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Elating people of Balochistan – PAK OBSERVER

Pakistan’s civil and military leaderships have shown their determination to uplift Balochistan and elate the people of Balochistan so that they can are brought at par with other federating units. Pakistan military wanted Valoch to join the army to defend their motherland fighting shoulder to shoulder with army personnel hailing from other federating units. The passing out parade of 4,000 cadet officers took place in different cities of Balochistan simultaneously, where all 4,000 cadets commissioned in the ceremonies hailed from Balochistan. Parades were held in Quetta, Khuzdar, Sibi, Sui and Kashmore and attended by cadets’ families, relatives, tribal elders, lawmakers, ministers and senior military officials. On the instructions of Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, young recruits of Balochistan were given special leniency due to the fact that Balochistan was neglected in the past. The Pakistan Army is due to induct another ten thousand baloch youths, who are undergoing training, in the coming months. Corps Commander Lt Gen Javed Zia was the chief guest at the ceremony. Meanwhile, Pakistan Army has also announced to convert it’s cantonment at Sui into an education city.

Earlier, in an effort to heal the wounds of the past, last November a 39-point ‘Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan’ package was tabled at a joint sitting of the Parliament, and was adopted unanimously. There is no denying that Balochistan was neglected during British Raj and no serious effort was made to develop the province and improve the living conditions of the people for decades. Though people of Balochistan welcomed it, yet some nationalists and a few members of opposition parties did not appreciate the spirit in which the above package was presented. And some Baloch sardars had rejected the package even before its details were made public on the pretext that such steps in the past did not prove fructuous. Anyhow, recommendations in the package were divided over five categories: constitutional, political, administrative, economic and monitoring mechanism. It proposed the facilitation of the return of political exiles, release of political workers and political dialogue with all stake-holders. Dissident Sardars should reciprocate the gestures of the provincial government as well as by the federal government.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has reiterated his offer for dialogue to the tribal and political leaders of the province for resolving all burning issues confronting its people and addressing them. He had expressed satisfaction over the smooth conduct of written tests across the province to provide 5,000 jobs in different departments under the Aghaz Huqooq-i-Balochistan package. Nevertheless, the sad plight of the people due to stubbornness of the nationalists and centrifugal forces can be understood from the fact that more than 38,000 unemployed graduates had submitted applications under this package, seeking jobs in various federal and provincial departments. If one dispassionately examines the situation one would reach the conclusion that on the one hand strong centre syndrome and on the other centrifugal tendencies on the part of some Baloch sardars were responsible for continuous confrontation and crisis in Balochistan. With induction of 4000 Baloch in the army and others getting government jobs, environment is likely to change. It goes without saying that people of Balochistan have the first right over minerals and other natural resources of Balochistan, and major part of the income from these assets should be spent on the welfare of the people of Balochistan. Of course, Baloch sardars should get their share if income accrues from their area, but they are not entitled to the entire income. It is unfortunate that some sardars are not willing to accept less than independence, and they openly talk about secession. Akhtar Mengal, Shahzain Bugti and Hyrbyar Marri do not hide their ambitions of having an independent Balochistan. But no state worth its name would turn a blind eye to the efforts aimed at disintegrating the country and hold talks with such elements. Those who insist that the government should have talks with them, they should first ask these leaders to wean away from secessionist tendencies. In many countries of the world there are such contradictions that are resolved through talks.

But a few Baloch Sardars insist that Balochistan was never part of Pakistan, though a quick glance through history would prove them wrong. The province was originally formed over the period 1876-1891 by three treaties between Sir Robert Sandeman and the Khan of Kalat. He was Political Agent for the British-administered areas which were strategically located between British India and Afghanistan. In 1955 Balochistan was merged into One Unit, however in 1970, One Unit was done away with by Yahya government and the provincial status of Balochistan was restored. Before appointment of Sir Robert Sandeman as political agent in Balochistan, British Raj used to give a part of stipend or ‘dole’ to big sardars; however a major part went to chieftains of the tribes who used to share with tribal people. This two tier system was abandoned after Pakistan came into being and sardars arrogated all the powers of chieftains; thus people of Balochistan were left at the mercy of sardars. Historical evidence also suggests that before the British Raj, tribal people used to choose their sardar on the basis of his valour, his wisdom and his commitment to the welfare of the tribe. The British, however, gave sardars unprecedented powers and sardari system was made hereditary. People of Balochistan are patriotic but some arrogant sardars have been at loggerheads with the centre.

In 1970s Baloch sardars had taken to the mountains in their tiff with late ZA Bhutto who wished to construct roads and schools in Balochistan. Cases were instituted against Marri and Mengal sardars. Late Zia-ul-Haq, however, adopted the old policy of reconciliation with local Baloch sardars and peace was restored in the province. In 1988 Balochistan Assembly was dissolved, when Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was Chief Minister of the province, but later was restored under the orders of High Court. It has to be borne in mind that tribalism is firmly rooted in Balochistan, as ethnic and tribal identity is a potent force for both individuals and groups in Balochistan with the result that there exists deep polarization among different groups.

Each of these groups is based on different rules of social organization, which has left the province inexorably fragmented. Tribal group-ism has failed to integrate the state and enforce a national identity. Anyhow, leaders of Balochistan should be respected but at the same time they have to forget their bitterness of the past and make a fresh start. During an interview with a TV channel, Mirbyar Marri said: “American enslavement is better than Punjab enslavement because Punjabis will come and occupy our lands for good. The Americans will only steal our oil and gas, while Punjabis will obliterate our national identity”. During the last two years, military leadership has devoted special attention to Balochistan, and established schools and dispensaries to provide education and health facilities out of its own resources. Provincial and federal government should focus on implementation of the Balochistan package, which will help remove misgivings about the government.

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