This note provides a brief background to the protracted, but all but forgotten conflict in Balochistan, a marginalised but resource-rich and strategically important province of Pakistan.Jump to full report >>
With the world’s attention usually on Afghanistan and the Pashtun borderlands of northwest Pakistan, the protracted low intensity conflict to the southeast in the Pakistani province of Balochistan (also called Baluchistan) has often been relatively eclipsed. Only developments in the provincial capital, Quetta, also known as ‘Taliban Central’, and the ‘Pashtun belt’ in the north of the province, feature regularly in the international media.
Balochistan makes up 43% the land-mass of Pakistan but Balochs, at around six million in number, are only 4% of the total population. Much of the province is harsh, mountainous terrain. About 80% of the population is said to live beneath the poverty line. The province’s human development indicators have long been the worst in the country. Along with historical grievances, this has fuelled a pro-independence insurgency. Armed groups inspired by sectarian and international Islamic extremist agendas have also been active in the province.
Balochistan is rich in uranium, copper, coal, gold, silver, platinum and aluminium and provides more than one-third of Pakistan’s natural gas. Overall, it contains nearly 20% of the country’s mineral and energy resources. In recent years, the province has become the focus of Chinese investment in the context of its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. However, there is debate about how much the people of Balochistan will benefit from this investment.
Commons Briefing papers SN06106
Author: Jon Lunn