April 3, 2019
Dr Nasreen Akhtar
THE civil-military leaders feel that political participation and socio-economic progress is an essential tool in democratic system to integrate backward provinces like Balochistan. However, things have not gone smoothly in the province since democracy has take root. For instance, Zardari government made promises and offered economic packages to Balochistan which met some expectations but not all because the funds absorbing capacity of the province has been low. Pouring more funds without ownership and scrutiny had given rise to corruption only. Indeed Balochistan has remained the most neglected Province, consequently, internal and external forces exploited the situation of Balochistan. The civil government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto sent army to take action against Baloch nationalist his political rivals. General Zia defused tension and tried to remove political and economic grievances. The next military ruler, General Musharraf, faced strong resentments by the Baloch nationalists when he decided to develop cantonment in the most troubling part of Pakistan. Musharraf also used force against Baloch nationalist, Akbar Bugti, who emerged as powerful opponent ad challenged Musharraf’s govt. General Musharraf deployed army to ensure Balochistan’s security. Post- Bugti Balochistan was chaotic, anarchic and fragile. India was providing heavy funds to the Baloch nationalists and used ethnic card to destabilise Pakistan.
The military presence annoyed the Baloch leaders they demanded Zardari’s government to send the army back and decrease the power of Frontier Corp (FC). They demanded end to Musharraf’s policy. Zardari as President of Pakistan was not able to control over national and defence policy, since neighbouring countries were exploiting Balochistan issue it was military’s domain and the military leadership had to decide about army’s withdrawal. Zardari government, however, offered an economic package in 2009 which was rejected by the Baloch leaders because they demanded full autonomy under the Constitution of 1973. The military had had its concerns in granting greater autonomy to Balochistan because India and Afghanistan both have been actively involved in destabilizing this province. Meantime, the military launched its own policy of development with a focus on education, infrastructure development, communication and recruitment in armed forced in order to remove the perception of deprivation.
In 2011, General Kayani took some important measures to address the suspicions and grievances of the Baloch leaders. He made an announcement that the “army would be withdrawn from Sui and Dera Bugti, the most troubling and conflictual areas of Balochistan, construction of cantonment would be stopped, and that it would not be built against the wishes of Baloch people”. Army decided to convert cantonment into a cadet college to recruit the Baloch youth in the Pakistan army- which had no representation. While the military engaged itself in the development of Balochistan, the provincial government led by Raisani proved disastrous in governing the province. The corruption rose to the highest level, sectarianism increased and the security situation, particularly in Quetta remained perilous. It is ironic that the Zardari government at the centre ignored Chief Minister Raisani’s incompetent cabinet, which miserably failed to improve the state of affairs. Zardari was head of the state and Raisani was representing his party as Chief Minister. The government was unwilling to alienate or displease his political partners in Balochistan. Ultimately, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took notice of law and order situation and highlighted the issue of missing persons in Balochistan.. The government received a warning from the Supreme Court for not improving law and order situation in the province. Chief Justice warned that “state of emergency would be declared” if government failed to resolve crisis in Balochistan.
Balochistan confronts multiple issues, political, security and ethnic. The province has seen cycles of rise of Baloch ethnicity and political accommodation. However, Baloch sub-nationalism has persisted over the decades. In its militant form, it has been aided by powers adversarial to Pakistan. External factor in the case of Baloch insurgencies of the past has been crucial one, which many observers tend to ignore. Since the end of Musharraf regime, the two political governments—first of Zardari and second Mian Nawaz Sharif have pursued a course of political reconciliation, economic development and launching mega projects to integrate the most under-developed province. Imran Khan’s government is keen to develop Balochistan and its people. First time, there is a better understanding between the security establishment and political govts at the centre and province on how to stabilise and develop Balochistan.
The civil-military coordination and cooperation and development of Balochistan—chiefly Gwadar port and CPEC—has begun to open up opportunities for Balochistan. There is greater involvement and ownership of Baloch parties, groups and leaders in the decision-making relating to issue of the province than ever before. However, there is more work to be done on a consistent basis. Durable stability and better political and security order would depend on the success of the mega projects, denying space to the militants and cutting off their links with their foreign backers. Pakistan will also have to address issues of provincial rights, autonomy and adequate share in the natural resources of province more adequately to satisfaction of the Baloch elites. Finally, they need to have a sense of empowerment and ownership of all development projects. Such policies resting on the two pillars of parliamentary democracy and participatory federalism would guarantee peace, harmony and development of Balochistan.
—The writer is Assistant Professor, IIUI,