The truth and national reconciliation commission for Balochistan

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan in terms of area but unfortunately the most economically backward. It joined the Union of Pakistan voluntarily through a genuinely signed agreement. The most crucial and urgently required ‘Truth and National Reconciliation Commission’, is undeniably essential, to some extent indispensable, for this region, which is strategically located, straddling the volatile uplands of Eastern Iran and the South of Afghanistan. There have been numerous insurgencies here in this vast region with scant infrastructure since Pakistan was founded, which has challenged the nation’s fragile security capability. A healing touch with the support of international actors is a paramount requirement to end, or at least reduce the differences between the State of Pakistan and the province.

Since the creation of the Land of the Pure, there has been constant tension between the Baloch Nationalists and the state. Insurgencies started in 1948 and continue to the present day. Misconstrued state policies such as the killings of Baloch leaders like Nawabzada Nauroz Khan, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Ghulam Muhammad Baloch to name a few has left serious wounds in the federation.

Without Balochistan-Gwadar and Sindh-Karachi (Arabian Sea), Pakistan would be a landlocked country. Lots of political leaders have been making tall promises/apologies for the rehabilitation of the Balochs, but nothing solid has ever been done so far. Misconceptions, regarding Balochistan, that the Sardars are enjoying enormous royalties for instance is a misleading paradigm because such payments actually go to the provincial government. Similarly, it’s also false to state that Baloch Sardars don’t allow schools, roads, infrastructures and various amenities to be built in their respective areas.

CPEC was primarily signed because of Balochistan’s Gwadar port, which also included development for the province. Unfortunately however, the local populace remains disgruntled and still complains for not getting any benefits such as an increase in jobs, demand for their business products, and other allied interests.

Likewise, Baloch nationalist parties are never consulted in major decisions about the province. Thus, to the local Baloch it seems that they are mere spectators in their own land.

Regarding the Oil And Gas Development Corporation (OGDC), the province of Balochistan before 2010 had the ownership of its oil and gas, but after the 18th Amendment, the federal government has notified that 50 percent of the ownership will now belong to the centre. This is quite unjust considering the rate of poverty in the province is 68 percent—1.3 million out of a population of 12.35 million.

Concerning gold and copper exploration, the government in 1993 inadvertently signed the Reko Diq project in the Chagai district with Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), on a 25 percent (Pakistan) 75 percent (TCC) profit basis for all discoveries made in the next 56 years under the 3.3-million-acre land. Reqo Diq was a bilateral investment treaty for the exploration of copper in the mining area of Reko Diq between the government of Pakistan and Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), an Australian Company which was allegedly denied exploration rights. As such, they appealed against this denial to an International Tribunal which imposed a penalty of about 6 billion dollars on the government of Pakistan for such a lapse. Presently, the government of Pakistan has taken a stay order on this payment.

Furthermore, the population of Balochistan has remained deprived of its constitutionally allocated 6 percent quota in the federal services for decades due to a lack of provincial representatives in the topmost administrative hierarchies of the country. For example in 2015, 45 vacancies were advertised for the Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO) for the posts of BS-17. However, when the electrical engineers were finally selected, it turned out that none of them were from Balochistan. The same is the recruitment regime in all other state institutions.

In my opinion, incentive-based disarmament programmes for over one thousand Baloch militants at least must be announced and practically implemented honestly and generously, to incentivise their return from the mountains and join the national mainstream to bestow a comparatively lasting peace. Certainly, this concord would occur only when the insurgents return home to join the opportunities of preferential employment, soft business loans and various other facilities that they had all been deprived of. This would not only bring harmony but also inevitably wipe out the internationally visible embarrassment from the human rights angle.

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Additionally, for the strengthening of the federation, the nationalist/regional parties of Balochistan ought to be generously accommodated in all governments so that they could have a say in the matters of the State. The false propaganda against the Sardars should end, and the CPEC should have strictly followed Baloch employment and other beneficial quotas. Moreover, development under the CPEC needs to be properly monitored by the Balochistan government ensuring that it takes place where it is needed most. Lastly, the Balochs ought to be given their due share of 6 percent in all the central departments, institutions and corporations of the state such as the CSS as well so that they can earn a respectable living for themselves and drop the arms.

The government should give foremost attention to this pragmatic path for reconciliation, keeping in view the South African and other models, where such reconciliation commissions were earlier formed in around 40 countries of the world including: Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Korea, etc. (though with different mandates and scopes, as per their situations and predicaments).

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We seriously need to mend fences with Baloch nationalists before it is too late because new geo-economic realities in South Asia are bound to add fuel to the fire of Baloch nationalist aspirations. Bangladesh—a country that we treated as a liability has surpassed Pakistan in all human capital indexes that measure survival, health, education and population control, enabling it to rank 106/193 countries while Pakistan still ranks 134. Regional developments such as these serve to aggravate Baloch frustration regarding what their fate could be (or could have been) if they were to become independent from Pakistan.

The international community must to play its role and throw its weight for the formation of the truth and national reconciliation commission for Balochistan, as they did in South Africa and in other countries of the world because the time is more than ripe to engage the Baloch ethnic leaders in a dialogue to resolve this issue, with the cooperation of the state.

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