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Punishing Jadhav Will Not End Unrest in Balochistan

If you follow official reactions and reports in the national media, Pakistanis and Indians are both arguing that they have won the case at the International Court of Justice over the alleged Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav. The Court has asked Pakistani authorities to hold Jadhav’s death sentence that was awarded for his reported involvement in supporting terrorism in restive parts of Pakistan.

The Jadhav episode has given the Pakistani government a great opportunity to divert attention from the actual conflict in Balochistan and the miseries of the people there. Given the deep-rooted anti-Indian sentiments in the national media, it wasn’t surprising to see everyone across Pakistan subscribe to the official version of the story that Jadhav was behind sponsoring violence in Balochistan, where an active insurgency has been taking place since 2004. This can be a convenient, although temporary, break for the government from the bitter truth that Balochistan’s problems are deepening and they need timely action.

It is hard to believe that one Indian agent could destabilize the largest province of a country with nuclear powers. Whether Islamabad decides to award death sentence to the Indian spy or releases him as a gesture of goodwill (which seems very unlikely), this will not change anything in Balochistan. After much work avoidance, the government can't run away from such a big mess. It will eventually have to come back and focus on several outstanding issues that only Pakistan, not India, can address.

Jadhav is least of Balochistan’s problems as long as Pakistan continues to tolerate the presence of Islamic extremist organizations like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in the province. After all, these are the groups from whom the people of Balochistan need protection.

The government has misplaced priorities. With Jadhav dead or alive, Balochistan will gain nothing. However, it loses when extremists affiliated with the Islamic State kill dozens of people, claim responsibility for their actions and the government, instead of bringing them to justice, even persistently denies their existence.

On the other hand, Baloch militants’ fetish for the blood of the non-Baloch laborers is deeply distressing. They keep killing construction workers again and again. Law enforcement agencies must have a more satisfactory explanation than blaming India for everything.

Balochistan needs a wise public policy on almost every front, from law enforcement to human development. The hullabaloo over an Indian spy caught in Balochistan helps Islamabad in settling scores with India, but these rhetorical ploys will hardly lead to a safer and a happier Balochistan.

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