The alienated Baloch

“They kidnap us, arrest us on false charges, torture us, brutally murder us and then throw our corpses away. Many of us are still missing,” is how Khalid Hayat Jamaldini explains the ordeal of the Baloch in Balochistan (‘Baloch are treated as aliens in their own homeland’, Daily Times, September 4, 2010).

The story of the treatment meted out to Mr Jamaldini by the paramilitary forces in Quetta is a typical story of every Baloch citizen in Balochistan. The latest military operation against the Baloch started in Musharraf’s era – official denials notwithstanding. Since then the Baloch have been humiliated in their own land, in their own country. Security checks have been instituted all over the province. Life for an ordinary citizen has been made impossible as Mr Jamaldini’s story shows so vividly. Because of the presence of the security forces for many years now, the scope for abuse has increased. The men in uniform seem to be fed up of their ‘duty’ and thus take it out on the citizens. The excuse for their ‘presence’ is that they are fighting an insurgency but when they are unable to distinguish between a suspected insurgent and an imagined one, it leads to further alienation of the Baloch from the state of Pakistan. From the point of view of a successful counter-insurgency policy, winning the hearts and minds of the people is of vital importance. But when the people of a province are arrested without any reason, tortured, go missing or find the bullet-ridden bodies of their loved ones, it only feeds into their hatred towards the state. In essence, the security forces are actually proving to be the best recruiting agents for the insurgents.

The Baloch have been bearing the brunt of the state’s unjust policies for the last six decades. Separatist sentiment is rife in Baloch nationalist circles by now. Instead of moving towards a political solution, the state’s insistence that India is funding the insurgency angers the Baloch nationalists because it remains unproved. If the government thinks that the people of Balochistan can be brought to heel through force, it is mistaken. The Frontier Corps (FC) – the most hated force in Balochistan – should immediately be removed from the province and the paramilitary levies should replace them. This will serve as a confidence-building measure (CBM). A dialogue with Baloch nationalists inside Pakistan and those who are living outside should be initiated. Once the Baloch leadership is taken into confidence and their viewpoint heard, only then can we expect to move forward towards a resolution.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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