Balochistan, Kashmir, Indo-Pak Peace!

According to media reports Islamabad has decided to put the Kashmir dispute temporarily in abeyance. The internal crisis in Pakistan is cited as the reason. Islamabad has invited Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan to explain the reasons for its changed perception. Reportedly New Delhi has welcomed the development. It has raised no objection to the Hurriyat leaders visiting Pakistan.

The problem for Pakistan is that if it demands self-determination for Kashmir, the world might ask: why not for Balochistan? If it seeks secession of Kashmir, the world might ask: why not for Balochistan? There is an uncomfortable truth that Pakistan must digest if it is serious about pursuing peace with India.

One crucial element of the internal crisis in Pakistan is related to the situation in Balochistan. Now with America taking note of the Baloch separatist demand and the human rights violations in that province the crisis for Islamabad has become acute. It makes sense to put the Kashmir dispute in cold storage because Balochistan is rapidly becoming a huge embarrassment for Pakistan. 

Consider the genesis of the Kashmir problem. When the British left India in 1947 they gave all the princely states the option to join either India or Pakistan. The State of Jammu and Kashmir had contagious borders with both India and Pakistan. The majority population was Muslim. The Maharaja ruling the state was Hindu. Maharaja Hari Singh planned to demand independence. Pakistan fearful of that eventuality, invaded Kashmir. Circumstances and the need for security impelled Maharaja Hari Singh to join India. Recognizing the peculiar circumstances that led to the state acceding to India, Pandit Nehru while giving his consent stated that Kashmir’s accession to India was “subject to the will of the people”. The Kashmiri people demanded a special autonomous status. Protest grew, separatist demands proliferated, and for six decades there has been unrest punctuated by spells of violent insurgency in the state that are fomented by Pakistan. 

Consider the genesis of the Balochistan problem. Before the British left the subcontinent the Khan of Kalat who ruled the bulk of Balochistan claimed that Balochistan was not part of British India. Balochistan has contiguous borders with Afghanistan and Iran. In 1946 the Khan petitioned the British with his demand in a court of law. The lawyer who represented the Khan in court was Mohammed Ali Jinnah. After Pakistan was created the Khan continued to claim independence. Only months later while Jinnah was ailing before his death the Pakistan army forcibly annexed Balochistan and compelled the Khan to accede. For the past six decades there has been protest against Pakistan’s rule in Balochistan. It has ranged from demands for autonomy to outright independence, from democratic demonstrations to violent agitation.

The problem for Pakistan is that if it demands self-determination for Kashmir, the world might ask: why not for Balochistan? If it seeks secession of Kashmir, the world might ask: why not for Balochistan?  There is an uncomfortable truth that Pakistan must digest if it is serious about pursuing peace with India. Both Kashmir and Balochistan may be given autonomy or given no special status different from the rest of the provinces within both nations. Whatever the choice for creating normalization agreed to by New Delhi and Islamabad, it would be greatly facilitated if a context of joint defence and a common market were created between India and Pakistan. Federalism within both nations and a confederation within the subcontinent seem to be the logical way forward.

Political leaders are notoriously illogical. But with Balochistan embarrassing Pakistan, Islamabad might be more amenable to logic and reason. 


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

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Comment The more I ponder the age we live in, the more it appears as the age of the realised opportunity of hitherto virtually suppressed regional entities like Kashmir and Balochistan, Tibet, and here in the UK, Scotland, to grasp the independence ticket, self-determination, that depends on the evolved state of human rights world-wide that gives them their precious status: frankly, everything is 'in the eyes of the world', and it works to the advantage of these little places in ways that on analysis seem utterly presumptuous for being based on good will of the powers they seek to detach from, allowing them independence and self-determination, presuming that they will be defended by the said powers! - or at least, by common international status, that ultimately makes the UN itself their ground of recognition; but what is more sinister, the basis of distinction of their independence in what is tantamount to difference in race, a claim of descent from a separate origin, that is consistently their main argument.

Alex Salmond is calling for a referendum for Scottish independence (no less) which I believe has now been granted in 2014. This smiling genial leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) has as his logo what must be adjudged as the stereotype Scot, attired in what appears as animal skins, thus insinuating ancient descent, white as the page his outline depicts, wielding a club, scowling, over the caption: ' The friendly race'. Big joke. The word 'race' rather gives the game away - race easily inflects to racist. Indeed, Alex Salmond is a rip-roaring racist under a mask of geniality: Hitler was the same in the early days. There is a sizeable proportion of ethnic minorities in Scotland, particularly in urban communities, also, a mixed race population engendered by inter-marriage, by now, all speaking with Scottish accents. The logo of Salmond chillingly implies you can only be Scottish by descent - if you're an ethnic minority or of mixed race, you would feel out of place.

The aspiration for Scottish independence is, as it is in all these other small break-away places, based on some myth of ancient pedigree, or distinction of race - and in today's world is, to say the least, anachronistic - though often, as in the case of Tibet, gaining sympathy among non-reflective sentimentalists, if anything, revealing the latter’s subconscious racist fantasies; but particularly in those countries like Scotland where there is in place a multi-ethnic, typically British population - no doubt to the secret horror of Alex Salmond, who is trying to 'reverse the tide' by his spurious claims for independence.

The independence ideal of Kashmir, Balochistan and Tibet is similarly one based on racial distinction or ancient descent, utterly alien to the spirit of a world where every country has its mixed ethnic and cultural elements, increasingly so, where citizenship is defined no longer in terms of origins of descent, but is acquired on merit, and gives one as a citizen equal democratic rights, no matter what one’s ethnic origins are, of which the democracies of the west are the admirable exemplars.

29-Feb-2012 21:31 PM

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