Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Balochistan;Insurgency and Land Reform

Despite serious attempts by the present PPP government including provincial autonomy as enshrined in the 18th amendment,and Balochistan Aghaze-huqooq package,public apology by President Zardari and substantial reduction in the role of security agencies,and even background engagement and negotiation with the liberationists,there is apparently no concession by the insurgents and no amelioration in the insurgency.The dialogue and engagement should continue,so that a peaceful and democratic solution is achieved at some point in time.Unfortunately GOPs ability to offer any more carrots as it has recently announced,has been seriously reduced by the recent fluid and may not recover from it in a short while.The taliban terrorism has further compounded the problems.Many interests are converging including India,Taliban,Sipah-e-sahaba and the nationalists and separatists.And GOP and the system too weak and occupied to take any drastic action.And the drastic military actions have only exacerbated the problems.

It appears that when ever the opportunity arises some long term measures may have to be taken.Following are the three possible actions that may be examined by the government:
a)creation of a new and counter elite
b) agricultural land grants to masses
c)development and colonization of the coastal area by Baloch masses and the new elite.

As colonial raj did by distributing land in reward for cooperation and bringing about a new elite, in place of freedom fighters and those who did not go and could not go along with their colonial rule and policies.There should be a lot of public land still available in Balochistan.After all,it is only 5% of country's population living in 50% of the land mass of the country.Most of it may be barren land ,so most of the distributed land was when it was distributed to the collaborators by the Raj.It is only the later irrigation network that made such land productive.Unfortunately,as it is widely alleged,most of the land grants have been given to military and bureaucracy,who came from outside Balochistan ,which painted Pakistan as a colonial power and not a rule of brothers and comrades.Local counter elite could be created by land grants 50-100 acres plus to the educated middle classes , however,little in number they may be in Balochistan. There may be about 50,000 families in this category.Their education,some personal assets and the new land tracts may contribute to the creation of new elite.The possession of land,even if not immediately profitable,may bring a social strength ,confidence and consciousness among ordinary people.In rural societies there is no respect and even rights for those who donot have land.So let us bring respect and honour to the ordinary,as a first step towards improvement.

The second component of the reform is ,which one may be inclined to dub or term as land reform,but in my view is sightly more than that, to distribute land smaller land grants among the masses, to about 500,000 families and organize those as cooperatives.Horticultural and rangeland cooperatives may be promoted through credit schemes.Both foreign and local coops may be there.Trilateral JVs of Australian,Middle-eastern and local partners may prove to be feasible and attractive from sourcing and marketing perspectives.Australians sheep industry may find a useful marketing and inventorying point in these set ups.There may be many useful and interesting ideas in this respect.But the focus should be creating economic and social opportunities to the common man of Balochistan away from the strangle-hold of the traditional elite and Sirdars.The schemes have to be small and not so lucrative by design so as to prevent creation of interests of landlords,Sirdars and the traditional elite.

One may be wondering over the water issue in all this grand drama.More storage dams are being created.All the share of Balochistan in the increase of water supply and the associated irrigation networks should go towards the proposed settlements and the reformed land.It should not benefit the traditional elite but should work for the benefit of new elite and the common man.More over adoption of conservation techniques like drip irrigation mat have to be promoted as well.We have also proposed a new system of water rights which benefits the landless and makes them partners in the new irrigation.

Thirdly,urban land clusters and town should be established on the coast,on lands having no Sirdar ownership or social and traditional influence.Residential and commercial plots should be alotted to the locals from all over Balochistan,encouraging migration of common man from Sirdari strangleholds to these towns where there is rule of law and the Pakistan state.In the past,in Gawadar all urban land went into the ownership of outsiders,although through private commercial purchases.Only landed and traditional local elite may have been benefited.Urban development of Balochistan cannot be done on private sector traditional model.Land development allotments have to be in public sector,while building activities may have private sector component.

GOP does not have resources presently.However, a few years or so may be required in studying and planning such an enterprise.these scheme should be based on bipartisan consensus including the military.A strong taboo would have to be created against exploitative interests that may pervert the whole idea in implementation.The goal has to be kept in mind:that is the creation of a new counter elite that is sympathetic to a united Pakistan , and creation of socio economic system in Balochistan independent of the traditional elite and Sirdars,who who often collude and blackmail on anti-Pakistan campaigns.

For the larger issue of country wide Land Reforms,I have already made submissions in my earlier blogs.There is a scope,however limited for land reforms throughout Pakistan .Long term planning and sustainable action is required under national consensus to implement the proposed scheme.Impulsive actions,without constructive thoughts and preparation,and only motivated by personal pique has done tremendous disservice to the national unity in the past and has only exacerbated the Baloch issue.But do we have the time?

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