Balochistan – Clichés and Realities

By Agha Iqrar Haroon

Agha Iqrar Haroon is a Development Observer. His area of work includes Central Asia, South Asia and Eastern European regions

“India is involved in injecting terrorism in Balochistan to hamper China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)” is just a cliché and nothing more.

There is no doubt that India has accelerated its quest to destabilise Balochistan after the announcement of CPEC to clamp economic rise of China that can be achieved further through One Belt—One Road (OBOR) and CPEC is Flagship of this amazing project.

One should consider another proposition stating that Indian involvement in Balochistan is as older as its (Indian) success in chopping off former East Pakistan and converting it into Bangladesh.

There is no doubt that Balochistan has been at the target of several anti-Pakistan forces because it is the largest province in size, richest in minerals, the least populated and poorest in living standards. Balochistan is a mixed formation of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for Pakistan. Strategically, Balochistan is situated at the cross road of Central Asia and geographically linked with Sistan and Baluchestan Province of Iran. One should remember that Abdol Malek Rigi (who was the leader of Jundallah, an Islamist Sunni terrorist group based in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province of southeast Iran and Balochistan of Pakistan) wanted to establish Islamic Shariah in “Greater Balochistan” comprising of Pakistani and Iranian Balochistan. Another so-called Islamic group —Islamic State (also known Daesh) is trying to establish “Greater Khorasan” comprising of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. The passport of Abdol Malek Rigi had visa stamps of several European and Middle Eastern countries when he was captured and executed in 2010 by the Iranian government. He was reportedly captured after a commercial flight departed from a Middle Eastern country for a Central Asian destination but was intercepted by Iranian Air Force and forced to land in Iran. Regi and his family had allegedly been involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan. His family members (reportedly) had been living in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar till this group was disbanded after the execution of Regi. Balochistan is a multifaceted issue for Pakistan; having multiple dimensions—international—national—regional and local.

The strength-factors for anti-Pakistan forces in Balochistan had been poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, sense of deprivation and hegemony of tribal culture.

One can easily blame for underdevelopment in Balochistan to Sardars (tribal chiefs) without finding out root causes that why did Balochistan fail to get educational and health care systems at par to other provinces of Pakistan?

There is a popular narrative that tribal chiefs wanted to see their people uncultured, uneducated and poor; therefore they did not allow development in their province. This narrative is not totally illogical but it is certainly over-sold and over-emphasized. One should not forget that One-Unit was not announced by tribal chiefs. One should not forget that tribal chiefs of Balochistan did not ask former President Field Martial Ayub Khan for not placing Balochistan at the map of first industrial revolution that took place in Pakistan during Ayub’s era. One should not forget that tribal chiefs did not stop anybody to provide natural gas to Quetta and the rest of Balochistan for over quarter of a century although gas had been distributing to other parts of country except gas provider—-Balochistan. There is no doubt that politicians and tribal chiefs lacked interest to develop their areas because they had no need to develop their province because they had been enjoying cash prizes from Federation and spending their half of lives in European countries with state-injected money. Question is simple—why did the Federation not play its constitutional role to provide basic facilities to citizens of Balochistan and why population of Balochistan was left at the mercy of tribal chiefs?

It was the responsibility of the centre (Federation) to ensure that Balochistan received its due share of socio-economic development. Education, Health and law & order were federal subjects until the arrival of 18th Amendment in 2010. Moreover, inadequate resources provided by the Federation were also eaten out by over a million Afghan Refugees living in central parts of Balochistan.

I travelled extensively in Balochistan during December 1991. Travelling in remotest areas of Balochistan (as far as Taftan Border from Quetta) was without fear and bodyguards although late former Chief Minister Taj Muhammad Jamali offered me hospitality and travel arrangements but I decided to travel alone and unguarded to feel this mysterious and deserted province. There is no doubt that Jan Muhammad Jamali (former chief minister Balochistan) had always been tracking me down through his network for my protection—“Smile”. That was time when there was no cellphone service in Pakistan. I was offered to carry a wireless set with me that I refused and started my journey as a tourist (in white 1986 model left-hand Mazda car that must had been smuggled from Iran or Afghanistan as traffic course in Pakistan is right-hand driving).

I finished my travel in several days before I initiated a series of interviews with Baloch politicians including those who were tagged separatists and survived 1972-73 military operation. I also interviewed late Akbar Khan Bugti who stood with Federation against separatists during 1972-73 military operation. I remember Akbar Khan Bugti, Taj Muhammad Jamali, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Abdul Malik Baloch and several other politicians were of the view that there is (was) strong sense of deprivation among residents of Balochistan due to several actions of Federation including introduction of One-Unit, military operation launched by former Prime Minister Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto and inviting Afghan Refugees to Balochistan by former military dictator General (retd) Ziaul Haq during Afghan-Russo War. They (Politicians) accepted in their interviews (I published a series of interviews in Frontier Post Lahore) that corruption among bureaucrats and politicians was one of the main impediments against development in Balochistan. They were of the view that demo-graphical change imposed by Afghan Jihad had ruined their society and they wanted to send Afghan refugees out of their province. Alas, 25 years had passed since I interviewed the Baloch political figures but Afghan refugees are still in Balochistan with multiplication factor in their population.

They (Politicians) were of the view that distribution of resources through Divisible Pool was unjustified and development project as well as Health and Education sectors of Balochistan need (needed) extra resources because population of Balochistan does (did) not live in cities rather it is (was) spread-over and people live in small pockets in far flung areas. They had no problem with Pakistan Army or State of Pakistan but they had problem with distribution of resources (interview were taken in 1992—well before 18th Constitutional amendment) and a general sense of “Leaving alone”.

Strategists believe that India being an archrival of Pakistan had a “strategic right” to invest in Balochistan after its successful “Operation Jackpot” that resulted in the birth of Bangladesh out of former East Pakistan in December 1971. After achieving results in Bangladesh, India allegedly launched spade work in Balochistan during 1973 that resulted in a full-fledged military operation against those politicians who, according to the then President (He thereafter became Prime Minister) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were planning to announce separation from Pakistan. Late Akbar Khan Bugti headed this operation as provincial governor. Situation came under control but several Baloch politicians left Pakistan for Afghanistan and European countries.

Pakistan allegedly tried to settle score in Indian Punjab during early 80s but “Operation Blue Star” crushed Punjab Insurgency. Pakistan says it had no involvement in Khalistan Movement and separatist leader of Punjab Insurgency Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was launched by the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi to undermine the Akali Dal but political planning backfired miserably. Involvement of Pakistan in Indian Punjab insurgency is still a debatable issue but involvement of India in Balochistan has been testified by an Indian Naval Officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who was arrested from Balochistan in March last year (2016) while infiltrating into Pakistan from the Saravan border area of Balochistan with Iran. Later in his confessional statement, he admitted to fomenting terrorism in Balochistan and Karachi.

Circumstances suggest that low-profile Indian involvement continued in Balochistan during 80s and 90s and then India had its catch when a contra between Bugti tribe and the then President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf triggered the situation after Dr. Shazia Khalid Case appeared on surface. Circumstances led to death of Nawaz Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006 in a cave and Baloch tribes held former President Gen Musharraf responsible for killing of Akbar Bugti. This incident was a golden chance for Indians to intensify their Operation in Balochistan. India was successful to generate a situation in which Balochistan started slipping from the hands of Pakistan and separatists were operating freely against the state writ till 2013. The Residency of Father of Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Ziarat was burnt down on June 15, 2013 by separatists. This event was a turning point in the history of Balochistan and the Federal Government realized that things were really getting out of control.

A new political government took charge in Islamabad and the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former COAS General (retd) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani decided to post a tested soldier as Commander of Southern Command (XII Corps in Quetta )—Lt. General Nasser Khan Janjua, who as a Major General had earlier participated in several operations against terrorists in Swat and overseen the Operation Rah-e-Haq in 2007. Lt. Gen Nasser Khan Janjua was posted in Balochistan in August 2013 when Balochistan was burning. He teamed up with former Chief Minister Balochistan Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch and both used all possible channels successfully to cool down situation in Balochistan. They offered policy of general amnesty for those who took arms against the state of Pakistan. They were successful and separatists started losing their support among masses and majority of separatists fled to Afghanistan and India, and decided to operate from abroad.

Shukria Raheel Sharif (Thank you Raheel Sharif) fame former COAS General (retd) Raheel Sharif launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014 that could be considered as well-planned, passionate, committed and the most successful anti-terrorist operation in Pakistan. Enough was enough and terrorists spreading all over Pakistan felt “State Writ” and “cleansing process” started at last in Pakistan. “Real Tournament” started and “Headshots” was the rule of the game. Scene of blood-bathed Army Public School (APS) Peshawar was in the eyes of those who had been planning against those terrorists who massacred over 140 innocent children within two-hours in APS. Operation Zarb-e-Azb worked well in Balochistan under the command of Lt. Gen Janjua and Chief Minister Dr Malik and over 70% areas were reclaimed from separatists and terrorists by 2015.

After a successful purge of terrorists and separatists, Pakistan Army under the leadership of COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa is extensively working for human resource development for the youth of Balochistan, providing extra resources for development and fighting out the sense of deprivation injected by several former generals including Gen (retd) Ayub Khan for announcing One Unit, by Gen (retd) Ziaul Haq for inviting Afghan Refugees and by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf for allegedly killing Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.

COAS General Qamar Bajwa is giving top priority to Balochistan and is actively overseeing Khushaal Pakistan (Prosper Pakistan) project. Right now, over 25,000 Baloch students are receiving quality education at various Army and FC-run schools and cadet colleges all over Pakistan. Nearly 20,000 sons of Balochistan are serving in Pak Army including over 600 as officers while 232 cadets are undergoing training at Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul while number gets even higher when we take into account Baloch youth in Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy and other Law Enforcement Agencies.

I believe that Baloch youth is resilient, patriotic, promising and as capable as youth of any area of Pakistan. I am optimist and pragmatic that Tomorrow’s Balochistan will be engine of national development if the Federation keeps respecting basic needs of deprived province. Historically, Baloch is known for not “forgiving and forgetting” his enemy till his last breath. State should help Baloch youth to know who is its real enemy through providing education and respect and then let the youth decide how to take revenge from enemy—India.

There is a saying in Balochistan that “A Baloch can survive without Water but not without Respect”.

Long Live Pakistan——


The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here