Jang on Baluchistan’s Sense of Deprivation

The USG Open Source Center translates an editorial on Baluchistan from the Urdu newspaper “Jang.” There is now talk that the Obama administration will extend its Predator drone strikes into the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. On Saturday, “Jung” published among the more informed and sensible pieces on Baluchistan I have seen. The Baluch are only about 5 percent of Pakistan’s population. They are largely organized by kinship (“tribes”) but most are settled. Their province is rich in resources but these tend to be expropriated by the central government with little return to the province. There has been a long-running Baluch movement for autonomy, and one of its leaders, Akbar Bugti, was killed by the previous, Musharraf regime. President Asaf Ali Zardari is visiting Baluchistan and hopes to improve its relations with the center.

Pakistani Editorial Stresses Removal of Sense of Deprivation Among Baluch People
Editorial: “Trust, Consultations, Development Are Answer to Baluchistan’s Sense of Deprivation”
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Document Type: OSC Translated Text

Some important announcements are expected during President Asif Zardari’s three-day visit to Baluchistan Province that began on 26 March. These announcements are likely to come on 27 March or the following day. Some sources say that during his address to the joint session of two houses of parliament on 28 March, he will announce the government decisions with regard to the demands of the various groups in Baluchistan.

President Zardari’s Baluchistan visit is a part of the government’s strategy to contact the local people and hold consultations with different schools of thought. Moreover, the importance of this tour has increased in the context of global thinking on the province. Some reports emanating from Washington indicate that the United States intends to expand drone attacks up to Baluchistan, as some influential US quarters believe that Mullah Omar and Al-Qa’ida leadership are present in the safe havens in Quetta and planning fresh attacks on the United States in addition to commanding their militants to carry out actions against foreign forces in Afghanistan. A similar fear is being expressed by Richard Holbrooke, US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, NATO forces, and several European countries, including the United Kingdom.
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Unrest, however, prevails in various parts of the province because of different reasons. Angry people have taken up arms and are carrying out their activities from the mountains of Baluchistan. Certain elements are involved in spreading disturbances, sabotage, firing, and bomb blasts instead of registering their anger through political means. It is not difficult for elements involved in insurgency to get funds and sophisticated weapons because of the presence of several Indian Consulates in Afghanistan along the Pakistani border. The Afghan refugee camps also contribute in aggravating the situation.

Although serious threats are hovering over Baluchistan that have a direct impact on the country’s security and integrity, some forces do not want the Gwadar port to be functional. The deep sea port in Gwadar, which has been built with Chinese help, is the shortest and cheapest foreign trade route for Central Asian countries. There are clear chances that the Gwadar port can become the region’s economic center in the coming days. But there are doubts among Baluch quarters that the ratio of the local population in Gwadar will decrease with the arrival of people from other parts of the country after the port becomes functional. These reservations of the local Baluch people must be removed.

Baluchistan, the biggest Pakistani province, is still much backward despite being rich in natural resources. This backwardness has created a sense of deprivation among the local population. The entire country benefited from Baluchistan’s natural gas, but the local people in Sui Town, Baluchistan Province, were deprived of this facility for several decades. Copper deposits in Saindak could not be fully utilized so far. Precious stones, metals, and marble are found in abundance in the province’s mountains. Baluchistan can be made a much prosperous province by fully utilizing its natural resources.

Lack of funds is said to be the main reason for not benefiting from Baluchistan’s natural resources. The long coastal area of the province has much attraction for tourists. Despite the passage of six decades of independence, a strong infrastructure could not yet be established in the province. As a result, job opportunities could not be created and economic condition of the people remained the same.

One of its reasons also is the attitude of Baluchistan’s tribal chieftains and feudal lords who were not ready to loosen their grip of the people whom they have been ruling for centuries. They were scared of the light of modern civilization coming to the province through roads and developmental projects. On several occasions, these lords even revolted and used force to stop construction of roads in their areas. Therefore, the development process got affected. This situation also resulted into bloodshed in the province. Nawab Akbar Bugti’s, a Baluch nationalist leader killed in military operation in Baluchistan two years ago, martyrdom inflicted an irreparable loss to the country. A lot of time and hard work will be needed to control the situation created by Nawab Bugti’s martyrdom.

After Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) victory in 18 February 2008 elections, President Zardari, as the party cochairman, apologized to the Baluch people for past mistakes and excesses committed against them. He has also expressed determination to remove the Baluchistan’s sense of deprivation. He has also set up a special committee to resolve longstanding issues in the province. Several measures are being implemented to bring Baluchistan at par with other provinces. In this regard, the government has decided to waive 70 billion rupees (Pre) ($870 million) the province owed to the central bank.

President Zardari wants to solve the problems of all groups of Baluchistan through talks. He says that he wants to talk to those angry people also who have taken up arms. During his current visit, President Zardari wants to talk to opposition leaders, tribal chieftains, and insurgents to resolve their issues. Several incidents of abduction and killing of engineers and experts belonging to friendly countries have taken place in Baluchistan Province in recent times. The president wants to ensure nonrecurrence of such incidents in the future. The kidnappers of UN official John Solecki, who was abducted in Quetta last month, have taken him to a place where security forces have not been able to reach so far. Zardari will certainly like to get Solecki released through the efforts of the influential personalities of the province.

President Zardari will also hold consultations with Baluch leaders to deal with terror activities that are posing a serious threat to the country’s security. These were pointed out recently by a conference attended by most political parties in Baluchistan. Some quarters believe that solution to most of the Baluchistan’s problems, including backwardness, economic difficulties, Baluch-Pashtun conflict, unemployment, and sense of deprivation lies in recommendations made by several committees formed in the past. These recommendations include some constitutional reforms also. These recommendations can be implemented to create a pleasant environment in the province.

A new era of progress and prosperity in Baluchistan can be initiated by speeding up work on building infrastructure, providing professional and vocational education to youth, creating more job opportunities, and promoting a feeling of participation in country’s affairs among the local population. In this way, the local people will not develop a feeling of anger, but love with other provinces. There is a need to set up a permanent system of mutual contacts and consultations to maintain the environment of trust so that people express themselves at all levels, solve the problems, and put the province on the path to progress and prosperity. The sense of deprivation among the Baluch people can be removed by launching a large number of development projects in the province. This task should be initiated immediately.

(Description of Source: Rawalpindi Jang in Urdu — Influential, largest circulation newspaper in Pakistan, circulation of 300,000. The countrys only moderate Urdu newspaper, pro-free enterprise, politically neutral, supports improvement in Pakistan-India relations.)

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