Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

Baluchistan and Kashmir offer study in contrasts

By M Rama Rao - Reporting for Asian Tribune from New Delhi

New Delhi, 17 January ( Baroness Emma Nicholson, Brad Adams and the Blogger, who identifies himself as Onlooker, have nothing in common. But they say almost the same thing on Kashmir. That is really interesting.

The Baroness, in her capacity as the Vice-Chairperson of European Union Parliament's foreign affairs committee has authored a 10-page report after visiting both sides of the Line of Control (LOC). The report has formed the basis of a resolution the EU plenary is expected to take up shortly.

Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, needs no introduction to Indian readers. His approach to men and matters Indian has not endeared him to India over the years. Reports prepared regularly by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are no more than compilations of what has appeared in the print media. In that sense their labors are not taken seriously by the powers that be in any country. Yet, Brad Adams's 71-page report, 'With Friends Like These …' is a must read for any student of contemporary Kashmir that is now under Pakistan administration. For its bluntness. And for its ability to put things in perspective without any obfuscation.

Now about the Onlooker. Who is this person? Well, what all is known about him is that he is a Pakistani, whose patriotism can never be faulted because he says, "I believe, like Mr. M.A. Jinnah, in democracy, a free press, an independent judiciary, and equal rights for women and all minorities". There is little about him, his background, his likes and dislikes on 'The Glasshouse' - his simple but well maintained blogsite, ( which he likes to describes as 'an idiosyncratic blog on political and other happenings in Pakistan'.

Read the opening sentence of his latest posting on the blog. Go past the rhetorical question "Is Azad Kashmir azad" he poses. You will know he is not going to endear himself to any of his friends in Muzaffarabad.

Surprisingly, the common thread in the three reports - of Baroness Nicholson, Brain Adams and Onlooker is how bad the situation is in 'Azad Kashmir' vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir. Neither of them has gone beyond the immediate. For reasons unclear. Had they done so or even tried to find answers to the two questions – who is a militant and who is a freedom fighter – in the context of what is happening in Balochistan and Kashmir, their work would have acquired a new meaning and a new depth. Because despite seeming commonality between these 'conflict zones' where gun battles and IED explosions are an every day phenomenon, there is a world of difference which cannot be brushed aside.
Consider these facts.

In 1947, the Khan of Kalat, the traditional ruler of the predominant Baloch state of Kalat, chose independence, and claimed that Nepal and Kalat had the same status. He was the most powerful ruler of what is today's Balochistan and acknowledged lord of all Baloch tribes. However, after the British departed, Pakistan army moved in and the Baloch territories were merged with Pakistan. Who ratified the merger? Well that honour went to the Quetta municipality, a body dominated by non-Baloch settlers. Since then, violence has erupted in Balochistan five times – 1948, 1958, 1963-64, 1973-77 and again now with the Khans of Kalat again in the forefront. Interestingly, Baloch leaders are not seeking independence. Their plea is only for a share in the development pie, an end to what the economist William Easterly has described as "growth without development" and a voice in the management of their affairs. In short, what they are clamouring for is provincial autonomy under a federal set up as envisaged in the 1973 constitution. The demand is met by 'slow motion genocide being inflicted on Baluch tribesmen in the mountains and deserts of southwestern Pakistan', according to Selig S. Harisson, the US expert on Balochistan, who heads the Asia Centre for International Policy in Washington.

For Indian readers, familiar with events in Kashmir, a quick recap of the tumultuous period in 1947-48 will suffice. Maharaja Hari Singh, wanted accession of Kashmir to India. And the Lion of Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah agreed with him. The accession documents were signed in time to save the people of Kashmir from a barbaric and brutal invasion mounted by Pakistan army with tribals as their front. Indian army mounted a rescue mission, reached the valley and checked the advance of marauders, who had by then pillaged Baramulla.

As the three reports cited at the outset of this article – by Baroness Nicholson, Brain Adams and the Onlooker, note, "Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir enjoys a unique status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution with greater autonomy than other states in the Union". The Baroness is 'pleased to see recent moves in Jammu and Kashmir to strengthen democracy as evidenced by the 75% turnout in recent local elections.'

Militancy – Official Response

Militancy in Kashmir is a post -1989 phenomenon. Independence is the plank of Hurriyat conference, a conglomerate of parties and groups, which is active on the Kashmir scene for a long while.

Nonetheless, the Indian state is providing security cover to the Hurriyat leaders notably its chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who often shuttles between Srinagar and Islamabad. Read this report in The Daily Excelsior of Jammu which appeared on January 16, 2007, a day after a blast took place near Mirwaiz house. Wrote the daily, "While the separatist leader and his family members are guarded by about a dozen of Personal Security Officers (PSOs) provided by the state Government, over a company strength of J&K Police personnel are deployed for round-the-clock protection of his house at Nageen, in the neighbourhood of the University of Kashmir".

Cut to Balochistan and read the Harrison comment in Le Monde Diplomatique (October 2006). "In the current fighting which started in January 2005, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reported that indiscriminate bombing and straffing by F-16s and Cobra gun ships are being used to draw the guerrillas into the open. Six Pakistan army brigades plus paramilitary forces totaling some 25000 men are deployed in the Kohlu mountains and surrounding areas where the fighting is most intense…..".

The US expert notes that more repressive measures are being used to crush the Baloch insurgency than in the past. "This time Baluch spokesman has reported large-scale kidnappings and disappearances, charging that Pakistani forces have rounded up hundreds of Baluch youth on unspecified charges and taken them to unknown locations".

Popular Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed when the army blew up a cave he was hiding in on August 26, 2006. A former Governor and former chief minister he was highly respected not only in Balochistan but across the entire country. Not surprisingly, the Pakistan media has dubbed the 'targetted' killing as the biggest military blunder after the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Islamabad keeps asserting that army has been sent to Balochistan to protect Baluchis from their Sardars (tribal leaders), "who are against development'. But the fact, as repeatedly highlighted by The Dawn, the sedate Karachi daily, in its editorial comment and reports from Quetta, is that current insurgency is not being led by the tribal elders but by a new generation of politically conscious Baluch nationalists. And they are seeking, to quote Selig Harrison again, not only substance but also the feeling of autonomy. The Baluch Liberation Front and the Baluch Liberation Army, along with the more official Baluch National Party are increasingly made up of not just moderate to extreme tribal politicians, but intelligentsia, merchants, labourers, out-of-work engineers, lawyers, and the new Baluch middle class. The Baluch Student Organization actively stages demonstrations, roadblocks and rallies.

Under the heading "Balochistan Folly", the Blogger, Onlooker writes in his The Glasshouse, "Akbar Bugti was the only Baloch leader amenable to negotiating with the Establishment. After vilifying and then killing him, there is no one left in Balochistan willing to talk to Islamabad. All one can say is: You reap what you sow".

Balochistan Folly

The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleiman Daud is outraged and his call for 'unification and resistance against the state of affairs' was 'a resounding yes', says Annie Nocenti, journalist and author, in her 'Letter from Baluchsitan' in the December 2006 issue of The Brooklyn Rail, a monthly from New York. She quotes the Khan as telling her, "We sit on a mountain of gold and the devil sits on us. We have 700 miles of coast and oil and gas and gold. We try to do something to have rights to it, we get spanked. We resist every ten years and get spanked every ten years."

The province still lacks the basic services that most consider human rights. It is rich in natural gas yet only 6% of the Baluch have gas connections, less than half the children get an education, and only 2% of the population has clean water. Women's literacy in the region stands at just 7 per cent, the lowest in Pakistan.

Annnie Nocenti, who, along with Wendelin Johnson, author of the novel, The Durand Line, has shot a documentary on the Balochistan, says despite periodical pronouncements of generous federal aid, Baluchis get 'so little back in terms of resources and tax revenues' while ' Islamabad fattens its coffers and others dream of wealth to come'. Millions of dollars are poured into building Gwadar port as Pakistan's show piece and the new gateway of Central Asia and even China. "Our impoverished people and economically discriminated province don't stand to benefit', says the Khan.

Adds Dr Wahid Baloch, President, Baloch Society of North America, (BSO-NA)), "We call Gwadar project a Mega project of death for Baloch people. Despite the strong opposition from all over Balochistan, Pakistan continues aggressively working on this project with the help of China to bring millions of Punjabis from Punjab into Gwadar so they can change the Baloch demography forever and turn us into a minority in our own homeland, just as they did this to our Sindhi and Baloch brothers in Karachi, making them strangers amidst their own homeland".

Study in Contrast

What a study in contrast Kashmir development story makes? Despite the best efforts of the militants, the demographic identity of the population is being scrupulously preserved and more per capita central aid is being poured into the state than in any other Indian state, the pre-budget survey 2006-07 presented to Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly shows. The state's population is less than one percent of India. Yet it receives 2.7 per cent of national developmental outlay. The allocation per head thus works out to Rs. 1122 in its case. This is much higher than the average for all other states which is below Rs. 300. Another index of growth, people below poverty line hovers around 3.7 per cent mark against the national average of 26 per cent. Literacy rate stands at 55.5 per cent as compared to all India literacy rate of 64.8 per cent.
"Against the annual growth of 7 per cent at all India level during first four years of 10th five year plan, the State has achieved 6.11 per cent annual average growth rate during first two years of the plan and is expected to achieve 5.75 per cent annual average growth rate during last three years of 10th five year plan. The Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) is estimated to be Rs 25,050 crore for the year 2006-07", the survey reveals. The per capita income at Rs 17,174 per annum is impressive given the fact the state suffers from all the handicaps of a disturbed area and its mainstay tourism is crippled by militancy.

From all accounts, militancy in Kashmir is an export from outside. And it is Islamist in nature and it doesn't tolerate moderate voices on Kashmir scene as the attack on Mirwaiz Umar Farooq shows and as the killing of his father, Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farooq, in May 21, 1990 and his uncle Maulvi Mushtaq Ahmed in 2004 amply demonstrates. Kashmiriyat stands for catholicity and not sectarianism of any kind. Terror infrastructure in POK is an acknowledged fact which also finds a mention in the European Union's draft report on Kashmir.

While on conditions in the area after the 2005 October earthquake, the report observes, "the disaster struck a region already weakened by 60 years of festering conflict, one which is in the eye of the storm of the war against terrorism, and where fundamental institutions have been constantly undermined by organised crime and terror networks exploiting Pakistan as a major base, using the rugged terrain and institutional deficiencies of that country to undermine regional stability".

EU Appalled

Expectedly, the EU report is 'appalled' that the already minimal basic 'rights enjoyed by Pakistani Kashmiris before the earthquake ( i.e. food, water, shelter, sanitation, schools, and barely adequate health-centres) have been decimated, compounding a situation notable for a lack of democracy and the existence of oppressive and unjust laws, especially those applicable to women'.

A natural corollary was the call to Pakistan 'to revisit its concept of democratic accountability, minority and women's rights in AJK, which as elsewhere are key to improving conditions for the people and tackling the menace of terrorism'.

Echoes the same sentiment, the Blogger, Onlooker, when he says, "I fear that the actual state of affairs in Azad Kashmir would probably make even a hardened cynic cringe with embarrassment". He adds as an after thought, "the disconnect between the supposed 'rulers' and the 'ruled' was much greater than any preconceived notion I might have had".

He goes on to say in his blog, "While most of us suspected the government of Azad Kashmir to be a smokescreen, I had never truly comprehended the sheer scale of the façade. It was shortly after the earthquake that I learnt that the so-called president, prime minister and cabinet ministers of that benighted place were more or less permanently ensconced in Rawalpindi, only making infrequent trips to the place of their imaginary governance".

Does the Blogger's assessment need any comment? Or a reaction from India which is bemused by democracy talk from Pakistan and calls for self-rule and more democracy in Jammu and Kashmir?

Human Rights

Upholding human rights in any disturbed area is a tough job. The security forces need to be sensitized. Anyone found violating the HR code should be given exemplary punishment. Indian army is doing this. Learning from its mistakes in the northeast, it knows first hand there is no substitute to transparency and the only way to win over people's love is to put in place a credible mechanism to deal with any act, perceived or real, of atrocity or misdemeanor by the personnel in uniform. This approach is best illustrated by the action taken against a Major who was alleged to have committed a rape in Handwara. Suspension, court martial and summary dismissal from service followed in that quick order though the charge of rape could not be established against Major Rehman on the basis of forensic evidence. Entering at night into a house where he was accused of committing the crime was considered as sufficient ground to punish him.

But in Balochistan, a Pakistan army Major went scott free even after raping a lady doctor on night duty at the Sui Gas Hospital at Quetta. No police case. No inquiry. The lady was from a respectable family and luckily for her, her husband stood by her at the traumatic moment and both migrated first to London and then to Canada with the help of friends and human rights groups to lead a new life. Yet they faced the taunt from their rulers, "Get raped, get money and get a visa to Canada".

More disturbing than this sad story is UNICEF's internal assessment that food aid to war torn Balochistan is blocked by the authorities. "The official logic is that they can't guarantee safety for the internationals, or even for local aid groups," Samina Ahmed, head of the International Crisis Group's (ICG) office in Islamabad told Gretchen Peters of the Christian Science Monitor. Any takers for the claim, which, certainly, borders on crime against humanity!

- Asian Tribune -

Share this