Pakistan and Balochistan: Is Ignorance Bliss?

Author: Regina Paulose

 

Balochistan is one of the largest provinces in Pakistan. The western province which is mainly composed of various ethnic tribes now faces various human rights issues which could potentially explode into larger issues. Although Balochistan is not popular in the media, the issues faced by the people in Balochistan are extremely important and require consideration by the international community.

 

Credit: Mashreghnews

Credit: Mashreghnews

The province has a large wealth of natural resources. Unfortunately, the natural resources have become a source of tension between the government of Pakistan and the people of Balochistan. While the Pakistani government continues to exploit these resources, (much of which remains untapped) the people of Balochistan remain impoverished and illiterate.[1] Other countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia are very active in exploiting the natural resources in the province. Pakistan has not set up any independent monitoring mechanism to provide protection for the Baloch people or their land.[2] In addition to the states who take part in the pillaging of resources, “scores of powerful organized crime networks, especially criminal organizations engaged in drug smuggling and opium production” also occupy Balochistan as it is part of the “Golden Crescent” (a critical area for drug smuggling operations).[3] Thanks to Chinese pressure to eradicate opium production in the Golden Triangle, the Golden Crescent now produces 92% of the world’s opium production.[4]

 

Against this backdrop, the Balochs, who are largely powerless, are resentful of the corruption and exploitation of their lands. In 2009 the Pakistani government presented the “Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan” package in an attempt at reconciliation.[5] The package provided economic aid amongst other things to the province for the exploitation of the lands. Despite this gesture, factions (some militant) within the Baloch community rejected the package. Instead, these groups seek outright independence from Pakistan. While this has been the desire of these groups for many years, some Baloch groups are resorting to violence to emphasize this desire.[6] Pakistan has expressed its ambitions, via a “dirty war,” to suppress the nationalist separatist movement.[7]  This has led to an increase in the suppression of “terrorist” groups throughout the country. As previously discussed in another article, governments continue to blur the line between terrorists, militants, and human rights activists. In the case of Balochistan, human rights activists, political activists, and academics are being “suppressed” (read as: killed) frequently.[8] The Baloch are victims of enforced disappearances, abductions, killings, and detention.[9]  Human Rights Watch documented that most of the victims of these disappearances are affiliated in some way with the Baloch Republican Party, Baloch National Movement, Balochistan National Party, or the Baloch Student Organization –Azad.[10] Some argue that the peace between groups in Balochistan could “end in a bloodbath.”

 

Another dire situation that Pakistan is ignoring  (perhaps purposefully) is the targeted sectarian killings of the Hazara (a Shia minority). The Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ) has continued to claim responsibility for the sectarian killings directed toward the group.[11] The Hazara have no involvement in the independence movement nor are they part of any political struggle. The LeJ continues to enjoy impunity as only a few have been arrested and very few charged. In fact, some of those who have been convicted have escaped confinement with no further explanation by the authorities in Balochistan and Pakistan.[12]

 

While these events which eerily look like genocide continue to unfold, the international community needs to increase pressure on Pakistan to change. China could play a pivotal role, as it has in the Golden Triangle, to pressure Pakistan to stop the transport of opium through the borders of this province. This could lessen the impact of organized crime and possibly decrease funding opportunities of recognized terrorists groups that operate in the area. Further, China should increase its corporate social responsibility by ensuring that Baloch community’s interests are not tossed aside in the exploitation of their lands. The United States and Russia which work with Pakistan on counter terrorism have obligations to ensure that its military aid is not used as a tool to further genocide. Further, the United Nations has an important role to play in monitoring the human rights situation in this area. “In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”[13]  Dialogue will be the most important tool to putting out the flames of this potential fire.

 

 

[1] Banuk Horaan Baloch, “Balochistan’s Inherent Value” International Policy Digest, April 7, 2014, http://www.internationalpolicydigest.org/2014/04/07/balochistans-inherent-value/

[2] DAWN, “Exploitation of mineral wealth” November 25, 2010, http://www.dawn.com/news/585335/exploitation-of-mineral-wealth-by-sanaullah-baloch

[3] Chris Zambelis, “Separatists, Islamists, and Islamabad struggle for Control of Pakistani Balochistan” Terrorism Monitor, December 3, 2009, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/tm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35800&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=26&cHash=1a2d01ef7a#.VHZAjLl0zmQ

[4] Thomas Fuller, “Notorious Golden Triangle loses sway in opium trade” New York Times, September 11, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/world/asia/11iht-golden.1.7461246.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[5] Human Rights Watch, “We can torture, kill, or keep you for years” July 25, 2011, http://www.hrw.org/node/100307/section/5

[6] See Madiha Tahir, “From rallies to armed resistance in Balochistan” AlJazeera, May 6, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/05/from-rallies-armed-resistance-ba-20145665338680350.html

[7] Mahvish Ahmad, “Pakistan’s Balochistan: Minerals, militants, and meddling” CSM, January 31, 2013, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2013/0131/Pakistan-s-Balochistan-Minerals-militants-and-meddling

[8] Human Rights Watch, “Pakistan: Upsurge in Killings in Balochistan” July 13, 2011, http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/07/13/pakistan-upsurge-killings-balochistan

[9] Palash Ghosh, “Balochistan: Pakistan’s dirty war in its poorest, most lawless, but resource-rich province” International Business Times, September 14, 2013, http://www.ibtimes.com/balochistan-pakistans-dirty-war-its-poorest-most-lawless-resource-rich-province-1405620

[10] Human Rights Watch, “We can torture, kill, or keep you for years” July 25, 2011, p.7, http://www.hrw.org/node/100307/section/5

[11] Human Rights Watch, “We are the Walking Dead” June 30, 2014, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/06/30/we-are-walking-dead

[12] Idem

[13] Albert Einstein

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