Waziristan, “frontier territories,” Peshawar. Casual Western observers of “Af-Pak” typically recognize these place names. What about Balochistan? Pakistan’s southwestern province, which borders the Arabian Sea and Iran, is crucially important to the future stability and unity of the state. Like separatists in other places – Aceh, Indonesia; the Niger Delta in Nigeria; and the now-independent South Sudan – Balochistan residents resent their peripheral status within Pakistan. They resent their economic marginalization, even in a relatively poor country. They resent lack of local control over natural resources. They resent their geographic marginalization within the state. They resent a lack of cultural self-determination. And their plight is beginning to gain attention in powerful foreign capitals.
Though unrest in Balochistan dates back to the early independence period, the current instability is only one of many issues complicating the consolidation of the Pakistani state. Difficult civil-military relations, ongoing ambivalence about militant Islamism, economic stagnation, a failed education system, and environmental strains are just some of the major issues that bedevil Pakistan. Balochistan, though, is an enduring reminder of the strong centrifugal forces that swirl in Pakistan.
*** Did you like what you read here? You might be interested in the new book by this blog’s author, Failed States: Realities, Risks, and Responses.