Indian PM Narendra Modi’s reference to Balochistan in his Independence Day speech signals an aggressive shift in India’s approach to the liberation of Balochistan. Modi very clearly and confidently said, “I am grateful to the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK who have thanked me in the past few days.” Also in an all-party meeting on the unrest in Kashmir, Modi said, “It’s high time for Pakistan to answer the world, on atrocities against Baloch people and PoK.” This strategy could be drawing the global attention towards one of the oldest internal problems of Pakistan.
When Pakistan, a new country on a religious ideology, was born in 1947, the rulers of the Khanate of Kalat, which was a princely state under the British and part of today’s Balochistan, refused to join the new nation. Pakistan sent troops in March 1948 to annex the territory much like they sent troops to then undevided princely state Kashmir. So far, there were five waves of insurgencies. After the 1948 rebellion was put down, crisis again erupted in 1958. In 1962-63 and 1973-77, there were violent campaigns to gain independandce from independence from Pakistan by Baloch nationalists. The two decades after that was the calmest period in the history of Balochistan.
Tensions started boiling up after General Parvez Musharraf seized power in 1999. When the military started building new cantonments in Balochistan, it was seen by Baloch nationalist factions as a bid by the Army to tighten control over the region. The fifth wave of insurgency that broke out in this context is still on. There are several separatist groups in the province. The strongest among them is the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), designated as a terrorist group by Pakistan and Islamabad has claimed that India is backing the BLA.
This is an 1872 “Map of “Beluchistan” from the book “Text-book of Indian History: Geographical Notes, Genealogical Tables, Examination Questions,” by G.U. Pope (1880), London: W. H. Allen & Co. Pp. vii, 574. And if you can read, please flip through the pages of this rare historic book from an e-book courtesy the University of Toronto.
The fortunate fact is that the Congress gave its thumbs up to the idea of India raising rights violations in Balochistan in a perfect response to Pakistan’s Kashmir rant. It signals about a political convergence that may decisively shift the national policy on the Balochistan issue.
Now the time will tell what will be the fate of Baloch people in near future. The Balochi nationalists accuse Islamabad of deliberately keeping the mineral-rich province poor, while Pakistan government says the pace of development is slow due to insurgency. But the bigger issue is the large-scale human rights violations in the region, both by the Army and the militants. Every time there’s unrest in the region, the Pakistani Army used brute force to retain order. Even the Air Force was used against the civilian population many times.