Separate Pashtun Areas From Balochistan
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Like the Balochs, the Pashtuns also remained a victim of British policy of divide and rule when some of their districts were incorporated into what constitutes today the province of Balochistan following the Treaty of Gandmak in 1879.
Ever since, the Pashutn population of Balochistan has not accepted Balochistan from the bottom of their heart as their home province. They have always demanded to be either integrated with the province of Khyber Pashtunkhawa or Afghanistan as a separate Pashtun unit. They demand the division of Balochistan. (See the title picture)
This is a justified demand if the government agrees to re-demarcate provinces on ethno-linguistic lines in Pakistan in order to create more harmony in the federation.
The Pashtun grievances are increasing day by day with their demands becoming more unreasonable with the passage of every day which indicates how difficult the coexistence of Baloch and Pashtun is turning out to become in the future. The Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party, the representative party of the Pashtuns living in Balochistan, has been continuously asking for “equal status” for the Pashtuns against the majority Baloch population. Irrespective of the fact as to how legitimate the Pashtun demands are, the Balochs believe such claims are unrealistic.
Balochs are in majority in 22 districts of Balochistan while the number of Pashtun districts is hardly 8. Yet, the entire land area of all Pashtun districts remains smaller than than one Baloch District, Chagai. All natural resources such as gas (found in Dera Bugti District), petroleum (Kohlu), gold and copper (Chagai) and port (Gwadar), which give Balochistan the confidence to become economically independent and viable, are located in Baloch areas. Pashtun areas, on their part, do not contribute any such significant natural resource that makes Balochistan such an economically viberant place.
Currently, it is no secret that both the nationalities blame each other for usurping each other’s rights and privileges. Such mistrust can only be removed by taking drastic measures to form new provinces in the country on the ethno-linguistic lines. The Baloch nationalists hailing from all divides of the political spectrum should call for the division of Balochistan, giving the Pashtuns the right to decide their fate. Pressure should be exerted on the Balochistan Assembly to pass a resolution demanding the separation of Pashtun areas from Balochistan. One cannot predict with certainty if Khyber Pashtunkhawa would be willing to incorporate the Pashtun districts of Balochistan due to their meager economic resources and huge population.
From a Baloch perspective, the current integration of Pashtun areas with Balochistan goes to the complete disadvantage of the Balochs. While the Pashtun areas do not have any contribution in the oil, gas, gold and copper production of Balochistan, they keep asking for “equal rights” and “equal share” for whatever the province gets in terms of gas royalty and Gas Development Surcharge. It is utterly unreasonable to spend the Baloch revenue on the development of Pashtun areas, as is being demanded by Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party about the equal distribution of the provincial budget.
Similarly, the government of Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani must not live under any illusion that the passage of Balochistan Package or the new NFC (National Finance Commission) is solely its achievement. The credit for a change in Islamabad’s mind goes to the Baloch armed fighters who have taken to the hills and compelled Islamabad to rethink its Balochistan strategy. If it was not for the activities of Baloch Sarmachars, Islamabad would never constitute parliamentary and constitutional committees to ponder over the crisis in Balochistan. After all, Mir Ghose Baksh Bizenjo, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti were more competent leaders than Nawab Raisani but they failed, with their political struggle, to push Islamabad an inch backward from its stated position (of exploitation) vis-a-vis Balochistan.
If Islamabad has finally agreed to give some jobs to the youth of the province under Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan, review the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, grant more provincial autonomy under the 18th Amendment and accommodate Balochs in the federal institutions then it is also because of the sacrifices of the Baloch sons who revolted against the suppression of the federal government.
Balochs have suffered immensely during the entire conflict and they have sacrificed their lives to get Balochistan its due rights. It is pathetic to see the fruits of Baloch struggle going to the other ethnic groups.The only towns that were bombarded during the military operation were the Baloch-populated areas while all the “missing persons” belonged to the Baloch families. Not a single non-Baloch received a minor injury in the military operations unleashed by Islamabad at least five times in the history of Pakistan.
The Baloch leaders have to realize that their struggle will not bear fruits for the Balochs as long as the benefits of their struggle go to the non-Balochs. Worst still, the Pashtuns living in Balochistan, who do not have a single “missing person” from their ranks to indicate their contributions in the fight for the rights of Balochistan, keep holding the Balochs responsible for their plight without uttering a word about the safe heavens they provide to the Taliban in their areas.
Afghan refugees came in millions in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to create a major demographic imbalance between the majority Balochs and the Pashtuns. These refugees brought with them the scourge of drugs, weapons, lawlessness and religious radicalization. In spite of this, they enjoyed overwhelming support from Islamabad which saw Baloch nationalism as a major threat that needed to be countered from multiple fronts such as demographic changes and radicalization of the society. A thumping majority of these refugees were provided Pakistani nationality and the right to possess property to oust the Balochs from businesses.
Once the Pashtun districts are separated from Balochistan then it can help both the nationalities to live happily as good neighbors. In politics, you cannot give your land and resources to the others for the reason that they are your ‘brothers’. You can live as brothers even without exploiting each other’s resources and interests.
Unlike the Pashtuns, no Baloch political party has formally appealed for the separation of the Pashtun areas from Balochistan but we believe all the Baloch political parties should now prioritize this demand. The current composition of the province is unnatural which does not meet the interests of both, Balochs and Pashtuns.
(This write-up originally appeared in The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English newspaper)