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The Pakistan dilemma: challenges and prospects for the European Union

Submitted by on 01 May 2011 – 13:15

Senator Sana Baloch is a Baloch leader and a former Member of Senate of Pakistan. He can be reached at senator.baloch@gmail.com , http://www.sanabaloch.com

Predominantly, the fear of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and creeping militancy have become Pakistan’s hallmark. However, there are various other fault lines and factors behind Pakistan’s gradual fall into fundamentalism, sectarianism, social unrest including ethnic conflicts, and mounting political instability.

In fact, Pakistan is relevant to all five “frightening scenarios” outlined in the European Security Strategy (ESS) paper in 2003. These key fears include – terrorism, proliferation of WMD, regional conflicts, state failure and organized crime including drug and human trafficking.  Despite huge challenges, Brussels seems less attentive towards Pakistan, and appears to be following a result-less slow-motion diplomacy, without firm objectives.

If Pakistan had more bread and butter, ethnically less dominated institutions and true justice, it would have seen less blood and tears. In fact, poverty, misery, greed, injustice and appalling inequality are the taproot of the many crises in Pakistan. The country is witnessing an increase in governance-linked conflicts which have reached an unmanageable proportion.

The sheer rate of acceleration of violence in Pakistan is an index of the enveloping loss of control. In the year 2003, the total fatalities in terrorism-related violence amounted to just 189, but these mounted dramatically thereafter to the unprecedented minimum of 6,715 in 2008 and 11,529 in 2009, with limited decline to 7,435 in 2010, which is, however, still higher than any preceding year.

Repeated military rule and disrespect for true democratic values shattered the very basics of the social and political fabric of the country. Pakistan’s locally ordered “colonial policies” including ethnically structured institutions, over-centralization, inflexible constitutional arrangements and a lack of a clear socio-economic approach are furthering the uncontrolled crisis.

Evident political and economic inequalities are widening the gap among the communities and regions. Political issues are dealt with by sheer force. Human and fundamental rights are disregarded and intimidation is the instrument of suppression used by the country’s powerful intelligence agencies.

People are deeply divided along ethnic, sectarian and regional lines. Only a few districts in central Punjab are peaceful and thriving. However, populations in the resource-rich and strategically significant region of Sind and Balochistan are starving. The political situation is volatile and fragmented — extremism is on rise, social standards are sharply falling, economic activities and direct foreign investment are diminishing and the energy crisis is frustrating.

Given the ongoing war on terrorism, Pakistan’s significantly bordered regions with Afghanistan and Iran, such as Balochistan, the Khaber-Pukhtoonkhawa province including the Federally Administered regions are undergoing political and geographical tensions – shaping new security concerns in the region.

Despite the fact that nearly 30,000 European troops taken from 25 of the 27 EU Member States are deployed in Afghanistan, however, a collective and purposeful EU foreign policy is missing in the region, and most particularly towards Pakistan. Although human rights are central to the EU foreign policy, the Unions’ negligence and silence over alarming human rights violations in Pakistan are beyond anyone’s understanding.

In fact, the EU is Pakistan’s largest investor and trading partner, having imported 26.8% of the country’s total exports in 2007 (U.S. and China lie in second and fifth places, having received 21.6% and 3.4% of Pakistan’s exports respectively) with Pakistan receiving 14.6% of the EU’s total exports (8% and 12.8% from the U.S. and China respectively).

The EU Member States, with combined diplomatic efforts and initiatives can play an essential role in addressing Pakistan’s chronic problems including worsening human rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities such as against Christians, Hindus and Baloch people, where Islamabad is using inhuman methods to suppress the Baloch quest for the national right of self-determination.

No doubt, European nations have divergent national interests and priorities, but they have to realize that the Pakistan’s frightening scenario is equally relevant to the security of the European nations.

In April 2009, the European Commission (EC) announced that it would contribute a total of €485 million (including €100 million from the European Investment Bank) in aid from now until 2013 to Pakistan to reduce poverty through rural development and to increase resource management mechanisms in the Khybar-Pukhtoonkhawa and Balochistan regions, with the aim of promoting stability in Pakistan’s sensitive provinces.

Lacking a clear framework of obligations these procedures by the European nations and the EC will prove less productive in promoting social and political stability in Pakistan. The European nations need to clearly understand Pakistan’s dynamics and pursue a more practical strategy to influence Pakistan’s super-establishment to reform its ethnically-structured civil-military institutions and pave the way for a more inclusive and true democratic system of governance.

The Texas-sized, resource-rich Balochistan, with 750 km of strategically significant coastline, is the largest but least developed of Pakistan’s four provinces. Balochistan shares sizable and strategically significant borders with Afghanistan and Iran. Islamabad’s discriminatory policies have resulted in massive despair among the Baloch masses. Conflict in the region has resulted in killings, displacement, disappearances and human rights crises – well documented by reputable organizations.

In fact, Balochistan is also an important transit route for NATO’s military goods to Afghanistan. During 2009 and 2010 NATO supplies were ruthlessly attacked inside Baloch territory, a region mainly home to moderate Baloch people.

Unsettled, the Baloch-Islamabad conflict will have a damaging impact on the EU and EC’s ‘Instrument for Stability’ plans in the region.

The peaceful resolution of prolonged conflict in Balochistan, integration of FATA into K-P province, investment in human development, activation of economic development and poverty reduction including political empowerment and self-rule for significant regions, i.e. Balochistan, are all very much related to the broader peace and security agenda.

There are two set of options for the EU to translate its vision of stability in Pakistan. First, by immediately engaging with the Government of Pakistan to build a popular driven approach to conflict resolution and peace building. The EU can play a strategic role to stabilize Balochistan by facilitating a result-oriented Baloch-Islamabad dialogue including by initiating an action plan to end military operation against moderate Baloch people and focus on the Taliban’s flooding into the region. With regard to addressing the appalling human rights situation, the EU must engage in constructive dialogue with Pakistani authorities to end the practice of torture, arbitrary arrests, and extra judicial killings.

Second, the EU stabilization support needs to be contingent upon a consolidated framework of norms and principles by encouraging Pakistan’s reluctant establishment to adopt a number of instruments on human rights, democratic governance, de-militarization, terrorism and good neighbourliness and institutional restructuring to end institutional discrimination against non-core groups, where observance of these fundamentals would considerably reduce the risk of conflict and violence in the country.