Jun 08, 2012

Balochistan: Collective Insecurity Addressed

Pakistan’s Frontier Corps cannot guarantee the security of the Baloch people, since it is ethnically unbalanced and does not reflect the composition of the population, according to Senator Sana Baloch. 

Below is an article published by The News International:

A high-level meeting on Balochistan has been chaired by the prime minister and attended by the top military and intelligence officials. There was the same rhetoric: “Balochistan’s concerns will be resolved through dialogue, the issue of missing persons will be thoroughly reviewed and concrete steps will be taken for its solution.”

The meeting also reinforced the position that no military operation is underway in the province, missing persons are reunited with their families and the IDPs already resettled, and that the Frontier Corps will be placed under provincial control.

In fact, all is not well in Balochistan. Baloch professionals, political leaders, students, journalists, professors, doctors and lawyers are being killed and dumped. Human rights organisations, the Supreme Court and all the victims point a finger at the non-Baloch security apparatus, composed of the Frontier Corps, the Coast Guard and intelligence agencies for human rights crimes. There is a systematic policy under implementation in the province of eliminating Baloch nationalists.

The Baloch-state gulf has widened during the last six decades. There hasn’t been any genuine and sincere effort to address Baloch insecurity in Pakistan. Along with political and economic issues, the foremost concern of the Baloch people is their collective insecurity. The major problem is the large-scale presence of an ethnically imbalanced military, paramilitary organisations and intelligence agencies. In a multiethnic state, the security apparatus needs to reflect the composition of the population.

Balochistan shares long borders with Iran and Afghanistan and has a 700-kilometre-long coastline. However, border and coastal security is completely manned by non-Baloch paramilitary forces. Around 130,000 jobs in the Frontier Corps, the Coast Guard, the Navy, the police and the Anti-Narcotics Force are occupied by non-locals. Unless this very genuine concern of the Baloch is addressed, no initiative and dialogue will prove productive.

During his visit to Quetta in August 2011, Gen Kayani defended the much criticised role of the intelligence agencies and the military and paramilitary forces and said that the armed forces were not involved in killings and dumping of mutilated bodies in the province. He said that “the army has nothing to do with mutilated bodies being recovered in Balochistan and no military operation is being carried out in any part of the province.” In July 2011, Quetta Corps Commander Lt-Gen Jawed Zia also defended the military. This is a dangerous state of denial. Despite well-documented cases of crimes against the Baloch people, the military and paramilitary forces repeatedly disown their involvement in any such human rights violations.

The repressive behaviour of the non-Baloch security apparatus is acceptable as long as its actions are directed against the Baloch, rather than the population at large. Excuses are made for the rouge behaviour of the security forces because the establishment and the elite in Pakistan feel that Baloch consciousness is a major threat to “national security.”

In fact, the conflict in Balochistan is complex, encompassing all critical elements, including the imbalanced security structure. It’s a known fact that five prolonged conflicts between the Baloch and Pakistan were caused by the security forces, and particularly due to the bad behaviour of the Frontier Corps towards the Baloch people.

Since the 1980s the FC has been granted powers under the Customs Act to control and monitor the economic, trade and border movements of the Baloch – a duty which is being performed by the customs authorities in other provinces. Across Balochistan there are more than 1,500 FC check posts. The heavy deployment of forces and their harsh attitude towards the population have made it impossible for the Baloch population to grow economically, develop socially and perform politically.

Many Baloch rightly question that if the Frontier Corps is going to perform all state functions such as policing, customs and border security, what is the need to have the police, provincial governments and other state institutions? The biased structures of the Frontier Corps, the Coast Guard and the police indicate serious discrimination against the local population. Apart from Balochistan, the structure and composition of the paramilitary forces in the rest of the country is fairly balanced.

In spite of the terrifying law and order situation in the rest of the country, the number of security personnel and their check posts are very few elsewhere in Pakistan. But, even during the pre-conflict period, Balochistan witnessed extraordinary presence of non-Baloch security forces, with hundreds of check posts.

For instance, the Rangers in Punjab and the Frontier Constabulary in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa predominantly consist of members of the local population. The FC in Balochistan has around 60,000 personnel, largely drawn from Fata, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

Moreover, since the very creation of Pakistan, the Baloch people have been demanding that the FC’s colonial structure be replaced with a security model of multi-ethnic federal countries, where paramilitary or civil-armed forces belong to the respective regions and represented by the local population to create a sense of security.

Sensitive, responsible and unbiased security forces can play a role in mitigating conflicts and facilitating peaceful solutions without damaging the ethnic, social and cultural fabric of society. However, the role of the Frontier Corps indicates otherwise. Historically, they have been the cause of the conflict.