13 years ago on August 26, 2006 marked the culmination of a three day operation including security forces with heavy weapons and gunship helicopters. The operation although succeeded in assassinating Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti along with his 37 associates in his hideout cave in Dera Bugti, but also re-kindled the Baloch Freedom Struggle; the fifth struggle of its kind.
The Baluchistan’s struggle began in April of 1948 when Pakistan tried to annex Kalat. This marked the very first armed conflict in the nationalist struggle for Balochistan. A struggle that was going to be very bloody and would continue till eternity. The second armed conflict took place in 1958 to quell Balochis resentment against One Unit Scheme. Followed by the third armed conflict in 1962, when Pakistani army attacked Balochistan to fight against the left-wing nationalists. And the fourth and the most fiercest one started in 1973 and continued till 1977. Some 80,000 Pak troops supported by the combat helicopters fought against 55,000 poorly armed Balochi Guerillas.
The Balochi struggle became even more difficult after Mussharf signed the project agreement to build Gwadar Port with Chinese Vice Primer Wu Bangguo in March 24, 2002. The Baloch were never included in the discussions. The natives were threatened to leave their ancestral land. Gwadar land was illegally transferred to the personnel of army and civil bureaucracy. Moreover, since the people living their for generations after generations did not have proper papers for their lands, those lands were sold to Punjabis and some others at rock bottom prices with the actual inhabitants just disappeared. In addition to this, the entire business ecosystems like fishing, oil industries were shut.
Nawab Bugti and some others like him wanted a greater control of the natural resources of Balochistan. Balochistan is the richest source of natural gas, Copper, Uranium, Gold, Silicon, Platinum etc. but still the poorest and most underdeveloped province in Pakistan. According to the 1998 census, the literacy rate was 26% against the national average of 47%, only 20% people had access to electricity and reliable drinking water and 33.47% were unemployed against 19.68% national average.
Unlike many others, Nawab Bugti was not pro-independence. As per Al Jazeera, he was a very reasonable man, willing to discuss and willing to settle. Unfortunately, it was the Pakistani establishment’s mindset, unwilling to concede the legitimate rights of the smaller provinces, like Balochistan along with Army’s paranoia that lead to the armed conflict. Bugti, a former chief minister, a former governor of the province, all of a sudden became a terrorist, that needed to be taken out by brute force. Was it because he questioned the rape committed by a military personnel and came up with a 15 point agenda?
Arbitrary detentions, tortures, enforced disappearances were a daily things. The most unfortunate part is that even though these human rights violations were well document in reports like “Report of the human rights commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) fact finding mission on conflict in Balochistan”, or Amnesty International, no body did anything. Why? Because powerful countries like China and the US had their vested interests. China has invested not millions but billion dollars in China Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which goes through Balochistan. Do you think China would raise Human rights issues against Pakistan in the UN and sacrifice its investment?
After India’s freedom struggle in 1947, Indians got a nation but Pakistanis did not get a nation; they got an army and that army got a state. An army that still behaves like the invaders of medieval era and believes in the rules of that era. They still believe that wars are won by military might. Build a large number, attack, kill all the males and make all the females as slaves. They believe in kill and dump policy, using rape and dishonor as an instrument to crush the nation. They did exactly the same things with East Pakistan (Today’s Bangladesh) in 1971 or with Sindhis in 1983. I guess Pakistani army would be the only army in the world who have killed and raped more of their own than their enemies.
The most unfortunate part is that even India did not help Baloch in any way what so ever. Calling out Balochistan from Red fort isn’t going to do anything. Instead it would make things difficult for them. In fact in today’s world it is way more easy to help them as compared to few decades ago. In today’s world, wars are not won by armies of soldiers with deadly weapons, but they are won by the armies of doctors, engineers, artists, writer, celebrities, diplomats, lawyers, and so on and so forth.
The world (other than Pakistan) in this globalized era abides by only one rule: You scratch my back and I scratch yours; A simple straightforward, give and take relationship. Pakistan still think it can persuade other countries to be a part of its plans just on the basis of a religious identity. This is the major reason why Pakistan every now and then gets humiliated at the OIC forum – the so called Muslim Ummah.
India can definitely help Balochistan in this way. India could provide them quality education, a platform to flourish and excel at whatever they want to. Once some of those would make a name for themselves, they would be able to further their cause. The harsh reality is that people aren’t even aware of their issues and concerns so far. I don’t think I have seen any good movies about Balochistan, have you? You must have seen movies about Bangladesh issues, Sri Lankank issues, Iraq issues, Afghan issues and so on, but not on Baloch issues. Why? Indian Bollywood industry is quite popular, shouldn’t they make movies on this issue? Moreover, wouldn’t it be better if a Baloch writes the script or a Baloch plays the character?
Yes, this would take time, you would not see the results in tomorrow or in next five years but you would definitely see some results in next few decades. This is the only possible way, if weapons were ever to solve the problems, seven decades were more than enough.
Thanks for reading!
Some other references:
- Renewed Ethnonationalist Insurgency in Balochistan, Pakistan: The Militarized State and Continuing Economic Deprivation by Adeel Khan
- Akbar Bugti’s interview(March 2006)