When 4 security forces members were martyred by Baloch insurgents in an indiscriminately violent and ruthless attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange, Pakistanis were quick to blame India. The attack may very well have originated in India, but it is equally true that the consistent and historic neglect of the Balochistan province by successive governments has played a vital role in bringing about Baloch separatism. This neglect needs to be corrected if Pakistan wants to avoid a repeat of 1971.
India’s role in stoking the Baloch insurgency is well documented. Although the country denies it, the presence and testimony of RAW agent Kulbhushan Yadav coupled with the known friendliness of Baloch insurgents with Indian officials, as well as the precedent of India encouraging dissent in East Pakistan in 1971 makes it reasonably evident.
However, as in 1971, while political motives of different figures can be discussed and debated for hours, one thing that has little dispute is the reality of historic political, economic and social neglect of the respective provinces. Up till 1971, East Pakistan was treated miserably by its Western counterpart, and, while debates about whether or not secession was inevitable or necessary could go on forever, one undeniable truth is that had West Pakistan been fairer to their Eastern brothers, the dismemberment of Pakistan could have been avoided.
The parallel is clear. Today, Balochistan stands having been mistreated economically, socially and politically for far too long. It is well documented. A report by Gallup Pakistan showed that 64% of Baloch Pakistanis had never attended school, while Sindh and KpK had relatively much lower rates of 45% and Punjab had the lowest of 32%. The SBP’s annual report (2018-2019) revealed that, despite some increases, the development expenditure of each province was lowest for Balochistan. Furthermore, an October 2019 World Bank report showed that Balochistan had the highest poverty rate of over 40%. There are numerous other reports illustrating the striking disparities between Balochistan and the rest of Pakistan.
Yes, India may or may not once again be trying to destabilize Pakistan by encouraging a separatist movement, but the root cause of the instability is Pakistan’s mistreatment of Balochistan and its failure to protect the Baloch Pakistanis from political and economic threats. If the Baloch Pakistanis knew that their fellow countrymen thought of them and supported them, the average civilian would have no reason to covertly or overtly support violent insurgencies — and the one thing terrorists need most of all to survive and thrive, more than guns, artillery and bombs, is civilian support.