Security and Development in Balochistan

 1. Introduction

 The nexus between security and development has become a central focus of development thinking and practice. These two elements are interlinked. There will be no development without security and no security without development. In the case of Balochistan, due to various constraints previous governments could not make the desired progress in improving security of the province and completion of development projects aimed at addressing economic position of its people.

Longstanding Baloch resentments can be traced back to the British rule and accession of Balochistan to Pakistan. Under highly centralized policies, the British rule ignored development, thus created socio-economic and political deprivation. Recent deteriorating law and order situation is linked to the on-going war in Afghanistan. There has been a sharp decline in violence, terrorism, insurgency and crime, due to the assertive civil services, Frontier Corps (FC) and Police. Army and FC performance in rushing earthquake relief goods is appreciated and the insurgents are being condemned for shooting the rescuers.

2. Sandeman System and Aristocratic Powers of Baloch Sardars

Today’s conflict in Balochistan is related to British Sandeman system that enhanced powers of sardars and introduced a new Royal Jirga. Traditional Jirga system was undermined that deepened class divisions and deprivation. Royal Jirga changed the character of traditional Jirga, which used to be a communal court delivering participatory justice in the past. In the new Royal Jirga only sardars and aristocrats could sit, giving sardars unlimited powers over lives and belongings of the masses. They showed a total disregard for welfare of the people. 

3. Reasons Underlying the Balochistan Conflict 

3.1    Immense Power of Tribal Baloch Sardars

  • The independent sardars resist state interference, mainly to protect their influence and wealth.
  • The grievances and socio-economic backwardness of Baloch people have increased due to tribalism and deprivation.
  • The sardars sit in provincial and national parliaments, yet they hardly take any part for the development of Balochistan or their tribesmen.
  • If there is weight in the argument that Pakistan’s federal government has neglected the development of Balochistan, then the sardars are equally responsible.
  • Sardar’s opposition to development plans is based on apprehension that employment opportunities will liberate people from their bondage and promote civil rights’ awareness.
  • Millions of rupees received from Sui gas fields as royalty were not spent on the welfare of tribesmen.

3.2  Complete Decentralization of Powers

  • The Baloch people have demanded complete decentralization of powers.
  • In this context the set up of military cantonments is also seen as a way to suppress Baloch nationalists 

3.3  Deprivation and Lack of Development

  • Since sardars do not want their people to go out of their control, Balochi people are deprived of equal employment opportunities in the country. In this regard the successive central and Balochistan governments have not been able to help the people by weakening the Sardari system. So the people have suffered economically and socially under the cluster of sardari system.

            Lowest Literacy Rate           

  • Balochistan’s literacy is 34 % which is the lowest among four provinces. Sardars resist opening of schools and also discourage teachers to do their job properly. Due to same reason there is lack of skilled human resources in Balochistan.
  • Lack of proper education has led to rising unemployment and underdevelopment.
  • Poor transportation and communication infrastructure is a big hurdle in the progress of the province. Sardars resist making of roads as they do not want their people to get out of that area for doing jobs elsewhere.
  •  Huge royalties are paid to the sardar of Sui, but the money fails to reach the people of the area.

3.4  External  Factors and International Geo-politics: Foreign Support of Baloch Separatists

  • There are reports of support to Baloch separatists by some countries’ intelligence agencies including Indian Raw.
  • Due to strategic location of Balochistan the aim of external interference is to stimulate insurgency, destabilize Balochistan and pave way for its separation from Pakistan.
  • India believes that independent Balochistan will likely become a proxy of India, and Afghanistan.

3.5  Fear of Marginalization

  •  Current scenario for the conflict in Balochistan was initiated when the federal government started developing Gwadar Port, coastal highway, road and rail links, which was opposed by Baloch nationalists on the charge that it would change Balochi ethnic culture and demography.
  • Instead of welcoming these projects, the Baloch responded with fear that they would also be dispossessed of their land and resources.
  • Baloch also feared that they would become minority in their own land, and Sindhis Punjabis and others would increase.

3.6  Settlers Issue in Balochistan

  • Punjabis, Sindhis and Urdu-speaking factions are described as settlers by Balochis.
  • Nationalist militants are targeting and killing ‘settler’ educationists, doctors, professionals, etc.
  • This violence is pushing the province to further backwardness through skill and brain drain.
  • The major fallout of Baloch militants’ violence has been the mass migration from Balochistan of Punjabi and Urdu‐speaking people, who mostly live in Quetta.
  1. State Responses and State Capacities to the Conflict: Balochistan Package
  • A number of political measures by the federal government have focused on Balochistan, including the 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan Package and the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
  • The package has five different dimensions as identified below, relating to  actions  and  measures in constitutional, political, administrative and economic spheres and monitoring mechanism:-
  • Withdrawal of Army from Sui and Kohlu
  • Halting the establishment of cantonments in these areas
  • Replacing of Army by FC
  • Inquiry into the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti.
  •  Implementation of these measures would be of significance to eliminate the sense of alienation and disempowerment among the Baloch.

4.1 Economic Aspect of the Package

  • Creation of extra 5000 jobs for Balochis in government, semi-government and other organizations. Over 10000 young boys of Balochistan have joined Pak Army as officers and jawans.
    • Shared power over decision-making in launching new mega development projects and managing the existing ones.
    • Settling the royalty issue worth Rs 120 billion which goes back to 1954 and will be paid in a period of 12 years.
    • Sharing of the development and exploitation of existing oil and gas resources.
    • Initiating mechanism for the development of Gwadar Development Authority (GDA), which will be under supervision of the Chief Minister and seven other members.
    • The government has a plan to establish free economic zone in Gwadar port city.
  • To address their grievances relating to unemployment, all posts from 1 to 16 scales in Gwadar city will be filled by locals on merit.
  • The 18th Amendment has come very late but it provides some hope for the improvement of relations between the province and the Centre.
  1. Economic Importance of Balochistan
  • Balochistan holds large quantities of coal, gold, copper, silver, platinum, aluminium, and uranium and is a potential transit zone for a pipeline transporting natural gas from Iran and Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India.
  • One of the world’s largest copper deposits (and its associated residual gold) has been found at Reko Diq in the Chagai District of Balochistan. Reko Diq is a giant mining project in Chaghi.
  • Gwadar is expected to provide a port, warehouses, and industrial facilities to more than twenty countries — including those in the Gulf, on the Red Sea, in Central Asia and East Africa and parts of northwest China.
  1. Recommendations

6.1 Political Measures

  1. Home-grown insurgency of Balochistan is a political problem that can be handled through political engagement, reconciliation and dialogue.
  2. The Baloch leaders must be engaged by the political leadership to neutralize the extremist/separatist segments.
  3. Government must involve the political and nationalist groups in mainstream politics.
  4. Insurgency still does not command majority support. This fact must be capitalized by political forces through mass-awareness and public campaign at provincial and federal levels.
  5. The moderate Baloch forces need to challenge the militants.
  6. Insurgency should be countered by good governance.

6.2 Security Measures

  1. Boost capacity and resources of law enforcement agencies.
  2. Mobilize people through massive media and PR campaign to defeat nefarious insurgents’ propaganda such as:-

o   Propell the masses to rise against the threat in partnership with LEAs.

o   Every effort must be made to enhance credibile and durable relations between LEAs and the tribes.

  1. Improve security situation through competent and well trained police force.
  2. Improve vigilance on Balochistan’s borders with Afghanistan.
  3. All forms of foreign interference in Balochistan including propaganda, funding, training, arming of insurgents or succor for their leaders abroad etc., must be dealt with firmly through coordinated and effective intelligence.

6.3 Economic Measures

  1. The way forward is not through application of security instruments alone but through adoption of all-encompassing economic approach to defeat insurgency and terrorism.
  2. Win over the tribal masses by alleviating their sufferings and ensuring sustainable improvements in their socio-economic, psycho-political and cultural spheres of life. This would help in bypassing the sardars and sanitizing the insurgency plagued areas, thus leading to enduring peace.
  3. Create conducive security environment for development, generate large scale economic activity and employment opportunities to benefit the local people.
  4. Ensure implementation of the 7th NFC Award, the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan Package, and the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
  5. Gwadar Project should be operationalised on priority basis as per the aspirations of the people, assuring that their cultural identity will remain intact.
  6. Mega projects of Gwadar deep-sea port and coastal highways, revival of Saindak Project along with lead-zinc project would improve living standards of the people.
  7. Industrial zones in Quetta and other urban centres of the province be set up, where the young people could use their potential and get employment.
  8. The Balochistan government should work out a comprehensive roadmap for development projects in the province and prioritize sectors such as infrastructure, communication, transportation, education, health, fisheries, livestock, water for irrigation and drinking, and mining. Through public participatory approach, the Balochistan government should share with local people detailed proposals for such development projects.
  9. Delivery of basic social services be strengthened and made easily accessible to commoners.
  10. Budgetary controls should be given to Local Bodies to ensure that the benefits reach at the grass root levels.
  11. Pakistan Army should expand the recruitment drive for Baloch.
  12. All stakeholders including Baloch leaders, major political parties, Supreme Court, Armed Forces, political government, media and civil society have to combine their efforts for a peaceful and prosperous Balochistan.


DISCLAMER: These are the views of the writer and not necessarily the view of either IPRI or any other government Institute


About the Author

Muhammad Nawaz Khan is Research Officer at Islamabad Policy Research Institute

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