Wednesday, March 14, 2012
It is painful to see what is happening in Balochistan. It is more painful to see accusations being made against the army or the Frontier Corps (FC), Balochistan, or even me, that we were the cause of the problem. Such accusers, who are actually trying to gain political mileage, do not realise how much they are damaging the solidarity and unity of Pakistan.
There also are TV anchors and writers in the print media who with, their half-baked knowledge, cause more damage to the cause of Pakistan. My motivation for writing this article is to remove some misperceptions and distortions and expose the vicious propaganda that is misleading the people of Pakistan on the Balochistan issue.
Balochistan was debated in a US Congressional committee and aspersions were cast on human rights violations. Signs of an ulterior motive of planting seeds of separation were visible. I have always warned of a known foreign hand trying to destabilise Pakistan through Afghanistan and Balochistan. This is now getting serious. Pakistan must take immediate note and tell the US not to encourage anti-Pakistan activity in its highest legislative bodies. It is a pity that human rights violations are not being noticed in Kashmir or Assam in India but are visible only in Balochistan. I strongly reject these planted notions of human rights violations or missing persons in Balochistan as anti-Pakistan designs being promoted by agents provocateurs.
Brutal suppression of demonstrations for public rights by citizens within a state does come under the purview of human rights but use of modern weapons to kill innocent people of a different ethnicity, undertake terrorist activity to disrupt/damage national infrastructure, launching a guerrilla war for separation against government forces, openly challenging the writ of the government by a small minority of the population is intolerable for any state and needs to be dealt with with an iron hand.
There certainly have not been any human rights violations in Balochistan. A few of the sardars have always shown anti-Pakistan tendencies since the country’s inception. Operations have been launched against them in the Ayub era, the Bhutto era, the Zia era, and then during my tenure. Such confrontations are not unique to my tenure.
Balochistan has a total population of about eight million (four percent of Pakistan’s population). Forty percent of these are Pukhtuns who inhabit west and north Balochistan bordering Afghanistan. They have orchards and are peace-loving traders. They are not Taliban supporters, they are very patriotic and strongly pro-Pakistan. The area to the south of Turbat, Panjgur and Bela is the Mekran coast. This area, and even up to Khuzdar and Kalat, is populated by Brahvi-speaking Baloch. These twenty percent of the Baloch population are very different from tribal Baloch. They are entirely pro-Pakistan.
This leaves the area in the centre and east Balochistan bordering Punjab and Sindh. It is this area that Marri, Bugti, Mengal, Rind and several other tribes inhabit. They are pro-Pakistan. It is mainly the Marri and Bugti areas where agitation is found. Their combined population is about 400,000 (0.25 percent of the population of Pakistan). Even in these tribes the major part of the population is not with the sardars.
The biggest sub-tribe of the Bugti clan, the 70,000-strong Kalpar Bugti, were expelled from their lands in a vendetta launched by Nawab Akbar Bugti, who forced them to languish in Punjab and Sindh for over 15 years. It was our government which resettled them on their own land for which they remain ever grateful to me. In the Marri area the rich Chamalang coalmines were closed owing to a Pakhtun-Baloch ethnic feud. Through strong action we got the dispute resolved and the coalmines were made operational again.
Thousands of people got employment and millions of rupees worth of coal was sold daily from the mines. Fifteen percent of the revenue generated went to Kohlu district, which probably became the richest district of Pakistan. The Marris were extremely happy at their newfound development. They will not follow their decadent sardars. In the Mengal tribe, Naseer Ullah Mengal is a prominent tribal leader. He is strongly opposed to the Akhtar Mengal group.
The question that arises is as to who are these militants opposing Pakistan and engaging in separatism. They are a few tribal followers of the agitating sardars and their offspring living abroad getting protection from foreign agencies. These tribal followers, who perhaps number 2,000 to 3,000, spread into some sixty “Ferrari camps” and, armed by foreign agencies, are the ones resorting to militancy. When governments show weakness or adopt a policy of appeasement towards them, these separatists and militants run wild and suppress the pro-Pakistan population, which is in vast majority.
Some of the sardars are very vicious, unforgiving and decadent. They believe in keeping their tribes backward and under subjugation. A typical insight was provided by none other than Nawab Akbar Bugti in an interview on June 29, 2006, with the Economist magazine. The magazine said “Mr Bugti claims to have killed his first man at the age of twelve.” Bugti was quoted as saying, “What is better than seeing your enemies driven before you and then taking their women to bed?”
Ninety percent of Balochistan was “B” area and only 10 percent was “A” area. In the “B” areas writ was exercised by the tribal sardars through the “Levies,” These Levies were paid by the government through the sardars who would keep a good chunk of the money themselves. Also, in cases of confrontations with the army or the Frontier Corps, which were not an infrequent occurrence, the government- paid levies acted as soldiers of the Sardars’ militias.
I gradually converted the entire “B” area, district-wise, into “A” area. We raised an additional police force for districts and additional 10 wings of the FC, creating thousands of jobs to augment law and order. This was not received well by some of the sardars, notably the Marris, the Bugtis and the Mengals.
It would be appropriate to talk of Nawab Akbar Bugti`s episode here. He was challenging the authority of the FC, the army, the provincial government and, indeed, of Pakistan. On his behest gas pipelines, electricity pylons, road bridges and railways lines were being intermittently blown up by miscreants. On one single day 450 rockets were fired at Sui gas installations. The FC garrisons were subjected to rocket and machinegun fire. The FC’s movement in Dera Bugti was restricted.
When the FC retaliated, Akbar Bugti escalated the confrontation and, with his close followers, went into the mountains. During the ensuing confrontation he was located in a cave in the mountains. The cave was surrounded and four officers went inside, quite clearly to ask him to surrender. If the intention had been to kill him, the officers would never have gone in like that.
After that an explosion took place and the cave collapsed, unfortunately burying Nawab Akbar Bugti and the four officers inside. The explosion, most likely, was from a planted explosive device or a rocket being fired. The officers certainly could not have been carrying rocket launchers. This is a clear case of a self-inflicted casualty.
There is no doubt that Balochistan is the most backward and most deprived province of Pakistan. Successive governments since our independence are responsible for their share of the neglect suffered by Balochistan. But unfortunately the sardars themselves did not favour development in their areas. Notably Akbar Bugti, who despite having been chief minister and governor of the province, hardly did anything for Balochistan, or even for Dera Bugti. An anti-Pakistan, anti-army and anti-FC sentiment was planted and gradually nourished, especially among the Bugtis, Marris and Mengals, by their sardars. Some efforts made in the 1970s to open up the area through the establishment of a communication infrastructure were strongly opposed and rejected by the Marris.
What is Balochistan’s demand? Basically, they demand maximum autonomy and an appropriate share of the earnings from their natural resources. Both demands are genuine, and a lot was done by me. More could be and should be done. The major requirement, however, is socio-economic development, which the sardars almost totally ignore. My government from 1999 started with complete realisation of Balochistan’s sense of deprivation and a resolve to correct the situation. What we did and achieved in Balochistan in eight years can be safely said to have been more than what was done during the previous decades since independence. Let me elaborate on our achievements during my period.
1. a. We created a new deep-sea port at Gwadar. The port, an alternative to Karachi port, has tremendous strategic significance.
b. A 750 kms coastal highway linking Gwadar to Karachi was constructed.
c. Work was initiated on a 950 kms road from Gwadar to Rato Dero in Sindh, linking the port to the Super Highway, the RCD Highway and the National Highway.
d. A Quetta-Zhob-Dera Ismail Khan linking Balochistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was started.
e. A road linking Quetta-Loralai-Dera Ghazi Khan linking Balochistan to Punjab was started.
f. A road linking Gwadar, Turbat and Mand on the Iranian border was started and completed.
2. a. Two new dams, Mirani and Subukzai, were constructed for the irrigation of barren lands in Baloch and Pakhtun areas, respectively.
b. Over 100 small delayed-action dams were created.
c. Construction of a more than 500-kms-long Kachi Canal off-taking from Taunsa Barrage and irrigating barren lands of Dera Bugti and Jhal Magsi.
d. Over Rs10 billion were spent on an underground water project for Quetta to overcome the critical drought conditions of the city.
3. A pipeline was laid and gas taken to Kalat, Ziyarat and Pishin, which had been considered economically unviable projects.
4. Electricity was imported from Iran for the electrification of the coastal belt up to Turbat, Panjgur and Ormara.
5. Work on the stalled Saindak copper mine was reinitiated. The largest copper gold mine project, Reko Dik, was allotted to the top-of-the-world Chilean-Canadian consortium. Pakistan was supposed to get on the copper/gold map of the world by 2011. Unfortunately this key project is closed now and a legal case has been initiated by the consortium in the International Court.
Some of these projects have now been stalled and are incomplete.
6. a. A project for opening seven cadet colleges was launched. Three at Qila Saifullah, Pishin and Jafarabad were opened, but the other four have now been stalled.
b. Universities: An IT University and a Women’s University in Quetta, and a Marine Sciences University at Lasbela and an Engineering University in Khuzdar were opened.
c. Vacancies for the Balochistan’s youths were increased in medical and engineering universities in Punjab and Sindh.
d. The army was told to open special vocational training centres in Quetta and Sui and also to induct Baloch youths in all the other centres.
7. The army was told to take special measures to increase the induction of youth from Balochistan as officers and men in the army. Special training centres were opened to prepare potential Baloch youths for qualifying for the army. An Inter-Services Selection Board (ISSB) was also opened in Quetta for the administrative convenience of Baloch youths. Today the army boasts of a substantial number of Baloch officers and men in their ranks in accordance with proportion population.
8. The POF Wah, the HIT Taxila, the Aeronautical Complex were all told to select Baloch youths for training in their respective workshops and subsequent induction. Thousands of jobs were thus created for the Baloch.
9. Anyone who received a masters degree in Balochistan was guaranteed an interim arrangement of a one-year government job with a salary of Rs10,000 per month.
10. Uniquely, the Public Sector Development Projects fund allocation for Balochistan was more than that for Punjab. Each district of Balochistan was given a special allocation of Rs100 million in 2006 over and above their annual funds. Kohlu and Dera Bugti were allocated Rs1.5 billion each as a special socio-economic development fund for roads, water projects, schools, dispensaries.
In spite of all my sincerity and good wishes for Balochistan, and in spite of all that I achieved for this neglected province, there were Baloch elements opposing the government. There were 67 “Ferrari camps” (for miscreants and terrorists) spread all over Balochistan killing people of other ethnicities (especially Punjabis), blowing up and damaging national infrastructure, waging a guerrilla war against the FC and the army and challenging the writ of the government. Quite clearly, the sardars manipulating these terrorists are not interested in any development in Balochistan for its people. They were, and remain, against Pakistan. They are separatists and will remain so. All the Ferrari camps were dealt with and eliminated by the government.
The question that Pakistan political leaders have to answer is: to what extent should we be appeasing such anti-national elements? Should we be engaging in dirty politics for narrow, short-term gains at the cost of a very serious long-term loss to Pakistan? Today, Changez Marri – the brother of anti-Pakistan Harbiyar Marri, who is living abroad in self-imposed exile, is for a totally independent Balochistan, and is behind terrorism in Balochistan – is senior vice president of the PML-N. What kind of politics is this? Balochistan needs a stick-and-carrot policy. Stick for the anti-Pakistan and anti-Balochistan elements and lots of carrots for the vast majority, the deprived people of the province.
The media must also understand the Balochistan issue in its entire complexity and stop giving anti-Pakistan elements a platform to project their nefarious designs. Groups like Human Rights Watch should stop meddling in Balochistan’s affairs without understanding the depth of the problem.
As long as the armed forces are as strong as they are, Pakistan can never become a banana republic. All Pakistanis must rise as one for the integrity of our motherland.