The trade and business opportunities have made this province important not only for regional players but also for international players
BALUCHISTAN CONUNDRUM – OPED By Saima Afzal
Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan; it is a gateway to central Asia, South Asia and Middle East. It is also bordered by Afghanistan, Iran and Persian Gulf and rich in natural resources of copper, oil, gas, gold and coal reserves. Unfortunately, Baluchistan could also be considered as the most neglected and poorest province of Pakistan due to the failure in implementation of policies by previous governments in the province. The Gawader port further increases the geostrategic importance of the country. The development with the assistance of China in the province has shifted the great game of Central Asia to Pakistan. The western powers along with India and Israel intend to destabilize Pakistan for their collective interests. The trade and business opportunities have made this province important not only for regional players but also for international players whereas the anti-Pakistani powers are trying to get control over the mineral resources by sabotage activities against the state while neglecting the mainland integration.
Historically, Baluchistan was one the most peaceful provinces in Pakistan where people of different ethnic groups lived together peacefully and united. However, being contiguous to Afghanistan and Iran this province was influenced by Afghan Jihadis and the Iranian revolution. The last few years have seen violence and the killing of innocents in the province. Moreover, there are many internal and external factors involved in destabilizing the atmosphere of the province. Illiteracy, poverty and backwardness in the province is at a large scale. The minds of the poor are further exploited by the Bloch leaders who they blindly follow. Unequal distribution of natural resources are also taken as a main cause of the Baloch uprising. For instance, a gas field in Sui was formed in 1952 and it provides just 6% to 7% to local people, whereas it produces 38% of Pakistan’s total.
The Indo-Afghan close ties in Karazi’s government have severed security implications for Pakistan because close ties between both states have made Eastern and Western border insecure. The 9/11 proved a blessing in disguise for India to direct involvement in Afghanistan. India has also extended her support to Afghanistan through economic aid and training Afghan security forces. India has opened her consulates in Afghanistan near Pak-Afghan border. Moreover, it has been claimed that Indian intelligence has been involved in assisting, training and supplying sophisticated weapons to Bloch separatist nationalists against the state. Baluchistan is an integral part of Pakistan and it isan important province like other provinces of Pakistan. In the Zarb-i-Azb operation in North Waziristan, Pakistan armed forces have found Indian weapons. The main purpose of India is to internally destabilize Pakistan and to get access to nuclear weapons.
Baluchistan is situated at South-Eastern border of Iran. Strategically, Iran would like to maintain the balance of power in the region after USA withdrawal from Afghanistan. On the other hand, the Iranian Chahbhar port is located 100 miles from Pakistani Gawader Port and Iran has never wanted the prominence of Gawader port in place of the Chahbhar port to be sidelined. It is also claimed that after the US presence in Afghanistan, Iran was involved in covertly funding the banned organization Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) for creating instability in the province.
There is an immediate need to address the issue as soon as possible, if the government takes few following steps it can improve the condition of the province. Firstly, we should build good relations with all neighbor states until we don’t have good relations with neighbors we can bring peace in the province. Secondly, missing person issue should be resolved on urgent base. Thirdly, quota system should be formed in central government. Fourthly, educational institutions should be formed in remote areas and employment opportunity should be given to local people in all development projects. Fifthly, there is need to win over the heart and mind of the tribal masses by alleviating suffering and grievance by ensuring sustainable improvement in their socio-economic, psycho-political and culture sphere of life, this would lead towards everlasting peace.
Last but not least, Pakistan should follow the German Model of development in underdeveloped areas of the country, when Germany united in 1990s the East part of Germany was underdeveloped and West Germany was developed, Germany concentrated on East Germany to bring it to parallel to West Germany. It is right time to ripe the fruit of all the sacrifices for the prosperity, unity, peace and integration of the state.
*The writer is Research Associate in Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad and can be reached at [email protected]