as well as rights.”
Pakistan’s most dynamic Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, diagnosed the problem of Balochistan in the sardari system. He issued orders for its abolition so that the Balochis could stand up and join the rest of the country that was progressing at a satisfactory pace.
Further, Bhutto tried to improve living standards in the province by distributing land among the landless peasants. Keeping this in view, land reforms were introduced. Luckily, Bhutto found a powerful ally, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, who helped him achieve his goal. He appointed Bugti as the Governor of Balochistan after which he surrendered vast tracts of his land to the landless peasants. In a symbolic ceremony, about 400 Baloch tribesmen were given proprietary rights over twelve-and-a-half acres of land where they toiled day and night for a living.
After a couple of months, when Bhutto visited the province, Bugti returned all the 400 documents that he had distributed among the farmers. His logic was that the people, who lived in the areas under his influence, were 100 percent dependent on him not only for grains and pulses that were distributed among them, but also the stipends that were utilised to provide education to their children. He also added that Balochistan needed speedy development of infrastructure, transport and communication system, along with the provision of clean drinking water and water resources that would help to irrigate an inhospitable parched land that formed a majority of the province. But after Bhutto’s rule, successive governments failed to carry out their responsibilities and thus the province drifted further in darkness. It would not be appropriate to blame the Gilani government entirely for the state of affairs existing there.
In addition, it would be better if the role of the tribal chiefs is analysed, since they too are responsible for the neglect that has resulted in creating enormous problems for the federal and provincial governments. Besides the Bugtis, the Marris and Mengels by design have stymied efforts to develop the province; they have created hurdles in the areas where schools and dispensaries were being established. These tribes, along with lesser chieftains, contributed to the conditions that were not conducive for development; one can safely say that they were anti-education. Without proper education, therefore, it is very difficult for the PPP-led government to redress the people’s concerns in the province.
Moreover, the situation in the province has deteriorated further due to the forces hostile to Pakistan. There is solid evidence that the Indians have established about 30 insurgent training camps in Afghanistan. And that New Delhi with Washington’s support is training and financing terrorists to spread anarchy in Balochistan.
It is heartening to note that the superior judiciary has rightly decided to take suo moto notice regarding some of the issues related to the province. Despite this, however, it can be safely assumed that another important reason for unrest there is injustice. Hence, the problem continues to escalate. It must also be remembered that ad hoc measures will never help to solve Balochistan’s problems, until and unless a concerted effort is put in place by the government, the judiciary and the military establishment.
Recently, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani decided to visit Balochistan so that they could initiate projects that would result in the province’s improvement. While the provision of 35,000 jobs and a grant of Rs 5 billion may not be enough to alleviate the people’s suffering, the provision of Rs 120 billion as compared to the previous Rs 40 billion under the National Finance Commission Award may solve some of their problems. Likewise, the allocation of Rs 31 billion for the Kachhi Canal Project would help in the provision of irrigation water and improve drinking water facilities.
Next, the proposal of constructing a link road between Gwadar and Ratodero, perhaps, will allow the seaport to become operational and dramatically improve its connection between other parts of the country. Similarly, it is expected that the COAS would make efforts to improve the province’s security as well as the economy.
Both the government and army realises that in the years to come it will be a major transit route for trade and commerce. That will have a profound effect not only on Pakistan, but also the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asian Republics. It is, therefore, very important that proper procedures are put in place so that Pakistan, especially Balochistan, attain the economic status that has so far been ignored due to multiple reasons.
The other issue is the tapping of natural resources and exploitation of gas and oil reservoirs, which exists there in abundance. Currently, Pakistan’s economy is moving at a snail’s pace. However, it can improve only if insurgence is contained and the natural resources are exploited for the people’s welfare. But the point is: to achieve this, unity of purpose is required and for that not only the assimilation of the Baloch in the country’s affairs is essential, but it is also important that democracy is allowed to flourish.
One hopes that the government and the military establishment will wake up to the present state of affairs in Balochistan. Otherwise, a time may come when things will slip out of hand and those who are eyeing its resources for their own benefit will call the shots.
n The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.