Skip to main content

Pakistan’s ‘Occupied Balochistan’

Drawing parallels with Bosnia, Palestine, and Kashmir, the Balochistan National Party chief accused the state of colonizing the region.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
Pakistan’s ‘Occupied Balochistan’

Troops of Pakistan para-military forces patrol in the troubled area of Dera Bugti in Balochistan province of Pakistan, Jan 30, 2006.

Credit: AP Photo/Arshad Butt

In a scathing speech in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) Chief Akhtar Mengal asked that the province that he represents be declared “occupied Balochistan” if the state wants to continue its abuses in what is currently a “no-go area” spearheaded by “death squads.”

Announcing his party’s departure from the federal government coalition led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Mengal underlined that the currently ruling party is the latest in a long list of culprits to have backtracked on its vows for Balochistan since 1948.

Without naming the military, Mengal castigated the crackdown in Balochistan, and the growing number of missing persons, which has reduced the locals to mere “bloody civilians.” Drawing parallels with Bosnia, Palestine, and Kashmir, the BNP chief accused the state of colonizing Balochistan, rendering the blood of the Baloch “less worthy than tomatoes.”

“You can think about Kashmir when you get it, what you have in hand is slipping away,” Mengal said, alluding to the separatist movement in Balochistan.

Mengal’s speech came during National Assembly deliberations on the federal budget, which saw Balochistan’s provincial share slashed in the National Finance Commission transfer.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Balochistan’s seven-decade-old grievances with Pakistan range from being denied a fair share in the province’s own resources to a continuum of military operations. Baloch nationalists maintain that the province was militarily usurped in March 1948, against the will of the locals. The growing ethno-nationalism in Balochistan saw insurgencies in the late 1950s and 1960s.

The 1973–1977 conflict, launched under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, reaffirmed control over the province’s riches, and reinstated centralized political control in the aftermath of the separation of East Pakistan in 1971 – which, like Balochistan, saw an ethno-separatist movement against misappropriation of resources and military occupation.

The ongoing dirty war in Balochistan exploded following the turn of the century under Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf, with the 2006 killing of nationalist leader Akbar Bugti sparking the most gruesome wave of Baloch insurgency.

Over the past decade and a half, thousands of Balochs have gone missing, if not tens of thousands. The exact numbers are unknown owing to complete control over information exercised by the state.

On Saturday, two senior journalists became the latest to go missing in Balochistan. In April, the dead body of Sajid Hussain Baloch, editor-in-chief of Balochistan Times, was found near Uppsala, Sweden, with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) maintaining that his death could be linked to his work.

Between 2007 and 2015, 29 journalists were killed in Balochistan. Meanwhile, the mainstream media is only allowed to run the military’s press releases as part of its coverage on Balochistan.

As a result, one story that wasn’t covered last week was that of a Baloch woman, a mother of three, who killed herself after giving up on the protracted fight to find her missing brother.

Similarly, many other families – most of them unheard and unseen – await the return of their loved ones, dead or alive. The state, however, continues to either deny the existence of many missing persons, or lumps them in an undefined category of “terrorists.”

Mama Qadeer, the activist who initiated Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) and launched a 2,800 kilometer march from Quetta to Islamabad five years ago, leads regular protests in front of the local press club. Qadeer says that at least 47,000 Balochs have gone missing since 2000, the figure also quoted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its latest report.

Parallel to the military abuses, resulting in the growing number of missing persons, is the center’s unabated stranglehold over Balochistan’s resources. This is exemplified by the Balochistan town Sui, which has supplied gas to the entire country over the decades, but is still not getting any of the daily 800 million standard cubic feet of natural gas that it produces.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Balochistan, which still supplies almost a quarter of Pakistan’s total gas, this year faced the worst gas shortfall in history amid plummeting winter temperatures. After decades of the center’s control over their gas, the Baloch now have similar apprehensions vis-à-vis the Reko Diq gold and copper reserves.

After long having raised alarm bells over “Punjabi” hegemony, Baloch nationalists are deeming the growing influence of Beijing in the area as bona fide “Chinese colonization.”

With Beijing calling the shots on the much touted $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the nationalists maintain that one occupier is being replaced with another looking to exploit Balochistan’s rich resources and its geopolitical significance. The deep-water port at Gwadar holds the geostrategic key to CPEC, connecting Eurasia, South East Asia, South Asia, and Africa with the much peddled Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

It is poetic injustice that CPEC is wrapped around a corridor of estrangement that connects Xinjiang and Balochistan. To the native populations, CPEC might as well be a multibillion-dollar graveyard for the aspirations of the two subjugated territories.

Baloch nationalists are now issuing stern warnings over growing Chinese influence in Balochistan. Local militant outfits like the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) are targeting Chinese consulates and luxurious hotels in Gwadar.

Instead of managing to curb the growing Baloch militancy, which has also targeted civilians, the Pakistan Army has long used Balochistan’s volatility to serve its strategic interests, with the large swathes of uninhabited land bordering Afghanistan and Iran providing havens to many jihadist groups. It is similar to the military’s duplicitous security policies in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the Afghan border.

The military has also historically kept check on Baloch separatists by deploying groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which have now overlapped with the Islamic State’s (IS) South Asia factions. The LeJ and IS, meanwhile, have collaborated to devastate the religious minorities in Balochistan, especially the local Shia Hazara and Christian populations.

In his meeting with the Hazara protestors in 2018, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa conceded that sections within the military have collaborated with jihadist outfits in Balochistan in the past, owing to a “mindset that has existed” for decades.

As far as Balochistan is concerned, the colonialist mindset of the military, and its selected band of politicians, remains well and truly there. And now with Baloch insurgency intensifying in recent weeks, and echoes of “occupied Balochistan” resonating in the National Assembly, Islamabad and Beijing have to consider giving locals due right to their own resources – or spend a significant chunk of Balochistan’s riches just on continuing the military occupation.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a Pakistan-based correspondent for The Diplomat.


Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed. Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area” For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number” Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell yo

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میں Please help the deserving persons... Salary: Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows; Welder: Rs. 1,700 daily Heavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Mason: Rs. 1,500 daily Helper: Rs. 850 daily Electrician: Rs. 1,700 daily Surveyor: Rs. 2,500 daily Security Guard: Rs. 1,600 daily Bulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Concrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Roller operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Steel fixer: Rs. 2,200 daily Iron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 daily Account clerk: Rs. 2,200 daily Carpenter: Rs. 1,700 daily Light duty driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Labour: Rs. 900 daily Para Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 daily Pipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 daily Storekeeper: Rs. 1,700 daily Office boy: Rs. 1,200 daily Excavator operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Shovel operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Computer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Security Supervisor: Rs.

A ‘European Silk Road’

publication_icon Philipp Heimberger ,  Mario Holzner and Artem Kochnev wiiw Research Report No. 430, August 2018  43 pages including 10 Tables and 17 Figures FREE DOWNLOAD The German version can be found  here . In this study we argue for a ‘Big Push’ in infrastructure investments in greater Europe. We propose the building of a European Silk Road, which connects the industrial centres in the west with the populous, but less developed regions in the east of the continent and thereby is meant to generate more growth and employment in the short term as well as in the medium and long term. After its completion, the European Silk Road would extend overland around 11,000 kilometres on a northern route from Lisbon to Uralsk on the Russian-Kazakh border and on a southern route from Milan to Volgograd and Baku. Central parts are the route from Lyon to Moscow in the north and from Milan to Constanţa in the south. The southern route would link Central Europe with the Black Sea area and