The recent attack on Karachi Stock Exchange has again brought the Baloch Freedom Struggle in news. Perhaps, that was also the intention of attackers. In this post we discuss in brief the Balochistan issue, including its ethic, geographical, historical and economic background. We will see the human rights issues in Balochistan and how ordinary Indians can help this struggle.
The province is situated in the south-west of Pakistan. As seen in the map above, it borders with Iran in the west, Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the north and Sindh and south Punjab in the east. It has a long coastline called Makran, which was historically important for regional trade. Its capital and most important city is Quetta.
Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan and comprises about 44% of its area. However, most of its area is either part of desert or has forbidding mountains. As a result it is sparsely populated and has only 4% of Pakistan’s population.
Baloch areas outside Pakistan
Some areas in eastern Iran and southern Afghanistan are also part of Historical Balochistan. Thus, much like Kurds, Baloch are a minority in multiple countries and are persecuted almost everywhere.
Baloch people have strong sense of ethnic identity. One should remember that being from the same religion is not a sufficient criteria to make a nation. Unfortunately, Pakistan made it the sole criteria. The result was that Punjabi majority in Pakistan and its Urdu speaking elites were the sole beneficiaries.
Other ethnicities, languages and cultures were ridiculed, oppressed and made politically insignificant. The 75% rural population of Baluchistan comes in this oppressed majority. The birth of Bangladesh was a result of such issues.
Pakistan has tried to change the demographics of the region. Only about 50% of the population now remains ethnic Baloch and Pashtuns form about 40% of population. 3 to 7 lakhs of Afghan refugees also are settled in the area with total population of around 1.3 crores. The chief tribes of Balochs are Marri, Bugti and Mengal.
China Angle in Baloch Freedom struggle
The efforts of China to get a foothold in Arabian sea are being realized through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a part of its Belt and Road initiative. A large part of this corridor passes through Balochistan. Indeed, the most important project of this corridor is Gwadar port on Makran coast.
It is to be noted that ordinary Balochis are not the beneficiaries of all this infrastructure development. Their lands are taken away and their mineral wealth is exploited, but they do not even get respectable jobs in these projects.
Why Baloch freedom struggle?
The Baloch Freedom struggle is not of recent origin. Multiple issues have ensured that this fight has been kept alive for last 72 years. We discuss some of the reasons here.
Baluchistan movement is centered in the former Princely state of Kalat. The history is complex and details too many. Suffice it to say that the people of Baluchistan have fought five different wars of independence against Pakistan in 1948, in 1958-59, in 1962-63, in 1973-77 and the latest ongoing war since 2004. Thousands of Baloch lives have been sacrificed in these violent struggles and many Baloch have been simply vanished.
Clearly, they did not want to be a part of Pakistan since the beginning and when Pakistan, due to its strength in population and emboldened by international apathy, encroached on Baluchistan, the people have fought on.
Not only ordinary Balochis, but their leaders have also been killed during this struggle. This includes Nawab Akbar Bugti and Balach Marri. Most of the leaders have now been pushed to exile in estern countries.
Colonial economic exploitation
The colonial economic exploitation of Baluchistan by Pakistan and now increasingly by China has forced the people rethink their allegiance to Pakistan.
As it is a region rich in mineral resources, including gold and energy resources, the elites of Pakistan and China have used it to enrich themselves. This has also led to conflict in the region and this is a classic example of resource curse. One can see the same pattern by neo-colonist Chinese regime in Tibet and Xinjiang, and also in certain African nations.
Despite being resource rich Baluchistan is the most undeveloped and poorest region of Pakistan. Systematic discrimination has kept the area away from modern education and health facilities. In today’s day and age, the literacy rate in Balochistan is just 40%!
Due to this unskilled human resource, the promised employment is likely to be in low paying jobs like porters and manual workers at Gwadar Port, drivers, domestic servants of Punjabi and Chinese elite etc. The CPEC will further impoverish the Balochis and make their slavery permanent.
Fortunately, many Balochis realize this and have protested against CPEC and Punjabi colonialism.
The human rights situation in Baluchistan is one of the worst in the world. Indeed, it is similar war torn areas like Kurdistan and Yemen.
The Pakistani army, which has not won a single war in its whole existence and has quite some experience in surrendering during the war. However, it routinely shows its bravery on unarmed Baluchis. Maybe that is the source of medals its generals so proudly wear on their chests.
Thousands of Baluchis were brutally killed during violent suppression of their movement. There are reports that they were thrown out of helicopters alive so that they can die a horrible death when they hit the rocks below. Thousands of Baluchis have vanished as if in thin air. Many have been tortured by the Pak army, killed and buried in secret mass graves.
Baloch activists like Sher Mohammad Bugti routinely post the videos from Baluchistan that show the brutality of Pakistani regime.
His twitter timeline is filled with scores of such videos that detail the forced abduction and disappearance of thousands of patriotic Balochs.
How ordinary Indians can help Baloch freedom struggle?
Often, it is assumed that it is only the government that can act in international matters. Maybe, the government is working on this. We are not privy to that information and for the right reasons. However, as citizens of India and well-wishers of people of Balochistan and most importantly as humans, we have our duty towards our Baluchi brethren in their hour of need.
There are two ways in which Indian citizens can help them.
Those of us living in foreign countries, especially Europe and USA, where Baloch activists reside and carry on their work should make contacts with them. Indians should stand with Baluchis in their protests, in their rallies and help them in raising awareness about Baloch freedom struggle and Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan. Those who have money, should not hesitate in donating for the cause of Balochistan. Indeed, our big businessmen should take it as a strategic investment and cultivate goodwill of Baloch people.
Those of us living in India should focus on the narrative war within India. Every Pakistani is aware of the Kashmir problem and considers it his bounden duty to support Pakistani national interest in this matter. Every Indian should be aware of the Baloch issue and consider it his/her bounden duty to stand with Balochis. In today’s world, your online activities can determine the outcome of a narrative war.
Write about this issue, talk about the issue online and offline and share the content related to this issue. The political parties will eventually be forced to clear their position on the issue.
Future of Baloch Freedom Struggle
The future of Baloch struggle depends in a large part on international sentiment. According to Montevideo Convention, there are four criteria for statehood : permanent population, defined territory, government and capacity to enter into relations with other states.
The independence of Baluchis depends on when they achieve all the four conditions. There are amny factions among them. First of all, they should try and form a national unity govt-in-exile.
Ideally, India should host such a govt-in-exile. There are virtually no diplomatic issues with it. India is already host to Tibetan Govt-in-exile for decades. Pakistan also supports the illegal so called ‘Azad Kashmir’ govt, which asserts its claim on whole of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh Union Terrioty of India. Interestingly, it also includes area currently under illegal occupation of China.
The Indo-Pak relations are anyways not very good and this step will hardly have any impact on the relations. However, this will be a big step in granting legitimacy to the Baloch movement.
The steps by the govt of India should be according to our national interest. It is to be noted that independent Baluchistan is important to India for three major reasons. One, it could help us with our energy needs and promote our energy security. Two, it can open up another route to our friendly country Afghanistan. Third, it can defeat the Chinese efforts to dominate Indian Ocean.
The people of India would be quite happy to have friendly relations with another country in the neighbourhood and indeed as tourists, enjoy the tourist wonders of Baluchistan and would like to resume pilgrimage to the holy site of Hinglaj Mata.
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