BY SIKANDER HAYAT
Today, I am thinking about writing on the issue of Balochistan and its delicate ethnic balance but first here are some facts about the demographic situation in Balochistan. According to various sourses on the web,
“Balochistan has a population of around 10 million inhabitants. Overall, the Baloch and Brohi tribes comprise 50% of the province's population. The rest are mainly Pashtuns, Hazaras and Sindhis. Baloch are concentrated in the sparsely populated north-west, west, east and south; Brohis in the centre of the province, while the Pashtuns are the majority in the north. Quetta, the capital of the province, has a Pashtun majority with Baloch, Hazaras and Punjabi minorities.
Near the Kalat region and other parts of the province there are significant numbers of Brahui speakers. Along the coast various Makrani Balochis predominate. In addition, 769,000 Afghan refugees can be found in the province including Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Hazaras. Many Sindhi farmers have also moved to the more arable lands in the east. There are also a growing number of other(s) ethnic groups consisting of Kurdish, Panjabi, Mohajir and Iranians who have made Balochistan their home in recent decades.”
“Balochistan's landscape in the 1980s changed markedly as Afghan refugee camps were established throughout the northern parts of the province. In many instances, temporary mud housing eventually became transformed into concrete structures. The refugees also caused the demographic balance to change as ethnic Pashtuns from inside Pakistan came to settle in Balochistan.”
Given the above information I beleive that demographics is the issue at the heart of present unrest in Baloch areas of Balochistan. The common people have been told by the tribal chiefs that due to large number of mega projects like Gwadar port, a large body of non Baloch are moving into the area of Balochistan and soon Baloch will be a demographic minority.
It is evident from the census records that Baloch who were once the majority in Balochistan by a long way are now nearly 50% of the total population with a large number of Pashtuns living in the area as well. Other large minority are Sindhis speakers with a small number of Punjabi speakers present as well.
Hence the targeted killing of innocent non Balochis, especially Punjabis.
These demographic trends have emerged more by accident then design and as mentioned earlier Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, brought more than 3 million Afghan refugees into Pakistan and these people settle all along the Pakistani side of Afghanistan Pakistan border. Many of these Pashun people have settled in Pakistan and in the process changes the demographic landscape of Balochistan.
Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan is 50% Pashtoon and Baloch are a minority in Quetta.
It seems to me that all three major outfits of the Baloch cause have decided that instead of taking on hard targets they should pick on soft targets and apart from killing Punjabi speakers, they have also kidnapped an innocent UN worker who has been in their captivity for last many months.
At one level, the trouble makers have found a very good way of correcting the demographic trends by killing people but it may backfire when Pakistan government will have to complete army garrison towns in parts of Balochistan to control these restive regions.
The history of garrison towns in Pakistan suggest that once they are established and start functioning they have a habit of exponential growth in terms of civilian population and examples of this phenomenon are littered all over Pakistan. Currently there are plans to build at least three such towns in the Balochistan region. Baloch, who already are at 50% of the population see this as an attempt by the Pakistani government to bring there demographic percentage further down and eventually dilute it to the point where they do not have any claim to the cause of Baloch ethnic group.
I believe that building these cantonments will be a great stride towards providing prosperity to the Baloch region as it will bring increased investment and skills to the region. I also do not buy the argument that these garrison towns will compromise Baloch identity because Punjab has the highest number of these towns and is the most prosperous of them all. These towns bring with them prosperity and continuous employment for the local people and Punjab has experienced that phenomenon first hand.
If these cantonments were actually a tool of occupation then there would not have been any of them in Punjab as surely Pakistan army has not occupied Punjab!
I do admit that mistakes have been made in handling the issue of Balochistan and it is high time that both sides sat together and resolved the issues once and for all.
1. Balochistan - Bugti, Marri & Mengal Sardars Are Keeping People in Their Areas Underdeveloped To Further Their Own Political Cause
2. Why Balochistan is Not East Pakistan?
3. Pakistan & The Provinces – The Question of Provincial Autonomy & Its Impact On Pakistan’s Future Prosperity
4. Pakistani Balochistan - Call for creation of Pashtoon province