Is Pakistan overhyping India's role in Balochistan?
Balochistan has, for years now, been a tinderbox waiting for a spark. The only way a conflagration could have been averted was through extraordinarily sensitive political management. Instead, Musharraf has been exceptionally ham-handed and, whenever there is a cry for equity or justice, the response has be-en the military jackboot.
Within this pattern, the most bizarre was the response to the demands for justice in the Dr Shazia Khalid rape case, where a cover-up and outright repression provoked rising violence. Even today, no action has been taken against the perpetrators; instead, the victim was hounded out of Pakistan.
Talk of the 'Indian hand' has suddenly begun to dominate Pakistani discourse because the military junta has failed abysmally in addressing Baloch problems, and there has been a consequent and continuous escalation.
Recall that, even in early 2005, Musharraf had threatened the Baloch: "This is not the 1970s... they will not even know what and from where something has come and hit them." There was no talk, then, of any 'Indian hand'.
All efforts at political management have now been visibly abandoned. Of the two Parliamentary sub-committees set up to go into Baloch grievances, the one on constitutional issues failed to submit a report; the Mushahid Hussain Committee's sweeping proposals have proven still-born. Musharraf insists that the problem is of a 'few sardars' but the current movement has united all classes. Balochistan never accepted its forcible annexation by Pakistan, and there has been a continuous history of rebellion.
Islamabad has kept the Baloch entirely out of the scope of development — they are the poorest in the country, with little opportunity for employment and an abysmal record on all social indices. Worse, the province has been transformed into a massive cantonment, even as over a million people have been brought in from the outside in an exercise in demographic re-engineering. These outsiders have been the exclusive beneficiaries of all 'development'. For the Baloch, the only thing in abundant supply has been the weapons that the ISI siphoned to them out of the 'Afghan pipeline'. Given the history of neglect and unrest, where is the need for an Indian hand?
India's 'intervention' in the present case is limited to an expression of concern at the use of helicopter gunships and artillery against civilian population, facts that have been documented by many Pakistani organisations.
As a democracy and a civilised neighbour, we cannot remain silent in the face of such barbaric action.
(Published in The Times of India, January 22, 2006)