Balochistan is Pakistan’s most complicated region and significant parts of the restive province are not necessarily controlled by the government, according to a former Pakistani diplomat.
“Balochistan is Pakistan’s most complicated region, and unfortunately people try to simplify the problems there. It is not all about the mistakes of the Pakistani military, or the corruption of civilians in power, or the nationalists, or the presence of the Taliban. It is all those things,” the former Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, said in an interview to The Atlantic magazine.
Noting that significant parts of Balochistan are not necessarily controlled by Pakistan’s central government, Haqqani said the ethnic Baloch areas have a greater sympathy for nationalists who would like to see either an independent or autonomous Balochistan.
“The army tries to suppress them, sometimes with the help of religious extremists,” he said.
“Also, the elected government in the province did not get significant mandates because the Baloch parties boycotted the last election and many people were elected with the low turnout of 10, 12, in some places 15 per cent. So these political leaders are seen by the majority of Baloch as the puppets of Islamabad,” he added.
Responding to a question on freedom movement in Balochistan, Haqqani said this goes back to the country’s creation, when the Muslim majority part of India left and became Pakistan.
“Some Baloch leaders say Balochistan’s integration into Pakistan was done forcefully. But more important than that is the neglect. This is a resource-rich province, and instead of the people benefitting from those resources, they end up in other parts of Pakistan,” he said.
The Pakistani military, he said, has to have a clear definition of who it considers the enemy.
Instead of cultivating one group of jihadi and fighting others, it needs to go after all jihadi and extremist groups.
“It also needs to start a process of reconciliation with the Baloch nationalists. These are citizens of Pakistan who feel they have been neglected, and therefore are feeling restive and unhappy. Putting in more troops is only going to escalate the violence. Not end it,” Haqqani said.