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Peaceful Balochistan: Will it Work?

Adnan Aamir

On August 14, 400 former Baloch insurgents surrendered before the provincial government in Quetta. The trend of surrendering started after June 26 this year when the prime minister approved general amnesty for those Baloch insurgents who surrender. On August 6, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the ‘Peaceful Balochistan’ package under which Rs0.5 million to Rs1.5 million will be given, as reward, to any Baloch insurgent who surrenders.

Will this strategy work? There are different factors that need to be considered. This is the fifth insurgency in Balochistan in the last 68 years. The ranks of the insurgents may still be dominated by those who are ideologically motivated, even though the state authorities seem to think that the majority of insurgents are driven by economic interests. ideologically-motivated insurgents may never surrender their weapons for the sake of economic benefits.

The second factor to consider is the hold of the insurgent commanders on the other insurgent fighters. Baloch insurgents who have left their homes and joined the ranks of insurgents are under the full control of their commanders. They are dependent upon them for almost everything. They obey their commanders with devotion that is akin to religious zeal. In such circumstances, a Baloch insurgent can’t think of surrendering against the will of his commander. The hold of the commanders on foot soldiers within the Baloch insurgents is strong enough to prevent them (the foot soldiers) from even harbouring thoughts of surrendering under the Peaceful Balochistan package.

Another factor is that the present Balochistan government comprises people who have been favoured by the establishment as an alternative to the more aggressive Baloch leaders. Even Dr Malik Baloch got the chance to become chief minister only because he was considered as an alternative to insurgent leaders and other more vociferous ones. If the militant leaders surrendered and joined mainstream politics then the incumbent Baloch politicians might lose their importance to the state and the establishment for obvious reasons. Therefore, certain leaders in the present Balochistan government support surrender of insurgents publicly but in reality they their vested interests would prefer if the surrenders did not take place. This is one of the major factors that will not allow the success of any surrender plan in Balochistan.

The fourth factor to consider in this context is the trust factor which makes insurgents avoid any enticement by the state of Pakistan. A cursory study of history shows two events related to insurgencies in Balochistan where the state didn’t keep its promise. In 1948, Agha Abdul Karim Khan, bother of Khan of Kalat, revolted against the state and went to Afghanistan. He was asked to surrender by state authorities and in return he was promised that he would not be arrested. Douglas Y Fell, then foreign minister of Kalat State acted as conduit between the state and Agha Abdul Karim. However when the brother of the Khan of Kalat surrendered, he was arrested and sent to prison for seven years.

History repeated itself in 1959 when Nawab Nauroz Khan Zarakzai was given guarantees, by taking oath on the Holy Quran, that he along with his compatriots would not be arrested if they surrendered. What happened to Nawaz Nauroz after his surrender is something every student of history is familiar with. This is why leaders of Baloch insurgents would think twice before accepting another promise made by the Pakistani state.

A brief analysis of the four aforementioned factors shows that the success of the Peaceful Balochistan project is extremely difficult if not impossible. Now the pertinent question is: will a project like Peaceful Balochistan ever solve the Balochistan problem? This project lays emphasis on gradually reducing the number of insurgents to solve the problem. Let’s face the facts; insurgents can’t fight with the state forever. They will be militarily crushed at some point in time. But even when they are defeated it will not solve the Balochistan conflict because insurgents are not the cause of the problem prevailing in Balochistan, they are mere products of the problem.

The Balochistan problem is linked to the systematic deprivation the province has faced over the past 68 years. Despite being the richest in terms of mineral resources, Balochistan is most backward province of Pakistan. The sense of deprivation among the Baloch people is the basic cause of insurgency in province. Later on, some foreign elements might have contributed in fuelling the insurgency but the underlying cause is this sense of deprivation.

The incompetence and mega-corruption of governments in Balochistan are further aggravating the problem. According to reports, Rs360 billion were embezzled by the last Balochistan government. How much funds are embezzled by this government will be revealed after 2018. This corruption is in fact further strengthening the cause of the insurgents. The Balochistan government has received Rs885 billion from the federal divisible pool since 2010 but there is no improvement in the lives of the common people of Balochistan. Without addressing the issue of mega corruption at the provincial level, Balochistan’s issues can never be solved.

Under the command of General Raheel Sharif, the military establishment has shown welcome change. Mistakes made by the previous regimes are being corrected which is a positive omen for Pakistan. The state is also going after those who are involved in ‘economic terrorism’. Karachi is the mainstay of the efforts to curb this activity. However, the net needs to be expanded to corrupt politicians and bureaucrats of Balochistan as well.

It must be understood that the Balochistan problem is political in nature and its solution has to be political as well. Political gimmicks like the Peaceful Balochistan package might be good for election manifestos, like the previous Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package, but they will not solve anything on the ground. Perhaps the only plausible solution for the Balochistan problem is a comprehensive political strategy to address the sense of deprivation in the province and prevent opportunistic politicians from sabotaging any such efforts.

Courtesy: The News

Published in The Balochistan Point on September 6, 2015

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and The Balochistan Point not necessarily agrees with them.

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