View from Pakistan

With the experience of recent counter-insurgency operations that the Pakistan Army gained in Swat and Waziristan and for other reasons, there is no chance of Balochistan becoming another Bangladesh.

Some of the conditions that will prevent this insurgency from succeeding are: the much smaller size of the Baloch population – a mere 2.5 million dispersed over a vast area; the very small size of their resistance, which according to an estimate employs only 3000- 5000 foot soldiers; tribal and sub-tribal rivalries that weaken the insurgency; lack of broad tribal support for secession from Pakistan, including the Pashtun tribes; the inability of India to cross the international border to intervene in Balochistan; and the ability of the army and the air force to mobilize at a short notice and the relative ease with which both can conduct operations, if it finally comes to military action.

In case of Bangladesh these factors were more favorable to the insurgents due to a thousand miles of hostile territory between East and West Pakistan, the inability of the Pakistan army to send reinforcements, and the ease with which Indian troops could move into East Pakistan due to India’s contiguous border. None of this is the case here.

An independent Balochistan will not prove to be a viable option and would bring nothing but misery to the people. The population is too small and too poor to provide any sources of revenue for the state to function. The ‘new state’ would have neither the capital nor the expertise to immediately begin exploring natural resources, including oil and gas, which will be the mainstay of its economy. The climatic conditions being harsh, Balochistan has very little agriculture. This would leave the ‘new state’ entirely at the mercy of those who are fanning the insurgency, who will then demand their pound of flesh for the help they rendered. Politically, the ‘new state’ would be non-functional due to lack of education, experience of state craft, and tribal infighting for power, creating such turmoil that it would be bound to suffer the same fate as Afghanistan did immediately after the Soviet pull out. In the end, a ‘Free Balochistan’ would only find itself to be a ‘subservient state’ serving the American, Jewish and Hindu masters.

Concerned at the prospects of chaos, the moderate elements in Balochistan insist that the solution of Balochistan lies not in armed confrontation with the state but a meaningful dialogue with Islamabad. The federation recognizes that the Balochis have some genuine concerns that must urgently be addressed and their confidence in the federation restored. The other provinces are also keen to support Balochistan to develop at a faster pace as is the center, anxious to rectify past mistakes and provide greater attention to the political and economic needs of the people.

A package of Constitutional Amendments is about to be legislated by the parliament that would grant greater provincial autonomy. Additionally, a consensual ‘Balochistan package’ is also being developed by Islamabad covering administrative and economic reforms to address political, social and economic issues. The federal government has already withdrawn the army from areas of conflict. It wants to draw the dissidents into the national political process and remove the sense of deprivation of the Baloch people. This will meet the demands of the dissidents.

But for these efforts to succeed, the dissident leaders will have to dissociate themselves from their patrons abroad and shun violence. The BLA will have to wind up its headquarter in Tel Aviv and fundraising set up in Washington. Other groups will have to follow suit. Baloch nationalism will have to be redefined within the ambit of Pakistani statehood. The dissidents will have to now talk of democratization of Baloch society instead of restoration of sardari system; of human rights and of changing the lives of disadvantaged people.