The Paradox of Sustainable Peace in Balochistan

Dr Mir Sadaat Baloch

Sustaining peace, is a goal and a process to build a common vision of a society. Rather than focusing efforts on conflict resolution, the process aims at conflict prevention by learning what qualities make a society peaceful. Generally, scholars explain predictive factors of peaceful societies as having shared identities and common goals among citizens within a country.

Balochistan is yarning for sustainable peace since the start of this century. The province oscillates between violence and negative peace, while downheartedly waiting for positive peace. Negative peace is defined as the absence of violence or fear of violence in society. Whereas, positive peace defined as the attitudes, institutions, and structures that sustain peace within society. Research shows that regions with higher levels of positive peace also have higher levels of stability, higher GDP growth, greater levels of gender equality, and less violent political events. In case of Gambia sustainable peace was achieved because of open dialogue and a major war was avoided. Mamadou Tangara, Permanent Representative of The Gambia to the UN explains “It’s important to continue to listen to the people and to work with our traditional mechanism of solving conflict.” The preceding thoughts can explain why we have failed to achieve peace in Balochistan. In this region the public is never involved in any sort of debate in fact they are seldomly encouraged to express themselves openly.  The paradox of sustainable peace in Balochistan needs to be understood from a perspective that goes beyond the military intervention and pro-development strategy. 

First of all, we must understand that military intervention should be one instrument in a broader spectrum of tools designed to avert conflicts and violence from arising or spreading. Consolidation of peace requires more than military and political action. It requires a grounded approach for enhancing human security. There are certain factors that ensures human security and there are necessary pre-conditions for positive peace.  

Once the military intervention has curtailed the violence, they must let the civil authority to take the lead. However, in case of Balochistan this seems a bit complex due to a compromised administrative system that shuttles between the politicians, military and judiciary. Functioning administrative system is vital for the delivery of basic amenities and a level of ‘law and order’ necessary to boost people’s sense of physical and psychological security in the province.

For past many years the state has tried to appease the people of Balochistan through a pro development strategy without realizing that a sustainable peace will not come through institution-building and economic development alone. The stakeholders in Balochistan ignores the fact that military interventions might bring an end to the fighting but they do not bring an end to the conflict. It is vital that efforts are directed to create the space necessary for dialogue to take place across the boundaries of divided groups, such that a sense of co-existence is developed among all parties.

To create that space, it is necessary that the decision makers for Balochistan must realise some elementary fallacies that deters the way for positive peace. First of all, there is no typical model for peace-building, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’. Every peace initiative needs to be constructed in the broadest mindfulness of the context and conflict. What might have worked in North is not necessarily appropriate for the South. Anyone planning an intervention in a conflict zone must perform a very systematic context and conflict analysis. An analysis that should be free of all biases particularly, the confirmatory bias that the decision makers have in their minds while taking any action in Balochistan. 

Secondly, any intervention, whether it be by military or non-military means must understand that outsiders cannot make peace on behalf of other people. Reconciliation will only happen when communities take responsibility for their relationships with each other. Apart from this when a stakeholder intervening in a conflict zone can hardly avoid becoming a party to the conflict. The assumption that a military force entering a conflict zone for peace-keeping will remain as some kind of neutral referee is not supported by the available historical evidence from any part of the globe. Finally, the most critical factor that influence the sustainability of peace in a region is the degree of legitimacy that the decision makers perceive their decisions and actions have. In case of Balochistan such legitimacy is only gauged by the coercive power that the decision maker holds.

For once the decision makers for Balochistan needs to understand that cosmetic measure will not pacify the people of Balochistan. In Balochistan we do not need sympathies of the ruling class but the empathy of the decision makers. As long as the powerful will hold to their primitive ways, Balochistan will remain a blackhole that would suck all the hopes, dreams and fortune of our people. The Author is the founding president of Balochistan Council for Peace and Policy first think tank of Balochistan.

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