By Rahul Kumar
New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) Political parties are uniting in Balochistan province to mount pressure on the Imran Khan government in Pakistan over the controversial Islands Ordinance which seeks to takeover islands in Sindh and Balochistan.
In a significant development on Thursday, which is bound to increase pressure on the beleaguered Pakistani Prime Minister, the Balochistan provincial assembly has adopted a resolution by the Opposition, supported by members of the ruling coalition, to not hand over islands to the federal government.
The resolution, moved by Opposition leader Advocate Malik Sikander Khan, also seeks withdrawal of the controversial Pakistan Island Development Authority (PIDA) ordinance.
The resolution says that the presidential ordinance by the federal government on PIDA is unconstitutional as the islands belong to the two states–Balochistan and Sindh. The resolution says that the federal government does not have the right to take over provincial lands without their consent.
Significantly, the resolution finds support from various people in the provincial government, which is run by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. The Balochistan Finance Minister, Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi has supported the resolution.
Geopolitical analyst Mark Kinra told IndiaNarrative: “The resolution has its connotations to the current political upheaval happening in the country. In the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) Quetta rally, Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F) (JUI-F) chairman, Maulana Fazlur Rehman openly threatened the federal government and the establishment not to usurp the islands in Sindh and Balochistan. Within five days, JUI-F’s political alliance in Balochistan, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, tabled the resolution showing that PDM will do whatever it takes to oppose the Imran Khan government.”
The Awami National Party (ANP), which is a part of the provincial coalition, has also supported the resolution. ANP leader Asghar Khan Achakazai went to the extent of saying that the federal government is trying to take over the resources of the region through the PIDA ordinance. He has vowed to oppose the federal government over the issue.
Sparring over the PIDA issue will put Balochistan directly in confrontation with the federal government. It is not just the Baloch lawmakers, cutting across party lines, who are angry with the federal government; the local people too see Pakistan as an exploitative force in the region.
With most of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) cutting through the region, the locals also look at China as a hostile colonial occupier of their lands and resources.
Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province with a sparse population is a mineral-rich but poor region. The Baloch people feel victimised as Pakistan has exploited the province for its abundant minerals while keeping its people under-developed.
The Baloch have a long-running nationalistic movement with roots going back to the time of India’s Partition as the Baloch king did not want to join the newly-formed State of Pakistan. For the initial seven-and-a half months, Balochistan was independent of Pakistan till the Pakistani Army forced the king, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan to sign the accession treaty on March 27, 1948.
Highlighting the marginalisation of Balochistan, Kinra said: “Many times, both — the supporting parties of the coalition government and the opposition parties — come together to highlight the exploitation of the region. A perfect example is the CPEC, about which Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan had mentioned rather disapprovingly in 2018 that, Balochistan’s share in CPEC is just 4.5 per cent and if the Gwadar Port and the Hubco power projects are removed, than it is a meagre 1 per cent.”
He added that another glaring example of the exploitation in Balochistan is the Saindak gold and copper mines in Chagai district.
“From a period of 1975 till 1995, Balochistan had a share of just 2 per cent, while for China it was 50 per cent and the federal government had 48 per cent. From 1995 till 2002, the project stopped and when it resumed in 2017, Balochistan was left with just 1 per cent share, the Chinese had 75 per cent while the federal government 24 per cent,” said Kinra.
Significantly, despite the ruling party in power, the resolution against the Islands Ordinance has been adopted by the Balochistan assembly which also points to Imran Khan losing control over his own party.
On the other hand, Sindh, which is ruled by the opposition Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), has not been able to adopt a similar resolution to oppose the federal ordinance. Though the PPP is opposing the Islands Ordinance tooth and nail, along with NGOs, intellectuals, political parties and local fishing communities, it has not mustered the courage to adopt the resolution.
The PPP has, however, asked the federal government to immediately withdraw the PIDA ordinance. But the ordinance is such that not even elected representatives can challenge it in a court of law.
Two clauses in the ordinance have raised the heckles of people — that the federal government can sell off the land in the provinces, and that no authority in the country, including the police, judiciary and the local government has jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the ordinance.
Moreover, under the ordinance, the federal government can use force to evict people from the islands.
For the Baloch people, the Islands Ordinance is one more reason to be angry with the federal government. Coming on top of the exploitative CPEC, historical marginalization of the Baloch people, the infamous death squads that kidnap and kill Baloch youth, the Balochistan region moves further away from Pakistan and Imran Khan.
(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)