Fazal Muhammad Khan
Amid frustrations — thanks to the worsened law and order situation and the bottommost socio-economic mobility in the province — Balochistan’s government has undertaken some laudable initiatives, particularly in education sector. These include cabinet’s recent decisions to induct native mother languages in educational curriculum of the province as optional subjects, introducing chapters on such veteran Baloch and Pashtun nationalist leaders as Ghaus Bakhsh Buzenjo (1917-1989) and Shaheed Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai (1907-1973), regularizing more than 5000 teachers from eighteen different districts recruited under Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package, and suspending some corrupt officials in the department.
By the same token, Balochistan government also took the lead when it succeeded in holding local bodies’ elections on December 7 in a peaceful manner despite its volatile security situation while the other provinces still employ foot-dragging devices, citing one or other reason, in devolving power to the lower tiers.
These initiatives coupled with the promises in health sector, which include devolving power from the provincial health secretariat at Quetta to the divisional and district level offices in respective cities, do not at all certify the provincial ministers’ mantra that the situation in Balochistan has improved in the last 8 months. That being said, certain issues which needed immediate attentions of both federal and provincial governments since they came into power in June last year still remain unaddressed.
First, sectarian strife continues to perpetuate. Hazara Shiite ethnical minority of the province still faces existential threat to its survival causing massive legal and illegal immigration of Hazara youth and families to European countries, particularly to Australia. Many of these illegal migrants are becoming prey to human trafficking via land and sea routes, suffer from miserable travel conditions and some of them even die on the way. Thanks to government’s continued inaction on providing protection to Hazaras and the absence of effective legislation on human trafficking, it has become a profitable business in the province.
Second, there appears no end to forced disappearances. 70 years old Mama Qadeer Baloch is on Long March again this time en route to Islamabad from Karachi, calling for the recovery of missing persons and an end to forced disappearances.
Not a single of those already missing has been recovered since this government (both federal and provincial) has sworn in. Dumped mutilated dead bodies of these missing persons, however, continue to be found frequently in rural areas of Balochistan.
In the backdrop of this grave issue, the staggering statement of Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch on October 27 last year, wherein he admitted his failure in recovering missing persons, raised the eyebrows of political observers and both Baloch and Pashtun nationalists. Such statements do nothing but reinforce the popular notion that a parallel government run by those at Quetta Cantonment still operates in Balochistan.
Third, kidnapping for ransom has become a thriving business these days in Balochistan with kidnappers demanding ransom amount in millions from the families of those kidnapped. As an example, an amount of rupees one billion has been demanded from the family of Awami National Party’s central leader and its former provincial president Arbab Abdul Zahir Kasi who was abducted in October last year and is still missing. In yet another shocking instance, the renowned cardiologist Dr. Manaf Tareen’s family had to pay rupees 50 million for his safe arrival to home in Quetta on December 2 last year after 78 days of his abduction in September. Disgracefully, the government has failed in its recovery operation in both these abduction cases.
While hearing the case of kidnapping of Arbab Abdul Zahir in November, Balochistan high Court remarked that the people were abducted in daytime from the busy roads of the city and the police could do nothing. Court further said, “There are only four roads in Quetta and it is ironic that law enforcers are still unable to maintain peace and protect the citizens’ life and property”. These remarks explicitly reflect the severity of this issue.
Fourth, unemployment in Balochistan is at 20% despite the fact that it makes only 5 % of country’s population. This certainly makes youth in the province prone to recruitment in secessionist, extremist and sectarian militant outfits.
Fifth, research in the universities located in Balochistan is down to zero. Technical expertise required for the operations of scientific instruments in laboratories in universities is close to nonexistence. Additionally, the number of PhDs produced each year by Punjab University alone exceeds the total number of PhDs produced by all the five public-sector universities of Balochistan. Worse still, graduates produced by these universities very rarely have the capacity to compete in labor market and services sector with the graduates of universities located in other provinces.
Sixth, and the most important to me, Pashtuns’ resentment over the parity principle (that Balochs and Pashtuns must be treated equally in all sectors) has so far not been addressed even though the Pashtuns’ party Pashtunkhwa Mili Awami Party has also been in power since May 11 general elections.
Merit continues to be slayed by the district-wise quota system, depriving competent Pashtun youths of their fundamental right to compete both in admissions to educational institutes and in recruitment to various posts. In an advertisement on January 21, 2014 by Balochistan Public Service Commission, for example, not even a single of total 344 posts of male lecturers has been reserved for the Pashtuns. Additionally, out of total 330 posts of female lecturers, only 81 seats have been reserved for female aspirants from Pashtun-populated districts of Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifullah and Loralai. Put together, out of the total 674 seats, 593 seats are reserved for Baloch aspirants from fifteen Baloch populated districts, and only 81 seats are reserved for Pashtun aspirants from only three Pashtun populated districts. Moreover, albeit qualifying the criteria, Pashtun bureaucrats still find themselves deprived of the administrative posts of higher grades in provincial secretariat.
By the same token, NADRA continues to play the deplorable role of blocking or resisting in issuing computerized NICs to many Pashtuns, rendering them the status of Muhajirs in their own very land.
Corruption, smuggling, poverty, and religious madrasas’ pouring in graduates with extremist and militant mindsets in social fabric of the province are yet some other straws which have continuously been breaking the camel’s back.
So far it has only been a zero-sum game with those at the helm of affairs at the receiving end.
Legislation has to be oriented in the direction of a prosperous Balochistan. Although we often come to hear the stories of ministers holding the hands of bureaucrats in provincial secretariat, showing them the whole morass, making them emerge from their inaction clout and work for welfare of people, yet they have to do more than that.
All they (legislators) need to do is to unite, work as one political unit and come up with uniform policy — acceptable to all — to pacify the situation in Balochistan. They are bound to do it now, for if they do not, Balochistan’s conundrum is bound to surface like a demon for the whole nation.
Fazal Muhammad Khan is a youth activist, politician and General Secretary of Institute for Development Education and Advocacy (IDEA). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org