Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Resolving Balochistan’s grievances


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

This is the third in a 3-part series on Balochistan. The first and second parts appeared on December 28, 2011 and January 04, 2012 respectively.

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.

Source: Pipes, Gregory (2010)

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
Medical facilities 64 34
Source: Population Census, 1998 (latest data available)

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?

The urbanised middle class and real estate magnates in Pakistan may continue to hold the Baloch Sardars responsible for Balochistan’s misgivings. However, given an opportunity, Pakistani urbanites may not hesitate in harming Baloch interests. Consider, for instance, the great land grab in progress in Gwadar where the indigenous of Gwadar have been left at the mercy of the big land developers from Lahore and Karachi.

The Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) lists the names and addresses of land developers who have been awarded development rights to date for developing 59 sq km of land in Gwadar. The list confirms suspicions of Baloch nationalists who had always feared that development in Gwadar will be hijacked by the powerful developers (and land mafias) domiciled elsewhere. According to GDA, Balochistan-based developers are in minority while developers whose addresses are listed in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are holding the stakes for 90 per cent of land development in Gwadar (see the graph below).

GDA has granted development rights for 12,533 acres of housing schemes alone. Once built and populated, the housing schemes will likely shift the demographic makeup of Gwadar, whose current population is a little shy of 200,000. Even at a low density of 50 persons per acre, once built the 12,533 acres of new housing development will attract roughly 600,000 new inhabitants to Gwadar, thus fundamentally changing its ethnic complexion.

The bigger question to address is why GDA has granted development rights to house a population that is likely to be 3-times the size of the current population of Gwadar. Has GDA or other agencies of the Balochistan government studied the socio-political implications of such a massive influx of people in a province whose population base is smaller than that of Lahore?

Given the potential for ethnic and social discord in Gwadar and the rest of Balochistan, there is a greater need for the establishment to ensure that any land development in Gwadar and its surroundings contributes primarily to the welfare of the people of Balochistan and not to the land developers from Lahore and Karachi or to the Baloch Sardars who may not be readily willing to share the spoils with the have-nots in their tribes.

Land is not the only source of grievance for Baloch nationalists in Gwadar. Analysing the greed, creed and governance in Balochistan, Professor Rabia Aslam revealed that despite being heralded as a game-changer in regional trade, the Gwadar port is unlikely to make a significant contribution to the provincial economy.

Professor Aslam revealed that the federal government will receive 50 per cent of the profits from Gwadar port and the Chinese firm responsible for operating Gawadar port will retain 48 per cent of the profits. A mere 2 per cent of the profits from Gwadar port are to accrue to the people of Balochistan. At the same time, most construction contracts at Gwadar port were awarded to non-Baloch firms who hired technical and other staff from outside of Balochistan.(2) Prof Aslam also noted that “in Balochistan the major source of revenue is natural gas. The province contributes roughly $1.4 billion per year through gas revenues, but receives only $116 million from the federal government in royalty.”

If the establishment in Pakistan allows the status quo to prevail in Balochistan, others would seek to profit from the ever-growing mistrust, and the resulting indiscriminate violence. The calls to secede Balochistan from the rest of Pakistan will come from all those who could benefit, even in the short term, from the chaos that prevails. Consider for example M. Chris Mason who called for an independent Balochistan in an op-ed piece in Canada’s The Globe and Mail in December 2011. Mr. Mason, who is a former US Naval officer and has served in the American foreign service, tries to exploit the Baloch grievances by pushing for an independent Balochistan as a solution (sic) to Pakistan’s problems. Calling Pakistan a rogue state, a term favoured by the American neo-cons, Mr. Mason sees an independent Balochistan merely a supply line to feed and support Nato’s troops in Afghanistan via Gwadar.

While Mr. Mason’s optimism for an overnight solution for the “region’s most intractable problems” is wishful thinking at best, however, those who favour an outright separation of Balochistan from Pakistan fail to recognise that ethnic Balochs (Balochi and Brahui speakers) in Balochistan represent a bare majority of 55 per cent. The rest comprise Pushtuns (30 per cent), Sindhis (6 per cent), Punjabis (3 per cent) and others. Haris Gazdar, a renowned economist, believes that such ethnic diversity “adds a dimension, prima facie, to political fragmentation.”(3)

The majority of Pushtuns and others in Balochistan do not share the same enthusiasm for an independent Balochistan.  Furthermore, non-Baloch ethnicities are concentrated in the northern districts of the province (see the map below), which further complicates the viability of an independent Balochistan within its current boundaries. In the worst case scenario, an all-out war for an independent Balochistan may lead to a civil war rather than a war between Balochs and Pakistan’s armed forces. It is therefore imperative that a negotiated settlement for the Baloch grievances be found at the earliest to avoid any further hardship for Balochs and other ethnicities in Balochistan.

The way forward

Major Pipes, who wants “to see the Baloch integrated into the mainstream of Pakistani social, political, and economic life,” offers several recommendations towards resolving the Balochistan’s grievances.  He wants Pakistan’s establishment to ensure that “democracy is a fixed element of Baloch society” to achieve Baloch integration.This may even require a plebiscite for the Balochs to determine their own future. He advises Pakistan’s establishment to work with Baloch Sardars rather than fighting with them by encouraging a “dialogue between the center and the periphery.” He further recommends ending all military incursions because this approach has consistently failed in stemming Baloch separatist movements in the past. Lastly, he asks for a fair share for Balochs in royalties for the natural resources extracted from Balochistan so that the economic base of the province could be fortified.

Major Pipes advises the United States government to recognise that attempts to enfranchise Balochs through true democracy have resulted in a decline in violence. Thus he advises the US government to avoid backing military incursions in Balochistan, which have harmed the democratic forces in the province. He asks the US government to focus on eradicating the narcotics trade in the region that has helped fund the insurgency. Major Pipes also asks India and Afghanistan to cease any operations in Balochistan that may promote instability in Pakistan.

It is not for the lack of solutions that the Baloch insurgency has lasted over six decades. It is the lack of willingness to work towards an honourable and just resolution of Baloch grievances that has turned successive generations of Balochs against the idea of Pakistan. Balochs have responded positively to reconciliation in the past. They will do so again if an honest and earnest effort is made.

(1) Pipes, Gregory D. 2010. The Baloch-Islamabad tensions: Problems of national integration. Master’s thesis. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.

(2) Aslam, Rabia (2011). Greed, creed, and governance in civil conflicts: a case study of Balochistan. Contemporary South Asia. Vol. 19, Iss. 2.

(3) Gazdar, Haris (2007). Balochistan Economic Report, Background Paper on Social Structures and Migration.


Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto.  He can be reached by email at

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Author Image

Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of

He tweets @regionomics

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (15) Closed

ashutosh Jan 11, 2012 06:41pm
Interesting research based observations. Surely,a step in the right direction if a quick follow up can take place...
A.Bajwa Jan 11, 2012 07:31pm
Baluchis are a minority in Baluchistan. Pathan, Las Bella (originally Scythians pushed out by Arabs), Makrani, and Bruihis would together constitute a majority. The way out would be local government protected through the Constitution rather than a stand alone act.
raika45 Jan 11, 2012 07:41pm
You can make all your charts and graphs showing this an that.The fact is this. If you come to my house I will give you due respect and treat you as an honored guest.You in return must follow certain norms of our society.Balochistan is their state.You need to work with the people there.Imposing your will will bring retribution as is happening now.The question is this can the central government come to an understanding with these people.They own the land ,you have to learn how to share the the natural resources with them.Using force is not going to work.
BRR Jan 11, 2012 08:38pm
Much of this has been known for a while. The writer does well to explain this to Pakistanis, but it will not sell, as Pakistanis seem to believe 'Muslims can NEVER kill Muslims" or "Pakistan is better than India", despite the debacle in E. Pakistan. The Pakistani establishment will just dismiss this. It is a touch sell. But if anyone in the Pakistani establishment is listening, they might learn a little from this article. There is no evidence anyone is listening tough, not with the Memogate cacophony.
Shahzad Kazi Jan 11, 2012 11:56pm
Great work. This article highlights facts and reality. Balauchistan with limited population has been continuously exploited by every government. The sardars are not to be blamed as it is them who keep some semblance of stability in the province. Given the large natural resources that Balauchistan has, it should be a simple matter to invest in this province as the per capita expenditure would be small. The Balauch suffer at the hands of their urban brethren from other provinces. Pathans have settled in the north and control the economy. Punjabis control the bureaucracy and now the Mohajir is controlling the land in the south.
Naeem Javid Muhammad Jan 12, 2012 11:30am
The fact of the matter is that Balochistan is the most thoroughly controlled garrison province in the country. Its affairs cannot be set right so long as its fate is decided exclusively by security personnel. The people of Balochistan cannot be palmed off with clichés about the whole country being no better off because, for one thing, such statements fall in the category of half-truths and, for another, the Baloch do not consider themselves obliged to suffer injustice and oppression only because their compatriots do not have the will to resist it.
osman narejo Jan 12, 2012 02:39pm
........good article! another dimesion to the baloch issue is the broader conflict in pakistan where the south of the country has repeatedly put the secular, progressive and democratic leadership in power which has been removed by the forces which are in sympathy in the conservative and orthox poltical outlook in the north of the country. this discord if addressed by equitably sharing the resources of the country, promoting and protecting the cultural resources of all the provinces, and then equalizing the state of physical development in the country at the earliest possible time.......this arrangement will automatically bridge the gap bw north and south of the country and give it permanant poltical stability to tackle with other issues, which are no less important in the shape giant neighbors.............!
Hamza Mohmand Jan 12, 2012 03:07pm
I believe every problem has a solution and dialogue with the Balochs is the only solution. An immediate end to military operations should be brought on and dialogues with the Baloch sardars along with the Pashtuns should be initiated and go the extra mile to address their grievances.
AHA Jan 12, 2012 05:03pm
So true. Our belief that we can never be wrong is the root cause of so many of our ills.
sharif Mohammad hani Jan 12, 2012 05:31pm
Even if establishment accept that balochs are 55% of BALOCHISTAN it's more than half of the baloch state.furthermore, adjoining baloch areas of d.g khan,and kashmore and a reasonable percentage of karachi 's balochs are the same part of baloch nation.on the efforts of writer it might possible solutions exists but DoAble things are not there under present Pakistani system.Dawn news paper editor recently comments that killing the baloch will not end but the 6th rebellion is ready if Pakistan succeed to supress the balochs.
thomas Jan 12, 2012 05:39pm
total freedom for balochistan is answer to all the problems they face. let all right thinking people support their noble and just cause.
Mobeen Judgal Jan 12, 2012 06:38pm
Dear A.Bajwa,,you are not aware of the name of nation Baloch,here you are addressing them as Baluchis how can we trust you are having enough knowledge to pose them as minority in Baluchistan,for your kind information Las Bella a distract of Balochistan and Makranis are Baloch who are staying in coastal area of Balochistan known by their area and being called Makrani,,claiming your self is true Pakistani is not going to change the ground reality in Baluchistan,,,we do understand the language of establishment to words Baloch but we have seen what happened to Muslim brothers in Bangladesh,its not workable any more,,,
Raja Farhat Abbas Jan 12, 2012 06:45pm
Mr thomas or what ever you are,only wrong thinking people want to break Baloch from Pakistan and right thinking people will never ever allow it to happen
A.Bajwa Jan 13, 2012 04:41am
Please read the Imperial Gazetteer on Baluchistan.
Syed N.Hussain, MBA, Jan 15, 2012 09:40pm
Murtaza Haider has presented a factual and ubiased well written researched observations. To understand the "geo-politics" of Baluchistan and the dire predicament of the Baloch nation, it is imperative that education becomes an all-enveloping criteria as starters to improve the lot of the people. It's natural resources may well have been exploited or {under-ecploited} by successive Federal governments in islamabad, but by large account the Baloch nation has been controlled traditionally by the local Sardars acting as fedual lords and subjucating the innocent and largely uneducated population to subservient status which is the main and root cause of exploitation. The United States cannot be trusted to have any interest in Baluchistan other than military, and surrounding of Iran, Russia, and China with the aim of controlling the Port of Gwadar. Inquiring minds must look at the situation in Baluchistan with an open mind, and not fall into the schemes and plots spun by vested interests in the region. Baluchistan is and must stay as a Province of Pakistan but the ledaers at the Federal Government must give Baluchistan its rightful place in the State. Dr. Murtaza has presented good resreach which can be used as a spring board to start the allocation of assets and revenues towards the economic development of Baluchistan. Baloch Nation has a definite place in the history of Pakistan, and must not and should not be allowed to break away. On the contrary the Federal Government should embark on re-allocation of Baluchistan's revenues into developing Baluchistan.