Two dominant theories attempt to contextualise the decades-long crisis in Balochistan. The Islamabad theory suggests that the state and its agencies are responsible for the lack of development, separatist movements and the resulting militancy in Balochistan. The Baloch theory holds the Baloch Sardars and foreign elements responsible for Balochistan’s woes.
Major Gregory Pipes of the United States Army has explored these theories in great detail.(1) He argues that denying democracy to Balochs, the economic exploitation of Balochistan’s natural resources, and military incursions are examples of state actions that have turned Baloch’s against the establishment. He presents empirical evidence to illustrate that state actions indeed have a direct impact on insurgency in Balochistan; any reconciliatory move by the state results in a decline in insurgent attacks, whereas any state-backed hostility against Balochs correlates with a spike in insurgency.
He uses data from 1,277 insurgent attacks reported in Balochistan during 2003 and 2009 to demonstrate that time and again Balochs have reacted rationally to the carrot and stick policies of the state. For instance, a 216 per cent increase in insurgent attacks was observed in response to the army establishing a military base near Sui. Similarly, attacks by insurgents increased by 855 per cent in reaction to the military operation in December 2005. At the same time, a significant decline in insurgent attacks was observed in response to the economic packages announced for Balochistan in October 2008 and March 2009.
The evidence presented in the table below explicitly illustrates Baloch willingness to resolve the conflict. If the propaganda against the Baloch insurgents is to be believed, which argues that the insurgents, while being supported by the foreign elements and Baloch sardars, are determined to secede from Pakistan, then one should not see any decline in violence in response to reconciliatory moves.
The Baloch theory, which accuses Baloch Sardars for Balochistan’s troubles, does not only enjoy the state’s blessings but is also favoured by many in print and news media in Pakistan. For instance, Shumaila Jaffery recently argued on Dawn’s website: “[b]eing a journalist I have worked at places like Sui, Dera Bugti, Turbat and Youb. [The Baloch] Sardars have exploited the local population to the extent that we people with urban backgrounds cannot even imagine.”
Is it really true that the separatist Baloch Sardars have been instrumental in stunting the economic and social development of their people? For this to be true, one would expect to see lesser human development in areas under the influence of separatist Sardars and higher human development in areas under the influence of state-friendly sardars. For example, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, a former Prime Minister in General Musharraf’s regime, is one such Baloch Sardar who has been friendly with the state for decades. Let us compare Jamali’s district of Nasirabad with Dera Bugti, which is the ancestral home of slain Baloch statesman, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, who died in a military action in August 2006. If the Baloch theory holds, Nasirabad should enjoy significantly higher levels of development than Dera Bugti.
Statistically speaking, Nasirabad is marginally better than Dera Bugti in access to piped water and literacy rate (see the table below). At the same time, Dera Bugti reports significantly higher number of medical facilities, i.e. hospitals, basic health units, etc., and higher contraceptive use than Nasirabad. These comparative statistics illustrate that all areas of Balochistan are significantly underdeveloped regardless of the political persuasions of the dominant Sardars in the region.
|Development indicators||Dera Bugti||Nasirabad|
|% of households with electricity||15.7||60.6|
|% of households with piped water||13.9||15.2|
|% of literate population (10 years & older)||11.7||12.7|
|Contraceptive prevalence rate (%)||13.7||11.8|
The marked difference, however, is observed in access to electricity where 61 per cent households in Nasirabad compared to only 16 per cent households in Dera Bugti are electrified. The difference in electrification is a result of state patronage that benefitted Nasirabad, and not Dera Bugti. How would then one hold separatist Baloch Sardars responsible for under development when the state’s investments have favoured some and disadvantaged others?