Dec 20 - 26, 20

Insurgency-hit Balochistan has witnessed 'human capital flight' due to deterioration of security situation over the past two years. Many settlers including professors, doctors, bankers, teachers, businessmen, engineers, educationists and professionals have left the province due to security concerns. The province is already short of professionals and experts. It lacks the institutional capacity and human capital to utilize its vast natural resources. It actually needs competent doctors, engineers, bankers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, economic planners, architects, agriculturists, horticulturists, development economists, educationists, sociologists, academicians, research scholars, geologists, environmentalists, and experts in all its social and economic sectors to come at par with the other provinces of Pakistan.

In the provincial capital, the target killing of settlers, burning of their properties and hurling grenades at their houses has become a routine in the last three years. Public and private property worth millions of rupees were ransacked during last year's protests over killing of three Baloch leaders.

Nazima Talib, a woman professor of Balochistan University was targeted and killed by the terrorists in May. The separatists claimed responsibility for assassination of Nazima and called it retaliation to the killing of two Baloch women in Quetta and Pasni. Though, the targeted professor had no hand in killing of Baloch women, yet she was actively involved in teaching journalism to the Baloch male and female students.

Nazima's assassination was not a single incident in which a professor had been targeted but in several incidents during last few years many professors including Professor Fazal Bari, Professor Ateeq and Professor Safdar Kayani, acting vice chancellor of University of Balochistan were brutally assassinated. These educationists were investing their energy and rendering their services to the ever-neglected province, which is home to lowest-literacy rate population in Pakistan.

Indiscriminate killings of professors, doctors, bankers, teachers, businessmen, engineers and educationists on ethnic lines indicate that the killers have no interest in the economic development of the least-developed province. Those who are practicing a politics of violence and separatism in Balochistan, must be marginalised from the Baloch nationalists, who are fighting for their political and economic rights as enshrined in the 1973 constitution. The separatists are struggling for independence from Islamabad. Hence, they are involved in attacking the security forces, public servants, public installations, and innocent citizens.

Experts see a relationship between poor economic performance and the rise of extremism and resort to insurgency. Balochistan, wherein insurgency has taken hold, has seriously lagged behind other provinces like Sindh and Punjab which have fared better in economic terms. The security expenditures have been on the rise during past five years, as the province is facing an insurgency of low intensity.

Balochistan, the largest province in terms of area and possibly also the richest once its energy and mineral resources are fully explored and begin to be exploited, is the least dense of the country's provinces. It has slightly more than five per cent of the population but at this time only three per cent of GDP.

Investors' concerns have aggravated over the past many years due to law and order problem in the province. Many foreign firms in mineral and oil and gas exploration have left the province due to security reasons.

Before December 2005 (when a military operation was undertaken for the fifth time to quell an insurgency in the province), there were the government, Baloch nationalist parties, tribal chiefs (Sardars) and the people- who were the major stakeholders in the province's socio-political scenario. The scenario has now changed, as the province is now facing an insurgency backed by the separatists- who are the major stakeholders. A helpless provincial government can only see a 'foreign hand' and repeat the mantra of condemning and ordering investigation into the incident of target killing.

What it can do? It can impose section 144 in the restive towns and cities to protect the lives of citizens.

The unarmed and peaceful settlers, who have so far been the soft targets for the terrorists, were forced to sell their properties including residential and commercial enterprises in Quetta and other major commercial centres in the province at throwaway prices. The key business points in Quetta, which were owned by settlers, were particularly hit by the target killers to create panic among the settlers forcing them to leave the province to save their necks. In many cases, the settlers were threatened to close and shift their businesses to other provinces. In some cases, which were not reported in the media, settlers' properties were occupied and they were either killed or forced to leave the province.

How a barber, a miner, a professor, or a government servant settled in Balochistan can be a usurper of Baloch rights? A barber cutting the hair, a miner mining mineral or an educationist educating the masses have been targeted and killed in the province.

The separatists are actually harming the cause of Baloch nationalists. They are pushing the province toward militancy and creating circumstances and justification for another military operation by targeting public installations and peaceful citizens. No political government would ever order a military action without popular support.

Settlers have immensely contributed to the development of Balochistan. They have been serving the province in various economic and social sectors. They have served the province by educating the local people at schools, colleges and universities. They have great contribution in exploring the oil, gas and mineral resources and developing the vast natural resources of the province.

The province has suffered decades of neglect, discrimination that intensified the feeling of alienation among local people. People from every walk of life across the country have been vehemently condemning the injustices meted out with the province for the last 60 years. All political parties have condemned the military operations and subsequent killing of Baloch leaders and people. But no Pakistani can ever endorse the violence against innocent citizens on ethnic lines in the name of Baloch separatist struggle.

First and foremost duty of the government is to protect the lives and properties of people. The provincial government should take effective measures to protect all ethnic groups in the province. It has so far failed to protect the lives and properties of the settlers, which have migrated to other provinces in large number.