Sep 13, 2010

Balochistan: Pakistan Continues to Fail to Commit to Reconciliation

Failure to engage moderate Baloch voices is drawing criticism from Pakistani commentators as Islamabad’s policy to the provinces appears both erratic and neglectful.


Below is an article published by The Dawn Media Group:


Mr Malik initially suggested a Swat-like operation to clear the province of militants was in the offing, but then, thankfully, he quickly backtracked — a military operation in the province turbo-charged the insurgency there several years ago and would probably produce similar results if attempted again. Then the interior minister announced the banning of militant groups and the freezing of bank accounts, largely symbolic steps and meaningless when the government has little clue about where the militants are hiding and how they are operating. If the government and Mr Malik’s ministry had such knowledge, presumably they would be going beyond freezing bank accounts.

Another question: has the government changed its approach to Balochistan? The Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan package appears to be in the doldrums, and that was the case even before the floods. There is little engagement of the moderate Baloch nationalists, little progress on the issue of missing persons and no real attempt to go after the main threat, the armed militants. Balochistan appears to have largely fallen off Islamabad’s radar once again. Worse, when it does reappear on the government’s radar occasionally, it does so in bizarre forms such as Rehman Malik’s visit. 

The solution to the problems of Balochistan is a combination of counter-terrorist tactics and political strategies to draw the Baloch away from the gun. At the political level, the time for mid-level interventions has long since passed. Only serious and sustained high-level political attention given to the province can recover the security situation there. Sending in the interior minister, seniority notwithstanding, is likely to be counter-productive: the Baloch oppose the presence of the Frontier Corps [FC], which is administratively under the control of the interior minister, in the province as much as they do the army, which contributes to the senior leadership of the FC. What seems to be lost on policymakers in Islamabad, and Rawalpindi, too, is that the fifth insurgency in Balochistan in 63 years is in a dangerous phase, one in which there is a serious risk of it spreading across an entire generation of Baloch youth. That would be a loss that the state would have to struggle to recover from.