Punishing the Balochs in Pak-Iran border regions
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Iran has completely closed its border with Pakistan for security reasons following the Pishin blast on October 18 by a Sunni Baloch resistance group Jandullah that killed the deputy chief of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and several other people.
Closure of international frontiers, including the unfrequented and unregistered routes between Iranian and Pakistani Balochistan, by Iran is understandable. Iran is rightly worried about its security concern following repeated attacks in which precious lives of the Iranian people were lost. It is also an undeniable fact that there are very few people involved in the hostile actions against the Iranian state and the people. The entire Baloch population, on both sides of the international frontiers, had very cordial relations for centuries.
Balochs live on both sides of the Pakistan Iran border. The historic separation of Baloch land and Baloch people has never been accepted by the Balochs. It is undoubtedly a forceful division of Balochs. Demarcation of borders by the two “brotherly Islamic countries” has not deterred the Balochs on both sides of the unnatural divide to intermarry or keep visiting their relatives. Therefore, it is very inhuman to divide people in the first place and disconnect all forms of contacts among them in the second place.
Thus, any action that is meant to punish the Baloch people on both sides of the divide is unfair and unjust. It should not be made permissible on both sides. The innocent and common people had not committed any crime against any State and they should, therefore, not be punished. The Iranian government and people can address their security concerns by improving their mass contacts and relations gaining the confidence of the entire Baloch people so that disillusioned Iranian citizens involved in violent activities are effectively isolated and ultimately defeated.
As luck would have it, Iran has had a history of brutally suppressing its Baloch population. The Balochs in Iran have been deliberately kept backward because of a state-sponsored discrimination based on ethnicity and religion as Balochs follow Sunni Islam in the Shia-dominated Iran. The state has denied them equal opportunities. Agreed, the Iranian Balochistan has a far more developed infrastructure as compared to that of Pakistani Balochistan. Yet, that does not mean that the mere construction of infrastructure helps to win the hearts of disgruntled people. Iranian Balochs need equal representation in the affairs of their state. They should be treated respectfully as equal citizens.
The closure of the Pak-Iran border is a matter of concern for the people residing on the border regions. Sealing the border off and suspending all human contacts between the tribes and close relatives is a severe punishment and an attack on human relations. Balochistan had always retained a very soft border and it was quoted as an example in international relations that both the governments of Pakistan and Iran had never faced any problem. The free movement of people and informal trade ensured peace and tranquility among the tribes on both sides of the Baloch divide. This time, the Iranian government had taken up a harsher step by closing the entire border suspending the movement of people, including movement of goods and services, to the disadvantage of the entire people of Balochistan. Currently, many of bordering towns of Balochistan, which tremendously depend on the edible goods coming from Iran are facing a serious scarcity of edible items.
We hope that the Iranian government will lift all restrictions on travel, movement of people and goods, including informal trade among the people of border areas on humanitarian grounds. Baloch people never wanted to harm the interests of Iranian people in any way. At the same time, we hope that the government of Pakistan will take appropriate measures in taking up the border issue with Tehran at diplomatic level to resolve all outstanding issues.
Highly satisfied and pacified Baloch people are in the interest of both Iran and Pakistan as they will contribute to peace and stability of the entire region only when they are satisfied fully. The Governor and Chief Minister of Pakistani Balochistan should take up the issue with both the governments in Tehran and Islamabad for providing relief and comfort to the Balochs. At the same time, the federal government should provide kitchen items, goods of daily and essential uses available to the Pakistani citizens in the remote border regions making their lives sustainable following cutting off of supplies of goods and services from Iranian Balochistan. The Baloch people had very high hopes on their chosen representatives at the federal and provincial level and particularly from the government of Balochistan to provide them relief at the earliest. The good offices of the Iranian Consul General in Quetta should also be used in resolving the humanitarian crisis in the border area.
Hopefully, the Iranian diplomats based in Pakistani Balochistan will prevail on their government in Tehran to resume the normal relations with the Baloch people in the interest of regional peace. A dissatisfied or highly annoyed Balochistan will be the home of disgruntled elements that can play havoc with regional peace and security.