News / Asia

New Appeal for Peace in War-Weary Baluchistan

Abdul Malik, new chief minister of Baluchistan, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 6, 2013.
Abdul Malik, new chief minister of Baluchistan, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 6, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
Pakistan’s largest province Baluchistan has been gripped by a low-level insurgency that dates back to the country’s founding. But the new Baluch nationalist leader is urging armed groups to give up their decades-long fight and accept dialogue with the government.

Ethnic Baluch militants have long fought for greater control over Baluchistan’s natural resources or its outright secession from Pakistan.  The uprising dates back to Pakistan’s founding, when some Baluch tribes refused to become part of the country and launched several unsuccessful rebellions starting in 1948.

The unrest has meant federal authorities maintain a large military presence in the impoverished province. But the security forces have long been criticized by independent observers as heavy handed, fueling separatist feelings. 

The election of a Baluch nationalist, Abdul Malik, as the provincial chief minister this past May, however, has raised new hopes for stability. A medical doctor by profession, Malik is the first civilian administrator from the province’s educated middle class who is neither a tribal chieftain nor a member of the former ruling families.

He said that although his ruling National Party did not represent all the Baluch groups, he was calling on Baluch insurgents to join him in a mission to bring peace to the province.

“They should come to table and talk. The basic subject should be the people of Baluchistan, and if they [insurgents] agree we can develop the Baluchistan [province] and make the supremacy of the people and empower the people. This is the 21st century, so I think we can succeed and we can take our rights by democracy not by gun,” said Malik.

Malik faces daunting challenges.

A Pakistani boy, who was injured by gunmen, is carried to a vehicle outside a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, June 15, 2013.A Pakistani boy, who was injured by gunmen, is carried to a vehicle outside a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, June 15, 2013.
x
A Pakistani boy, who was injured by gunmen, is carried to a vehicle outside a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, June 15, 2013.
A Pakistani boy, who was injured by gunmen, is carried to a vehicle outside a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, June 15, 2013.
In recent months, sectarian violence has escalated as suspected Sunni Muslim extremists attack minority Hazara Shiite Muslims in and around Quetta, killing hundreds.

Baluch politicians accuse state security agencies and paramilitary forces of illegally detaining and killing activists demanding autonomy. Hundreds of bodies of Baluch activists and leaders bearing gunshot wounds have been found across the province in recent years. Authorities deny they are responsible.

Chief Minister Malik said he was in contact with the federal government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seek a resolution to the problem of “missing people.” He also has plans to gain oversight of the controversial federal paramilitary troops known as Frontier Corps or FC.

“If you want to solve problems of Baluchistan the federal government and provincial government should be on one page. The federal government should bind the FC that they should work under the provincial government otherwise it is useless,” he said.

Although Prime Minister Sharif has vowed to improve the situation in Baluchistan, many analysts are skeptical whether he will convince the military to allow the civilian leadership greater power over policies for the province.

Some Baluch separatists are also not likely to support a peace agenda. While security forces are blamed for many of the abuses in the region, some separatist groups are also accused of kidnapping and killing moderate nationalists. Chief Minister Malik himself survived at least one assassination attempt while campaigning for the May elections.

Baluchistan’s patchwork of 18 major tribes has long made it difficult to govern. Each tribe is headed by a Sardar or chieftain who commands his own armed militia.

Professor Kaleemullah Barech at Quetta's University of Baluchistan said these chieftains and successive corrupt provincial governments were equally responsible for the lowest health, education and living standards in Baluchistan .

“It is a big challenge, especially in Baluch area the Sardars still have authority and they also damn care about the education, about the health. So this is a big challenge for the present government also a big challenge for the people and for those who are teaching,” said the professor.

Despite Chief Minister Abdul Malik’s appeal for unity among the separatist groups, analysts believe that power-struggles among chieftains and their occasional self-interested alliances with Pakistan’s powerful military have left the Baluch community politically fragmented.

But their infighting has also undermined public support for the separatist cause, perhaps providing a window for Malik’s plan for peace to gain broad backing.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs