By: Lt Col JS Sodhi (Retd), Editor, GSDN
Of the four provinces of Pakistan, namely Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province having the largest area but the least population amongst these four provinces is Balochistan.
Balochistan is located in the southwestern region of Pakistan and has internal boundaries with all the three other provinces of Pakistan and also shares an international border with Iran and Afghanistan. It has the Arabian Sea on its south and the port city of Gwadar, which is an important point in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the flagship project of China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI).
Balochistan is rich in natural resources. Despite it having 44% of the land area of Pakistan, only 5% of it is arable. Still agriculture and livestock contribute to 47% of Balochistan’s economy.
On August 14, 1947 when the Britishers carved out Pakistan as a new nation out of India, Balochistan remained an independent nation but finally against the wishes of its people it acceded Pakistan on March 27, 1948. This resulted in resistiveness among the Balochis and till date the Balochis do not consider themselves as part of Pakistan and this led to insurgencies by the Balochis against the Pakistan Government and the Pakistan Army since 1948, with the period since 2003 seeing intense fighting between the Baloch nationalists and the Pakistan Government and the Pakistan Army.
It is in this background of Balochistan’s struggle for independence from Pakistan, that Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has launched severe and serious attacks on Pakistan Army. Since 2000, 1929 Balochis have been killed and 2052 Pakistani security forces have been killed. Thus, this dry and arid province of Pakistan is the witness to the biggest bloodbath taking place in Pakistan.
And in this backdrop of the mayhem being unleashed by Pakistan in Balochistan, thousands of innocent Balochis have mysteriously started disappearing. This has further increased the resentment amongst the Balochis who are quite upset with their near and dear family and friends disappearing.
On December 06, 2023 the Balochis initiated “The Long March” from the city of Turbat to oppose “Baloch Genocide”. The marchers received a thundering response in the city of Taunsa Sharif and later on in Quetta, which is the capital of Balochistan. The marchers intended to end their Long March in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan where it would merge with the ongoing sit-in in the Press Club.
Fearful over the growing popularity and success of “The Long March”, the Pakistan Government has launched a brutal crackdown on the marchers in an attempt to break the will of the marchers, so that The Long March collapses and doesn’t reach Islamabad.
Many of the marchers have been arrested or have been physically assaulted by the Pakistani security agencies.
It is time that the international forums like the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League come to the aid of the Balochis and exert pressure on Pakistan to end their attacks on Balochis.