The bulk of the fighting is being done
by the middle-class youth who are forging a new front that cuts across tribal
lines. The young Sarmachars don’t have much faith in their sardars, except for
a notable few (and even they are suspected of being ready to cut deals if they
get them). For the first time, young women are coming out on to the streets
and protesting against Pakistani occupation and brutalities.
Apart from the failure to forge a united front, there is also the failure to come
up with a coherent ideological framework under which the struggle can be
carried out. In a sense, the struggle is driven more by negatives—Pakistani
oppression, exploitation, injustice etc.—rather than by positives—the sort
of state and society that the freedom fighters envisage for the people once
they shake off the yoke of Pakistan. In other words, the Baloch nationalist
movement is ‘insufficiently imagined’. There is a lot of rhetoric that is mouthed
ad nauseam by those who are in favour of an independent Balochistan but
once you cut through the rhetoric, you realise that these people are offering only slogans and nothing else. There is no over-arching vision of what sort of
a state they want, no road map on how they propose to achieve nationhood,
no thinking of how the state will be run, what sort of government it will have,
how they will utilise the natural resources of the province for the welfare of
the people, what sort of developmental model the new state will adopt, will
the new state be a tribal confederacy in which the tribal order and customs
will rule supreme or will it be based on rule of law and progressive ideals,
what will be the status of women in the new state—will honour killing be
acceptable or will it be treated as murder, will women be allowed to study and
work, or will they be cloistered behind the walls of their houses and bought
and sold like chattels?379 Without this clarity, the Baloch struggle will continue
to flounder. While efforts have been made in the past both to unite under a
single party and to come up with a constitutional scheme for an independent Balochistan, neither effort has really managed to succeed.
Time is clearly running out for the Baloch. Their worst fears of being reduced
to a minority in their own province could come true in many parts of the
province if the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor becomes a driver of growth
in Pakistan. At the very minimum, there are parts of the province in which
the indigenous Baloch will be reduced to the status of Red Indians. A proud
people, who despite their economic backwardness and social and cultural
conservatism are secular and progressive, are becoming an ‘endangered
species’ that could soon be over-run by the Pakistanis.


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