The spectre of the Baloch insurgency [3 of 3]

The Saindak project should have been in control of the provincial government since its inception. [Saindak constitutes a Copper-Gold project worth Rs 18 billion]. A little game was played to hand the project to the centre.
In the 80s, when the exploration contracts were being sanctioned, Saindak was leased to the federal government who then gave it to its Mining department, who sub-leased it to its own company, Saindak Metals Limited (SML), who then leased it to the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (MCC).
The SML and MCC are 50-50 stakeholders in the project, with provincial royalties coming at 2% of the sale price. Through manipulation of the lease, the centre has mercilessly deprived the Baloch of a constitutional right to the projects profits.
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THE RESOURCES QUESTION

·

by Hashim bin Rashid

·

A critical point of dispute is the ‘siphoning off of Baloch resources by the Pakistani state.’

It would be useful to break down two existing projects, Saindak and Chamalang, before discussing the broader contours that shape disputes around future projects.

The Saindak project, as revealed by a Mines and Minerals department insider, should have been in control of the provincial government since its inception. Saindak constitutes a Copper-Gold project worth Rs 18 billion. A little game was played to hand the project to the centre.

In the 80s, when the exploration contracts were being sanctioned, Saindak was leased to the federal government who then gave it to its Mining department, who sub-leased it to its own company, Saindak Metals Limited (SML), who then leased it to the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (MCC).

The SML and MCC are 50-50 stakeholders in the project, with provincial royalties coming at 2% of the sale price. Through manipulation of the lease, the centre has deprived the Baloch of a constitutional right to the projects profits.

With both the federal governments and MCC’s leases come, at the end of this year the mining officials who cite pressure to extend both leases. They also reveal that the troubles with Saindak lie far beyond these.

The Chinese firm involved has never been monitored and it is expected that it has been draining the mining site for more than allowed and so shall decrease the life of the project. An Asia Times Online report, puts actual production at 24,000 tonnes compared to the 15,800 tonne capacity anticipated. The mine is originally expected to last 19 years, is expected to have little left after the 10 year Chinese excavation.

The benefits of the Saindak project have spiraled to the Chinese and the Federal government. Only a meager 2% return has spilled over to the Baloch government with nothing to show for the project.

Before a run-down of the Chamalang project, it would be a bit of dark humour to suggest that you watch an ISPR-funded documentary on the Chamalang mine titled Black Pearl. It begins with the statement, “Greed always breeds crime and halts progress and prosperity. The personal ambitions of a few tribal chiefs in Balochistan have held the province in a state of fear and lawlessness.”

The Chamalang mines are located 70 kilometers south-east of Loralai with proven coal deposits of approximately 500 million tonnes worth Rs 200 billion. The mines are located in the Marri area. In 2006, the Pakistan Army (under the Balochistan government’s name) signed an accord with Muhabbat Khan Marri, a known tribal enemy of Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, and the Luni (Pashtun tribes) to extract the coals.

Immediately after, Marri tribesman began to resist the deal. 5 drivers transporting coal from the Chamalang project site were reported killed in July 2011 alone. This constitutes another example of the armed forces and government of Pakistan exploiting the differences between the Baloch to obtain short term benefits from mineral resources located within Balochistan.

The funny thing is, while national dailies now report it as a ‘Government of Balochistan’ operated project, all prior newspaper source material and an interview with a civilian operator of the project show the project falls strictly under the purview of the armed forces of Pakistan, whose chief has been distancing himself from any formal negotiation processes.

What do they offer in return? A Mines and Minerals department official told us that 3,000 children from the area were being taught at army schools from the Chamalang development fund (Rs 500 per tonne of coal extracted goes into it). The same official had spent the first 20 minutes of our meeting trying to explain how ‘education must be indigenous.’ Of course, the narration of the wonders of the project meant asking him, “whether this was merely PR or was local goodwill involved?”

We never received a satisfactory answer, other than, “The first batch of Baloch children must first be ‘nationalized.’ The next batch can study on their own curriculum.” In effect, this ‘education’ project constitutes a continuation of the same old Baloch paradigm.

No substantial or consequential difference exists within it in terms of how the project views the Baloch as the “Baloch lawless, Army savior,” documentary continues to project. Things are more nuanced on the field.

The simple matter is: the Pakistani State has exploited Baloch natural resources and shall continue to do so under the guise of development.

‘Development’ is the word used to enact the greatest economic injustices in the modern world. And so it shall continue to be used by each scouring vulture around the Baloch carcass. 

The question to ask is: can the Baloch manage these projects themselves?

Talking to a mining department official, this writer asked, “How many well-qualified engineers does any project require?” He responded, “20.” “So why have we not been able to produce 20 Baloch PhD engineers that can operate such a project,” I asked back. The silent response was stark.

The official, however, himself said, “no international mining covenant is being met in Pakistan. At least 10% of mining profits must go into community building projects near the mining site area. And that is what we are trying to ensure for the future.”

However, with the growing interests around the Reko Dig and Gwadar port, it is clear that the national and international greed that fuels their relationship with Balochistan shall make itself manifest more crudely. However, as the resistance movement around Gwadar and Chamalang suggests, this will not be an easy task, and shall come at the greater alienation of the Baloch.

And so it is that we move to conclude this article.

·

THE BALOCH QUESTION

·

It is in the context of what the Baloch read as a history of injustices and a continuation of Pakistani colonization that the current political contours around it must be negotiated.

The current PPP government has been the first to recognize this unequal relationship and has tried to redress the damage done by the Musharraf regime. The NFC award and the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan packages are insufficient steps but still offer beginnings.

In fact, if the wording of the Aghaz i Haqooq i Balochistan be unpacked, it is interesting to note that it is worded, “The Beginning of the Deliverance of Balochistan’s rights.” In its wording is the tacit acceptance of the history of injustices that has marked the relationship between Pakistan and Balochistan. It is unfortunate that it has taken 64 years to do accept such – and thus the onus lies on the Pakistan government and not the Baloch to compromise.

The first step must be a full stop to kidnap operations by intelligence agencies in Balochistan. The second must be the army’s withdrawal from active operations and the decentering of its historical political control over the province. The third step must be the empowering of the Baloch provincial government and allowing it the space to do politics.

However, there are stronger steps required if the next political government really wishes to recover Baloch trust. A full inquiry into the army operation in Balochistan must be set up. Those responsible for the killing of citizens must be brought to account. Killing citizens by calling them traitors cannot be allowed.

But it is to be wondered if the current political government [which anyway is going to pack up next month] shall do so, when  its Prime Minister, who continues to show more concern over killed Punjabis than Baloch, continues to ask the wrong questions about what went wrong in Balochistan.

Concluded. 

Previous: The spectre of the Baloch insurgency Part-II

Pages:  1   2   3

The writer is a staff member of Pakistan Today, an online Pakistani magazine. He also blogs at voiceamidstsilence.blogspot.com and can be contacted at hashim.rashid@pakistantoday.com.pk

Related Posts:

1. My name is Khan and I am the brother of Baloch 2. A new social contract in Pakistan between Federation and its components 3. Concepts and their Meanings 4. New Social Contract between Federation of Pakistan and Balochistan 5. Genesis of the Baloch-Islamabad conflict
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  1. […] Next: The spectre of the Baloch insurgency Part III […]

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