JANUARY 30, 2018
Whenever Pakistan is feeling particularly flush, it rewards or compensates those whom it thinks are the most deserving. Yet this appears to happen on an ad hoc basis. Whereas the civil-military leadership would do better to strengthen national institutions, including the criminal justice system.
According to figures released by the National Action Plan Review 2017 — some 2,000 Baloch separatists have surrendered to security forces over the last two years. As part of a general amnesty scheme, the latter are to be given money as well as government jobs. Indeed, the 200-300 who did just that is last week have reportedly been given Rs 0.1million for returning to the political fold.
Given that the security establishment has long contended that India is fuelling unrest in the area — this raises questions as to whether these are the latest in an increasing line of ‘reformed assets’? Who can be bought and sold under the banner of reconciliation; a process that must be negotiated between all sides including local communities and not just state and non-state actors. And bluntly put, how do we know who exactly is surrendering?
The COAS over the last year gave meaningful statements, such as: stressing how his priority is ensuring that Balochistan becomes as prosperous as other provinces. More recently, he has said that the country would be incomplete without it.
What we gather from this is that the military establishment is fully in the driving seat, while seeking to assure the Chinese that their investment in the area will not come under fire. And while we understand the need to bring peace to the country we still remain sceptical that those who were fighting the state could be appeased so easily. It also brings to the fore other important issues regarding the overall cost of the militant-mainstreaming project that sees globally proscribed terrorists downing arms to go ballot-boxing. And who gets to pick up the tab?
Yet above and beyond all that, this incentive driven ‘inclusion’ of certain sections of Baloch society will do nothing to quell the resentment of a people who have been routinely exploited by the country’s larger provinces. That the NAP review has made mention of Baloch employment quotas under the Khushal Balochistan development initiative, launched at the end of last year by the COAS — not the civilian government — simply reflects that the Centre has for too long acted like an ugly stepsister that doesn’t want to see anyone else go to the economic ball.
We support the efforts to secure peace and encourage militants to give up arms. But piecemeal experimentation rarely works. What the province needs is an all-out effort by the Pakistani state to ensure that its political and economic marginalisation ends. The priority for now should be to gain the trust of ordinary Baloch by ushering in a set of reforms that will ensure provincial autonomy in letter and spirit. *
Published in Daily Times, January 30th2018.