A death in Toronto brings attention again to the struggles in Pakistan’s Balochistan


The death of human rights activist Karima Baloch in Toronto last week has again brought world attention to the trouble in Pakistan’s Balochistan region. The 37-year-old activist had gone missing after setting out for a walk. The police said that they had no reason to suspect foul play but her family told the BBC that “her death at least warrants closer inspection”.Baloch, an advocate for independence for her resource-rich region, had been living in exile in Canada since 2016. She had fled Pakistan the previous year, fearing she would be “disappeared” by the authorities as several other activists had been.This wasn’t the first death of a Baloch activist in exile this year. In March, the body of exiled journalist Sajid Hussain Baloch was found in Sweden’s Fyris River, outside Uppsala, just over 20 days after he had gone missing. Though the police ruled out foul play, others were more sceptical.Said Daniel Bastard, the head of the Asia-Pacific desk of Reporters Without Border that works to protect journalists, “Everything indicates that this is an enforced disappearance. And if you ask yourself who would have an interest in silencing a dissident journalist, the first response would have to be the Pakistani intelligence services.”
Deep resentments
The root of the problem is Balochistan is the perception of residents that they have not benefited from the exploitation of the extensive natural resources of their province, their resentment at the slow pace of provincial economic development and the influx of people from other provinces.The province’s desire for autonomy runs deep. On June 3, 1947 when the Indian Independence Act was announced, Balochistan had announced its independence. It was only after lot of pressure from Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah that it agreed to accede to Pakistan in March 1948.The accession is not yet complete as it was not passed by both the houses of the Parliament.The region has already seen four waves of violent unrest: in 1948, 1958-’59, 1962-’63 and 1973-’77. The present violence, the fifth wave of unrest, started with Pervez Musharraf taking over as president in 1999. It was heightened in 2005 and is still simmering.The confrontation between Baloch nationalists and the state is complicated by rivalries, strategic alliances between tribes and sub-tribes and by human rights abuses committed by Pakistan’s Special Forces.Pakistan has often blamed the “foreign hand”, including India, for the troubles in Balochistan. It has also blamed Iran for provoking Shias, who are an equally prosecuted minority in Pakistan.The armed struggle for independence in Balochistan has now got international attention due to exploitation of its vast natural resources and the construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an ambitious Chinese project traversing almost 870 kms through the state.courtesy scroll . by M Gen Yash Mor