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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid