Insurgency in Balochistan

Written by Amna Asif 12:20 pm Articles, Current Affairs, Pakistan, Published Content

Insurgency in Balochistan: Then & Now

Since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, Balochistan has witnessed repeated insurgencies. Amna Asif argues that as long as the people of Balochistan are neglected and their land is exploited, the province will not see an end to the violence. The sense of betrayal and oppression felt by the Baloch will only intensify if the government of Pakistan does not devise a long-term solution to the issues faced by the province.
About the Author(s)
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Ms Amna Asif is a second-year graduate student at NUST.

An isolated element within a society is bound to feel neglected and as a result, will resort to violent and rebellious acts – such is the case with Balochistan and its insurgency. Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan, is also one of the most underdeveloped regions in the country. Every government since the independence of Pakistan, 75 years ago, has failed to improve the living conditions and infrastructure in the province.

Consequently, as separatist movements arise, the government hastens to suppress them. However, that is not the solution to such a problem. The neglect of the people of Balochistan, and their land, has continued for too long. Unless the government provides the necessary development and infrastructure, the bloodshed will continue to wreak havoc within the region, with the capability to metastasize to the rest of the country. This could be perilous for not just national security but regional security as well.

Origin of Baloch Separatism

The origins of the Balochistan separatist movement date back to the accession of Kalat. The princely state of Kalat was acceded to Pakistan by Ahmad Yar Khan. As a result, Abdul Karim initiated a revolt. The princes of Kalat continued fighting against the army of Pakistan until 1950. Moreover, Ahmad Yar Khan was permitted to retain his title of “King of Kalat” until the resolution of the province in 1955.

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In accordance with the constitution of 1956, Pakistan enacted a “one unit” system, which limited provincial autonomy. The tensions increased during this time as the revenue generated by the Sui gas fields was retained by the federal government. The tribal leaders were discontent with the policy changes implemented as a direct result of the one-unit system. Unrest within the region continued through the 1970s.

The martial law, imposed by Zulifqar Ali Bhutto, was resented by the tribal leaders in Balochistan. The Balochistan People’s Liberation Front organized numerous insurgencies, which were suppressed by the Pakistan Army with the assistance of Iran. The insurgents suffered heavy casualties. The movement had lost momentum until it reignited with the death of Akbar Bugti in 2006.

The attacks by the insurgents have continued into 2022. The most recent incident occurred on March 15, 2022, when four members of the Frontier Corps were martyred, while 10 members were injured after the detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED) in Sibi, Balochistan.

Causes of the Insurgency in Balochistan

In order to reach a resolution to the ongoing conflict, it is crucial to analyze the reasons for the insurgency in Balochistan. One major reason behind the insurgency is the exploitation of the province’s natural resources without compensation. The native people of Balochistan contend that their land has been utilized to excavate gas, minerals, and coal.

However, on several occasions, Balochistan has been shut out from receiving its part of the share. Another appalling fact is that only 36% of Balochistan’s areas have access to electricity.  The resource-rich province has sustained Pakistan over the years. Yet, it is the most underdeveloped region of the nation.

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Moreover, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was initiated without any correspondence or consent from the people of Balochistan. Thus, the Baloch have openly expressed their resentment of the project. According to several reports, the fishery business on the Gwadar Port has been severely affected.

There are a plethora of families who have been relocated as a direct result of the construction of an expressway. Additionally, as more Chinese workers inhabit the region, tension has increased. The people of Balochistan feel as though their land is being forcibly occupied and colonized by a foreign element.

Another reason for their malcontent is the underdevelopment and illiteracy rate in the region. The literacy rate of the region, according to the 2017 census, stands at 43.58%. This is dismaying as the national literacy rate is 62.3%. According to another report by Amnesty International, students from 77 colleges across the province clear their intermediate studies but only have 8 universities to select from.

It becomes increasingly difficult to manage such a large number of students as universities are already relatively congested. The region is in need of more higher education institutes to cater to the rapidly increasing population of Balochistan.

Conclusion

When a neglected element is dissatisfied with its current state, it seeks to gain recompense or continue to rebel. If the government of Pakistan wants to decrease the evergrowing attacks, it must evaluate and consider the possible courses of action. There is only one possible solution to the conundrum and that is “development and increased funding.”

The region lacks the proper infrastructure and facilities that are required to sustain life in an equitable and efficient manner. Therefore, immediate action should be taken to provide the people of Balochistan with educational institutes, jobs, electricity, and gas. The funding for the province must also simultaneously increase to provide the 41% of households living below the poverty line, with a source of sustenance as they stabilize themselves. Unless these basic necessities of life are endued to the people of Balochistan, they will continue to express their grievances through violence and uprisings

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