Jawad Ahmed Khan
Disparity is a norm among various regions of Pakistan. A great number of people are marginalized and neglected at the hands of the government, the so-called independent media, judiciary and other powerful instruments of the state. Pashtoons residing in Balochistan are one such prominent example. Around 7.5 million Pashtoons have been living for centuries on a vast area of 45,000 square miles spanning from Sibi to Zhob, constituting 12 districts. Decades-long political maneuvering has forcefully annexed them with Balochistan.
Against the general mindset that Balochistan is a one-nation province comprised only of Baloch people, it needs to be brought to light that ground realities are starkly different. It can be argued that around half the population of Balochistan is ethnically Pashtoon. Some 8% are Punjabis, Hazaras and other communities, considered invaders and settlers by the Baloch and guests by Pashtoons. The rest, somewhat more than 40% , are Baloch. These are just estimations pending confirmation as the census results will be announced later this year.
Historically Balochistan was comprised of two parts; the chief commissioner province and the four states including Qalat, Lasbela, Kharan and Makran. The chief commissioner province, whose actual status was less than that of a province, was confusingly given the deceiving name of British Balochistan. In Jinnahâ€™s 14 points of 1929, the 10th point asked for complete provincial status for Balochistan. In the Indian Act of 1935 and till the partition of the Subcontinent, both the states and British Balochistan were recognized and given separate representation.
After Independence, the crippling efforts of constitution building landed Balochistan the curse of One Unit which was actually a ploy by the establishment of West Pakistan to counter the majority population of East Pakistan (currently Bangladesh). Under One Unit, the Baloch majority states were given the name of Qalat division while the Pashtoon belt was named Quetta division. In 1969 when Yahya Khan announced the demolition of One Unit, the two parts of current Balochistan were unthinkingly combined into one province against the will of the Pashtoons. Since then this outrageous annexure of Pashtoon and Baloch areas has been strongly opposed and rejected by the Pashtoons.
The most popular and revered Pashtoon nationalist leader, also an icon of the independence movement, Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai Shaheed had led the movement against the forced joining of these historically disparate nationalities. He has also been supported by other prominent Pashtoon and Baloch leaders such as Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and others, in his demand for the restoration of provincial status for the Baloch belt, and the joining of Pashtoon belt with NWFP (Currently Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa).
With this historical background, the Pashtoons of Balochistan have been demanding that the government conduct a fair census. The census will not only settle the question of majority population in the province but will also help geographically locate respective communities. This would be a first step towards the possible restructuring of the province. So far, in all government policies, including budget, education, public Â jobs etc. reference is taken from the census of 1997 which cannot be considered credible as the Pashtoon belt was not properly surveyed by the authorities. For this reason, the largest political party of the Pashtoon belt, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), does not accept the same census. Moreover the massive infiltration of Pashtoon refugees from Afghanistan over the past decade has also changed demographics a great deal.
Despite their great numbers, distinct historical background and multitude of talents, Pashtoons have not received due recognition and are subjected to discriminatory policies in the political and social domain. The most important official positions such as governor, chief minister, chief secretary, commissioner of the capital and others have always been given to the Baloch people. However, the outstanding success of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party in the current elections is expected to change the equation. While Pashtoons also deserve them equally, most of the public posts are reserved for the Baloch only. The quota system for admissions in public sector educational institutions and government jobs is one such example of discriminatory policies. Recently 41 posts of grade 17 were announced and distributed in such a way that 36 seats were given to Baloch areas and only 6 seats were given to Pashtoons.
Undeniably Baloch people have been brutally suppressed and marginalized by the state and are deserving of positive action from the authorities to compensate for ills against them. But compensation for the Baloch should not come at the price of denying Pashtoons their due rights. Pashtoons believe in non-violent and democratic struggle for their rights. Taking that into account and learning from other suppressed nations like the Baloch, the state should not push any community to the point where armed struggle is the only option left.