by Abhijit Bhattacharyya
(The author is former IRS officer; alumnus National Defence College of India; Advocate Supreme Court and till date has 715 published articles, on at least 10 subjects, including Constitutional law, to his credit).
The long tail of Hindu Kush mountain descends through the south of Afghanistan, bypassing the town of Quetta, to end in a range of hills just north of the Arabian Sea. This land, Baluchistan, to this day remains a large swathe of empty space, as it has been over centuries. Yet, this very emptiness, bordering on being a "no man's land" gives Baluchistan its strategic importance and attraction. Administered today by Pakistan, as one of the four provinces thereof, and inhabited by Baluch nomadic tribes and amongst others, by Brahui fishermen along Makran coast, Baluchistan's claim to contemporary fame revolves round its natural resources and mining, along with deprivation and discrimination of its populace by the neo-Punjabi rulers of Pakistan and the prospective utilisation (which again is perceived as gross injustice and denial of their rights by Baluchis) of its strategic position and economic and commercial exploitation thereof by China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Historically, however, Baluchistan has always been a comparatively convenient and easily accessible land route, a land route, connecting Middle East and Arab world with that of South Asia's Indian peninsula. Constituting a prospective warm water accessibility to the Indian Ocean by/for successive ruling class of the vast landlocked Euro-Asian terrain spanning from the edge of the Black Sea to Balkh, Badakhshan and the Baikal lake. Baluchistan could thus be referred to as a classic case study of a terrain with sparse population, but surrounded by people who always wanted access to its connecting geography and economic possibility, without being a part of its culture and history.
Hence, Baluchistan and the sons-of-the-soil thereof, geographically, politically, ethnically as well as economically, appeared to be "outsiders" to their surrounding populace which post-1947 constituted the core of Pakistan: Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis and the Mohajirs (migrants of/from India post-1947). Understandably, therefore, the traditionally-neglected, development-denied and "untrustworthy" Baluchistan, in due course, developed as a test case revolving around gun-based nationalism, strategic nightmare, and a hub of potential unconventional religious zealots, which not only posed threat to the stability of the Pakistan state, but also constituted major challenge to the rulers thereof.
It would nevertheless be in order to first try understand Baluchistan in terms of military deployment and geo-strategic economics before getting into politics thereof. It is because no contemporary polity can afford to ignore a wider spectrum of Baluchistan's unique features and develop, rescue or resolve the "disturbed areas" thereof.
Thus the uniqueness of Baluchistan emanates from its 750 kilometre (out of a total 1046 kilometre of Pakistan's) saline water-front of Arabian Sea if the old theory of "the rush to the sea" dreamt by landlocked Central Asians, is to be believed. Access to Baluchistan would offer a natural channel for any advance, as can be seen by a distant China's push in 21st century to Gwadar which falls under Baluchistan. The strategic importance could be understood from the fact that whereas the state of Pakistan, under which falls Baluchistan and its port Gwadar, failed to develop close to seven decades (since 1947), it took a foreign government of Beijing to virtually seize and snatch the Baluch terrain from Pakistani territory to take command and control of one of the most important of all economic, commercial, military and political channels of the world. Baluchistan proved that the "road to the world", lies in accessing the routes and resources of oil reserves of the Middle East, standing proximate to which is the port of Gwadar.
Sea aside, the land access to south from Baluchistan follows the Kandahar road from the Khojak pass via Quetta and the once-known coal-mining town of Mach through the Bolan pass, which can be said to fall under the "control" of the town of Kolpur. Bolan has always been seen as key to frontier garrison by the British as it could be a possible "choke point" for either an invading army or a defending garrison. Nevertheless there could also be another route to Baluchistan:- around Chagai hills cutting across the Siaham range and through the barren and desolate Makran coast. Here one's thoughts go back to learn the lessons of the history of 8th century from the words of Muhammad bin Qasim, who led an Islamic army from Arabia to Sind through Makran:- "It is a desert without any vegetation, and water is scarce and…….if the army is small it will be wiped out; if it is large it will starve". Paradoxically, this logistical, yet profoundly logical, problems have "not altered over centuries".
In the words of military as well as geostrategic expert: "To see Baluchistan as some sort of Achilles' heel requires adherence to the theory of the warm water port". The contemporary Baluchistan, therefore, constitutes a challenge pertaining to (more of) development of economics (or the failure thereof) around the wide Makran water-front than the traditional turbulence of Kalat-Quetta hinterland, acute paucity of water in both fronts notwithstanding.
Before the birth of Pakistan in 1947, however, Baluchistan was one of 565 "princely states" of British India's South Asian geography which had its own distinct identity and troubled, complicated, and love-hate afflicted Anglo-Baluchistan bilateral history beginning 1839-1842 First Anglo-Afghan War. From the British point of view, the geography of Baluchistan needed not only surveillance, but also protection, as it could be used as the base for "forward deployment" to counter the Russian bear's land-advance towards warm water port of an Iran-Baluchistan axis. It was the classic "Great Game" played on chessboard of the Orient by two biggies of the Occident. Baluchistan had all the ingredients to emerge as a formidable base owing to its enviable and unrestricted access to the sea which no Central Asian ruler could even think of, but always dreamt, to get possession thereof.
The British understandably resorted to indirect, rather than a direct, approach to Baluchistan realising the importance and use of local tribal chiefs as buffer between British interests of mainland India and the wild-west areas west of, and beyond, Baluchistan. They assessed (rightly!) that it would be cheaper and prudent to strengthen the hands of the Khan of Kalat which subsequently was to be the pivot, as one amongst the four princely states of Baluchistan; the other three being Las Bela, Kharan and Makran.
There nevertheless remained a chronic issue. Of the three prominent Baluchistan tribes of Marri, Bugti and Mengal, the former two had developed deep aversion to the very sight and presence of alien British in their native land who refused to accept their dominance, not to speak of any rule. The British, however, had an antidote. They quickly found that although the tribes of Baluchistan possessed qualities that could possibly make them the makers of their own destiny, one major defect nevertheless came in their way to self-rule and repulse the foreigner. They were eternally quarrelsome who dissipated their energy fighting amongst themselves which made British easier to exploit the situation and penetrate Baluchistan by splitting Afghans from the Baluch princely states. Their man Robert Sandeman devised a procedure (which subsequently came to be known as Sandeman System) which gave the tribes of Baluchistan "subsidies, authority, and concessions to cultivate agents amongst the tribes". Indeed, the British read the tribe, territory and the terrain thereof well to resort to frequent terror actions too in the heart of Baluchistan in the initial stage of their penetration in Baluch-Afghan axis. Thus was set up the Armed Forces Staff College at Quetta in 1905 which perhaps was one of the best located, administered and operated by the British during their stay in South Asia.
After the British penetrated Baluchistan with their trade mark rotation-strategy of cunning, deception, bribe, deceit, terror, time came when Baluchistan emerged as a comparatively less volatile an area than the Afghans and the various Pashtun tribes which went on harassing the British till 1919-1920 when the last of the third Anglo-Afghan war was fought.
Thus when days of 1947 independence neared, one did not think of Baluchistan to be a difficult customer to be dealt with as it was obvious that with its overwhelming Muslim population it would be a cake walk integration with that of Muslim Pakistan. Surprisingly and shockingly, however, a rude shock awaited Jinnah. Baluchistan turned out as one of the most difficult, complicated and obstinate of all Princes to have "forcibly integrated" into, and by, the Pakistani State. In a way, Baluchistan was a "revelation" to the Muslim League and the leader thereof, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, that religion could not be the sole criteria for the shape, stability and future of Pakistan to hold on for long. In other words Baluchistan showed the way to far away Bengalis of then East Pakistan the major fault lines which lay underneath a shaky and fragile foundation of Muslim Pakistan.
Thus, on the eve of partition of geographical India into two independent states of India and Pakistan in 1947 and thereafter, Baluchistan (which was made up of four- Kalat, Las Bela, Kharan and Makran), was one of the 16 pre-1947 princely states which was sure to have become part of Pakistan. The other 12 were:- 1.Amb; 2. Chitral; 3. Dir; 4. Swat; 5. Bahawalpur; 6. Khairpur; 7. Gilgit; 8.Chilas; 9. Hunza; 10. Naga; 11. Punyial; 12. Baltistan.
However, today what is known as Balochistan, was established 1877 as Balochistan Agency following the treaty signed in Mastung by Baloch tribal leaders thereby accepting mediation of British in their disputes. The Baloch Agency area covered 208262 square kilometre which included areas acquired by lease or otherwise brought under direct British control, as well as the princely states. And it was Colonet Robert Sandeman-introduced system, which was referred to in previous paragraph, of dispute resolution, which remained effective from 1877 to 1947.
Politically too the 3 (technically 4) Baloch Agency, the princely state heads wore the title of Wali Khan of Kalat; Jam Saheb of Las Bela; Nizam (later Nawab) of Mekran and Mir and from 1921 Sardar Bahadur Nawab of Kharan. According to scholars, Balochistan's political unity emerged in 18th century with several successive rulers of Baloch principality of Kalat expanding their territory to bring the Baloch areas under one political umbrella. It was Mir Nasir Khan, who ruled 44 years beginning 1749, and brought principal Baloch tribes to agree and adopt the one ruler organisation. Thus Baloch sense of nationalism was born in a tribal set-up much before 1947 which understandably fiercely opposed Balochistan's accession to Pakistan. To make matters worse, Punjabi dominated Pakistani rulers never treated the nationalism-afflicted Baluchistan with understanding, care and sensitivity. In fact, from the very beginning they never even bothered to treat properly either, any of the non-Punjabi linguistic or ethnic groups of Pakistan thereby paving the way to disenchantment of the sensitive Bengali speaking brethren of the eastern wing which later led to the creation of new nation in 1971.
Bestowed with an unprecedented, unexpected and unbridled power, the Punjabis who had never ever been rulers of mainstream Indian polity, found it hard to maintain semblance of balance and sense of fair play. They simply got carried away under the command and control of an overbearing and dominating military from 1950s itself. Pakistanis conveniently forgot that an understanding had been reached between the Khan of Kalat and the British, as late as August 4, 1947, that "Kalat would be independent on August 15, 1947, enjoying the same status as it originally held in 1863, having friendly relations with its neighbours".
The Pakistanis also totally ignored the fact that three days before their country became independent on August 14, 1947, Baluchistan got independence on August 11, 1947 which was duly recognised by Jinnah himself. Before that too, as pointed out earlier, Baluchistan had an identifiable, independent history, geography and culture; positioned at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, and connected to India's vast heartland since ages. Understandably, as it happened in the past, geographical region in/of flanks (owing to distance, ignorance, negligence or unfamiliarity) tend to be susceptible to liberation movements, thereby giving rise to secessionist forces, resulting in creation of new political units.
Instances galore exist in history. The entire north-western, south-eastern, and eastern flanks of mighty USSR broke into 15 independent states in 1990s. Yugoslavia, one big Balkan "heartland" European state, became seven independent states thereby turning the "core" territory under Belgrade as the landlocked state Serbia. In Asia, the two north-western and south-western flank provinces of China, Xinjiang and Tibet continue to be flashpoints for Beijing since 1949. And in South Asia, first Bangladesh and now Baluchistan, have collectively emerged as classical geo-politics and geo-economics case studies of "remote flanks".
To the discomfiture of many Pakistanis, however, Baluchistan, like Afghanistan, not only existed as an identifiable geographical area in map and on ground, but it was also has traditionally been an independence-aspiring, alien intervention-resenting and subjugation-resisting demography of a territory spanning from Makran coast of Northern Arabian Sea to mountainous terrain surrounding Quetta. In a curious way, however, both Baluchistan in west and Bengal (which subsequently became Bangladesh in 1971) in east, showed early signs of dissension and discontentment, leading to ceaseless friction with rulers of Pakistan.
Thus whereas East Pakistan became an independent "language based homeland for Bengalis" as Bangladesh (which was opposite to Jinnah's religion based Pakistan as the "homeland for Muslims of India" in 1940s) through bloody tribulations and terror, inflicted by Punjabi military ruling class in eastern flank, Baluchistan continues, and will continue, to face bullets because the state of Pakistan cannot afford to lose territory any more. 1971 "secession" of Bangladesh stands out as bitter (unlearnt) lesson to Pakistani rulers. Understandably, therefore, post-1971, the weight and might of Pakistani military rulers fell on the Baluchistan flank, to nip any, and all, potential or imaginary "secessionist" movement in the bud as Bengalis had clearly decimated the morale of the Punjabi ruling class, the myth of the martial class army thereof and also shattered the myth of Jinnah's religious applecart thereby setting precedent to the remnant ethnic groups of the truncated Pakistan.
Unsurprisingly, however, things had not augured well post-British departure from South Asia for the class of princely states to which Baluchistan also belonged. The departing edict of London was simple and clear: that no princely state of South Asia could proclaim independence. All 565 princes of South Asia faced the unavoidable compulsion of "no choice". Their sole choice was the "compulsion". Join India or Pakistan.
As referred to earlier, of all the four Baluchistani princely states, Kalat was the most prominent. Hence Mir Ahmad Yar Khan Baluch, the ruler of Kalat wanted independence, claiming that since (his territory Kalat) was neither part of India nor an Indian state, it was independent, sovereign state vide treaties with British government. Khan claimed he was the true leader of entire "British Baluchistan nation" and had assumed the title of "Khan-e-Azam". He strongly urged the British to hand him over Quetta, Nushki and Nasirabad, areas, which he claimed once belonged to Kalat but were usurped by London underv treaty of 1876. Khan also claimed suzerainty over Las Bela, Kharan and Makran along with Marr-Bugti areas.
On April 11, 1947, Khan unilaterally declared Kalat a sovereign state, and also extended support to Jinnah's "demand for Pakistan". Furthermore, he sought Jinnah's reciprocal support for independence of his sovereign state. Soon, August 11, 1947 proved to be the liberation day for Kalat. In a joint "press communique", issued by Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat "Pakistan recognised Kalat as an independent sovereign state". However, a "catch" introduced at Jinnah's behest appeared to have gone either un-noticed or un-comprehended by Khan's team. Thus, despite Jinnah's recognition of Kalat as an "independent sovereign status" though Pakistan, on August 11, 1947 was yet to born, being a part of India till August 14/15, 1947, there cropped a major technical flaw, according to this author. As there was no legal provision for the princely state of Kalat to either remain or become independent, Jinnah brazenly violated the ground rules. Khan agreed to go for "legal opinion" to "know if the agreement of leases between the British and Kalat would be inherited by Pakistan or not", and once the opinion was received, meetings were held between Pakistan and the Khan of Kalat.
However, by agreeing to a "legal opinion", Khan, in one stroke, made his position potentially untenable, thereby putting a question mark on the future of his own "independent sovereign status", though as on August 11, 1947 nothing had happened. No new nation was born. Khan's Kalat was one of the 565 princely states and British were still the rulers thereof. Jinnah clearly trumped the Khan, declaration of independence by the latter soon thereafter (when the British left after 96 hours), notwithstanding.
Here, however, comes the question of morality, commitment and ethics. Thus when a bilateral Pakistan-Kalat agreement came as a form of treaty (even though there was no Pakistan then), thereby superseding all previous agreements, Jinnah's breach of trust stands bare thereby severely denting his acclaimed fame and name as a champion of democracy. But that was not to be because once legal opinion was sought, its verdict was a foregone conclusion. It was, and it had to be, against the sovereignty of the princely state. For that matter, the legal verdict/opinion was bound to be against any or every princely state of the geographical India of pre-August 15, 1947. Jinnah himself being an ace Barrister of yesteryears knew the result in advance. Hence what could not be done by force, was done through/by "legal opinion", the brainchild of Jinnah.
The above mentioned case of Baluchistan perhaps could be referred to as one of the classics of both international law of bilateral as well as evolution of municipal law of the nascent states of South Asia. Baluchistan stands out because no other princely state of South Asia, out of the total of 565, faced such extraordinary situation where independence was agreed to, granted by both the departing Imperial power of London and either of the two dominions of India and Pakistan, to a princely state so openly and explicitly, and the edifice and charade of law collapsed in no time like a pack of cards as all agreements and promises were broken with impunity. No doubt Kalat was soon forced to join Pakistan on March 31, 1948; but irreparable damage had been done to the process of integration of Indian states. An independent Kalat, recognised by both departing and incoming sovereign states, ceased to be independent after "brief glory" from August 11, 1947 to March 31, 1948.
It would be essential to recapitulate here some of the landmark developments preceding Kalat's final accession to Pakistan on March 31, 1948. In reality, Baluch nationalist aspirations rekindled as Khan's brother, Prince Karim, waged guerrilla warfare against Pakistan from Kalat. However, the inevitable failure of guerrilla war owed more to internal feuds of Baluch rather than the use of force by Pakistan under Colonel Gulzar. Thus Kalat, after remaining an "independent sovereign state" for seven and half months, surrendered to Pakistan. Although there were also three other, freedom-aspiring, comparatively minor Baluch princely states of Las Bela, Kharan and Makran, yet they had neither resources nor capability to take on the bigger, stronger state of Pakistan.
That indeed was the beginning of the revolt of Baluchistan against the state of Pakistan which in due course proved to be the sowing seeds for independence through, rebellion, violence and bloodshed which clearly turned into congenital bilateral problem between Baluchistan (primarily what was Kalat) and Pakistan. The present armed revolt by several groups, however, needs to be seen in this background, which started 2004 and which gathered momentum after Nawab of Bugti was killed by the Paki army in August 2006 under the command of Pervez Musharraf.
Earlier too, in 1973, Baluchistan had waged armed revolt to attain independence when the elected provincial government thereof was dissolved by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, few days after the signing of the "new Constitution" of Pakistan. People of Baluchistan still hail their then leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri and the young Dr Abdul Hai Baloch who refused to sign the Constitution as it did not recognise the rights of the provinces over their economic/natural resources.
Undoubtedly the Baluchis had a point as although gas field was found in Sui in 1952, Baluchistan was not given any share of profits there from till 1995 despite meeting 21% energy needs of Pakistan. An extreme height of injustice and exploitation no doubt. However, what made matters worse for Baluchistan was the lamentable lack of development which made it least progressive and prosperous (rather, the most backward) of all the provinces of Pakistan.
Today, Baluchistan's problems seem to be getting more complicated and complex with the arrival and entry of China deep into the Pakistani countryside which, according to this author's perception, is bound to aggravate in near future. With a 2015 Beijing-promised US $ 46 billion investment under the flagship project called China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), things do not look bright for the province, promises galore notwithstanding. Baluchistan is getting more restive than ever before.
The gravity of the situation in Baluchistan can be understood from the fact that in August 2016 then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced his Government's plan to create a "dedicated security service" for the CPEC, the "Special Security Division" (SSD). Consisting of 9000 soldiers and 6000 paramilitary personnel, SSD has been assigned the responsibility to provide security to/for Chinese citizens and projects under CPEC. This was followed with the establishment of Naval Task Force-88 to protect the (Chinese owned and operated) port of Gwadar from both "conventional and non-conventional" threats.
In fact former Prime Minister came under serious and severe criticism from all non-Punjabi political groups for his "love the Punjab and the Punjabis only" allegedly owing to his political roots in the Punjab province wherein Sharif's Muslim League had 312 out of 371 seats in the provincial assembly.
Thus on October 04, 2016, former Baluchistan senator Sanaullah Baloch categorically referred to the fact that despite Baluchistan having provided the state of Pakistan "most of its extractive resources" for years, his province had received virtually nothing from CPEC. "How will a meagre share of in the CPEC, US $ 600 million out of US $ 46 billion bring miracles in the life of the Baloch"?, he asked. Baloch further poignantly pointed out that the SSD was another example of discrimination against the Baloch people as it showed that only non-Baloch Pakistanis were joining the force. Another Baloch leader Sardar Akhtar of the Baluchistan National Party too stated in October 2016 that "since the emergenceof Pakistan in 1947, Punjabis have proved at every step that only Punjab is Pakistan….they only need our resources, and that is their real concern because they see themselves as the real owners". CPEC clearly has all the kinetic ingredients to set Pakistan on fire leading to aggravate major separatism and secessionist movements.
The old issue comes back again and again. Why and what ails Baluchistan? And is there a way out of this morass? The answer is both "yes and no". "Yes" because Baluchistan continues to be a resource-rich gold mine for exploitation and profit. "No" because no Punjab dominated Pakistani ruler wants the fractured polity and fractious society of Baluch tribes to be touched for lack of common economic interest. Pakistan Army's strategic priorities (for which they receive billions of dollar as defence budget) are not Baluchistan. Pakistan's political parties have no use for sparsely populated, desolate terrain which are not in tune with their political ambition and aspirations. For industries and commercial ventures, the markets and buyers of Punjab, and to an extent Sind and Pakhtunkhwa get precedence over Baluchistan. Baluchistan's importance, therefore, lies essentially as raw material supplier and not that of either a producer, or distributor, or a consumer. Backwardness of Baluchistan suits Pakistan thereby making it a case of "greatest happiness of greatest numbers" in which "lowest happiness for lowest numbers" of Baluchistan pale under distant shadow of geopolitics and geo-economics of the state of Pakistan as it increasingly inches to become a part of China's territorial and military expansion project.
An important aspect of Baluchistan today also pertains to its equation with, and contribution to, the military of Pakistan. All the more because Baluchis have usually been denied their dues in the military. As shown vide Shuja Nawaz in his magnum opus "Crossed swords":- "By 1990, the percentage representation in the Pakistan Army as a whole (officers and other ranks or soldiers) was as follows:- Punjabis 65%; Pashtuns 14%; Sindhis and Baluchis 15%". It may be noted that Sindhis and Baluchis have been clubbed together in the figure 15%. This clearly reveals the poor percentage of Baluch representation in the army which has been a politically sore and sensitive issues for both, state and the province. Shuja Nawaz further went on to show "numbers of officers commissioned from selected districts of the Punjab and Sindh (by decade)". Significantly, whereas Baluchistan was combined with Sind in the first list, the conspicuous absence of Baluchistan in the second list is too stark to be missed. Baluchistan appears to have failed to endear itself with the ruling class of Pakistan, the army, owing to its insurgency tag.
Thus an impressive number of men (mostly from the Punjab and few from Sind) appears to have joined the Army between 1970 to 2005 from 13 districts of Pakistan:- Attock, Chakwal, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Jhelum, Jhang, Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi and Sialkot of the Punjab and Hyderabad, Karachi, Larkana of Sind. Clearly Baluchistan matters little to the overall scheme of things of the state security apparatus.
Baluchistan's conspicuous unimportance in state matters nevertheless is compensated by its eternal historic, geographic and geostrategic position even today, which can neither be denied nor ignored by anyone. And today the most concerned of all appears to be the Pakistan Navy. It is the ports of Baluchistan which are likely to alter the trajectory of the future. No wonder Chinese have taken over Gwadar in toto. There also exist two more potential gold mine ports for future harvest though:- Pasni and Ormara.
Both Pasni and Ormara being traditional fishing ports notwithstanding, all indications are there for the development of full-fledged naval bases in near future. Ormara has already become a Naval Air Base. Also, Naval Cadet College has been established in Ormara in 2012 along with Pakistan Navy's Darman Jah Hospital. Things are clear. Baluchistan is being militarised to ensure quick movement of troops from all angles (land, sea and air) should the need rise to tackle both external as well as internal turbulence.
Ormara development also makes sense as it stands between Gwadar (near Iranian port of Chahbahar) in the west and Karachi port in the east which is virtually adjacent to the coast of the Indian state of Gujarat. Thus Ormara is 360 kilometre from Gwadar and 620 kilometre from Karachi. As is well known, the Chinese Navy being the most high profile and visible instrument of Beijing's Belt Road Initiative (BRI), Gwadar is sure to be the most important submarine base thereof in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) thereby compelling the Pakistani Navy to shift base there from and move east to Ormara. The world need not be surprised in case Pakistan becomes two fleet navy with two commands. Eastern Naval Command based in Karachi and Western Naval Command based in Ormara. The third command being that of the Chinese PLA Navy's Middle East Command in line with, and counter to, Bahrain based US Navy's Central Command. All for oil, resources, territory, prestige, strategic foothold and political one up man-ship to attain status of global super power.
These things stand to reason; since at present there is little, or no chance in this complicated internal and external scenario, for Baluchistan to find a place under the sun. Geographically Baluchistan is too big for quick political, social, economic or racial resolution. Historically it stands as a turbulent and complicated experience for Baluchis themselves along with the people dwelling adjacent to it. Ethnically it is a house divided against itself. Economically, no one wants its full development and few perhaps are willing to make investment to potentially non-returnable and non-refundable projects. Geo-strategically too, Baluchistan today stands below Afghanistan, Iran or the terrain of cross-border terror modules.
Thus the problems today for Balochistan are myriad. Pakistani establishment has profoundly fragmented the already fractious polity of tribal society, through "divide and rule", by fuelling inter-tribal and intra-tribal feuds. Also there exist at least four major armed-struggle groups and several splinters, as is the pattern found in several parts of the world. Reportedly, only one group, which is led by Marri tribe fighters, has allegiance of people from non-Marri tribes. There also are prominent Bugti and Mengal tribe warriors, but they appear to be on isolated war enterprise resulting in slow progress to their political goal.
The bottom line, however, is that for more than six decades Baluchistan has been ruthlessly exploited by the Pakistan's Punjabi ruling class which now has convinced most of the Baloch leaders, transcending all line and barrier, that nothing short of independence would solve their problems. Although Pakistan is overtly supporting and instigating Kashmiri Muslims to resort to violent self-determination demand, and covertly waging state sponsored and state managed war on India, on Baluchistan it is cruel and ruthless. Pakistan apprehends that in case Baluchistan succeeds in attaining independence, they are bound to lapse into an internal war between various tribes just like that of eternal tribal fratricide of/in Afghanistan.
Nothing has thus been learnt from the shrewd British, who usually proved themselves to be smarter than any other western nation, while reigning over, and administering, the people of the Orient owing to their long imperial experience in the east of Suez. Having seen and experienced all types of terrain of the present day Pakistan in the past, rightly or wrongly it was profiled thus; "Rule the Punjabis; bribe the Pashtuns; dominate the Sindhis; honour the Baluchis". No doubt profiling of race or ethnic groups could always by susceptible to error and questionable conclusion, nevertheless "Honour the Baluchis" simply stands out. There must be some unique Baluchi features which deserve honour and respect; that too in the eyes of the British who are not exactly known to be benevolent to bestow charitable comments or compliments to the people residing in the east of Suez canal.
In this varied background all that can be said is that Baluchistan story is neither simple to tell nor soothing to hear. It is a story of agony and turbulence which began long ago and which still does not appear to have run its course. This is one painful story which was realised and visualised long ago, soon after 1947 when the new Islamic State of Pakistan was born and penned even after six decades through the lyrical language of famous poet Habib Jalib of Pakistan to reveal the reality:-
"Mujhe jang-e-azaadi ka maza maloom hai,
Balochon par zulm ki intheha maloom hai,
mujhe zindagi bhar Pakistan mein jeeney ki dua na do,
Mujhe Pakistan mein saath (60) saal jeeney ki sazaa maloom hai"
Rough translation thereof means:-
"I have tasted the joy of freedom,
I am well aware of the inhuman cruelty inflicted on the Baloch,
Kindly do not bless or curse me to spend my entire life in Pakistan.
I have experienced the punishment of living in Pakistan sixty (60) years".
The same poet Habib Jalib earlier too had protested when General Yahya Khan had launched a military operation (then) East Pakistan in 1970s.
"Mohabbat golio se bo rahey ho
Watan ka chehra khoon sey dho rahe ho,
Gumaaan tumko ki rasta kat raha hey,
Yakeen mujhko ki manzil kho rahe ho".
Rough translation thereof is:-
"You are sowing love with bullets
You are smearing face of nation with blood,
You are assuming you are on track,
But I see you losing your destination".
Poets like Habib Jalib are not known to be fanatic or aggressive; imperialist or land-grabbing lunatics. Hence when things come out the way they did, one hardly needs to offer either any comment or express any view pertaining to the reality that is Baluchistan today. It is a known story but seldom spoken or scripted. That is called the silence of the graveyard. A victorious Army General can always sum up about his achievements with the words: "Everything is under control". There is none to shout at. We killed them all. We are victorious. As on date, Pakistan is victorious. Baluchistan is the vanquished and hence voiceless.