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Two Balochistans

A quick analysis of two important events of the past few days reveals that there are two Balochistans. One Balochistan that belongs to the government, is happy, prosperous and rapidly developing. The other Balochistan, which is people’s Balochistan, is increasingly transforming into a graveyard where terrorists are able to regularly kill innocent citizens and then get away with it.

There are severe tensions between these two Balochistans.

Leaders of the first Balochistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, inaugurated the Gwadar Port under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “Today marks dawn of new era,” said the Prime Minister, “the enemies of CPEC are the enemies of Pakistan.” Unlike the elite Balochistan, people’s Balochistan is still mourning because a terrorist attack by the Islamic State (IS) on a shrine in Lasbela District has killed around sixty (60) people just a day before the inauguration of the Port. The army or the security forces have made no promise to go after the terrorists who killed our people simply because, in the words of Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti, the attackers were foreigners. It is a disgrace that a country with nuclear weapons is unable to protect its citizens from a bunch of terrorists. It does not matter if terrorists are local or foreigners. The government has a responsibility to trace and destroy every terrorist group. That is primarily the government’s job. Leaders are voted to and paid in public office to serve people not to make excuses or shift blame from one actor to the other.

There are currently two Balochistans because while the rich and the elite danced and enjoyed music over the launch of CPEC in Gwadar, the people of the other Balochistan mourned, sobbed and begged for justice for their loved ones who had so mercilessly been killed by the Islamic State. It is not as if Balochistan or the visitors of the shrine that was bombed were averse to music and dancing. It is just that playing music and dancing is considered an insult to a community that is in a state of mourning. The Pakistani elite visiting Gwadar showed no respect to the sentiments of the people of Balochistan in the aftermath of the Lasbela attack. That insult was clearly government-sponsored. It could have been avoided to send a message to the people of Balochistan that the government cared for them.

CPEC is an immoral project because it dehumanizes Balochistan. The Pakistani elite have remained absolutely determined to complete the Gwadar Port regardless of the local Baloch population’s sentiments and needs. This project is a classic example of rulers loving the resources of an area but not caring at all about the local population. This project has been completed on gun point to meet the needs of the Pakistani elite. There are plans to increase security in the militarized province under the pretext to safeguard the Gwadar Port. Why should a ‘development’ project be guarded against the very people of the community? How can development be called development when it needs guns and guards to protect it instead of it being owned and cherished by the local people? CPEC will fail not because it lacks the investment or the infrastructure but because it lacks ownership and support of the Baloch people.

While working on CPEC, there has never been a pause for a moment to address Balochistan’s most outstanding issues. It is this reason that the government cares less for human lives in Balochistan and brazenly flaunts over the completion of economic projects. At this point, the people of Balochistan need protection and safety more than economic development. People are justified in asking questions to their rules as to what is going on in the province. Why isn’t the government taking any action against Islamic extremists that are killing our people with such impunity? Economic development can wait but we cannot bring back those who lose their lives. At this point, it is also important to be cautious about other trends and narratives that try to mitigate public anger toward terrorist attacks. While it is important for the government to help families of the victims with monetary compensation, we should not make that a business. The government cannot neglect its responsibilities by merely announcing a certain amount of money for the family members of those who are killed in terrorist attacks. It is very dangerous to make dispensation of compensation money a business or limit the government’s responsibilities to mere distribution of money among the families of the dead. The government has other important responsibilities to fulfill as well.

We should also stop telling people that their children died because god decided for them to die or became martyrs and landed straight in the heaven. This kind of consolation is unethical. It is not god but the negligence of duty by our government that is causing the loss of life. Why is it that god is only killing the innocent people of Balochistan and protecting the rich and the elite? God can surely not be so unfair. It is the people in power who must be held accountable.

This article originally appeared in The Baloch Hal

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