TARIQ Khosa’s piece ‘Baloch nationalism’ (July 20) is full of factual errors and historical inaccuracies. While it would take us too far afield to dissect Mr Khosa’s erroneous reading of history, it suffices to point out the fundamental errors that make the ensuing analysis irrelevant.
The writer starts out by emphasising the importance of knowing Balochistan’s history and culture, ostensibly in relation to Baloch nationalism, and ends up eulogising the rule of the non-Baloch Brahvis of Sarawan and Jhalawan.
A closer look at the demographic structure of Balochistan will reveal the absurdity of the territorial arrangement of the province contrived by our colonial rulers. Therein lies the dilemma in seeking to explain the Baloch enigma. Baloch ‘nationalism’ is not synonymous with Balochistan.
Balochistan is 44 per cent of the territory of Pakistan but notwithstanding the ethnic nomenclature of the province, the Baloch are really confined to sparsely populated pockets in the north-west, west, east, and south of the province and comprise less than 40pc of its population.
The northern one-fourth of the province is home to the Pakhtuns, who account for at least 30pc of the population of the province and form a majority in Quetta, the provincial capital.
The Brahvis, a non-Baloch ethnic group with a distinct language and culture, account for at least 15pc of the population concentrated in central Balochistan around the city of Khuzdar.
Eighteen to 20pc of the population in the east and south of the province comprises Sindhi/Seraiki speakers, of varying non-Baloch extraction. The Hazaras in the northwest, though small in numbers, form a distinct linguistic and ethnic community, who unlike the rest of the population of the province adheres to Shia beliefs.
Now to the Balochistan conundrum. The restiveness in the province is largely confined to the Baloch segment of the population with some Brahvi support in the past. It is some sections of the Baloch alone who have taken up arms against the state of Pakistan. Their claim to be fighting for their due share of the supposed resources of the entire province as constituted at present is torn to shreds once the territory is apportioned between the Baloch and the other ethnic groups and re-designated appropriately.
The claim of the Baloch becomes even less tenable when we consider the fact that at least 40pc of the Baloch population of Pakistan is permanently settled in Sindh and another 15pc in Punjab. In a sense, the need for reorganising the political structure of Balochistan is far more pressing than that of any other region of the country.
Muzaffar A. Isani
Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2020