Baluchistan Conflict

(shamroz kakar, quetta)

Firstly, I would like to state that there is a taste of truth and a lot of nothing in what is being circulated in the media about Baluchistan. Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan. It is also one of the most sparsely populated areas. For comparison, Karachi has 1.5 times the population of Baluchistan, Lahore is roughly the same. Therefore the province often (mostly) gets neglected by the federal government. There are some developmental projects like Gwadar port and Qta-Khi and Qta-Mul motorway project but not many direct funding for the uplift of people as compared to other areas. Therefore there is some truth to the fact that people of Baluchistan feel neglected at the moment but the federal government is trying to win their hearts back again.

Their anger is not that much to support a separatist movement, that is mainly because of their way of life. Most of the population lives in tribes with their own heads. These tribes have their own rulings in their areas of control and they did opt to join with Pakistan in 1947.

Now then, the media fueled propaganda about a free Baluchistan all starts with Nawab Akbar Bugti. He was a tribe leader and probably one of the stronger ones. People in the province still talk about why he was attacked but from what I've heard from military sources is that he simply ran out of money to operate his massive army. To get some help he sued government for using his land for electricity, telephone and gas lines. These lines ( all major) were there to facilitate all of the province including the tribes. They were placed in consent with older leaders for free. Akbar Bugti gave the government a very large bill for line rent of several years amounting in billions of rupees, he also demanded greater control of province and permission for a private army. Of course it was rejected. From here on, civilian stories converge, Akbar blasted several gas and telephone lines resulting in major losses especially to PTCL a telecom company, his armies also launched small strikes on Pakistan Army, they were mostly hit and run. The govt responded with a military action to disarm him. He took hold in a cave in some hills and it was a standoff. In a skirmish, Akbar was injured and later died resulting in disbanding of his forces who were without any leader and laid arms. Just to show how independent these tribes are, media showed their own jails and justice system.

Now here is where disparity lies. Some of the other tribes were happy to get rid of a rival, while others were sad at a loss of an ally.

An average Balochi couldn't care less about his death because it does not affect him. However his political allies launched a media smearing campaign against Pakistan threatening of repeating 1971 (independence of Bangladesh). Where I lived people were actually happy to get rid of him because he was also harassing non allied tribes.

Now it wouldn't make a great story from a journalist's point of view about people who think this was good for Baluchistan. Pakistan state media continued this for a few days after his death but then stopped. International media picked up pace quiet after that when his allies gained some momentum in their free Baluchistan movement-due to increased media coverage. It became a self sustaining cycle where the tribal allies were gaining momentum due to media coverage and media was trying to cover every story about free Baluchistan, as a result we ended up listening to everyone wanting to free Baluchistan and nothing about the people who think they are better off without him.

Only recently, after several years of seeing no support by majority of tribes, did these people who wanted free province actually publicly said that they are ready to recede their demands and talk to the government. From a political point of view, the Baluchistan conflict is now dead with peace talks ongoing. And here again, much of international media ignored this because this was about an exciting news item dying. But for people of Pakistan and more importantly people of Baluchistan it was a success, a step towards peace and progress.

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