INSURGENCY IN BALOCHISTAN
Published by: DRISHTI ALAGH
WHAT IS THE ISSUE OF BALOCHISTAN?
Balochistan is a barren mountainous province, stretching across the Islamic nations of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. It is comprised of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, Iranian province of Sistan e Baluchestan, and the southern Afghan provinces of the Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar. However, the largest chunk of the Baloch region traverses through Pakistan alone.
The essence of the insurgency in Balochistan rests in the fact that people belonging to the Baloch ethnicity find themselves to be in every way distinct from other Pakistani citizens and thus feel that they have been subjected to discrimination. Many Baloch feel they have been cheated, and that while Pakistan plunders their local resources, like natural gas, coal and copper, local people remain poor. This has resulted in the persistence of a constant and intermittent state of hostile conflicts between the Government of Pakistan and the Baloch nationalists since 2004. This dispute has further gained an international prominence because of the several grave and notable human rights violations that have taken place in the course of the insurgency.
II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Being a part of British India, the economically primitive and un-progressive region of Balochistan had been bifurcated into four princely states, out of which only one of the princely states showcased a refusal in ceding its authority to the newly formed Pakistani union in 1947 as the state of Kalat recognised itself as a sovereign state independent to rule by quoting a treaty of 1876 that had taken place between the government of British India and the Khanate of Kalat.
As a response to this claim of Kalat, a Standstill agreement was signed between British India and the Pakistani Union, making it the legitimate successor of British India with respect to any treaty signed between Kalat and British India before 1947. The Khanate expressly declined to accept any such agreement, but was coerced to accede to the Pakistani union in 1948 when Pakistani government stationed its military forces in Kalat.
As a subsequence, the Baloch region became a part of Pakistan in June of 1948, igniting a series of armed struggles and insurgencies in the region. A key objective of this insurgency was to force the government to share considerable revenues generated from natural gas fields in the region.
Moreover, Pakistani government’s ‘One Unit Plan’ of 1955 further aggravated a separatist uprising in the Baloch region by minimising provincial autonomy and centralising the entire system. To further dismay, Bhutto government in 1973 imposed martial law in the entire region of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), engaging the Balochistan’s People Liberation Front and the government in a guerrilla warfare.
III. FACTORS THAT TRIGGERED THE INSURGENCY
The instigating factors of insurgency in Balochistan are considered to be both governmental or political and social or traditional, for instance, ethnic bifurcations, poor living conditions, lack of essential amenities and so on. A slackened participation of the provincial government of Balochistan in administrative affairs has further aggravated the situation.
1. Socio-Economic Poverty: Even after an abundance of natural resources such as oil and natural gas being present in the region, Balochistan remains to be one of the world’s most deprived provinces, with a huge chunk of citizens living below the poverty line. Apart from this, the region also lacks an equality of income, adult literacy and access to basic necessities of life. There is also stark inequality among the inhabitants of Balochistan.
2. Unreliable Political Administration: The focus of Pakistani government towards Centralisation of administrative apparatus led to a weak hold in provinces, including Balochistan. Moreover, absence of genuine federalism and the lack of any worthwhile decision making powers with the provincial government have also accentuated the alienation of the population. Political system of Pakistan is often held accountable for a slackened representation of the Baloch citizens in the parliament and other government departments.
IV. ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS IN THE DISPUTE
The geographical location of Balochistan makes it a sensitive region not only for Pakistan but also plays the key role in determining the significance of this region on international level by developing historic interest of the global powers. The government of Pakistan has always believed in an active role of international players in not only supporting the Baloch insurgency, but also aggravating it to an extreme extent. Pakistan has always been claiming that the Baloch insurgents possess highly refined artillery and modern military training which may be a clear sign of the possibility of foreign support and intervention in the province. The government suspects a militant assistance being made available on part of Iraq, India, Afghanistan and U.S.A, even though the countries have refused any such correlation or contribution.
The creation of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) in 1970’s has also been attributed to the Soviet Union, as a significant number of rebels were found to be trained there. Middle-East nations of Iraq and Iran may be essentially linked to the drivers of insurgency because of their alleged backing of the Shia Muslims. Pakistani media has time and again placed emphasis on the inconspicuous role of international organisations and agencies as being the major cause of the Baloch assault, with several nations funding these organisations.
V. REPURCUSSIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
During the course of insurgency in Baluchistan, use of extreme physical violence with more than 10,000 people by the Pakistani government had been observed and taken into consideration by numerous international organisations. The citizens of Balochistan suffered immense brutal and barbaric treatment. The sudden demise of the Baloch chieftain Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti by the hands of Pakistani militant personnel amidst violence in south-west Balochistan is just an account of how vehement the conditions are.
A Human Rights Watch report recorded multiple witness and victim accounts of similar abuses and disappearances, with the youngest victim only 12 years old. A report by the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) records a similar story by reporting that Security forces during their operations set fire to crops and looted valuables of the inhabitants.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the access to necessities and essentials such as sanitation, education, clean water, electricity and so on has only tended to decline in the region with respect to other provinces of the country during past few decades. Furthermore, the recent death of Baloch nationalist and activist Karima Baloch, who led the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO), while in exile in Toronto, Canada comes as a shock to the entire world in wake of the insurgency and deadly violence, as the protesters come down to the streets one again.
VI. DECLINE IN THE UNREST AND CONCLUSION
The Infamous Balochistan dispute proved to be significant torment to the entire human race because of the innocent lives it took. The pace of insurgency however started to diminish once the provincial administrative structure was restored in the Union of Pakistan. The foundations of the nationalist movement were also dwindled by the demographic divide of Balochistan province and the inevitable exploitation by the government and militant groups deployed by them. This ever-evolving process of marginalisation in the area has not only affected the region in adverse ways, but has also paved way for foreign as well as domestic interference and exploitation.
- Jain, D., 2018 The Roots of the Insurgent Movement in Balochistan, The Journal of Contemporary Asian Studies, [online] pp.1-9. Available at: https://utsynergyjournal.org/2018/10/16/the-roots-of-the-insurgent-movement-in-balochistan/
- Maqbool, A. (2010, January 7). Balochistan reaches boiling point. BBC News. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8444354.stm
- Baloch ruling elite’s lifestyle outshines that of Arab royals. (2012, March 21). Dawn. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/704521/balochistan-ruling-elites-lifestyle-outshines-that-of-arab-royals
- Muzaffar, M., 2018 Balochistan Insurgency: Causes and Prospects, Orient Research Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 3(1), pp.111-127. Available at: https://gcwus.edu.pk/wp-content/uploads/8.-Balochistan-Insurgency.pdf
- Javaid, U. and Jahangir, J., 2015. Balochistan: A Key Factor in Global Politics. South Asian Studies, Vol. 30, pp.91-105 Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309282565_Balochistan_A_Key_Factor_in_Global_Politics
- Human Rights Watch "We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years" | Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan. (2015, April 29). Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/07/28/we-can-torture-kill-orkeep-you-years/enforced-disappearances-pakistan-security
Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) A Brief Report by Voice for Baloch Missing Persons about Human Rights Violations in Balochistan. Available at: http://Balochwarna.com/2016/05/30/a-brief-report-by-voice-for-Baloch-missingpersons-vbmp-about-human-rights-violations-in-Balochistan/
 Jain, D., 2018 The Roots of the Insurgent Movement in Balochistan, The Journal of Contemporary Asian Studies, [online] pp.1-9. Available at: https://utsynergyjournal.org/2018/10/16/the-roots-of-the-insurgent-movement-in-balochistan/  Maqbool, A. (2010, January 7). Balochistan reaches boiling point. BBC News. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8444354.stm  Jain, D., 2018 The Roots of the Insurgent Movement in Balochistan, The Journal of Contemporary Asian Studies, [online] pp.1-9. Available at: https://utsynergyjournal.org/2018/10/16/the-roots-of-the-insurgent-movement-in-balochistan/  Baloch ruling elite’s lifestyle outshines that of Arab royals. (2012, March 21). Dawn. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/704521/balochistan-ruling-elites-lifestyle-outshines-that-of-arab-royals  Muzaffar, M., 2018 Balochistan Insurgency: Causes and Prospects, Orient Research Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 3(1), pp.111-127. Available at: https://gcwus.edu.pk/wp-content/uploads/8.-Balochistan-Insurgency.pdf  Javaid, U. and Jahangir, J., 2015. Balochistan: A Key Factor in Global Politics. South Asian Studies, Vol. 30, pp.91-105 Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309282565_Balochistan_A_Key_Factor_in_Global_Politics  Javaid, U. and Jahangir, J., 2015. Balochistan: A Key Factor in Global Politics. South Asian Studies, Vol. 30, pp.91-105 Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309282565_Balochistan_A_Key_Factor_in_Global_Politics  Human Rights Watch "We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years" | Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan. (2015, April 29). Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/07/28/we-can-torture-kill-orkeep-you-years/enforced-disappearances-pakistan-security  Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) A Brief Report by Voice for Baloch Missing Persons about Human Rights Violations in Balochistan. Available at: http://Balochwarna.com/2016/05/30/a-brief-report-by-voice-for-Baloch-missingpersons-vbmp-about-human-rights-violations-in-Balochistan/