Saturday, 22 April 2017

CPEC and Balochistan, Dr Shabir Choudhry

CPEC and Balochistan, Dr Shabir Choudhry  
London     22 April 2017
From Chinese territory, the CPEC will enter an occupied territory of Gilgit Baltistan, as that is the only land link of Pakistan with China. Is it not interesting that the CPEC enters an occupied territory (Gilgit Baltistan) and ends in another territory, Balochistan, which is also considered as occupied by great number of local people. Resentment of people of occupied Gilgit Baltistan apart, today I will focus on how CPEC, which has hidden imperial agenda, will affect people of Balochistan.
Before I look at the response and resentment of the local people, it is imperative that real situation of the local people is explained and what facilities are available to them. Balochistan is huge land, largest province of Pakistan, which is sparsely populated; and with very little modern day facilities. Shaukat Qadir in his article, ‘Unwarranted opposition to CPEC’, writes:
‘…When I had visited the region, I saw areas where humans and animals were sharing drinking water from the same source. Some Baloch may have spent their lives without access to potable water. This is criminal negligence on part of the authorities. Gwadar is the port that makes CPEC the corridor that it is. Without Gwadar, the entire concept of the corridor is unviable, and the city of Gwadar has no potable water. What can one say here expect, “water, water everywhere; but not a drop to drink?” What a terrible shame’. 1
Shaukat Qadir is a retired Brigadier of Pakistan army, and now he is working as an independent ‘Risk and Security Analyst’. The above quotation is from his article. No one in Pakistan and in territories occupied by them, can dare to call an army officer a traitor whether he is in uniform or out of it. If an army officer said the above, it shows how sever the situation is in Balochistan. Sad thing is if people of Balochistan complain they are labelled as anti - Pakistan and agents of India; and if anyone else speak in their support to express solidarity with the oppressed and deprived people, he/she will also be declared anti Pakistan and agent of India.

Sadly, this is the mind set we have to put up with in Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The authorities, their proxies and foot soldiers, armed with weapons of spreading hatred and intolerance; and issuing certificates who is a patriotic and who is a traitor, and who is a good Muslim and who has become a Kaffir, has transformed the society where ordinary people live in fear. Individuals when they leave home, don’t know in which market or in which Masjid they will be declared a traitor or a Kaffir, and a crowd charged with religious hatred and intolerance will pounce on to torture and brutally kill.

In this corrupt and intolerant society, people believe in Allah, but they don’t follow commands of Allah. They follow their Peer or a Mullah, who could be illiterate and have his personal agenda. It looks people have lost hope. They feel no one can help them.

Balochistan has billions of dollars worth of natural resources like gold, copper, gas, coal etc. For example, Reko Diq mine situated in District Chaghi of Balochistan has estimated 500 billions of gold and copper, which makes it fifth largest gold and copper mine in the world. Similarly, the Saindak mine has 412 million tonnes of ore reserves containing silver and gold, ‘containing on average 0.5 gram of gold per ton and 1.5 grams of silver per tonne’.

There are many other natural resources in Balochistan. Sui Gas alone has transformed economic landscape of Pakistan, but the local people of Balochistan have not benefitted from it. Out of 32 district headquarters of Balochistan province, only 13 have Sui gas facility. It means even majority of the district headquarters do not benefit from Sui gas, never mind the small towns and villages. Only 59 percent of the urban population of Balochistan benefits from gas.

Balochistan produces gas and do not benefit from it; and small towns in other provinces benefit from it, especially in Punjab. When these people complain, and accuse Islamabad for plundering Balochi resources they are called anti Pakistan and agents of India or another country. They are intimidated, oppressed and killed. Is this justified?

Conditions of human living is atrocious in Balochistan to say the least. People are deprived of fundamental human rights; and live under fear and oppression. Balochistan is rich in natural resources, but people are suffering in extreme poverty. United Nations Development Program, and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative have issued a report called “Multidimensional Poverty in Pakistan”, according to which, 71.2 % of people live under multi – dimensional poverty in Balochistan; and in rural areas the percentage is 84.6%.

According to Pakistan Demographic Health Survey report, ‘an estimated 111 children (of every 1,000 births) are dying before their fifth birthday in Balochistan. Ninety-seven of these children do not even attain an age of one year. Additionally, UNICEF reported that there is no vaccination centre in 39 per cent of the union councils in the province’. 2
Naseer Memon in his article, ‘The Balochistan conundrum’ further writes:
‘The mother mortality rate in the country is 276 (per 100,000 live births), whereas the mother mortality rate in Balochistan is outrageously over 900. Only 43 per cent of children are fully immunised in the province against a national average of 78 per cent’. 3

This is tip of the iceberg. Situation in Balochistan is much worse than what people of Pakistan or the world at large knows because of strict laws and virtual total negligence of Pakistan’s national media. The Pakistani media has very little interest in explaining the true situation of Balochistan, and how men in uniform are treating civilians in Balochistan. I have some Baloch friends and what they tell me and other political activists is frightening; and Pakistan, as a state has a lot to answer.

I just give another quote of Naseer Memon, a Pakistani writer with Express Tribune, he writes:

The most agonising of all the factors are relentless abductions and cold blooded killings in the province. Both state and non-state actors enjoy complete impunity and murderers of innocent people often go scot-free.

Abduction for ransom has evolved as a lucrative industry. A provincial secretary, Abdullah Jan, was kidnapped in broad daylight from Quetta. In August 2016, more than 70 persons including a large number of eminent lawyers of Quetta were targeted by a suicide bomber that erased a cadre of brilliant legal brains of the province. In October 2016, terrorists targeted an insufficiently guarded police training centre in Quetta, killing more than 60 young cadets. Countless people were picked up and their mutilated bodies were dumped. The Baloch consider it their genocide. 4

Rebels and thinking people of Balochistan strongly believe that the CPEC is designed to ‘loot’ and ‘plunder’ natural resources of Balochistan. The Pakistani establishment may give Balochistan a little with one hand; and take back tonnes in return with both hands.

According to media reports on Friday 21 April, around 500 Baloch rebel militants surrendered, and pledged allegiance to Pakistan. Those surrendered, 487 people, belonged to four rebel organisations, which included eight senior commanders too. They claimed that they were misled by their leaders.

This is good news for Pakistan, and they are making it as a huge success to army’s strategy and government’s development programme in Balochistan too, especially the CPEC. However, does it not show the scale of the problem; and how many people have picked up guns to fight the state because they felt they were oppressed and colonised.

In any case, if I was a Pakistani official, especially in Balochistan I will not be jubilant over this news. Who knows what is the game plan of rebels. Just wait and see.

Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, who is also a Minister of Ports and Shipping, revealed that in the Senate that ‘Pakistan had signed a 40-year agreement with China for the operation of Gwadar port. He further said:
“As per the concession agreement, China Overseas Port Holding Company has a 91% share in the gross revenue of terminal and marine operations and 85% share in gross revenue from operations of the free zone. Provinces have no share in revenue collection as per the current constitution.” 5
If this very high percentage of revenue is going to the Chinese company, then do I need to explain what is left for Pakistan or Balochistan? A comment of one person on this story is interesting, he says: ‘You have no option, sign the blank papers’.
Another comment on the story is also very interesting, he says:
‘Well the Baluchi fishermen just got handed a death sentence, now Chinese will send their deep sea fishing vessels and wipe out the fishing grounds in Pakistani boundaries. What would be interesting to watch is, will the Chinese navy try to bully India when its fishing fleets try to enter Pakistani waters. Which is what they do with countries around the South China Sea area’. 6
More you scratch the surface, one finds more stories of poverty, oppression and kidnapping. Whether the Pakistani establishment like it or not, bitter fact is Balochistan is bleeding and people live in poverty and fear. They have been neglected and oppressed for the past 70 years. They need help and a caring hand; and not a gun and bombardment by F16 and helicopter gunship. There are more than million children who do not attend schools; and more than ‘5,000 public schools in the region consist of nothing more than a single room. Health indicators are equally bad. Almost 15 percent of the people of Balochistan suffer from Hepatitis B or C. Added to this, there’s an acute water shortage. These appalling statistics cut a sorry figure’. 7
Leaders and officials can claim and propagate that the CPEC will change lives of people in Balochistan, but there are not many takers for this. A country or the establishment which did not let the local people benefit from the Sui gas which is produced by Balochistan; how could they let them benefit from the projects for which Pakistan has to borrow huge amount of money on very high interest rates. Like in the case of Sui gas, people of Punjab and other major metropolitan cities will benefit from the CPEC; and the local people may get a job of selling eggs and fixing tyres.
For many people the CPEC offers a ray of hope. If the Pakistani establishment continue to do what they have done since 1947, then there could be some very serious implication of this. It is imperative for the unity and integrity of Pakistan that Balochistan gets its fair share from the CPEC projects. Otherwise the local people will think the only way forward is to fight for their rights. Contrary to the past Baloch insurgencies, this time there could be countries willing to help the Baloch people, which will endanger the peace and security of the entire region. This policy of calling a ‘foreign hand’ and a ‘foreign conspiracy’ against Pakistan may not work this time.
I hope common sense prevails and the Pakistani establishment, for a change, extend a caring hand to all people who have suffered because of their wrong policies. Is this too much to ask? Or it is too much for the Pakistani establishment to enact pro people and pro peace policies?
2/ The Balochistan conundrum, Naseer Memon  April 16, 2017. The News
3/ Ibid
4/ Ibid
5/ The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2017.
6/ The News, 16 April 2017, The Balochistan conundrum, commenst

7/ CPEC and the Baloch Insurgency, Shazar Shafqat, February 08, 2017

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