MANAGEMENT OF INTRA-STATE CONFLICTS: IDENTIFYING THE LOOPHOLES WITH REFERENCE TO THE CASE STUDY OF BALOCHISTAN SINCE 2006
BY SYEDA SARWAT BATOOL
MS ASSIGNMENT IN COURSE PEACE AND CONFLICT STUDIES
DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, UNIVERSITY OF KARACHI
OCTOBER 2013

 

Today, the nation-state is being challenged from two sides. At the supra-national level, it is being challenged by forces such as the ‘M.N.Cs, common markets, satellite communications and global environmental concerns’, which does not have much respect for traditional political boundaries and the integrity of the sovereign state. At the sub-national level, the nation-state is being challenged by a wave of ‘ethnic nationalism’ that has manifested itself across the globe. Over the decades, inter-state warfare has been overtaken by intra-state conflicts & civil wars as the most common forms of political violence worldwide. All citizens of all countries desire to be governed well. That is what citizens want from the nation-states in which they live. Thus, nation-states in the modern world are responsible for the delivery of essential political goods to their inhabitants. That is their purpose & has been their central legitimate justification since at least the 17th century. The essential political goods can be summarized and gathered under five categories: Safety & security, Rule of law & transparency, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic opportunity and Human Development.
When we analyze the situation in Balochistan, we come to know that a combination of domestic and international factors is responsible for the rise in strength of ethno-nationalist movement. Among the domestic factors, it is argued in this study, the policies of various Pakistani governments have primarily been instrumental in the rise of the Baloch movement. It is due to the failure of the state to evolve a just political system that should guarantee an equitable participation, in the national life, to all ethnic groups in the country. The country’s history shows that the groups that had been left out of the system had revolted not only against the unjust systems but also against the state itself because state is looked upon as the initiator and protector of the system. The policies of the state are the primary factor in changing the course of Baloch nationalist movement, over time. International factors reinforced the trends generated by the domestic factors. India, Soviet Union, China, the United States have been accused to play an active role in the Baloch movement due to the strategic importance of the region.
The province of Balochistan has been treated by successive central governments, as a peripheral area, the problems and grievances of Baloch people have consistently been ignored and the Pakistani center has historically tended to prefer using force, as opposed to negotiation and a political solution, when dealing with the lingering Balochistan issue. The ongoing militancy in the province is the fourth since the creation of Pakistan. The region comparatively remained peaceful for years after the military operation of 1973-1977 but the violence has erupted again, since almost a decade, in a more sustained and large scale manner. Although initially the government claims that only parts of Balochistan are affected by the violence, attacks on government installations have occurred throughout the province, depicting the situation to be uncertain and dangerous.
When unknown armed men fired at least eight rockets on a Para-military camp in Kohlu on December 14, 2005, where the President was to address the tribal elders two hours later. This was the moment that army was waiting to seize upon. On December 17, 2005, the security forces launched attacks against the Marri tribes in Kohlu district. The operation intensified with each passing day and engulfed not only the entire Kohlu district but also the neighboring Dera Bugti district. Baloch nationalists soon responded with their tactics of blowing up gas pipelines, railway lines and communication and electricity towers. The army went on targeting rebel locations and killed the Baloch leader, ‘Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’, on August 26, 2006; however, it did not lead to the desired effect that the rebels would fold up their movement as a result of the killing. But the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti seemed to bring the Balochis together and united them further. The killing of Nawab Bugti indicated that the Pakistani military establishment thought it could resolve the issue militarily.
The operation highly militarized the region as one paramilitary post was reportedly established for every five hundred people. In 2005, Baloch leaders presented a fifteen-point agenda to the government that included greater control of resources, protection for Baloch minority and a halt to the building of military bases but the then President Musharraf showed little regard for their concerns. Then in July 2006, Prime Minister ‘Shaukat Aziz’ ruled out general amnesty for ‘miscreants’ in Balochistan.
Baloch nationalists and the central government view the current situation in Balochistan very differently. Baloch nationalists argue that the crisis in Balochistan is a violent reaction to the neglect of the Baloch populace and the exploitation of their natural resources by Punjabi ‘colonialists’ from Islamabad. Whereas, on the other hand, the central government argues that the Baloch people are being ‘led by the nose’ by a small number of tribal Sardars who are simply trying to maintain their control on power by derailing the central government’s efforts to modernize and develop Balochistan.
In July 2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Pakistan Government should immediately act to end the epidemic of killings of suspected Baloch militants and opposition activists by the military, Intelligence Agencies, and the paramilitary FC in the south western province of Balochistan. Again in September 2011, HRCP Balochistan chapter expressed its serious concern over the increasing number of decomposed bodies of missing persons being recovered from different parts of Balochistan. HRCP Quetta chapter Chairman ‘Tahir Hussain and Advocate Zahoor Shahwani’, while addressing a news conference, said that situation was going from bad to worse in the province. They said that the number of mutilated dead bodies of missing persons was increasing with each passing day and around 188 decomposed dead bodies have so far been dumped in desolate places in different parts of Balochistan since June 4, 2010 and most of the victims were political opponents, students and cream of the society. Quoting a report, they said that those lawyers who appeared before courts in connection with the cases of missing persons were also killed.
Resentment and violence in Balochistan historically has been a product of the same competition over territory, ethnic group security, political power and natural resources that have caused international conflicts throughout the world. Ethnic unrest and violence in Balochistan has been majorly fueled by the central government’s inability to resolve the province’s long-standing demands for provincial autonomy and an equitable distribution of natural resources. The major issues in this regard are: Political oppression, Economic Exploitation, Excessive use of military force and Underdevelopment.
Adding to the Baloch frustration was the non-Baloch ownership in Balochistan and the domination in business by non-Baloch communities. The Baloch generally resented this, since they felt marginalized in their own land. Even the government’s move to establish industry at ‘Hub Chowki’, an area fourteen miles from Karachi, was seen as a government scheme to exploit the province’s resources under the guise of industrializing the province. They also viewed the construction of roads as an extension of the federal administrative machinery to exercise control over the Baloch, penetrate their guerrilla strongholds and open their province to outsiders for trade, settlement and exploitation of their resources. According to Baloch leader ‘Khair Bakhsh Marri’, most of the roads built in Balochistan were
“…….not for our benefit but to make it easier for the military to          
control us and for the Punjabis to rob us. The issue is not whether
to develop, but whether to develop with or without autonomy. 
Exploitation has now adopted the name of development.”
The real reason for the tension between the Baloch and the central government was the central government’s un-willingness to allow provincial autonomy. Baloch areas remained under-developed, lacking even the most basic facilities and when development schemes were initiated, outsiders benefited. Also the Baloch were poorly represented in the state’s political institutions and had been generally kept out of key administrative positions. The available data shows that throughout the history, whenever the state addressed Baloch grievances through reduced military presence, offers of economic assistance and move towards a more complete democracy, attacks or insurgency most often decreased. Similarly, when the state conducted military operations against the insurgents, opened military bases in Balochistan and offered disincentives to integration, attacks or insurgency generally increased.  
The Islamabad’s refusal to negotiate crucial demands of the Baloch nationalists, such as handing Gwadar port over to provincial control and abandoning the construction of additional military cantonments, within the parliamentary committee that was formed by the Senate in September 2004, to seek a solution to the Balochistan conflict and the military crackdown on the Baloch opposition resulted in the BNP’s withdrawal from the committee to protest the arrests of its party workers.   The failure of the sub-committee, which was mandated “to examine the current situation in Balochistan and make recommendations thereon” under the leadership of Mushahid Hussain Syed, to recommend an immediate end to military action reinforced Baloch perceptions that decision making takes place in army headquarters, not in the parliament. Security forces and intelligence agencies are also accused of intimidation, arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances and extra-judicial killings.
In Balochistan’s case, ethnic demands have been translated into a threat to the ‘survival of Pakistan as an integrated state’. The communication gap between the Baloch and the central authorities has largely increased, particularly after the killing of ‘Nawab Akbar Kahn Bugti’, and has left little space for a negotiated settlement. Successive governments have failed to take into account the real grievances of the people of Balochistan and they have been regularly deprived of their socio-economic and political rights due to which the Baloch have become suspicious of even the developmental policies of the central government. This is evident from an act of the militants when on 17 July2011, armed militants of BLA abducted five men, who were heading to work at ‘Sorange coal mine’, located around 40 kilometers east of Quetta. ‘Basham Baloch’, a spokesman of BLA, claimed responsibility for the abduction and said the men were abducted to force the Government to stop mining.
In view of all the facts it is clear that centre’s policies towards Balochistan have a direct relationship with the actions of the nationalist and separatist forces. Hence, it can be said that as long as the government is bend on a military solution, the insurgency is not likely to recede and the prospects of a negotiated settlement of the conflict appear poor. If the dangerous and fast widening gap between the Baloch and the centre is to be narrowed, the restoration of democracy is indeed the only way out. Instability in Balochistan not only damages the Pakistani polity but also adversely affects the stability of its immediate region. The reason that despite all these measures, the Baloch are not yet satisfied with the efforts of the central government is that although the governments have been accepting the deteriorating conditions in Balochistan, they practically have failed to implement steps to lessen the grievances of Baloch. There is a trust deficit between the Baloch and Islamabad and the Baloch people believe that they have been repeatedly betrayed by the establishment, and now there is no way to trust Islamabad’s unilateral offers without firm internal and external guarantees.
With regard to the resolution of the conflict, the state should look for a ‘negotiated settlement’. It should now realize that the issue of Balochistan is a political problem and political problems need political solutions rather than solutions through ‘the use of force’. Although, by using force, the state had been successful in crushing the uprisings at various times in Pakistan’s history but the movement never died and each time it re-emerged with a new force. This shows their determination to their cause. Now, the state and the government should try to engage in dialogue with ‘the young educated Baloch’ rather than tribal chiefs. It is time to move ahead of making promises and to act because the situation of Balochistan is like ‘now or never’ and if the state does not take some effective measures now, the repercussions would be very serious both for the country and for the people who have not yet able to overcome the loss of East Pakistan. The consequences of no-resolution are difficult to predict.       

 

S.W.R.de A.Samarasinghe Introduction in Ralph R.Premdas,S.W.R.de A.Samarasinghe et.al.(eds.),Secessionist Movements in Comparative Perspective( London: International Centre for Ethnic Studies,1990), p.1.

Adeel Khan, “Pakistan in 2006: Safe Center, Dangerous Peripheries”, Asian Survey (Seoul), Vol.47,No.1,January/February 2007, p.126, available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/as.2007.47.1.125 (last accessed 21September2011).

Adeel Khan, “Pakistan in 2006: Safe Center, Dangerous Peripheries”, Asian Survey (Seoul), Vol.47,No.1,January/February 2007, p.126, available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/as.2007.47.1.125 (last accessed 21September2011).

Ibid., p.44.

Ibid., p.45.

Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN), “Balochistan: Jackboot justice in tribal heartland”, New Delhi, 2007, p.1, available at http://www.aitpn.org/Issues/II-01-07-Balochis.pdf(last accessed 22December2011).

Ibid.

Ibid.

Ibid.

Justin S.Dunne, op. cit.

Adeel Khan, “Pakistan in 2006: Safe Center, Dangerous Peripheries”, Asian Survey,Vol.47,No.1,January/February 2007, p.126, available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/as.2007.47.1.125 (last accessed 21September2011).

Gregory D.Pipes, “The Baloch-Islamabad Tensions: Problems of National Integration” (M.A.Diss., Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, 2010), pp.23-29, available at http://edocs.nps.edu/npspubs/scholarly/theses/2010/Mar/10Mar_Pipes.pdf (last accessed 21December2011).

Rajshree Jetly, “Baluch ethnicity and nationalism (1971—81): an assessment”, Asian Ethnicity, Vol.5, No.1, February 2004, pp.12-13, available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1463136032000168871 (last accessed 26September2011).

Ibid., p.13.

Adeel Khan, “Baloch Ethnic Nationalism in Pakistan: From Guerrilla War to Nowhere?”, Asian Ethnicity, Vol.4, No.2, June2003, p.288, available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14631360301655 (last accessed 26September2011).

Gregory D.Pipes, op. cit., p.35.

International Crisis Group, “Pakistan: The Worsening Conflict in Balochistan”, Asia Report No.119, 2006, pp.19-20, available at http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/asia/south-asia/pakistan/119_pakistan_the_worsening_conflict_in_balochistan.ashx (last accessed 21December2011).

Ibid., p.20.

Ibid., p.23.

International Crisis Group, “Pakistan: The Worsening Conflict in Balochistan”, op. cit., p.27.