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Opinion

August 11, 2015

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A ‘peaceful Balochistan’

There was much enthusiasm and anticipation that Nawaz Sharif’s ascent to power would prove a game-changer in Baloch-Islamabad tense relations.
As an opposition leader he publicly lamented the role of security forces in the death and destruction of Balochistan. He promised to the people of Pakistan, and particularly to the Baloch people, that the province’s political, social, and administrative, security and social issues will be dealt with respect not repression.
However, controlled and engineered 2013 elections in Balochistan was the first dent to Nawaz Sharif and proponents of peaceful Balochistan. The Balochistan National Party led by Akhtar Mengal, which was considered close to Nawaz Sharif, was badly pushed backed and the BNP’s mandate was changed overnight in favour of ‘acceptable nationalists’ such as NP and PkMAP to ensure the continuation of the status quo.
Two and half years on, Balochistan is still bleeding and the province is run by unannounced emergency rules.
Before auditing Nawaz Sharif’s ‘Peaceful Balochistan’ policy or slogan, I would like to take you through some flashy slogans and policies which took up the past decade and a half, billions of rupees and thousands of innocent lives without any positive change for the Baloch people or for Pakistan.
Soon after taking over as military dictator, Musharraf used all sort of slogans and ploys – ranging from corruption-free Pakistan to heaven-like Balochistan – to attract the disillusioned masses. With Chinese funds he prompted the ‘mega projects’ slogan.
However, his flawed and exploitative policies during 2002-2008 led to mega death and destruction in Balochistan and overturned the peaceful province into a living hell.
Musharraf suppressed dissent by using brute force – killed Baloch leader Nawab Bugti, and displaced 400,000 inhabitants from Dera Bugti and Kolu districts. Used dirty war tactics such as enforced disappearances and systematic elimination

of political activists and their family members, criminalising Baloch society by raising death squads, supporting gangsters, mafias and criminals to confront and intimidate Baloch nationalists.
To glorify his misplaced Balochistan policy, Musharraf’s government used nearly Rs18 billion in ten years on media management and advertisement.
In addition to the years of military operations, ill-conceived and discriminatory policies and poor governance resulted in extreme underdevelopment of the region.
Soon after Musharraf’s departure, the PPP formed government in the centre and in Balochistan with the support of Musharraf’s cronies. In spite of a national apology to the Baloch people, they too failed to reverse the establishment’s destructive Balochistan policy.
Neglecting Balochistan’s core politico-economic grievances, the PPP also crafted and promoted a false narrative classifying it as a mere issue of a few jobs and financial aid.
The package didn’t include issues of Balochistan’s political, economic, security and administrative future, including the Baloch people’s right to self-rule and control over natural resources, which has been their central demand.
Ironically even the flawed package didn’t reach the masses; it was distributed among the 62-member provincial cabinet. The entire development package was executed in a shady manner.
The multi-billion Balochistan package didn’t help elevate social and economic standards but instead increased institutional and political corruption. A rough estimate by a local group in Balochistan estimated that Rs360 billion were embezzled in Balochistan during 2008-2013 – and all that happened under the flashy ‘Balochistan Package’.
Moreover, the fearful and weak PPP government couldn’t change a single policy on Balochistan. Musharraf’s policies, crafted by the powerful establishment, continued to dominate Balochistan affairs. In the absence of a powerful government in the centre, there was an increase repressive policies and Balochistan witnessed a rise in cases of enforced disappearances and a new horrific trend of kill-and-dump of mainly young Baloch political activists and journalists who dared raise their voice against atrocities.
During his recent six-hour long visit to Quetta Mian Nawaz Sharif carved a new term: ‘Peaceful Balochistan’ to eulogise his approach. Nawaz Sharif’s ‘Peaceful Balochistan’ policy has no clear framework. It is merely a political slogan for public consumption.
Indeed there is no second opinion that Balochistan has never ever been dealt with by political governments. It is considered a mega garrison. All policies, including social and economic decisions for the province, have to be monitored and controlled by the establishment to ensure that the strategic aspect of Balochistan is not upset by the sudden uplift of the political and socio-economic status of the marginalised Baloch.
For Islamabad’s powerful establishment peace means absence of resistance and dissent.
But politically speaking, attaining a ‘peaceful Balochistan’ is linked with conflict analysis, conflict resolution and peace-building strategies. Bloodless peace can be achieved first by suspending and ending systemic atrocities perpetrated by the state. Furthermore, multi-stakeholder engagement and dialogue with the support and arbitration of the international community is crucial to end the prolonged and costly conflict that has been going on intermittently since 1948.
In a nutshell, Nawaz Sharif’s peaceful Balochistan idea is old wine in a new bottle that is crafted by soldiers not statesman.
The writer is a former senator from Balochistan. Email: [email protected]

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