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08ISLAMABAD1573 2008-04-15 12:20:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

BALOCHISTAN: THE NEGLECTED PROVINCE

Tags:   EAID PGOV PHUM PK PREL PTER 
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1. (C) Summary: In a March 31 - April 2 visit to Quetta,
capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province, Embassy political
officer met with local politicians, businessmen, and
students. While their views widely varied, whether they were
male or female, new to politics or wizened, they uniformly
complained that the province has been neglected economically
and politically since Pakistan's inception. Most also voiced
a stunning pride in their ethnicity--Pashtoon or
Baloch--which in its most extreme form still results in calls
for an independent state of Balochistan. Along with this
pride comes a feeling of exclusion; every Baloch or Pashtun
we spoke to in Quetta admitted to feeling "not quite
accepted" by the rest of Pakistan. The power of the tribal
Sardars and Nawabs (Chiefs) remains strong among many Baloch,
and many tribal leaders still use this to resist the control
of the central government, a pattern that dates from
Balochistan's absorption into Pakistan in 1947 and 1948.
Balochistan's history since Pakistan's inception is riddled
with uprisings and insurrections followed by brutal
repression from the center, with pockets of Baloch
"liberation forces" carrying on the fight to this day in the
province's mountains.

2.(C) Summary continued: All lament the backward state of the
province, where some areas are yet to be electrified, and
where some villages remain a day's walk from water in the dry
season. Balochistan's small population (10 million) and huge
area (134,000 square miles, 48 per cent of Pakistan, half the
size of France) makes it a very difficult province to
develop, an argument the central government indirectly makes:
investment in a road in heavily populated Punjab reaches far
more people than in sparsely populated Balochistan. This is
cold comfort to the people of this desert province, however,
only feeding their sense of aggrieved neglect. Private
businessmen we met and foreign-funded NGOS are building
schools and health centers which receive enormous local
support. Several Baloch politicians were eager to share their
creative ideas for development in the province. Following
the February 18 elections, newly elected members of the
Provincial Assembly have formed their own coalition--echoing
that of the center--and elected a Baloch Sardar as Chief
Minister on April 7. Their hope is cooperation with the
National Assembly will be strong enough to bring new
attention--and development funds--to the province. End
summary.

Balochistan: The Neglected Province

3. (SBU) On Eighteenth Century French maps, this part of the
world is marked "Terre des Balodges, feroces et guerrieres,"
land of the Baloch, fierce and warlike. Not much has changed.
In the sixty years since it was incorporated into Pakistan,
Balochistan has generated countless independence movements
and uprisings, peaking in 1971 - 74 when then-Prime Minister
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto sent in helicopter gunships and thousands
of Baloch rebels died. While a self-styled Baloch Liberation
Army still exists in the mountains, its threat to the
stability of the province is small, causing (or at least
claiming) occasional assassinations of police and Frontier
Corps troops, including two in Quetta during PolOff's visit.
(The killings are real; whether they or other groups are in
fact the culprits is unclear.)

4.(C) Although the fighting for independence has died down,
the spirit lives on, at least in the hearts of ardent
students, members of the Baloch Students Organization at the
University of Balochistan. PolOff met with six such students
at the Serena Hotel in Quetta (where, for security reasons,
all meetings took place but for a call on the city's Nazim,
or Mayor). All introduced themselves with the last name
Baloch, were articulate and uniformly polite, and all had
memorized the wrongs done to Balochistan by Pakistan,
starting when the Khan of Kalat was forced to sign the
Instrument of Accession by Mohammed Ali Jinnah in 1948.
(Kalat, a princely state in India, formed the largest part of
today's Balochistan province.) They assured PolOff the
majority of their fellow Baloch students shared their passion
for independence.

5. (C) More senior interlocutors we met have mellowed on this

ISLAMABAD 00001573 002.2 OF 003


issue and assured us such feelings are held only by students
from a limited number of tribes, and they, too, mellow with
maturity. But no one we met, businessman, NGO worker or
politician, denied the province has been badly neglected by
the central government since independence. All stressed that
Balochistan's mineral wealth--particularly natural gas,
produced there since the 1950s--has contributed greatly to
Pakistan's treasury, with the province receiving little in
return. As Ms. Rubina Erfan, a political activist and past
and present member of the provincial assembly for the
Pakistan Muslim League (PML) noted, a sign of the center's
neglect was that PML leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein never
once visited the province, despite the fact its Chief
Minister came from his party.

6. (C) Another factor holding the province back is local
tribal practices, especially among the Baloch. Many of those
we met readily acknowledge that the more traditional tribal
leaders still resist development in their areas lest it
reduce the reliance of tribal people on their leaders. Former
provincial governor Lt.Gen.(ret.) Abdul Qadir Baloch noted
that the northern third or so of the province, dominated by
Pashtuns, is far more educated and developed than the rest of
the predominantly Baloch areas and in turn reflects a
lessening of Pashtun tribal ties over the years. Baloch, the
first of his ethnic group to become a general in the Pakistan
Army, is not a Sardar and clearly has little time for them.
"Look who gets elected here," he told us; "not Sardars," and
with few exceptions he is right (as exceptions see the
current Assembly in para 9 below). A current popular leader,
in jail in Karachi for political agitation, is Sardar Akhtar
Mingal. "He is important not because he is a Sardar, but
because he is a party leader," the General stressed.

Some Good Work Gets Done

7. (SBU) Despite all this apparent gloom, we encountered some
genuine enthusiasm for change in Quetta. NGOs, businessmen
and politicians are all making their mark. PolOff met with
workers from NGOs Strengthening Participation Organization
(SPO) and South Asia Partnership/Pakistan (SAPP), both funded
by foreign aid, whose organizations teach political rights to
political party workers, low-level bureaucrats and ordinary
citizens. Ms. Yasmin Lehri of SPO, a previous USAID grantee
to the East-West Center, has established 10 village girls'
schools and mother-child health centers in District Bolan. In
all of them, the villagers build the facilities and
participate in their management. SPO, SAPP and Kamal
Siddiqui, a successful businessman and philanthropist, who
has built some 100 schools under a similar program, all
confirm that the villagers' support for these programs is so
strong that other villagers are calling for similar schools
and health centers to be built in their areas.

8. (SBU) PML Assembly member Ms. Rubina Erfan ("call me
Rubina"), who married into the still-powerful family of the
Khan of Kalat, is tireless in her efforts to bring
development to her district. Recently, President Musharraf
granted Balochistan legislators several million dollars each
for special development funds. Rubina confronted him, said,
to his apparent amazement, that her villages had yet to see
electricity, and she needed much more if she was to make any
real progress in her district. She is a forceful woman, if
our meeting was any guide, and Musharraf acquiesced.
Electricity is reaching her villages in Kalat for the first
time now and with it tube wells and a reliable source of
water, an incalculable boon in an area where in the dry
season water was a day's camel's ride away.

A New Provincial Assembly

9. (SBU) Almost two months after the February 18 general
elections, the Balochistan Assembly met for the first time on
April 7. Endless shifting party allegiances resulted in a
People's Party of Pakistan (PPP)-dominated Assembly with the
virtual unanimous election of PPP member Nawab Muhammad Aslam
Raisani as Chief Minister and another Baloch Nawab, Zulfiqar
Magsi, as Governor. The PML, which won 20 seats in the 62
seat Assembly, versus the PPP's four, gradually dissolved to
favor a coalition mirroring the one in the center. This,
PML, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), and PPP politicians
told us, should strengthen Balochistan's efforts to get
attention--and aid--from the center. It seems to have already
helped. PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari recently reached out to

ISLAMABAD 00001573 003 OF 003


the people of the province, calling for an inquiry into the
thousands of Baloch and Pashtoons who have "disappeared" in
police and intelligence roundups there over the past few
years.

10. (SBU) On April 6, the new Governor announced that Chief
Minister Raisani has just initiated contacts with Baloch
insurgents in an effort to end the long-simmering insurgency.
"No one has tried to talk to Baloch fighters in the past,"
Magsi is quoted in the press as saying, noting that the GOP
has always engaged in force in dealing with them. (Comment:
Former Governor Lt.Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch told us the
President fired him as Governor several years ago for
proposing talking to rather than fighting the insurgents. End
comment.) The Baloch insurgents have long demanded more
autonomy and more control of the province's resources, and to
bring attention to their cause have generated a number of
murders and other law and order problems, the extent of which
our interlocutors could not gauge. What is their "work" in
the province, particularly in Quetta, and that which is
generated by the Taliban (and less likely, al Qaeda) is
apparently conflated by local law enforcement, complicated by
claims (and blames) that usually go to the "Balochistan
Liberation Army."

Energy in the Air

11. (C) Comment: PolOff's brief visit revealed a surprising
number of bright, energetic Baloch and Pashtoon men and women
who are fighting the many obstacles they face to bring
progress to their far away province, despite all its
problems. One grandmother, Ghazala Gola, PPP member of the
Provincial Assembly, is still ready to fight for
Balochistan's needs as she did when she started working for
her party 30 years ago. The dynamic Rubina Erfan, mentioned
above, heads the girls' soccer leagues for all of Pakistan,
and sends teams from Balochistan to national competition in
Islamabad (and proudly announced "we beat the Afghans!").
Former governor Baloch is in a major Islamabad thinktank,
Pildat, with some of Pakistan's best minds. The huge port of
Gwadar (see reftel), on Balochistan's border with Iran may,
just may, become a gateway for trade with central Asia, and
as a major deep water port, a transshipment point for smaller
ships going to Gulf ports. But land access to the port is
still only by rough road, and the province's poor road and
limited rail system will continue to hinder Balochistan's
economic prospects for some time to come. The province's use
by the nastiest elements in Afghanistan will likely continue
unabated for the near future. But with more attention from
Islamabad, the small cadre of energetic people we met will
grab every opportunity they have to improve their home
province. End comment.
PATTERSON