Editorial: Balochistan conundrum

WEB DESK: In what has become a ritual and recurring pattern of late, 202 Baloch ferraris (rebels) ‘surrendered’ to the authorities in Quetta early this week. In attendance to take the surrender were Chief Minister Balochistan, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Commander of the Southern Command, Lieutenant General Amir Riaz, ministers and, bureaucrats of the Balochistan government.

According to media reports, these 202 insurgents had returned from Afghanistan, the majority having returned after a long stay in Nimroz province, Afghanistan. Of the 202 returnees, 127 reportedly surrendered to the security forces in different areas during the last six months. At the surrender ceremony, the former guerrillas received cheques for the second instalment of compensation announced by the Balochistan government for insurgents bidding a farewell to arms and were promised rehabilitation in society under the amnesty scheme named ‘Pur-Amn [peaceful] Balochistan’ announced some time ago by the provincial government.

A senior official of the Balochistan government told reporters that over 800 insurgents belonging to different Baloch nationalist ferrari groups had surrendered since the announcement of the ‘Pur-Amn Balochistan’ policy and more were expected to lay down their arms soon. At the surrender ceremony, Commander Southern Command Lieutenant General Amir Riaz proffered an olive branch to all insurgents in exile or in the mountains, promising to accept them with respect and honour into the national mainstream, while at the same time unveiling the fist at those who continue fighting for the ‘nationalist cause’. Chief Minister Zehri weighed in with the message to all ferraris not to be misled by Brahmdagh Bugti, Hairbyar Marri and Javed Mengal, three prominent Baloch insurgent leaders in exile.

The surrender ceremony on November 7 indicates that this was an ‘accumulated’ showcase ritual of surrendering ferraris gathered at different times and places and put on parade to garner the maximum publicity from the event. In this respect, it followed the pattern of the Zehri government’s keeping the door open to ferraris wishing to come in from the cold and using such occasions to advantage. Keeping one’s powder dry while leaving the door to talks with the insurgents open would be a wise policy in line with handling long running insurgencies. Very seldom are such armed resistance movements crushed by an outright military victory.

In Balochistan, the fifth nationalist insurgency since our independence, indicates recurring guerrilla struggles by virtually every generation since 1947. Relying on military force and repression of Baloch nationalism alone, a strategy more or less in operation over almost 70 years, is tantamount to following Einstein’s description of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The ‘end’ of the four previous insurgencies did not prove long lived and the unsatisfied grievances and aspirations of the Baloch people proved the foundation for the next generation, frustrated by an indifferent state, to take up arms once again.

While material blandishments and a divided insurgency may be factors in persuading some insurgents to embrace the amnesty on offer, the ritualised nature of these surrender ceremonies raises questions about their genuineness. While these surrender ceremonies may be meant to validate the government’s claims of progress against the insurgency and foster the illusion of being on the road to resolving the problem, it does not appear to be resting on the critical pillar of talks with the insurgent leadership.

In fact, even though former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik’s efforts in this regard ran aground on the insurgents’ scepticism whether he was sufficiently empowered to implement any commitments he may have made, the successor Zehri government seems to have abandoned this option altogether.

This ‘one-legged’ policy may not be wise. In fact it calls for, at a minimum, revisiting the approach to resolving the Baloch nationalist insurgency by exploring the still critical factor of a political settlement.

Source: Business Recorder