Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province as well as its most backward. Subsequent governments have ignored Balochistan at their own peril. The province is rich in minerals, has a 771 kilometers long coastline and lies at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz. Its strategic location and being the shortest route from seaports to Central Asia, has placed the otherwise desolate region in the scope of competing for global interests for all of recorded history. China’s developing the Gwadar Port and launching the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has focused international attention to the province.
Since the partition of India in 1947 and accession of the princely state to Pakistan, the region has been in a state of turmoil. Various elements have stoked the fires of separatism and insurgency kept the province in a state of unrest. The callous attitude of numerous political governments both at the center and in the province have ignored Balochistan for decades. The provincial governments in Balochistan have comprised feudal lords, who deprived the common Balochis of education, medical facilities and communication infrastructure, because they wanted them subservient to the feudal lords.
Many military governments, which have ruled Pakistan for over 32 years, have been equally guilty of neglect towards Balochistan. The use of the armed forces to crush rebellions in the downtrodden province by both civilian and military governments have made the local Balochi wary of the military. President Musharraf was the only military dictator to have considered development projects for the province of Balochistan, which included the construction of a coastal highway, dams for irrigation, establishing medical and educational institutions.
After his apprehension, fearful for his life, the Indian spy and terror monger sang like a canary, admitting the recruitment of young Baloch, training them in the art of guerrilla warfare and equipping them with arms and explosives and launching them to wreak havoc in Balochistan
The advent of the deep seaport of Gwadar and the CPEC should have ushered an era of prosperity but it brought various international players into the theatre. The Chinese were seeking security for the mega project and the thousands of Chinese engineers and workers deployed at various construction sites. India and some western powers became distrustful of the Chinese influence and the control of the strategically located Gwadar Port, which is adjacent to international sea lanes of communication, which besides transporting other cargo, is also the transit route for 35% of the world’s oil supply from the Middle East. India and the Occident considered the implications of a possible Chinese using Gwadar for blockading their oil and trade supply. Thus, Balochistan became a theatre of war for various players. Impoverished and uneducated Baloch youth were brainwashed into thinking that the Chinese workers and the Pakistan Army providing them security are their enemies. The sedition campaign worked for a while and terrorist attacks, abduction and murder of Chinese personnel became rampant.
The arrest of Commander Kulbhoshan Jadhav, an active duty Indian Navy officer and senior operative of India’s spy agency RAW, shed light on the depth of Indian involvement. After his apprehension, fearful for his life, the Indian spy and terror monger sang like a canary, admitting the recruitment of young Baloch, training them in the art of guerrilla warfare and equipping them with arms and explosives and launching them to wreak havoc in Balochistan. After Kulbhoshan naming his accomplices, his spy ring was smashed and its operatives rounded up.
Simultaneously, sheltering leaders of the defunct Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and other insurgents, India continues to wage a propaganda war in which Pakistan Army is blamed for abducting Baloch youth and incarcerating locals without charging them. To prove their point, mass graves are shown, claiming that Baloch youth abducted, tortured and killed by Pakistan Army are buried there. DNA tests show them to be the carcasses of non-Balochis massacred by the BLA and other separatist elements.
The fact is that the Armed Forces of Pakistan have launched numerous projects for the development of Balochistan and build the capacity of Balochis to lead prosperous and meaningful lives. These projects include the establishment of desalination plants, cadet colleges, hospitals and educational institutions. Pakistan Navy has set up a full-fledged hospital at Ormara, while the Army has made its cantonments’ medical centres available to the locals.
The project of water desalination plant is being constructed with the support of the UAE and Swiss governments and is a part of the Khushal Balochistan Program. This program includes opening of new schools and colleges, provision of electricity and natural-gas and construction of new roads and bridges in the far-flung areas of Balochistan. Khushal Balochistan is a ten-year package plan for the people of Balochistan and it is initiated by the Pakistan Army with the help, assistance and support of the Federal government.
The armed forces are also conducting the vocational training of Baloch youth so that they can compete with Chinese engineers and technicians deployed at the mega projects of CPEC. The capacity building of the Baloch youth will enable them to fill in the vacancies of skilled labour and enhance the quality of their lives.
The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF. He is a columnist, analyst and TV talk show host