Skip to main content

Modi’s Balochistan Barb Highlights Pakistan’s Apathy of Decades

Raking up Balochistan doesn’t amount to interfering in Pakistan’s internal matter, writes Tilak Devasher.
Tilak Devasher
(Photo: Agencies/ Altered by The Quint)
(Photo: Agencies/ Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)

Prime Minister Modi’s reference to Balochistan in his Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi has sent Pakistan scurrying for cover. The response so far has been a weak “we told you so”, trying to pin the blame on India for the decade-old insurgency in the province.

That this does not hold water is obvious from Amnesty International’s famous 2008 report – ‘Denying the Undeniable: Enforced disappearances in Pakistan’ – that exposed what Pakistan was doing to its own citizens. More recently, a host of Pakistani commentators from Human Rights activists like Asma Jahangir, Sabeen Mehmud and journalists like Hamid Mir have highlighted the atrocities in Balochistan. Sabeen Mehmud paid for it with her life while Hamid Mir narrowly escaped a similar fate.

Touching a Raw Nerve

Unfortunately, such revelations of massive human rights violations are water off a duck’s back for Pakistan. Secure in the knowledge of its importance to the US in its engagement in Afghanistan and now to China for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan has continued with its ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan.

However, PM Modi’s statement is a new ball game for Pakistan. Apart from sporadic mention of Balochistan in the US Congress and in the European Parliament, this is the first time that the head of a government has questioned Pakistan’s treatment of its own people.

What this does is turn the spotlight on Balochistan in a manner like never before; it has touched a raw nerve in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Modi has touched Pakistan’s raw nerve by mentioning Balochistan in his I-Day speech. (Photo: Reuters)
Prime Minister Modi has touched Pakistan’s raw nerve by mentioning Balochistan in his I-Day speech. (Photo: Reuters)

Balochistan’s Economic Deprivation

Due to a media blackout, only sporadic details of the eleven-year-old insurgency in the province and the horrendous human rights violations are in the public domain. However, what the Pakistan Army cannot brush under the carpet is the sordid tale of deliberate economic deprivation of the largest province of Pakistan by Punjab that has treated Balochistan as its colony.

A few examples will suffice:

  • According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015-2016,
 as against the national literacy rate of 60 per cent, literacy in Balochistan was only 44 per cent as compared to Punjab where it was 63 per cent.
  • Applying a multidimensional poverty index (combination of the levels of education, health and standard of living), the Oxford Department of International Development showed that in 2012-13, against the national poverty average of 44.2 per cent, 70.6 per cent of the population in Balochistan was poor as compared to 36.6 in Punjab.
  • A study titled ‘Provincial Accounts of Pakistan: Methodology and Estimates 1973–2000’ conducted by the Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), Karachi, concluded that Balochistan was regressing further into under-development.
  • According to media reports, while the Human Development Index (HDI) for Lahore is 0.806 for places like Awaran, Qila Abdullah and Jhal Magsi districts in Balochistan, it is 0.467, 0.499 and 0.435 respectively, making them among the worst places to live on earth. Ten districts of Balochistan were worse off than the impoverished regions of Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of their human development ranking.
  • According to the National Nutrition Survey of 2011, sixty-three per cent people of Balochistan were suffering from food insecurity.

Political Marginalisation

Thus, despite the province being extremely rich in mineral wealth that is extracted and used in other parts of Pakistan like Sui Gas, the Baloch have had to suffer economic deprivation. They are marginalised politically too since there are hardly any Baloch in the government and especially in the armed forces. Not surprisingly, Baloch have come to see insurgency as the last option to defend their homeland against the predatory colonisation by the Punjabi-dominated civil and military governments in Islamabad.

As Ghaus Bux Bizenjo told the Kalat State Assembly on 12 December 1947:

We can survive without Pakistan.

We can prosper outside Pakistan. 
But the question is what Pakistan 
would be without us ?
If Pakistan wants to treat us as a 
sovereign people, we are ready to
 extend the hand of friendship 
and cooperation.

 If Pakistan does not agree to do so… and if 
we are forced to accept this fate [merger with Pakistan] then every Baloch son will sacrifice 
his life in defence of his national freedom.

PM Modi’s statement would be a wake-up call for Punjab itself where knowledge about the situation in Balochistan is abysmal. A BBC Urdu survey in 2010 in Lahore found absolute ignorance about Balochistan.

In 2011, a documentary filmmaker found not only were Lahoris blissfully unaware of the developments in Balochistan, most could not name even a single city or town of the province. In 2015, none of the students of a private university knew who Mama Qadeer was, even though the Baloch activist was leading a long march from Quetta to Islamabad protesting about ‘missing persons’.

Pathetic Conditions of the Baloch

Punjab apart, what PM Modi has done is drawn the attention of the world to the pathetic conditions of the Baloch, on the continuing insurgency and on the ‘missing persons’ and ‘enforced disappearances’ policies of the Pakistan Army. It is this element of international attention that has been lacking in the Baloch nationalist struggle. Pakistan would now find it impossible to keep a lid on the deprivation of the Baloch.

Such a focus would embarrass Pakistan vis a vis the Chinese and their flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the centre-piece of which is Gwadar in Balochistan. Announced with much fanfare in April 2015 during the visit of President Xi Jinping, several of the ‘early harvest’ projects are languishing and in danger of being delayed or closed down. The Chinese would certainly look askance at such attention on the adverse living conditions in Balochistan. If anything, coupled with the delay in implementation of the projects, such a focus would give the Chinese a lot to think about.

India Should Stick to its Stand

However, a lot of responsibility now falls on India. Having recognised the miseries of the Baloch and offered them a ray of hope, India will now have to stay the course. Accusations by Pakistan of India supporting the insurgency can and should be expected but should not deter India from continuing the moral support to the Baloch. Exposing Pakistan’s brutalities in the province and the deprivation of the province cannot be called interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan.

(The writer is a former secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. He can be reached at @tilakdevasher1)


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 you …

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میںPlease 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 dailyHeavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyMason: Rs. 1,500 dailyHelper: Rs. 850 dailyElectrician: Rs. 1,700 dailySurveyor: Rs. 2,500 dailySecurity Guard: Rs. 1,600 dailyBulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyConcrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 dailyRoller operator: Rs. 2,000 dailySteel fixer: Rs. 2,200 dailyIron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 dailyAccount clerk: Rs. 2,200 dailyCarpenter: Rs. 1,700 dailyLight duty driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyLabour: Rs. 900 dailyPara Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 dailyPipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 dailyStorekeeper: Rs. 1,700 dailyOffice boy: Rs. 1,200 dailyExcavator operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyShovel operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyComputer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailySecurity Supervisor: Rs. 2,200 dailyCook for Chinese food: Rs. 2,000 dailyCook…

Historical relationship between Kurd and Baloch.

The Kurds are the ethnical group living in a region known as Kurdistan which is divided into Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. They  are struggling for an independent region since decades and they are famous for their female guerrilla fighters.        On 25 September 2017, the referendum for an independent Kurdish region  was held in Iraq with a turn out of 72 %.   On this important occasion, the historical relation between Kurd and Baloch people is worth discussing.       When it comes to history, every nation tends to find its roots and origin. Same goes with the Baloch people. The Baloch people are always curious  about  finding their roots in history. Even if you  talk to a shepherd in Balochistan, he will be curious to talk about his  tribal or ethnical roots.      The Balochs have always conveyed the history to the next generations in different mediums like poems etc. No Baloch before 20th century had written books on  history  or origin of the Baloch nation .