Security forces are preparing to deploy to Balochistan in big numbers. According to media reports, a “4-layer security plan” for CPEC has been agreed that will start with adding an estimated 32,000 security personnel directed to defend Chinese workers against Pakistani citizens. That is in addition to the over 106,000 Frontier Corps and Balochistan Constabulary forces already operating in the province.
COAS Gen Raheel has predicted Balochistan to become “a land of peace” and Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Muhammad Nasir Khan Janjua has declared the Baloch insurgency as “dying“. So why is such a massive force necessary? The easy answer is the $46 Billion corridor which has been termed an economic game changer. The reality is more difficult, though. For example, has anyone asked this project is an economic game changer for who?
The increased security presence is not only to protect the CPEC project itself, but over 14,000 Chinese workers who will be coming to do the work. These Chinese workers will be coming to an area where unemployment is a huge problem. Is CPEC an economic game changer for Balochistan? Or for someone else.
The look of this situation is a familiar one. A resource rich province whose natural riches are siphoned off, new jobs given away to outsiders, masses kept under control of always growing military presence. Does it sound familiar? We have been lucky that Balochistan has not produced a Sheikh Mujib till date, but what will we do when our luck finally runs out? What we will probably do first is act surprised. Just like more and more that is considered uncomfortable or embarrassing, media has been advised not to discuss anything about Balochistan that does not follow the official ‘Pak Positive’ narrative being spun in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
This situation may be a familiar one, but the ending has not been written. We can still change the direction that things are going in Balochistan. To do this, though, we have to stop trying to shape reality through media narratives and military force. Otherwise, we know how things will end, and we may end up with a ‘game changer’ that we did not bargain for.