For decades the Pakistani state has supported, both directly and indirectly, a whole host of militant groups with the express purpose that these groups will support its regional policy of dealing with India and Afghanistan. The blowback for the Pakistani people has been tremendous.
Instead of tackling the hydra-headed jihadi monster, the state prefers to use these monsters to go after groups like the Baloch who are fighting for their rights. However, as an editorial in Dawn point out this “short-sighted strategy of using violent extremists to counter Baloch insurgent groups fuelled an orgy of bloodletting. All these factors, coupled with the enforced disappearances of Baloch individuals suspected of nationalist sympathies — now centred among the province’s educated youth — created a fertile ground for foreign intelligence agencies to foment trouble.”
Further, “Unless the state addresses the reasons why insurgencies have repeatedly arisen in Balochistan throughout Pakistan’s existence, one may be certain the separatist movement will continue to find ready recruits. This year is the 75th anniversary of Kalat’s accession to Pakistan; while the move had its detractors, many also believed it would bring progress to what has long been a deprived part of the subcontinent. However, the intervening years have seen resource-rich Balochistan being treated with neocolonial disdain, useful only for extractive purposes to enrich the state and its functionaries.”
According to the popular narrative, as Dawn noted, “the tribal sardars have been a perennial obstacle to development in the province. That line of thought conveniently sidestepped the fact that a majority of the most regressive sardars have historically been aligned with the state — an alliance whereby elected Balochistan governments were dismissed and the people’s rights ruthlessly trampled on. Over the years, various ‘development packages’ were introduced but, much like the province’s share in the NFC Award, achieved little of note. And why would it be otherwise? After all, the province has never been empowered in a manner commensurate with the 18th Amendment. The strings are still being pulled from Islamabad, not to mention Pindi.”
Finally, “the Baloch have legitimate grievances, and the groundswell of support for Maulana Hidayatur Rehman’s Haq Do Tehreek and the massive rallies he led in a well-secured town like Gwadar — the ‘jewel in the crown’ of CPEC — are evidence of the anger simmering in Baloch society. The state must change its approach. But judging by its arrest of the HDT leader, which has sparked huge protests, it appears to be doubling down on old, discredited tactics. That will only keep the flames of insurgency burning.”