Pakistan: Balochistan’s alienation

The PML-N government will find itself in quicksand with so many adversaries fighting in so many directions on so many fronts

One of the salient features of the last week’s ‘free and fair’ elections was the polling of more than hundred percent. If that was the case generally in Pakistan then the situation in Balochistan was even more incredible. According to a report published in the Daily Times, “Though the Election Commission of Pakistan has said that the election turnout was more than 50 percent, local Baloch activists reported a very small turnout of around three percent only. Political observers believe a direct threat from the insurgents and calls of wheel-jam strike from the nationalist parties like the Balochistan National Front, Baloch Republican Party in the Baloch-dominated areas curtailed public rallies before the polls and produced a very low turnout in the province on the Election Day.”

Balochistan whose large parts were annexed through deceit and military aggression by the Pakistani state in 1948 has been in constant turmoil and armed conflict ever since. Up till the late 1970s these struggles for national liberation were fused with left currents and socialist ideological aspirations. These were brutally crushed by the military aggression supported by the Iranian monarchy and US imperialism. In the recent period, most of the nationalist leadership’s ideological orientation has moved to a narrow nationalist distraction but the repression of the state has intensified.

The overall recent elections results have been mismanaged due to the covert conflicts between the Pakistani establishment and the imperialist bosses. A daunting situation where a single right wing party in power could be a provocation for a mass revolt, as they will try to enforce the poisonous economic recipes of the imperialist institutions. The contradictions within the state and the political elite can also explode, prompting further instability and conflagration in society that could be destructive even for the interests of the imperialists and the ruling classes. It looks increasingly likely that Nawaz Sharif will be a partner of the next provincial government in Balochistan. This will further aggravate the national question rather than resolving it. The Baloch-Pashtun conflict that has always been evoked and kept at a sub-threshold level by certain sections of the state can spiral out of control and add another dimension in the bloody mayhem that is devastating the oppressed masses of the province. Like his predecessors, Sharif will spin the old redundant and over used gimmick like the Aaghaz a Haqooq-e-Balochistan. This will be a vain attempt to camouflage the blatant national oppression and state repression.

Already there are more than two proxy wars ravaging Balochistan. In the past it was the conflict between the Baloch youth and oppressed masses for their national and social liberation and the state forces repressing them to maintain the colonial rule of the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani state. But in the present scenario other imperialist forces and their protégés in various ideological garbs such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have entered the fray with devastating and barbaric atrocities being committed, surpassing the usual violence of the state in the form of kidnappings and targeted killing. The bestial mass killing of Hazaras is the product of this frenzy. It is not only that sections of the deep state are supporting these fanatic mafia gangs but also the Saudi and other reactionary monarchies of the Gulf states are massively financing these mainly Sunni sects and sub-sects. The Iranian clergy has its clients amongst the fanatic Shia outfits.

The organic and inherent crisis of world capitalism and the world crash of 2008 unleashed the vulture corporate firms in search of virgin territories for further rape and pillage. Balochistan is no exception to this. The Chinese have carved out a pivotal position in the Pakistani state. This is amply demonstrated by the fact that the Pakistan army buys 42 percent of its military hardware from China and 36 percent from the US. The Chinese elite wants to enhance their investments and control over the gold, copper, lithium and other mineral reserves that are worth something between 1.5 and 3 trillion dollars. The Chinese are also developing more profitable trade routes to the Gulf and the markets of the Middle East via the Gwadar Port and the Gwadar Xinxiang highway or the new silk route that will reduce the trading distance to the Middle East by more than 2,000 kilometres.

The US imperialists, western mining giants, Indian and Russian capitalist conglomerates have their stakes in this new great game being fought out in Balochistan. The Americans are sponsoring some of the groups involved in this insurgency. Last year, a right wing Republican, Dana Rohrabacher of California, who is a member of the house foreign affairs subcommittee, put forward an amendment to the US Congress stating, “The people of Balochistan should have the right to self-determination and to their own separate country.” This is an insult to the youth and the oppressed masses of Balochistan who have struggled for their national and socio-economic emancipation for generations and given enormous sacrifices. The Baloch youth in struggle are rapidly discovering and are embracing the revolutionary ideals of the movement in the 1960s and 1970s. They will not be deceived by these treacherous rhetorical claims of imperialism. History is witness to the fact that imperialism has always used the national question to make and break countries to impose their political hegemony for expanding markets, extracting huge profits and plundering their resources and wealth.

The new government in Pakistan is coming to power in the worst socio-economic milieu in the country’s history. Under capitalism the poverty, misery and deprivation in Balochistan will only worsen. The resentment against nationalist oppression and socio-economic coercion will further inflame the armed struggle against the forces of repression. The PML-N government will find itself in quicksand with so many adversaries fighting in so many directions on so many fronts. A political settlement and a negotiated peace or armistice is next to impossible leading to even more state violence, brutality and terror. Under capitalism, the Baloch youth and the masses cannot attain their national and economic rights. The national oppression in Balochistan is being carried out by the same reactionary forces that are indulging in an excruciating class oppression and exploitation in other parts of the country. The rivers of the struggle for national liberation have to be channelled into the ocean of class struggle. Only on this basis can these oppressive regimes and state apparatus be overthrown. Such a revolutionary victory shall lead to the formation of a voluntary socialist federation of South Asia in which every nationality will have the complete freedom to exercise their right of self-determination.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at