Balochistan’s Geo-Strategic Significance, Politics of the Major Powers – Managing Its Impact

Date: Monday 23 May 2022

Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN) organized its first ever seminar on Monday 23 May 2022, on  theme of “Balochistan’s Geo-Strategic Significance, Politics of the Major Powers – Managing Its Impact ”.The seminar was attended by the Vice Chancellors from different public sector universities of Balochistan including BUITEMS Quetta, SBK Women University Quetta, University of Turbat and BUET Khuzdar. Former Governor Balochistan, Justice ®️ Amanullah Yasinzai also graced the event while the acting Governor Balochistan, Mr. Mir Jan Muhammad Khan Jamali was present as the Chief Guest of the event.Speakers from diverse backgrounds spoke on different topics related to the theme. Brig Agha Ahmad Gul (R) in his opening address said, Balochistan is located in a geopolitical crush zone confronted by the competing demands of major powers. It is a challenge yet a great opportunity of providing connectivity to all the competing major powers, without compromising on our vital national interests. He stated that we need to think over how to manage it by becoming the facilitators for all the major powers rather than becoming the stumbling blocks for each one of them.

Dr. Zafar Khan, Executive Director BTTN) as a Chair of the first session stated that Balochistan has a coastline all year round operational. Former Ambassador Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry (DG ISSI) lauded the efforts of BTTN in organizing the seminar. He said that there was a deficit of discourse on Balochistan and the formation of BTTN is a significant step in that direction which will help fill that gap. Highlighting the role of India in Balochistan, he stated that the Kulbhushan Yadav episode is a testimony to what India is up to in Balochistan and we cannot look away from that.Dr. Atiya Ali Kazmi (Senior Policy Research Analyst, NUST) said that to develop Balochistan, we must understand the ethose of the land and values of the people of Balochistan. She further stated that we need to have a mutual consensus of all the stakeholders to resolve the issues of southern Balochistan.

Ms. Maria Malik (Director Reserach BTTN) in her talk said that the Baloch separatists operating in the southern Balochistan are being used as a leverage by the states who do not want to see China as a regional power challenging the existing hegemon, the US. In that context, she stressed that if the genuine concerns of the people of Southern Balochistan are not addressed timely and effectively, then the unfriendly states will keep exploiting the situation as a Balochistan issue.Former Governor Balochistan, Mr. Owais Ahmed Ghani stated that for about 1800 years – 70% of its history, the Indus River region has always remained a separate socio-political entity distinct from the rest of the subcontinent. He advised a three-way alliance of Pakistan with China and Afghanistan to deal with the current geopolitical challenges.

Dr. Mir Sadaat Baloch pointed out the disconnect between the people of Siuther Balochistan and the government as one of the major issues of Balochistan. He said that to resolve the problems of Southern Balochistan we need to adopt a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach regarding different issues. Dr. Sadaat said that if a mechanism for universal basic income is adopted to provide relief to unemployed families in Southern Balochistan, that would be more effective instead of increasing Balochistan’s share in BISP. He stressed that the political forces must take the ownership of Balochistan rsther that over burdening our armed forces for it.

Dr. Sadaat said, that the narratives build up regarding soutgern Balochistan are inherently malicious. If a woman from Hoshab is arrested, the social media don’t say she has been arrested but it says that she has been picked up. He concluded his address by showing the data depiction status of militancy in southern Balochistan in different years. He said that the data shows that the militancy in southern Balochistan is decreasing and only the noise about it is increasing.

Dr. Abdul Qadir Baloch pointed out the potential of Iran-Pakistan relationship and how both the countries can gain from the opportunity of increased trade and movement. Dr. Abdul Qadir said we need to re-evaluate our policies regarding Iran which was the first country to recognize Pakistan at the time of the independence. He hoped that both countries rekindle the golden era of Iran-Pakistan relations which we had in the1950s and 1960s.

One of the panel chairs, Ms. Faiza Mir said that “empty stomach is a devil’s workshop”. She stated that we need to adopt the policies of conciliation and transformation to develop all of Balochistan, but especially the souther parts. She said that a picture cannot be painted with a single brush therefore, the state must adopt different policies for various regions of Balochistan, FATA, Karachi and all other regions in accordance with their issues.

Advisor to National Command Authority Lt. Gen Khalid Ahmed Kidwai (R) complimented BTTN for holding its first ever seminar. He stated that Balochistan is vital for Pakistan’s security and economic wellbeing, but unfortunately it has become a geopolitical playground for global powers. He agreed that there is no doubt about Balochistan having been the most neglected province of Pakistan earlier, where a lot could have been done. General Kidwai said that there is no alternative to sincere, fast-track economic development to resolve the issues of Southern Balochistan, indeed, all of Balochistan having different types of issues.

Acting Governor Balochistan Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali in his address expressed his delight and happiness in attending the seminar, which he said reflected a very good academic initiative. Mr. Jamali engaged the audience by asking them about what did they expect from the politicians of the province. He also lamented that the absence of the bureaucracy from the event, although directed by the Cheif Secretary, showed their lack of interest and ownership, which is a great hurdle in resolving the issues of Balochistan. Mr. Jamali concluded his address by saying that “Balochistan is the future of Pakistan.”The event ended with the exchange of souvenirs between the distinguished guests speakers and Consultant BTTN Brig Agha Ahmad Gul (R)