October 4, 2016: In the rugged mountains of South-West Pakistan lies its largest province of Balochistan, far away from the bustling cities of Lahore and Karachi. It is one of the least developed provinces, which is home to 13 million people, mostly Balochis. Baloch people said to have traced their roots from ancient tribes around the city of Aleppo in Syria. They believe these tribes migrated in this region in Pre-Christian times. Over the centuries, they say the rugged landscape sheltered them from numerous invading armies.
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The Baloch uprising against the Pakistan government has received little attention worldwide. Most eyes have been turned toward the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in other areas of Pakistan but the Baloch people have never accepted being a part of this country. The roots of the conflict go back to the country’s independence.
In 1947, when Pakistan was born, the rulers of the Khanate of Kalat, a princely state under the British which is part of Balochistan today, refused to join the new nation. In March 1948, Pakistan sent troops to annex the territory. The then ruler of Kalat signed a treaty of accession, later on, but his brothers and many others continued to fight and the first conflict between Pakistanis and Balochis started. So far, five waves of insurgencies have taken place. After 1948, the rebellion was put down. It again erupted in 1958, in 1962-63 and 1973-77 violent campaigns by the Baloch nationalists took place to get independence from Pakistan. Two decades after that is considered the calmest period in the history of Balochistan.
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Tensions began in 1999 after General Pervez Musharraf seized power. The building of new cantonments in the Balochistan by the military was seen by the nationalists as a way to tighten control over Balochistan and its natural resources and mineral riches. The fifth wave of insurgency broke out in this context.
The Baloch fighters fight in separate independent groups with elusive leaders. In this province, there are several separatists. The strongest among them is known as the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
While the Balochi nationalists accuse Pakistan of deliberately keeping the resource-rich province underdeveloped, Pakistan claims the development is slow due to the insurgency. Apart from this, the major allegation which Pakistan is facing currently is that of human rights violation, both by the army as well as militants. To calm the unrest situation, Pakistan government uses the army and even air force was used against the civilians.
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The province is of great importance to Pakistan’s economic and geopolitical strategies. China, proposed an investment of $46 billion to link the deep water port of Gwadar with the city of Kashgar. The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is also planned to go through Balochistan.
To implement these projects successfully, Pakistan should buy peace with the people of Baloch and deal the issue on its own, instead of internationalising the conflict.
– by Pinaz Kazi of NewsGram. Twitter: @PinazKazi