Quetta, on the verge of a drastic demographic change By: Shayan Baloch
The provincial capital of Balochistan from the pages of history was primarily known as Shaal. Shaal is a Balochi word which means Chaddar. The archives of Quetta goes back and connect the periods when both the Baloch and Pashtoo live together to fight against Moghuls and Persians. No doubt, at the time of 18thcentury, Quetta was a part of Afghanistan. Ahmed Shah Abdali, the king of Afghanistan (Kabul) was a complaisant partner of Khan of Kalat, Noori NaseerKhan. Both the heads of states were effectively influential characters in terms of fighting and strategic warfare. Being the strategic partnership they collectively attacked on the emperors of Hindustan and Persian, in a willingness of Ahmed Shah Abdali and their triumphant accomplishment over the emperors respectively brought an intensive intimacy between both the nations. As the historical conquests were achieved by a productive assistance of Khan of Kalathas won the heart of Kabul of King and he gifted the Quetta as a Shaal to mother of Noori Naseer Khan, Bibi Mariyam. This was a prominent move taken to strengthen the brotherhood between the two neighboring states and since that Quetta is a part of Balochistan.
Quetta primarily known as the city for thousands of people, as for as the chronicles records are concerned, this is roughly overpopulated now. According to Wikipedia, Baloch population in Balochistancomprises 50% and remaining statistics made up the50% of Pashtoons, Hazara, Sindhi and Panjabi.Balochistan being an occupied land has faced a dozens of challenging obstructions from the day it has been forcedly annexed with Pakistan. In rivalry rejoinderand eradication of the curse of slavery, the land of Baloch has given emergence to resistances in the form of insurgencies. The occupier state response on the other side discreetly utilized all the ways in diminishing the mentality of Baloch towards expedition of freedom. They tried to crush and demolish all the insurgencies in the form of military operations, using the religious factors, provision of satisfactory and bigotry education, giving free hands to the local and secrete agencies squads, terrifying the youth by mass killing, abduction and torturing and many others such psychological factors which aimed just to intimidate the people to make their appearance completely away, being a part of anti-state activities.
Despite all those intrigues that the installation utilized, the vision from the minds of people couldn’t get lessened and the occupier’s mindsets gone through a project of demographic changes. Quetta city is a home to people from diverse ethnic and religious communities, was once known as the little Paris due to its natural beauty and pleasant atmosphere. Previously Quetta was known as the basket of fruits and flowers, as its glamour of cleanliness was all in one. It was established by the British in 1880s for an estimated population of one hundred thousand people as for as its infrastructure was concerned.
Pakistan has always practiced the transformation policies of keeping Baloch away from any aspect of involvement practically. As seeing Quetta a capital city of the largest province (state) has given free hands to Pashtuns to be dominated over Baloch in the form of buying their properties which they heartedly did, on the eve of which the Pashtuns have been given legal authorities in smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan to elsewhere. Beforehand, somehow two decades the trade and business based activities from Afghanistan was centered in Nushki (Gaaznali) border but being a majority Baloch district connecting Afghanistan, Pakistan has tactfully shifted the business to an area of Pashtuns known as Chaman, just to pave a way that the Pashtuns become enable economically and assist in facilitation of state run policies. However, Which has been fulfilled as accordingly to the wishes of occupiers and ahead of it, in aftermath of Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in 1989, millions of refugees came to Balochistan and settled in and outskirts of Quetta. The flow of refugees continued gradually which at last resulted into a population of three million or more than it and their fake identity cards due to willingness and political gravities from some Pashtuns parties and state run machineries initiated issuance which had enormously increased the burden on the local population. This is a drastic demographic change that Quetta city has ever faced in the form of infrastructure, destruction of social harmony, domination over the business, crisis of water, escalation of infiltration in institutions, alarming activities of crimes and many more.
The Quetta city is now on the verge of destruction due to such demographic modifications. If the crisis of water and solid waste to be brought in accounts only, it will clearly hints towards a transformation and massive population which has resulted on willingness and involvement of Pakistan mechanisms. The crisis of water is surprisingly increasing as there is an acute shortage of it in entire city. The underground level of water has fallen to 1,500 feet and expected to decrease further. On the other side the beauty of Quetta has lessened in an extent of disapproval, if this is to be judged in terms of pollution and solid waste generationfrom houses into streets can obviously allow to a conclusion that the overpopulation due to Afghan refugee’s burden has destroyed the city in a great extent.
This is not a natural process of destruction or transformation, it has been carried out deliberately to cut or limit the Baloch population hold the key positions in ay sphere of life. This is a demographic change which has not only limited the Baloch population from holding properties but always from business in a greater glassy. Beside this, the historical New Kahan area which is situated in outskirts ofQuetta, is a place where Baloch Marri tribe is inhabited from the time when Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri has returned with has visionary colleagues from Afghanistan. The inhabitants of this area has been forced and threatened to leave by Quetta Development Authority (QDA) under the supervision of army to construct an army camp in an intention of demolishingthe mud houses of the destitute Marri residents of a wealthy land. Not only the residents of New Kahan has been threatened and forced to vacant the area, however QDA has seized the properties of Baloch in many other populated areas of Quetta which are reported to be constructed governmental buildings or approachable man owned properties.
Such intentionally based actions and escalations against Baloch in Quetta and its outskirts indicate towards a change of policies under the ashes of demographic temperament that is being utilized against Baloch to economically, psychologically and biologically cut it from amicable levels of survival.This demographic policies is still continued, the Afghan refugees are still there beside those who have been issued identity cards, the level of keeping Baloch away and feeble is rapidly intensifying which can further assist the governmental institutions to bring more demographic modifications. In fact all that transformation are dangerously going against Baloch rights because the result which the policy makers of Pakistan intended to accomplish that is the reduced involvement and marginal ratios of Baloch in a place like Quetta.
In June 1947, Britain appointed Sir Cyril Radcliffe to supervise the demarcation of the Indian Subcontinent. He had five weeks to decide the borders of India and Pakistan.
After his arrival in the undivided India, he pondered for days at his darkly lit office over the possibilities of dividing the Hindus and Muslims of the subcontinent. He drew lines on blank papers. Discarded them. Drew them again. On the final day of the deadline, he drew other lines and presented them to the British authorities. Those lines, drawn in extreme haste, now make the borders of India and Pakistan.
Parts of Balochistan were handed over to Pakistan in the demarcation process, despite the fact that Balochistan was never part of the Indian sub-continent. The remaining Baloch territory, known as the Khanate of Kalat, a sovereign state, was occupied by Pakistan this day, March 27, in 1948, eight months after the formation of Pakistan. Britain calmly endorsed the occupation fearing that an independent Balochistan might join the Soviet bloc.
One hundred and nine years before Pakistan’s occupation, the British authorities in India invaded Balochistan and killed its leader, Mir Mehrab Khan, in 1839 to secure safe passage to Afghanistan. It led to a local uprising under the leadership of Mehrab Khan’s son, Mir Naseer Khan. On May 14, 1954, the British signed an agreement with Naseer Khan, acknowledging the sovereignty of Balochistan.
The agreement was violated by the British several times in the coming decades. In 1871, Sir Friederick Goldsmith, another British official like Radcliffe, divided Balochistan into two parts and gave away half of it to Iran. The Baloch ruler was not even asked about his opinion.
Today, the Baloch are a stateless, suppressed people. Thanks to the irrational demarcations of the region under the colonial rule, thousands of Baloch have been executed under successive Iranian and Pakistani
regimes. This day, 27 March, marks the 68th anniversary of Pakistan’s occupation of Balochistan. The Baloch people remember this day as one of the darkest days in their entire history. It began an era of political, cultural and economic suppression of the Baloch under Pakistani control.
Pakistan’s military establishment, since Balochistan’s forced amalgamation with Pakistan, has always seen the Baloch people with distrust because of their struggle to restore the sovereignty of their homeland. To stifle any indigenous voice, the military has ruled Balochistan with an iron hand.
Thousands of political activists are languishing in secret military detention centers while hundreds have been killed and their bodies dumped.
The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have declared Balochistan one of the worst victims of human rights violations. Pakistan’s own Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reported that the military establishment is sponsoring religious extremist groups to radicalize Baloch society in order to counter the secular Baloch nationalist movement. These radical , apart from religious preaching, act as an unofficial arm of the military in the kidnapping and killing of Baloch activists.
The killings have escalated multifold in recent years as Pakistan strives to implement the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a 54-billion project to connect the Baloch coast, especially the strategically located Gwadar port, with China. The Baloch coast is being vacated of the local people and has been given to the total control of China. The Baloch see the CPEC as a mega land-snatching project and a conspiracy to convert the Baloch people into a minority on their own homeland.
Pakistan is committing this highhandedness with the Baloch people under the nose of the Western powers that once placed the Baloch at Pakistan’s mercy because of their faulty demarcation of the region. The silence of the champions of human rights values has encouraged Pakistan to not only deprive the Baloch of their basic political and economic rights, but also to kill them with impunity whenever they ask for their rights.
It is the moral obligation of the Western powers to help the Baloch people in their struggle for an independent Balochistan where they can live with a sense of security and dignity. They have the power and authority to do so.
The lines powerful people draw on blank papers have led to the genocide of weaker people like the Baloch. The powerful people need to learn to draw better lines. Ones that can save lives. Ones that can lead to the freedom and prosperity of the mankind.