Monday, December 11, 2017

MAULVI OR TERRORIST?

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/12/12/maulvi-or-terrorist/

  • A haunting question
“What will they become, maulvis or terrorists?”
That question posed by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s chief of army staff last week in Quetta at a seminar about human resources development, has to be the question of the year. Speaking of the vast number of graduates being produced by madrassahs he pointed out that at the end of the day these students still did not possess an education and were therefore unfit to work. It is one of the major problems in the field of human resources in Pakistan.
The numbers are staggering. Of a country of over 207 million people, it seems that two and a half million are students at madrassahs across the country. Not taught mathematics or geography, or any of the mainstream subjects except religion, students at madrassahs are studying at a kind of Hogwarts. What are they to work at once they graduate? The COAS observed that it is not possible to build enough mosques to accommodate them if all they can do is become maulvis.
Well said Gen Bajwa, and thank you for bringing such a crucial point into the open for discussion.
General Bajwa’s question however produces a string of other questions, such as: why must a chief of army staff have to be the one to ask this question? In fact, should he ask such questions at a public forum which he is addressing as the COAS when it does not fall within the remit of his position?
Madrassahs can be brought into the mainstream if regulations are passed making it mandatory for these thousands of institutes that at present cater to the underprivileged segment of society, to teach mainstream subjects along with religious education
And, what is the civilian government of the country, and more specifically the government’s department of education doing to allow such a situation to develop, where a multitude of uneducated graduates is produced only to join the ranks of the unemployed and or terrorists, and the matter is not addressed?
The armed forces of Pakistan are no doubt composed of several well intentioned and talented persons. But it is at the end of the day exactly that, an armed force whose job it is to defend the country from physical attack. They are not meant to indulge in education, except for military schools. But that is a futile observation, since the armed forces of Pakistan appear to find the civilian arena tantalisingly attractive, as we have seen.
Regardless, should a person desist from making such observations about a particular field even if he or she finds that that field is of crucial importance, yet it is not receiving the attention it deserves? If he or she feels that he or she has something to offer in that field, something that would make a difference? What should he or she do then?
You have to admit that the temptation is great, to meddle in civilian government matters, when the civilian government is as disorganised as it is, and as inept.
It has to be conceded that the chief of the armed forces in this country has some right to comment on the matter, given that it is his troops that are called upon to combat the results in the shape of terrorism.
Madrassahs can be brought into the mainstream if regulations are passed making it mandatory for these thousands of institutes that at present cater to the underprivileged segment of society, to teach mainstream subjects along with religious education. Even then, they can be brought into the mainstream only if that regulation is enforced. This would not just provide jobs for thousands of teachers but a more rounded education for the students. Such an education would result in more jobs being open to madrassah graduates. Not to make this move is a clear sign of apathy and short sightedness.
The citizens of a country should all be given the same opportunities as far as possible. It is unfair to throw substandard education in the path of students just because they are unable to pay for a better one. It is also unfair to give children a specialised education right from the start. If they are started off with a mainstream education and then they chose to teach religion, so be it.
The reason madrassahs survive is that mosques and schools affiliated with them receive so many donations in the shape of money and food, particularly the latter. This feeds the staff and students at the madrassahs, something that neither would be able to do adequately otherwise. It indicates a level of poverty which is of crucial importance to note.
Civilian governments need to deserve the trust placed in them. Unless they do they will always be overridden by those who observe the void.
Poverty too needs to be addressed and eliminated. Unless it is, it will be used by those who observe the desperation and use it.

Monday, December 4, 2017

HOURIS CAN WAIT

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/12/05/houris-can-wait/



  • The stomach cannot
Demonstrations and sit-ins were staged by various ‘religious’ groups across the country recently. These demonstrations were suspended by the leaders of these groups when the government caved in to their demands, but only after the law Minister, Zahid Hamid, was forced to resign, barely escaping with his life and that of his family. A demonstration in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore staged by the TLY carried on. That too has finally ended, with the government managing to save the Punjab Law Minister Sanaullah’s job. Mr. Sanaullah’s reprieve though is only temporary, since Maulana Asif Jalali of the TLY, the person who now dictates to the government, has clearly stated that although he is not taking back his demand for the minister’s resignation, he will kindly allow the government to carry on doing what it wants for a period of one month.
The government has had to agree to the other demands.
You’re strongly reminded of the recent news in the BBC about a zoo in China where people turned up to see exotic animals, and were instead confronted with air-filled toy penguins, and a handful of roosters and geese. To spell it out, just so did the public in Pakistan hope for a government and were met instead with inflated dummies and a handful of fowl persons with a predominance of geese.
The policy of not negotiating with terrorists has a contentious history but it makes sense and still exists. Whether a country agrees with the policy or not, even if it is a signatory to the agreement that prohibits payment of ransom and negotiating with terrorists, some governments have caved in, and secretly or quite openly given in to demands. Each government of Pakistan has, of course, firmly adhered to the policy of having none but the knee jerk policy, which says ‘do whatever you need to do to keep ‘em quiet, keep yourselves in power, and to hell with the people’. You have to give it to each successive government for living up to this on every occasion.
It has now agreed that the report compiled by Raja Zafarul Haq’s committee regarding events that led up to the demonstrations is to be made public later this month by the 20th. Meantime the government is to pay reparation (with tax payers’ money) for the people killed during operations to remove protestors from around Islamabad recently, never mind that these operations were conducted because these people had hijacked the capital of the country and were forcing the government to accede to their demands… or else.
The policy of not negotiating with terrorists has a contentious history but it makes sense and still exists. Whether a country agrees with the policy or not, even if it is a signatory to the agreement that prohibits payment of ransom and negotiating with terrorists, some governments have caved in, and secretly or quite openly given in to demands
Also agreed upon is that yet another commission is to be set up to decide how many loudspeakers each mosque is to be allowed in the province. It is infuriating, since the said loudspeakers are used not just to relay the call to prayer, but also to pander to the sitting mullahs’ yearning for an audience and predilection for Bollywood tunes. They are also used to rally people to protests such as these recent ones across the country.
What is probably most terrifying is that the ulema are to review the religious views contained within the curriculum of schools in the province.
Not the smallest organisation can be run much less an entire country without first deciding where the country stands on certain crucial matters. Pakistan, unfortunately, has the reputation of agreeing with the loudest speaker, or doing whatever is demanded when its arm is twisted, and/or its leaders are offered the appropriate incentives.
When the US Defense Secretary arrived in Islamabad to discuss Pakistan’s support in defeating the Taliban, Pakistan’s representatives course presented a cooperative front, with $$$ in mind. How they can maintain even that farce is another matter, keeping in mind the government’s caving in to the demands of a group of persons with much the same agenda as the Taliban. It is after all because of the TYL that PEMRA recently shut down social media for a couple of days throughout the country, since the group was using that platform to ‘incite hatred’. It is as a direct result of this group’s appeal to the baser instincts of the public that several persons died, and the government and people of the country suffered economic losses in the billions.
The ultimate measure of satisfaction is peace and at least a basic level of material satisfaction: sufficient food, access to housing, education and water, healthcare and transport. Neither the so called religious parties nor the government can draw wool over the public’s eyes for very long when both fail to deliver in this matter, since for the living houris can wait but an empty stomach cannot. A limp government that can be dictated to leads only to chaos. Neither these parties nor such a government fulfil the public’s longing for prosperity. Instead both pander only to the avariciousness of people in power on either side which is a desire that can never be satisfied.

Monday, November 27, 2017

WHAT HAPPENED TO 'INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY'?

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/11/27/what-happened-to-innocent-until-proven-guilty/

There were serious doubts concerning several accusations of blasphemy, quite a strong sense that other, unrelated motives triggered the accusations. In the case of Sawan Masih and the Christian Joseph colony, Sawan denied he had made blasphemous statements. He said that a business concern had its eyes on the land occupied by the colony and they had triggered the events that led to the accusations.
After the accusations against Masih many of the houses in Joseph colony were burnt and the residents fled. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is a serious matter that such allegations can be used to ‘settle personal scores’.
There is a Latin expression: Ei incumbet probatio qui dicit, non qui negat. It means that ‘the burden of proof is upon the one who declares, not upon one who denies.’ This is behind the principle that a person is considered innocent unless proven guilty. Most systems of law agree with this principle, including the Islamic. In fact under the Islamic concept of justice even casting suspicion on a person is highly condemned as per hadith documented by Imams Nawawi, Bukhari and Muslim. Hazrat Ali has also been cited as saying, ‘Avert the prescribed punishment by rejecting doubtful evidence’. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights also incorporates this principle as do civilian codes of law in many countries.
An accusation that defames an individual, group, organisation or an ideology is called ‘slander’ if verbal, or libel if written and used in media. In ancient England, slander was punished by cutting off the slanderer’s tongue. In modern times defamation is punishable in various ways prescribed by the code of many countries. Many celebrities including Sean Penn, Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johanssen have successfully sued in such cases.
So, although this equally applies to finger wagging rants against their opponents by politicians, in light of what has suddenly taken centre stage these days, what about allegations of sexual harassment?
  • For the media, which is responsible for bringing issues to light and carrying them around the world, there exists a code of ethics. Whether it is taken seriously is debatable
While it would be insane to doubt that sexual harassment occurs, and occurs very frequently indeed, could it not be that allegations of sexual harassment are also at times used to ‘settle personal scores’? It is certainly not out of the question. And if so, how should these be handled?
It is slander in itself to cast a general doubt on such accusations. In fact it would be very wrong, since very many of those accusations are founded in truth, and in fact women are being encouraged to speak up against such abuse. But what of the cases where there is no way to prove the accuser right?
There is almost no woman who has not undergone some form of sexual harassment, small or large. On the other hand it is equally true that men are vulnerable to sexual allegations, because they are so easy to make, so difficult to disprove, and so often true. Their mere presence can ruin a man, personally as well as professionally, and unless they possess a skin as thick as the POTUS, it spells the end of the accused’s credibility. It is all the more important, then, that such accusations should be verified.
There is no way to verify the truth of sexual accusations made years after the event, and some very public accusations were made decades after a supposed event. Unless these are verifiable, surely it is best in such cases for the accuser to stay away from the person she accuses and carry on maintaining the silence she has for so many years, unless the accused still has access to her.
Accusations by and against well-known persons include the public and the media, neither of whom are without certain obligations. The public is of course under various personal, societal and religious obligations.
For the media, which is responsible for bringing issues to light and carrying them around the world, there exists a code of ethics. Whether it is taken seriously is debatable.
I quote Wikipedia: ‘The Society of Professional Journalists created a code of ethics in use today. The main mantra of the code is to ‘seek truth and report it’.
The code says that journalists should: “Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.”(Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport).
That journalists should show good taste, and avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.” (Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport).
Which of these factors have been adhered to in reporting the sexual harassment allegations that sprouted so suddenly like mushrooms in the wake of the allegations against Weinstein?
What’s more, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, which recently sent around a notice to all cell phones warning that ‘Uploading, downloading and sharing of any blasphemous content on the internet is a punishable offence under the law’, needs to understand that to accuse someone of blasphemy lays the accuser, including the state of Pakistan as represented by the PTA open to an accusation of slander, which is as serious an accusation as any other. Unless they can manage to prove their allegation, which in such cases has very often been impossible.
But no one seems to care about that.

Monday, November 20, 2017

SHOULD LITTLE BOY AND FAT MAN BE IN RECKLESS HANDS?

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/11/20/should-little-boy-and-fat-man-be-in-reckless-hands/

  • A nuclear confrontation is after all not simply a confrontation, it is an annihilation

The American senate actually held a congressional enquiry recently to debate Donald Trump’s capability of being entrusted with the codes that could trigger nuclear war. In questioning this capability it has only echoed the doubt that exists in the minds of people all over the world: is the man who tweets like a twit capable of judging how, when and if to call for nuclear confrontation?
Donald Trump, after all, is a man who has traded personal insults with the leader of North Korea in much the same way as children do in kindergarten playgrounds, and threatened the Korean regime with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” That sounds uncannily like Harry Truman’s threat against Japan towards the end of the Second World War, when, after the US bombed Hiroshima (that bomb was called ‘Little Boy’) Truman warned Japan to expect “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” Three days after this threat another bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki. This bomb was called ‘Fat Man’.
“We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear strike that is wildly out of step with US interests,” said Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut.
It isn’t just Democrats who are worried. Bob Corker, a Republican senator from Tennessee, warned that Trump’s reckless threats could put the country on a “path to World War III.”
With repercussions, as the title ‘world war’ indicates, for the entire world.
Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University, was questioned about whether Donald Trump can actually launch such a nuclear attack by himself, and if so, what checks are in place to prevent his doing so arbitrarily. His response was printed in Vox, in which he said: The president of the United States “requires other people to carry out an order, so he can’t just lean on a button and automatically the missiles fly. But he has the legal and political authority on his own to give an order that would cause other people to take steps which would result in a nuclear strike.”
About checks on the POTUS’s authority, Feaver’s response was that there were more checks in place than people realise. “It would raise lots of alarms throughout the system,” he said. “So the chief of staff of the White House, the national security adviser, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — they would all ask, ‘What’s happening? We just got this crazy order. What’s going on?’”
“If they were given reliable information that we’re really under attack, that something is really happening, then you would expect the order to be carried out. But if they’re saying, ‘We don’t know what’s going on. No one’s alerted us,’ they would likely halt the process and get some clarity.”
It is a relief to know that, although if the president’s suitability for such as assessment is questionable, what guarantee the suitability of anyone else? Besides, the real question is — as it should be — whether anyone at all is capable of making this decision?
A nuclear confrontation is after all not simply a confrontation, it is an annihilation. Who, if anyone is entitled, or capable, or should be entitled or can be capable of making a call for the annihilation of a large segment of the human race, and the world it lives in?
This, briefly, is what happened on August 6 and 9, 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the consent of the United Kingdom: Within the first two to four months 90,000 to 14,000 people died in Hiroshima, and 39,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki. Most of these people were civilians. In the following months a huge number of people died of radiation sickness, burns and other injuries, as well as malnutrition. In addition, about 650,000 survivors are officially recognised as ‘explosion-affected people’. Some of these suffer from radiation sickness, others from psychological trauma. Many of them still suffer from discrimination since people tend to think radiation sickness is contagious.
In today’s setting, any such possibility as a nuclear strike by one nation is not the business of that nation and its victim alone. The extent of destruction and the fall-out in terms of radioactivity has far reaching effects, both with regards to physical space, and time, given that nuclear weapons these days are far larger and more powerful than those dropped on Japan after the Second World War. Therefore a strike in one country would have consequences for neighbouring countries as well, perhaps an entire region. The question of who has access to nuclear arms, and what checks exist on the capacity of persons with that access is therefore a matter of concern for the entire world, in which the entire world has a say.


Pakistan, as part of a world community, and as a state with nuclear capability, as well as a neighbour to another state with a similar capability, should give at least this matter some very serious thought. In this matter, without any doubt at all, we cannot afford the disorganisation and discord that appears to be a major factor in every sphere of life in this country.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

SECTARIAN EGOS IN THE REGION

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/11/14/sectarian-egos-in-the-region/

And Pakistan’s priorities

The unrest turned sectarian in 2004 when the Shia led Houthis staged an uprising against the Sunni government. They’re trying to take over the government, said the government; we’re trying to protect the Shia against discrimination, said the Houthis

With food running out and oil wells drying up, the only way out of Yemen’s dilemma is if the blockade imposed by its neighbours is lifted. That is for starters, but it would be a crucial start that would prevent millions of deaths by starvation and disease such as cholera

The southwestern tip of Yemen juts into where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden. Across the water, on the coast of Africa, lies Djibouti. On its north, Yemen is bordered by Saudi Arabia. Yemen has the added misfortune of being the poorest country in the Middle East, the reason behind its unrest. The country has been the scene of riots due to shortage of food in 1992. On that occasion people died. By now the shortage has assumed famine proportions and the stage is set for the worst humanitarian crisis of recent times.
The unrest turned sectarian in 2004 when the Shia led Houthis staged an uprising against the Sunni government. They’re trying to take over the government, said the government; we’re trying to protect the Shia against discrimination, said the Houthis. In reality, the Houthis have the support of many among the Sunnis as well, given conditions in the country.
The BBC reports that more than 7,600 people were killed in Yemen since this civil war started, and 42,000 were injured, ‘the majority in air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition.’ That is a coalition of nine countries formed in 2015 by the Saudis with American support to intervene in the Yemeni civil war. In one of its few displays of sense, Pakistan turned down an invitation to form part of this coalition. One of the ‘achievements’ of the coalition has been to close all routes into the country, resulting in the humanitarian crisis mentioned above. Aid agencies are unable to access recipients at a time when 70pc of the population of Yemen is in need of aid.
More than half the people of Yemen is said to be ‘food insecure’, almost half of those ‘severely food insecure’. More than half the country lacks safe drinking water, and almost a quarter of the children are malnourished.
Despite this injustice, death and tragedy, the people of Pakistan remain focused on little other than the inadequacies of India and its people.
What of the inadequacies of a country that is silent when the rulers of a country we like to call a friend commit a holocaust against the people of another Muslim country? Not that it matters whether the victims are Muslim or not. It is enough that they are human, innocent, and helpless.
It comes of being a weak country dependent on handouts that one is silent when such things happen, when children die for lack of nourishment, and adults, who are short of food themselves, are forced to watch because forces beyond their power are strangling their country, forces that like to call themselves ‘keepers of the keys to holy places’.
Come December, Pakistan will be festive with wedding illuminations, and the greatest worry to furrow our brow will be the one-dish restriction at wedding functions. Enough food will be wasted to feed Yemen for a day, and women will wear garish clothes worth lacs of rupees. And any political conscience that exists will be focused on the freedom of Kashmir.
There are many forces operating in Yemen at present, although famine and death are the biggest. Al Qaeda and ISIL are among them. The Houthis are fighting against both of these, as well as against Saudi Arabia and its powerful allies. Yemen is after all an oil rich country, although probably not for long.
Yemen’s oil reserves are dwindling, and although oil is still one of its major exports, more and more of what it earns from petroleum is consumed by the civil war against the Houthis. Besides, the country is riddled with corruption and shoddy organisation, and spends more than six percent of its GDP on its military. Pakistan, which (officially) spends almost half, is not behind for want of trying.
With food running out and oil wells drying up, the only way out of Yemen’s dilemma is if the blockade imposed by its neighbours is lifted. That is for starters, but it would be a crucial start that would prevent millions of deaths by starvation and disease such as cholera.
Whatever other axes there are to grind, the reason behind the blockade boils down to sectarian egos, Shia versus Sunni, in other words the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the region. Pakistan need support neither, but as in within its own borders, it finds it impossible to avoid partisanship.
Religion ought to be a source of unity rather than discord. Pakistan needs to get its priorities right even though it did not join the alliance.


Monday, November 6, 2017

R.I.P DINA WADIA

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/11/06/r-i-p-dina-wadia/

To her father Pakistan would be unrecognisable today
Dina Wadia who looked remarkably like her father, died on the 2nd of November this year at the age of ninety-eight. She lived in New York, far away from the country founded by Jinnah. She was never able to take possession of her father’s house in Bombay, and visited Pakistan just twice, never making it her home.
You wonder if her father would have made it his home either, if he had seen it as it is now. Definitely he would not recognise himself if he heard himself spoken of today. Even less than the previous generation does the present one know the man they call the Father of the Nation, and very little about what he stood for. For them he is yet another almost saintly two dimensional historical figure presented in text books, a fictitious litany starting from Mohammad bin Qasim, all of them cut from the same mold.
You wonder what would have gone through Jinnah’s mind if he had seen his country today. To start with he would have been startled to see just half, after he had said “there is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan.” Lo and behold, it undid itself.
He would have also have been rather taken aback to hear one of its ‘Presidents’ Pervez Musharraf insist that his dream for Pakistan was the same as Jinnah’s, particularly since that President had just imposed martial law in the country. It is doubtful if Jinnah had ever considered martial law and Pakistan in the same breath.
Instead he spoke of the oath taken by troops, and read it out too at an address to the Staff College in Quetta: ‘“I solemnly affirm, in the presence of Alimighty God, that I owe allegiance to the Constitution and the Dominion of Pakistan…” He also reminded them on another occasion that “Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted”. Martial law of course is the suspension of law in a country in which the armed forces have deposed the civilian government to take control.
And yet there have been three martial laws in this country, the same that claims the Quaid-e-Azam Rehmatullah Alaih as its leader, incidentally the man who said that “I have lived as plain Mr. Jinnah and I hope to die as plain Mr. Jinnah. I am very much averse to any title or honours and I will be more than happy if there was no prefix to my name.”
Three actually imposed martial laws, that is. There were others but they did not succeed. Or, as is rather more chilling, that are not visible. But of those the less said the better.
Maybe though the most startlingly distressing thing for Jinnah would be that he might stand in imminent danger of his life if he ever stepped foot in the country he founded, given that he came from a Gujrati family, and was born a Shia. Along with him, in much greater danger, would be the man who actually wrote the proposal for the partition of India, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan who, being a member of the Ahmadiyya sect, would be even more damned than the Founder.
“I told you,” Jinnah would cry, “The idea was that we should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own rights and culture and where principle of Islamic social justice could find free play!” And then when people still did not understand he would repeat the famous words from his Presidential address to the Constituent Assembly in 1947: “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed –that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
So what should be done about this state of affairs?
In a country with several sects, each of them intolerant of the others’ existence, the rational thing would be to choose a ‘neutral umpire’.
Jinnah, although he belonged to one of those several sects was as neutral is it gets. His views are well placed for being observed and implemented if the will for progress and peace genuinely exists. The death of his daughter is an occasion to remember the ideals of the father, ideals that are the easiest, maybe the only path to well-being, particularly since they do not conflict with anything rational we believe in.

Monday, October 30, 2017

OF SEPARATIST MOVEMENTS, CPEC, BALOCHISTAN AND PAKISTAN

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/10/30/of-separatist-movements-cpec-balochistan-and-pakistan/

The People of Balochistan should feel the advantages from CPEC rather than feeling cheated

Movements for separation to gain autonomy from a larger whole are on the increase, with the USSR, Scotland, and others in the past, to Brexit, and now Catalonia. It is in the interests of governments around the world to study these cases and either work towards keeping the disparate segments of their population happy, or figure out how best to allow them to separate if required; that is of course if they are interested in peace.
Has Pakistan, which has gone through two major and bloody separatist events, one which gave birth to the country, and the other that split it into half, learnt from any of these events given that there is a thriving separatist movement in Baluchistan that has existed ever since the country came into being?
Baluchistan makes up almost half of Pakistan, although population wise it is only almost 4 percent of the whole. But far from its people benefiting from the mineral wealth the province has contributed to the country’s economy, the Baluch are among the poorest and most marginalized, the majority of them living in abject poverty without the basic necessities of life, clean water and electricity.
Baluch dissatisfaction with this and the manner in which it became part of Pakistan took the form of rebellion, which, rather than being addressed at the roots has always been dealt with aggressively.
With the separatist movement in Scotland, the government wisely allowed the Scots the democratic route, to choose whether to stay or leave by means of a referendum. The poll was held and they chose to stay. It was the same with French speaking Quebec in Canada.
The idea of such a referendum in Baluchistan is a pie in the sky.
Catalonia, like Baluchistan has long had a vigorous freedom movement. Like Baluchistan, Catalonia is a sparsely populated region. Its population accounts for just 19 percent of the whole of Spain. Unlike impoverished Baluchistan however, the people of Catalonia make up the wealthiest segment of Spain, although their wealth is more industrial (textiles, and a growing chemical and service industry) than mineral. But as in the case of Baluchistan where its secession would spell economic disaster for Pakistan since Baluchistan is one of the richest provinces of the country in terms of natural resources, the loss of Catalonia would mean a vital loss for Spain in terms of the Spanish economy.
In the early days of the Spanish Republic, Catalonia was granted a large degree of autonomy. This autonomy was revoked with the coming into power of General Franco, who also came down heavily on the distinctive Catalonian identity. The people of Catalonia were not allowed to use their language and other political and cultural restrictions were imposed upon them.
Franco’s dictatorship fed the already strong separatist sentiment in Catalonia, as bans, prohibitions and suppression invariably do, but dictators rarely understand this, and military dictators – never. In Catalonia, a poll was recently held to determine if its people want independence from Spain. Without taking into account the large number of abstentions, the result was pro-independence, and controversial.
After invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution by means of which the center takes direct control of the largely autonomous province of Catalonia, the government of Spain declared the referendum for independence invalid, dissolved the Catalonian regional parliament, and ‘fired’ the Catalan leader, Mr. Puigdemont. The central government has ordered fresh elections in December, but in a refreshing contrast to the scenario in Pakistan, it has invited Mr. Puigdemont to stand in these elections if he wishes. There has been violence as a result of the Catalonian separatist movement, but this violence has been open.
The first act of aggression against Baluchistan was way back in 1948, right after Pakistan came into being. Then the army moved into the province, to ‘persuade’ a reluctant Kalat to join Pakistan. Kalat became part of Pakistan but the fact has never been accepted by Baluch Nationalists, who called the annexation a forced, unconstitutional move, as it was.
This was followed by resort to other violence, such as the killing by the Pakistan army of Akbar Bugti and several of his men in 2006. There have been other operations, covert ones, kidnappings, and ‘disappearances,’ and it is alleged that around 4000 Baluch have been either detained without trial or determined missing.
But now another factor has entered the field, namely CPEC (the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) which is likely to play a crucial role in the economy and society of Pakistan and the region.  It will certainly play an important role in Baluchistan seeing the layout of the corridor which stretches from Gwadar a port in Baluchistan in the south up to Kashgar, a Muslim province of China which is already a scene of unrest. It is a volatile setting. Surely on this occasion and in the light of changing times, the powers that be would do well to re-evaluate their relations with this province.
CPEC includes many transport and energy projects, and since Baluchistan contains the bulk of Pakistan’s gas and oil reserves, this marginalized, angry province will play a major role in this venture. You wonder what lies in store for the people of Baluchistan and the country as a result.
The results of CPEC are as yet uncertain.  If one can be certain of one thing it is that a lot depends on whether the people of Baluchistan feel they have gained by means of the project, or whether they feel cheated as they do at present. The track record of successive government of Pakistan, and of its intelligence services has not been good in this matter. One can only hope that sense will prevail, and with it chances of prosperity and peace.