The province of Balochistan is one of Pakistan’s god-given areas, rich in natural resources, with six trillion barrels of oil reserves. Pakistan enjoys an ideal geo-strategic location and thanks to this province, it is a strategically important zone of influence for other countries. Yet the Balochi people consider Balochistan to be a separate area of Pakistan and have started a separatist movement because they want their own autonomous government. There are surely some strong reasons for this step.
There have been many mistakes and blunders on the part of the central government that must be admitted. Successive governments have ignored the province; required status and facilities have long been denied – things which other provinces enjoy. There is still a feudal system in Balochistan and its lords have never taken any interest in the area’s development or progress, despite taking control of government. These lords have no concern for the condition of the people; they are too busy storing up money in the name of different governmental projects. Our provincial and federal government must be held responsible for this, because it has a duty to check out the actions of the lords when different projects are started in Balochistan. Not surprisingly, people are developing negative views. It is situations like these which invite other countries such as India and the US to take advantage.
Sometimes this separatist movement shows similarities with the movement of East Bengal. The East Bengalis demanded separation because their language, culture and their representation in elections were not given any importance. They felt insecure, so separated from West Pakistan. If you look closely, there are many striking similarities between the two situations. Their demands and complaints about the government are the same. Both have rational feelings. Bengal did not sit down to negotiations because they were puppets in the hands of India, and now there is so much foreign interference in Balochistan that the Balochi people are beginning to consider themselves as a people with separate identity.
The US is in favour of creating insurgency in Pakistan and wants to separate Balochistan from Pakistan. This would automatically create political frustration in south Asian countries like Iran and Afghanistan. It would affect US foreign policy positively and Pakistan would lose 50 per cent of its territory. When President Musharraf was in power (2001-08) the US established dominance in Pakistan and began to interfere in Pakistan’s domestic issues. The US deployed their forces in many countries after 9/11 on the pretext of having found signs of ‘terrorism’ in them. If the US were to establish complete dominance in Balochistan it would give it a secure base from which to observe countries like China, Afghanistan and Iran.
When self-proclaimed Balochi leader Akbar Bugti was killed in 2006 in a military operation, the Balochi people began to feel that no one was safe, that anyone could be killed at any time. The murder of Akbar Bugti drew a line between Pakistan and Balochistan.
Foreign powers are trying to influence the Balochistan separatist movement. And there is a youth generation that is full of misconceptions about the reality of the struggle. These misconceptions must be removed before there can be any chance of unity. There are many non-state actors that are the cause of the deprivation and all the offensive acts that are taking place.
There are many difficulties and hurdles ahead if we want to stabilize the situation in Balochistan. Policies need to be changed and youth need guidance. If social, political and economical differences can be resolved then there is hope of a better situation in the future.