Ethnic Conflicts in Pakistan: A Geostrategic Perspective in the Context of Baluchistan


Ramavtar Meena,

Doctoral Scholar, Political Geography Division, SIS, Jawaharlal Nahru University, New Delhi



The post-Cold War era has seen increase in ethnic conflicts in various parts of the world.  To understand ethnic conflict better, factors operating within the state and beyond its borders should be taken into consideration. In South Asia, particularly in Pakistan, the Baluch movement which had remained dormant in the past two decades, again raised its head and now the Baluch insurgency threatens to destabilize Pakistan and vitiate the regional security envioronment. The origin of the Baluch insurgency has been in the fact that despite being the richest province in terms of energy and mineral resources, Baluchistan remains one of the most underdeveloped provinces in Pakistan. The Baloch people therefore have long been demanding greater autonomy and a larger share of the dividend from natural resources. The denial of this autonomy has fuelled the current insurgent violence. Further, tensions between the government and Baloch insurgent groups have grown because of Islamabad’s heavy-handed armed response to the insurgency and its refusal to negotiate demands for political and economic autonomy. The conflict has the potential to escalate if the government insists on seeking a military solution to what is essentially a political problem. This article analyses in detail the various aspects related to Baluch insurgency and seeks to give a better understanding of this long festering conflict.


KEYWORDS: Ethnicity, Pakistan, Baluchistan, Natural Resources, Bugti, South Asia 




Generally speaking, the term ‘conflict’ describes a situation in which two or more actors pursue incompatible, yet from their individual perspectives entirely just, goals. While the term ethnicity is derived from the Greek word ‘ethnos’ which originally meant “a number of people living together and subsequently came to be used in the sense of a tribe, group, nation or people”. Ethnicity therefore, stands for the ethnic quality or affiliation of a group bearing different meanings in varied situational contexts. Ethnic conflicts are one particular form of which the goals of at least one conflict party are defined in (exclusively) ethnic terms, and in which the primary fault line of confrontation is one of ethnic distinctions. Whatever the concrete issues over which conflict erupts, at least one of the conflict parties will explain its dissatisfaction in ethnic terms- that one party to the conflict will claim that its distinct ethnic identity is the reason why its members cannot realise their interests, why they do not have the same rights, or why their claims are not satisfied. Thus, ethnic conflicts are a form of group conflict in which at least one of the parties involved interprets the conflict, its cause and potential remedies along an actually existing or perceived discriminating ethnic divide (Iftekharuzzaman 1998).


Ethnic conflicts seem to be common in all countries of the world where people are divided into separate ethnic groups, that may have a racial, national, linguistic, tribal, religious or caste basis. Each ethnic group has its own identity and this identity underlies the fact a group is perceived as a distinct group from other groups, and, at the same time, the group perceives itself as a distinct group from other groups.


To understand ethnic conflict, factors operating within the state and beyond its borders should be taken into consideration. Increase in ethnic conflicts around the world is a reality. In about 190 nations, there are 3000 ethnic groups who are agitated and are engaged in one or other form of struggle for their identity. The number of ethnic conflicts had continued to grow since the Cold War ended. Since then, conflict within states has becomes more prevalent then conflict between states. (Lakshmi 2003).

So let us begin with examining some of the facts about ethnic conflicts. According to data collected by researchers at International Peace Research Institute in Oslo and the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, there were approximately 50 ethnic conflicts with more than 25 people killed per year between 1946 and 2001. Of these around 60 percent, originated before 1990 whilst the other 40 percent occurred in the post 1990 period.




Source: Dunaway 2003


Although this clearly means that ethnic conflicts pre-date the end of the Cold War, it also highlights that proportionally speaking more ethnic conflicts began in the last decade of the twentieth century than in any other. (UCDP 2010). Figure 1 shows the politically active ethnic groups by region during 1990s.The 1990s also saw unprecedented atrocities committed in ethnic conflicts. The genocide in Rwanda, the siege of Sarajevo, the massacre of Srebrenica and Racak, and the endless migration of refugees from Kosovo are examples of these. (Belgrade Forum 2011).


Pakistan Ethnic conflicts and Baluchistan

Pakistan is a multi-ethnic state and situated in a region of great economic, political and military importance. Besides linking various regions, Pakistan is surrounded by a variety of neighbours- super and world powers, military and nuclear powers. In this context, the Taliban insurgency in tribal areas and separatist movement in Baluchistan are essentially tearing away at Pakistan’s sovereignty. This has brought the question of ethno-nationalism to the centre stage of Pakistani polity in recent years. The main cause of this threat is the geographical distribution of the natural resources of Pakistan and their sharing among the people of that area where these resources are located. Most of the important resources on which the economy of Pakistan is based, are located in the backward tribal areas. But the tribes fear that developmental projects in their area (like Sui gas Project, Gwadar port project on Baluchistan’s Makran coast and Kalabagh Dam at Mianwali District of Punjab), intended for greater economic opportunities, will solely serve the interests of the ruling elite and state institutions in the military establishment. They further claim that the royalties they are receiving from the projects in their area are negligible. 


The Baloch movement in Pakistan, after a dormant period of almost two decades, has been re-ignited with renewed vigor and threatens to destabilize Pakistan and potentially cause problems with regional security and economic development in South Asia. The recent attacks in Sui and bomb blasts at government buildings in the have brought the issue of Baluchistan to the forefront today. The problem stems from the regional aspirations of various ethnic groups and their efforts to assert their sub-national identities. Tensions between the government and its Baloch opposition have grown because of Islamabad’s heavy-handed armed response to Baloch militancy and its refusal to negotiate demands for political and economic autonomy. The killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in August 2006 sparked riots and caused to more confrontation. The conflict could escalate if the government insists on seeking a military solution to what is a political problem and the international community, especially the USA, fails to recognise the price that is involved for security in neighbouring Afghanistan.


Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan with an area about 340,000 square km. It covers 43 per cent of its land area but has only around 6 per cent of its population. (According to the 1998 census, Baluchistan’s population was 6.5 million. By some estimates it is now approximately seven million, including the Pashtuns and Punjabi settlers). The province is rich in oil, natural gas (it produces 45% of total gas in Pakistan after the discovery of Sui field in 1952 by the British) and  minerals deposits. 


Baluchistan’s location connecting Iranian plateau with South West Asia, central Asia to its long coast line in shores of Arabian Sea makes it geographically an important place.  Many of these countries are land locked. Baluchistan is their route to the sea and the world. Baluchistan is bounded on the west by 520 miles long border with Iran and on the north by 720 miles border with Afghanistan. In the east are Pakistani provinces of Sindh, Punjab and a part of North West Frontier Province (NWFP). In the south it has 70 miles coast line along the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. Its extended sea-board running along the Seistan region of Iran ends up at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Baluchistan lies in a commanding position vis-ŕ-vis the straits of Hormuz, one of the choke points of the Indian Ocean and the World.


Its trijunctional border in the northwest links Seistan (Iran) and Helmund (Afghanistan) with Chagai (Pakistan), overlooking the Mashad-Zahedan-Chabahar Highway. In the north east, the inland constriction likes the Khojak and Bolan Passes (opposite Kandahar) are some of the important bottlenecks in the region from the geo-strategic point of view. They were important for the Czarist Russia and the Victorian England in the past (Jetly 2006).


The exact boundaries of Baluchistan, that is, where Balochis live in sizeable majorities, to this day remain undetermined. The Encyclopaedia of Islam defines its According to Sardar Khan Baloch in his book History of Baloch: Race and Baluchistan states that “if a Line be drawn from Sarakh on the Russian border to Gunbad, Meshed, thence straight to Bampur, Ramish and finally to Bundar Abbas, the territory to the east of this line touching the boundaries to the Baloch territories off Afghanistan and Mekran is mainly Baloch country” (Khan 1997).




Historically Baluchistan was formed part of the three distinct parts of the Greek conquered territories or Satrapo, as mentioned by historian Herodotus, which by and large, confirm to the description given by Encyclopaedia of Islam. They were:

·        Aracosia comprising Kandahar and Quetta Region.

·        Dragiana, including Helmund, Seistan and Chagai.

·        Gedrosia comprising (Pakistan and Iranian) Makran Coast.


Large chunks of Eastern Iran, Southern Afghanistan and Pakistani Baluchistan are so identical in geography and ecology that they form one natural region. Together they appear “more Central Asian than Indian”, according to Sir Denys Bray. boundaries as “comprising the south-east part of the Iranian plateau from Kirman desert eats of bam and the Bashagird Mountains to the western borders of Sindh and Punjab.” (Khan 1997)


The topography of the province offers itself as a fascinating study to military thinkers in particular. It may be divided into four distinct parts that are the Upper Highland, the Lower Highland, the Plains and the Deserts. The province of Baluchistan is a land of great contrasts where one can experience a lot of geographical and geo-strategic difference from other part of the country. In sum, Baluchistan’s geo-strategic significance never dwindled; instead it continues to figure high in all eventualities. Its everlasting importance lies in its geography and in the dauntless and warlike natives the Baloch like the Spartans: the only variant which could not be altered by the British or by the other nations.


Geostrategic Significance

The location of Baluchistan makes it a sensitive part of Pakistan. Any politico-military development in Afghanistan, Iran and the gulf region affects the security of Baluchistan. Strategically, it is in the Warm Water belt- a region of historic interest for the super power in general and the erstwhile Soviet Union in particular. Baluchistan will be the future passageway to the emerging energy-hungry India, China, and Asian Pacific markets. The energy corridor from the Gulf to China and from Central Asia to the open seas presently has to go through the heart of Baluchistan. Politically its geographical location with neighbouring Iran has enhanced its importance for the US. Its vast border with Afghanistan makes Baluchistan a key player in “War on Terrorism”.


The Chinese have been investing in various projects in Baluchistan like the Saindak Project, Gas Exploration, Gwadar port, Coastal Highway linking Karachi and Gwadar, Rail Link from Dalbandin via Panjgoor to the Gwadar deep sea port. China is going to be the beneficiary of Gwadar's most accessible international trade routes to the Central Asian Republics and Xinjiang. By extending its East-West Railway from the Chinese border city of Kashi to Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest, Beijing can receive cargo to and from Gwadar along the shortest route, from Karachi to Peshawar. The rail network could also be used to supply oil from the Persian Gulf to Xinjiang. Nationalists believe that in the long run China may utilise Gwadar port for its economic and geo strategic interests in the region (Wirsing 2008).


US influence in the region is aimed at using Baloch land and Sea to cement its presence in order to protect its strategic and economic interests in Central Asia, South Asia, South West Asia, China, and to have a direct access to Strait of Hormuz (Persian Gulf). The US also wants to control the geo-politics of the region particularly the regional engagements of Iran, and fight against terrorism (Sanaullah 2004). Iranians also have their interests in the region which may be explained by the fact that Iran wants to develop its economy to meet the demands of modernisation by way of promoting higher Gas export, improve regional security, lessen US presence in the region, make inroads into Central Asia and Afghanistan, and curb Baloch, Kurd and Azeri movements within Iran (Baloch 2008)


Strategic Importance of Gwadar

Gwadar is strategically located on the south-western coast of Pakistan, close to the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. It is at a meeting point for increasingly important regions of the world: the oil-rich Middle East; heavily populated South Asia; and resource-rich Central Asia. The Gwadar deep-sea port emerges as a place of great strategic value, enhancing Pakistan's importance in the whole region, extending from the Persian Gulf through the Indian Ocean to Southeast Asia and the Far East.


The construction of the Gwadar deep-sea port is just one component of a larger development plan which includes building a network of roads connecting Gwadar with the rest of Pakistan, such as the 650 km Coastal Highway to Karachi and the Gwadar-Turbat road (188 km)(Wikipedia 2008). In order to develop Gwadar’s strategic location government had initiated several projects with the help of China:

·        First is to construct a deep-sea port at Gwadar to enable high-volume cargo movement.

·        Second is the construction of a coastal highway that will connect Gwadar to Karachi(Mallah and Budhani 2007)



By the early 1990s Pakistani demographic society or population was divided into five ethnic groups. The Punjabis constituted the majority at 55 percent of the population; the Sindhis accounted for another 20 percent, the Pathans and the Mujahirs for about 10 percent each, and the Balochis for about 5 percent (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2008).  In the context of Baluchistan the Balochis have a strong sense of cultural distinctiveness with their recorded folk literature dating back to tenth century, devoted to the glories of Baloch homeland and victorious battles against the Persian, Arabs, Tartars and other invaders.


Before colonial rule, Baluchistan was a high fragmented society.  Prior to British occupation and the subsequent division of the region, Baloch people’s way of life was organised in a federal way. In fact this way of life made it possible for people with different social realities come under the umbrella of a free, willingly accepted social and cultural code. Holdich a British officer working in Baluchistan, Persia and Afghanistan in the 18th century, wrote that ‘to south are the peoples of Arab extraction intermixed with people of Dravidian and Persian stock, all lumped together under the name of Baloch (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2008).


According to some independent accounts, Baluchistan was independent and sovereign region in the past. The Balochis had all the characteristic of a nation. They lived in an integral territory with its own culture, languages, history and traditions. Even under British occupation Baluchistan enjoyed more sovereignty alongside Nepal, compared to other Indian princely state.        


Ethnic Composition of Baluchistan

Baluchistan is a sparsely populated province of Pakistan; however, its population has rapidly increased during the last decade. Interesting for demographers, the population growth rate in Baluchistan is highest in Pakistan it is 8.5%. People of Baluchistan consists a number of tribes. There are 18 major tribal groups and many sub-groups. Each tribe is further sub-divided into various branches.


Among the eighteen major Baloch tribes, Bugtis and Marris are the principal ones who are settled in the buttresses of the Sulemania. The Talpur of Sindh also claim their Baloch origin. Balochi speaking tribes include Rind, Lasher, Marri, Jamot, Ahmedzai, Bugti Domki, Magsi, Khosa, Rakhashani, Dashti, Umrani, Nosherwani, Gichki, Buledi, Sanjarani and Khidai. The Marri tribe is a Baloch tribe on the Dera Ghazi border of Baluchistan. It occupies large parts of Kohlu district. Marri tribe is divided into three sub tribes namely Bijrani, Gazini and Lohrani. The tribal chief is called Sardar while head of sub-tribe is known as Malik, Takari or Mir. Sardars and Maliks are members of district and other local Jirgas according to their status .The Balochis, believed to have originally come from Arabia or Asia Minor, can be divided in to two branches: the Sulemani and Mekrani as distinct from the Brahvis who mostly concentrate in central Baluchistan (Weaver 2002)


The tribes speaking Brahvi include Raisani, Shahwani, Sumulani, Bangulzai, Mohammad Shahi, Lehri, Bezenjo, Mohammad Hasni, Zarakzai (Zehri) , Mengal and Lango. Most of these tribes are bi-lingual and are quite fluent both in the Balochi and Brahvi Languages. The Pashtun tribes include Kakar, Ghilzai Tareen, Mandokhel, Sherani, Looni, Kasi and Achakzai (Ahmed 1998).

Baluchistan contains a large number of minorities. According to the census report 1981, the total numbers of Christians were 29000; Hindus 27000; Ahmadis 6000; Parsi 4,000; Sikhs 1,000; and Bhahi 700.Their population nonetheless, like the rest of population has increased during the past years. Constituting five percent of the total population, and 20 percent of Quetta population, the minorities in Baluchistan have shared an important social- cultural and economic co-existence with the rest of population.


Political Actors:

Politically, Baluchistan is different too. Baluchistan is divided into pockets with       different political groups claiming their support on ethnic and political/ideological grounds. No political party in Baluchistan has ever shown a majority in assembly, a         factor responsible for no-coalition free government in Baluchistan under an elected                rule. Even in the heyday of National Awami Party (NAP) legitimacy of public          support in 1972-75, it could form the government with the support of only Jamiat Ulema-E-Islam (JUI). In 43-member assembly today, majority of the members are               Sardars/feudal and Khans. The unrest in Baluchistan is the result of injustices. Baluchistan’s problem is political and can be solved politically. Opposition politicians also point out that the centre was responsible for perpetuating the Sardari system, relying on divide-and-rule policies and using pliable Sardars to consolidate its hold over the province. Indeed, many of the more than 70 major Baloch Sardars are beneficiaries of state patronage in return for services rendered.



Since the creation of Pakistan, Baloch’s have shown their indifferent attitude to become a part of Pakistan, and therefore rebelled by demanding greater autonomy or an independent state, which would reunite the 5 million Balochis in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan under one flag. The basic cause behind this problem is the conflict among the ethnic groups. Pakistan despite being an Islamic state has ethnically diverse population. Equal treatment and equal opportunities in social, political and economic life are the key for the integration of Pakistan. However this has not happened and in reality Punjabis have come to dominate. As a result, the rest of the ethnic groups like Sindhis, Balochs, Pakhtoons and Muhajirs are suffering from a persecution complex. The creation of the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM) by various groups and demands for separate state is the result of these feelings. Another factor behind this movement is the deprivation from economic welfare of common Balochi by feudal, capitalist society of Pakistan. The fruits of development have not reached in this backward state that’s why the anger is uprising.


Socio-Economic conditions

In Pakistan, Baluchistan ranks highest for infant and maternal mortality rate, the country has 100 deaths per 10,000 live births, whereas Baluchistan has 108/10,000. Maternal mortality rate of the country is 350/100,000 and the province has a frighteningly high 600/100,000. According to the figures for poverty, Pakistan’s Integrated Household Survey 2001-02 revealed that Baluchistan has the highest poor population with 48 percent and the worst in rural areas with 51 percent living below the poverty line. Lack of health and educational institutions further endangers the lives of thousands of people in Baluchistan. The years of military operations, ill-conceived development policies and priorities, and poor governance have resulted in Baluchistan being the most backward province. In spite of being a resource-rich region, it lacks very basic facilities and infrastructure. As compared to the 75% in country only 25% population in province have access to electricity (Government of Pakistan 1980)


According to the SPDC high deprivation conditions are there in Baluchistan. It contains the highest population living in a high degree of deprivation. 60 per cent of its population comes below poverty line, which in comparison to other province is very high (PSRU 2007). Following Table shows the populations indicators of Baluchistan during year 1998.



Population Indicators Of Baluchistan 1998, Census


Administrative Units


Area s.q. Km


Population Census 1998 (in Millions)






Density per sq. Km


Sex Ratio (male per hundred female)


Singulate Mean Age at Marriage of Female


Person per House Hold (H.H.)


Person per Room


% of Pop. Having one Room


% of H.H. having Pipe-water


% of H.H. without Latrine


% of H.H. having Electricity


Fertility Rate


Child Women Ratio


Estimated Population in year 2004 (In Millions)


Source: Pakistan Census Organization, Islamabad & Survey of Pakistan, Quetta. 2008


Economically, the Baloch feel the central government in Pakistan is treating Baluchistan as a colony, exploiting its resources without sharing the benefits. Natural gas was discovered in the Sui fields in the province in 1953 and by 1964, the gas was being piped to Multan and Rawalpindi in Punjab. Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, received none of the gas from its own land until 1986. Pakistani Government is investing into new development programmes but some Balochis mention that skilled people from other provinces are in line for the jobs in these projects and ultimately foreign influence would be threatening the indigenous culture of the region. (Jetly 2006)

Socially, most Baloch feel that they are marginalised in their own land. The federal government, dominated by Punjabis, has allowed many Punjabi civilian and military personnel posted to Baluchistan to buy prime land in the province. It is the least developed province but rich in energy and mineral resources, meeting more than 40 per cent of Pakistan’s energy needs through its gas and coal reserves and accounting for 36 per cent of its total gas production. Large energy reserves remain untapped (Grare 2006: 4-5). However, 46.6 per cent of households have no electricity (Federal Bureau of Statistics 2005: 64). Consistent degradation of the water supply and absence of storage systems, such as small dams, have turned much of Baluchistan, with its predominantly rural population, into an arid wasteland. According to the Karachi-based Social Policy and Development Centre, poverty levels are twice that of Punjab, Pakistan’s most prosperous province; urban unemployment is 12.5 per cent, compared to the countrywide average of 9.7 per cent; and half the population lives below the poverty line.


Politically, Baloch discontentment and feelings of relative deprivation have functioned at two levels – the federal level and the provincial level. The federal government is largely Punjabi and the Baloch feel that the Punjabis are disproportionately represented in terms of wielding power at the centre. At the provincial level, the ire was directed towards the Pashtuns who flooded the province after the Afghanistan crisis in the 1980s. The Pashtuns soon dominated the business sectors, especially construction and transport.


Apart from being socio-economically disadvantaged, the Baloch are also politically disenfranchised at the provincial and central levels, with poor representation in the civil service and armed forces. For example, in 1972, only 5% of the provincial civil service in Baluchistan itself was made up of Baloch.


Due to government policies in 2004 Baluchistan was up in arms against the federal government, with the Baluchistan Liberation Army, Baluchistan Liberation Front, and People's Liberation Army conducting operations. Rocket attacks and bomb blasts have been a regular feature in the provincial capital, particularly its cantonment areas of Kohlu and Sui Town, since 2000, and had claimed over 50 lives by mid-2004. In response Pakistan army demolished many houses and Marri areas and killed many civilians as war is still going on though media is not reporting much of it because of restriction on media in Pakistan.


In 2004 the BLA killed three Chinese engineers working on the Port and Gwadar airport was attacked by rockets. This is because Baloch insurgent groups view the construction of Gwadar port as a "conspiracy" to exploit Baluchistan’s resources because the project provides little in terms of employment and development to the locals. Government says that the Gwadar project would bring investment, which would be good for the province but Gwadar deep-sea port project have raised fears among Baluch of an influx of economic migrants which may lead to demographic imbalance. No steps have been taken to improve the poor health facilities or to even provide access to safe drinking water to Gwadar and other parts of Makran division thus insurgents hampering the ongoing development work by carrying out attacks against security forces and infrastructure. Baloch nationalist insist that Gwadar Port must be placed under the control of the provincial government, ending the practice of allocating coastal lands on Islamabad’s own choice. (Baloch 2008)



Baluchistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, covering about 44 percent of the country's total land area. Baluchistan has its geo-strategic significance that never dwindled; instead, it continued to figure high in all eventualities. Its enduring importance, it seems lies in the fact that it is close to the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. For example, recent idea of the Americans to pump out the Central Asian gas and oil through Afghanistan via Baluchistan and using Balochi port to deliver it throughout the world is in fact a historical chance for Baluchistan to get more development, investment, and improvement to quality of life of its citizens.


Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, in the first рlасе, and its subsequent declaration of intention to withdraw, had far reaching imp1ication for Pakistan. This is because оf the location оf the Baluchistan in such close proximity to Afghanistan, and as most оf the vital land and air routes leading to and from Soviet Central Asia to the Arabian Sea go through it.


The coast of Baluchistan has numerous natural harbours namely Jiwani, Gwadar, Pasni, Ormara and some more fishing harbours. These ports especially Gwadar has the potential to kick-start economic development in a region that has remained most backward in Pakistan. The port due to its location at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, some 460 km. from Karachi, has immense geostrategic significance. The southernmost point of Gulf of Oman, Ras-al -Hadd is only 190 nautical mile from Gwadar. This enables any naval vessel at Gwadar to interdict any ship entering or leaving Persian Gulf. Besides, it provides the shortest and cost-effective access to the landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics. The continued unstable regional environment in the region after the Gulf War of 1991 and the emergence of the new Central Asian States has added to the importance of this port. It is in this background that China has built the commercial port at Gwadar. 


Despite being the richest province in terms of energy and mineral resources, Baluchistan remains one of the most underdeveloped provinces. The most dominant factor behind the current disturbances in Baluchistan is the way through which the resources of Baluchistan are being used. The federal governments had successively exploited the economic resources without either a due acknowledgement of Baluchistan’s contribution to the national economy or its recompense in monetary or financial measures. The natural gas deposits of Baluchistan cater in a very large measure to the running of industries, factories, businesses and for predominantly domestic usages in all of the provinces of Pakistan. As said by Ghualm Mustafa, a development economist at the international developmental NGO in Pakistan “Over the years, the income from natural resources in the province has not been properly distributed and the common Balochi people have not benefited from it” (Mustafa 2008). The Baloch nationalist claims that the royalties received from these projects are negligible. The benefits of these projects to Baluchistan have proved to be of little significance and as the Baloch began to realise this, they started to articulate this sense of exploitation.


Another important factor which has vitiated the atmosphere in Baluchistan is the division of the province on ethnic lines. The Baloch- Pakhtuns ratio in the province is reckoned at 60:40, although this is not borne out by reliable statistical figures or census records. The Pashtoons are economically better off occupying fertile lands in the north of the province, which are connected by proper roads. Balochs in contrast are backward and overwhelmed by poverty-as a result of the Sardari system.


Way Forward

The government and the elders of the Baluchistan should put together and find out the solution amicably. They should unite on one platform in the national interest and seek a way out to attract foreign direct investment in the country. The development programme in the province should be taken up with full force. The process of national reconciliation should be adopted and encouraged. Present situation of disturbance calls for the introduction of both short term and long term measures to bring a healthy change in the province. Some suggestions in this regards are:-

·        A constitutional provision is needed to protect the rights of all ethnic minorities. It should include provisions for the protection and development of their language, culture, economy and human rights.

·        The need for provincial and local government autonomy is particularly strong in Sindh outside Karachi, Hyderabad and Baluchistan, where a large number of civil servants are not willing to transfer.

·        The tribesmen accuse the bureaucracy that tribal Sardars are a hindrance in the way of development. The government should find new solutions to these very old problems by analysis, study and research.


Unfortunately, the pace of its growth has remained alarmingly slow. The prime reasons beings its difficult terrain and its arid lands which made the establishment of the developmental infrastructure ordeal in itself. Despite all that its urban centers are swelling fast due to innumerable commercial and trading activities becoming possible day by day. The province has its own university now. An engineering college at Khuzdar and a medical college at Quetta have provided ample opportunities for its people for benefiting from the resulting educational awakening, Quotas for educational facilities and jobs which are meant to develop the backward people are used by the feudal lords and Sardars to advance their own families and a few loyal associates. The quotas are needed by backward communities but measures must be established to ensure that the facilities are well-targeted and used by the most deserving within each community. The quotas for people of Baluchistan and rural Sindhis must be used by the most deserving among them rather than by nominees of the powerful.


Given the ethnic divisions in other parts of the country, and cultural and linguistic different among the two main groups, demand for division of the province can become an issue and may lead to conflict. Steps taken now to achieve integration of the various communities would prevent such conflict.


The grievances of the people have been underestimated and ignored. Their concerns and justified demands need to be fully understood and acted upon. The small provinces suffer from all of the problems that the country as a whole does. In addition, they suffer from the issues peculiar to them. The government must pay special attention to developing the small provinces which happen to be least developed. Special encouragement must be given to new industries, particularly those providing employment and future growth (e.g. electronics). Inter-provincial problems like allocation of water and financial resources must be resolved equitably. The federal government must consider special development priorities of the people of small provinces.


Pakistan has to survive in twenty-first century and follow the internationally accepted norms. If Baluchistan becomes independent, Pakistan would lose a major part of its natural resources and would become more dependent on the Middle East for its energy supplies. Although Baluchistan’s resources are currently underexploited and benefit only the non-Baloch provinces, especially Punjab, these resources could undoubtedly contribute to the development of an independent Baluchistan.


Because of the ongoing conflict in Baluchistan a question arises in front of the policymakers of Pakistan that what should be done to ensure peace and security, which is vital for Baluchistan’s development and welfare of its people. It requires a two-pronged strategy. First, as an immediate measure, the writ of the civil government should be established. The criminals, who are guilty of rape, murder, attacking public property and damaging government installations, must be dealt with. Second, as a permanent measure, the genuine political, economic or social grievances must be seriously addressed.



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Received on 16.07.2012

Revised on   06.08.2012

Accepted on 12.08.2012

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