The Pakistani case for Kashmir no longer rests on religion; the Bengali rebellion and secession in 1971 did in that argument. It now rests upon the more exalted principle of self-determination. That is what their friends abroad and even in India wax eloquent about. The Pakistanis no longer harp about Indian perfidies in Junagadh and Hyderabad. Free elections, full integration and the sheer fact of Hindus being the major community in these two onetime princely states has put paid to that.
But Kashmir still dogs us. It is predominantly Muslim and the demand for self-determination has us confused. Isn’t that what democracy is all about? But the irony is that Pakistan is the champion of self-determination when its own people do not often enjoy democratic rights. The three pillars upon which the Pakistani state rests are still Allah, Army and America. The people of Pakistan do not figure in this scheme at all. The Pakistani leaders want a diplomatic engagement with us on Jammu and Kashmir again. Their Prime Minister has once again donned the cloak of democracy that hangs outside Gen. Kiyani’s bunker. But we must not shirk from talking about self-determination with them. It’s a two edged sword and cuts both ways. Let’s take the case of Baluchistan.
The Pakistani province of Baluchistan is a mountainous desert area of about 3.5 lakh sq.kms and has a population of over 7.5 million or about as much as Jammu and Kashmir’s population. It borders Iran, Afghanistan and its southern boundary is the Arabian Sea with the strategically important port of Gwadar on the Makran coast commanding approach to the Straits of Hormuz. It also has huge oil and gas reserves.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, the population here now consists of Baluch and Pashtu speaking Afghans. Like the Kurds, the Baluch are also a people ignored by the makers of modern political geography. There is also the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan spread over an area of 1.82 lakh sq.kms. and with a population of over 2.5 million Baluch. Its capital is Zahedan.