India - Interviews
Muhammad Imran Khan Balouch
Watershed - Elaborate on the National Defence University and the University of the Punjab – syllabi, profile of students, teaching differentials, and your experience at both.
Muhammad Imran Khan Balouch - The University of the Punjab is the top-most seat of learning in Pakistan. Foreign qualified scholars and hardworking academicians are galaxied there. The contribution of this university is greater than any other institute in my homeland. On the other hand, the National Defence University in Islamabad has a particular focused area and its syllabi are compatible to any world university. Students at both places are alike, energetic, optimistic, youthful and full of love for their homeland. Moreover, students of the National Defence University have variety of knowledge on various issues, due to foreign official students, who are supposed to have some academic relationship and sharing of professional knowledge of their homeland, with civilian students of the Faculty of Contemporary Studies in terms of civil-military relationship, domestic politics of their homelands; and more important source are the lectures held at the Institute of Strategic Studies and Regional Analysis (ISSRA) where all foreign military officers are supposed to deliver lectures. It definitely reshapes the images and add innovative analyses in one’s existing knowledge.
WS - It seems much emphasis has been given to tertiary to the neglect of primary education. How should Pakistan address the education system so as to prepare its youth to a globalising economy?
MB - Pakistani people are faithful, hardworking, energetic and have analytical as well as practical approach to pursue the jobs and conducting their duties. However, the literacy rate in Pakistan is not at a level where one should be a sharing hand to world affairs, but if the government of Pakistan takes some necessary actions and adequate measures to meet the sophisticated criteria of the Higher Education Commission, then our community has better chances to enhance the literacy rate. So far, whereas primary education concerns, the government of Pakistan should spend 9-13 percent of its GDP over primary education, graduate education and research, then Pakistan would be able to play a significant role in a globalised economy.
WS - Intense urbanization, high birth rates and lack of investments in infrastructure deeply affected living standards. How would you tackle these problems?
MB - Both the houses of Parliament should introduce and approve laws to bring tax payable groups to the taxation net through a system. All those Pakistani millionaires, who have their money deposited in foreign banks, should be given initiative to set up ventures of commerce and industry. Yes, peaceful atmosphere is also needed at domestic level. Fresh contributions in market economy will be fruitful to develop and enhance the capability and capacity of sophisticated infrastructure to facilitate the masses of Pakistan (rural as well as urban communities). However, government has introduced the “Lady Health Center” both at rural and urban levels to educate couples to control over high birth rates. The reports of the Health Department in this regard show that in the last five years, this program has been creating awareness among masses, which shall be fruitful to control over population explosion in Pakistan. Government is also seeking such strategy to facilitate the rural community while providing equal rights to stop intense urbanization to some extent.
WS - Comment on the present political environment and civilian-military relations in Pakistan.
MB - There is naturally a tussle between ruling party and opposition on various issues. Pakistan Peoples Party is in government with her allies and has too much complicated issues where common men have a lot of concerns to be dealt out peacefully and taking considerations about load shedding, bribery, nepotism, economic fluctuation, ever changing rates of petrol and diesel, etc.; so these are the domestic issues where a common man is very much concerned, since opposition in democratic systems is always supposed to exploit such situations in terms of opposing prevailing policies and their impacts (especially in South Asian States). Federal government of Pakistan, as well as provincial governments should play a role to establish peace and bring dissident groups to dialogue. However, foreign troops and attacks on innocent people would complicate the situation further. Civil-military relationships are normal and there is no possibility of a coup d´état. Pakistan Military Force is busy to fight with terrorism and in the wake of this war, there are less chances for military decision makers to have such hard decision like another martial law. Possibilities are not there and civil society has best wishes for Pakistani forces because the military are fighting out this war to safeguard the country and develop infrastructure of Pakistan. Pakistan Army nowadays is busy in relief/rehabilitation programs, providing basic necessities in flood effective areas where flood has devastated millions of people. Such activities and relief programs would definitely bring close to effective society. Moreover, Pakistan military have close cordial relationship with ruling elites as well as civil society.
WS - What is your prognosis for Pakistan in the long run – civilian democracy, civilian-military soft authoritarianism, military authoritarianism, theocracy?
MB - Since the day Pakistan got independence, Pakistani community experienced numerous critical situations in terms of civil rule, military rule and lost half of state due to unjustified policies and undue involvement of national and international actors. Pakistani community has both views about democracy and a martial law kind of authoritarian rule. Both schools of thought have their roots in society. Let the society judge herself as which system is better of government to rule as per community’s aspirations. In my opinion, civilian democracy, along with regional parties in provinces and a better role for religious parties in Pakistan, will be more fruitful in terms of bringing political stability.
WS - How are the relations among powerful Punjab and the other provinces?
MB - People of Pakistan in all provinces have same common problems likewise: unemployment, price hike, load shedding, law and order disturbance. In Punjab, chief minister and provincial cabinet have more realistic policies towards federal government and other provincial governments and public. The real problem lies with corrupt politicians who are also powerful in parliament and bureaucracy. Moreover there are many issues which needs to be settle down peacefully among the provinces, like water sharing for irrigation and percentage of NFC(1) awards.
WS - How does a Punjabi see a Balouch, a Sindhi, a Mohajir and vice versa?
MB - Well, each and every Pakistani has great sense of oneness, unity; all the masses belonging to any province of Pakistan have respect for each other. So far international media is concerned promoting the idea of divergent behavior and cultural conflicts among the five provinces indeed. That is a matter concerned with social behavior and some political interests of such people, to whom suites the concept of provincial autonomy. Moreover, human beings have cultural differences but the masses of Pakistan are not seeking such type of cultural violence, like a person belonging to the Sindh province or Balouchistan or Khyber Pukhtune khuwa may easily live in Punjab or elsewhere in Pakistan. There is a cultural harmony between all the five provinces. They do have different living styles, regional languages to communicate; things are different but on many of them, they have mutual consensus, like: religious harmony, cultural harmony, respect to human rights and constitutional law.
WS - Could ethnic matters lead to a political unrest and pressure for a federation of autonomous provinces? Any risk of a new partition?
MB - Ethnic matters may lead to a political unrest, but it is everywhere in the world. Ethnicity has both positive and negative impacts on domestic politics in every society. I strongly believe that Pakistan will not get divided further. However there is a Balouch(2)nationalism prevailing in Balouchistan (largest province of Pakistan in terms of territory), which have reshaped domestic politics in terms of political, social and economical deprivations and grievances. Their claims for their legitimate right in developmental sectors are justified. One thing which is more important in terms of “Balouch” nationalism, said by many political analysts: “Sardars” in Balouchistan are beneficiary of ethnic movements, how much they monopolized situations against federation in Pakistan. These are also funded by foreign hands as unseen forces tend to exploit ethnic politics and domestic issues of Balouchistan.
WS - Should Balouchistan have more autonomy? How would other provinces deal with a hypothetical more "independent" Balouch province?
There is a debate nowdays in Pakistan about the provincial autonomy. I do not see provincial autonomy as much better than federation. A few people or landlords are pursuing this agenda and demanding from federation to protect their political and economic interests. Suppose for an instant that all five provinces got provincial autonomy – what shall be the cost of benefits for Pakistan? What is the guarantee that Pakistan will surely get peace and stability in the region as well as at domestic level to maintain prosperity and progress? According to many geological survey reports, Balouchistan is a province highly rich in natural resources, gold, copper, aluminum, petroleum, gas, coal mines. Every one knows the worth of Balouchistan for future economic backbone of Pakistan, while keeping in view how Pakistan can bear any province as independent province. Indeed regional players are working on this agenda for separation and independant Balouchistan, likewise Iran and India. India is not only supporting on moral basis the Balouch insurgency but also financing and providing training to at least 5 to 25 thousand Balouch nationals and youth under the flag of Afghanistan, having tanning camps in Hairat and Kabul to fight against the federation and for better claim of an independant Balouchistan. There are some extremists working also on Greater Balouchistan Doctrine, which includes whole Pakistani Balouchistan, Iranian Balouchistan and some parts of Afghanistan as well.
WS - Is the Army prepared to fight domestic terrorism, provided it has a long and deeply established interstate defence strategy?
MB - Domestic terrorism is in control, its credit goes back to Pakistan Army strategists, civil administration as well as civil society politicians. The civil society has adopted such adequate measures for counterterrorism which are proving worthy in this context. There is less suicide bombing as in percentage of previous years. Pakistan Army is more sophisticated and more active as compare the armies of great powers in terms of fighting with domestic terrorism, also with global war on terrorism. No one can deny the most important role of Pakistani Army in this regard.
WS - Has the Army been the sole beneficiary of the US billionaire financial aid since 2001?
MB - Financial aid as well as strategic aid is a burden on upcoming generations of Pakistan. Our aid is payable nota “Free of Cost”. In this regard you may see Ayesha Siddiqa’s book Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, where she has described beautifully and analytically all the aspects of foreign strategic aid.
WS - Is peace with India possible? Is it desirable?
MB - Peace with India is very much desired. Seminars, workshops and cultural exchange programs may also be fruitful in this context. It would leave greater benefits for the people of both countries. Through plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir, peace between India and Pakistan can be established and peaceful resolutions of all issues is possible. Outstanding issues between both states may be settled down if the establishments consider the dreams of civil society. There is great sense of nationalism on both sides. Regional players and international players may play an important role to bring both states into mediation for the resolution of all disputing areas.
WS - Shouldn´t Pakistan and India be talking about trade, which could better pave the way to peace?
MB - There should be regular meetings between both neighbors. There are many constrains between both states, which are, also well said, natural rivals. Many areas of conflict have possibility to be dealt peacefully through meaningful negotiations and mediations by international key players. Yet the civil society of Pakistan is willing to have trade with India because India has a huge population and still lacks many items which are in better form of production in Pakistan. But ideology and establishment of both states are confronting each other. Without resolving key issues, maybe there are less chances of such trade. Let the time judge when the masses of concerning states realize the situations, needs and demands of the civil society as well.
WS - How dangerous is the US-India nuke deal for Pakistan?
MB - US-India nuke deal is dangerous for Pakistan because India waged three wars against Pakistan and major skirmishes on various times, snatched water through Indus Basin Water Treaty, played a role in the separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan. In the prevalent circumstances, India has a secret role in suicide bombing attack imparting. India has disagreement on every issue with Pakistan. In these circumstances, the US-India nuclear deal would make India stronger. India may use these nukes against Pakistan (as a fear prevailing in thoughts of strategists), if a fanatic government is there. Moreover Pakistan has also energy demands as well as economic constraints: being an important ally of the US in global war, it is a legitimate right of Pakistan to ask about nuclear deal which may be helpful for Pakistan to meet the energy deficit, needs and demands.
WS - What does the average Pakistani think about the US? And about the Taliban?
MB - Average Pakistani thinks that the United States is a rich country. She should call back her troops from Pakistan. Pakistanis are bifurcated over the issue of the Taliban: 60-70 percent are against Taliban and Talibanization; others have some reservations. If the total aid received by Pakistan is of 35 billion dollars, than we have 40-45 billion dollars destruction in terms of socio-economic infrastructure and have questions about the psychological health of each and every Pakistani due or undue fears of bombing, as well as drone attacks.
WS - Will the emerging of China as a superpower diminish its strategic investment in Pakistan?
MB - China would remain a friend of Pakistan, even after being a world superpower. Both China and Pakistan have their own interests which are likely to be pursued by both states.
WS - Who´s Pakistan strongest and most reliable ally?
MB - In international politics, there are neither friends nor enemies but “interests”. So Pakistan has strong and reliable friends as China and Saudi Arabia.
WS - Is a nuclear Iran good or bad for Pakistan security?
MB - Well, Iran is a regional key player, is a state having joint Line of Control with Pakistan.Till today Pakistan has not enjoyed such healthy relationship with Iran, which was once supposed at the eve of independence. Iran has cultural and ethnic ties with the masses of Pakistan. Iran has been found directly involved in ethno-religious conflicts in Pakistan, supporting cultural violence, promoting Shia-Suni religious rift, promoting and financing Balouchistan insurgency, Balouch movement as Greater Balouchistan alike Pakistan is a close ally of the United States in global war on terrorism. So keeping in view all such directions of Pak-Iran relations, one may not say that a nuclear Iran is in favor of Pakistan, as the region already has three nuclear states in boundary conflicts with each other. Nuclear Iran may not balance the nuclear regime in this regard. Iran has also been enjoying good economic relations with India, as Pakistan has security dilemma concerns with India. Many of the issues concerning India-Iran-Pakistan relationships need a time span to deal with in the parameters of economic and social needs of the state.
WS - If I were to visit Pakistan as a tourist, what attractions would you recommend?
MB - Pakistan is rich in terms of culture and historical places. Cultural and historical places in Lahore, multi-ethnic coast of Karachi, Road to Karakoram, Gilgit to Khunjrab, Quetta to Ladakh; each and every place has a multi-dimensional cultural and historical background. Old civilizations of Harrapa and Mounjho Dharoo are most important. Places vary from tourist perspectives and hundreds of events are there to catch and derive tourist’s intensions.
WS - How would you “brand” Pakistan in a tourism campaign?
MB - Pakistan is a heaven for tourists and it will remain so. I am sorry to say, no Pakistani government paid due attention to promote tourism. Northern areas of Pakistan have same beauty as is there in Scandinavian countries, but due to terroristic newsflashes, untoward propaganda and suicide bombers it went into background. Alas…
Interview by Marcos Guedes Pereira
(1) The NFC award stands for "National Finance Commission" award, is the distribution of financial resources among the provinces of Pakistan by the federal government on annual basis. This was first implemented in 1974 during Zulfiqar Ali Bhotto’s era 1974, 1979, 1984,1991,1997, 2000 and 2009 respectively. Through NFC Award Taxes are pooled and distributed: certain types of taxes collected in each province are pooled, then redistributed according to the NFC formula. What taxes do include in the distribution pool and the distribution formula is a subject of debate. For example, taxes included in the pool are (a) income taxes; (b) general sales tax; (c) wealth taxes; (d) capital gains taxes, and (e) custom duties. Most Tax Receipts are collected from Punjab and Sindh. Almost all custom duties are collected at the Port of Karachi. (2) Balouch or Baluch or Bal'och - According to many historians, writers and cultural scholars, they have used both terms as Balouch and Bal´och and Baluch: a) M.K Pekoleen in his book The Balouch used the term Balouch, in1878; b) Sir Denzial used the term Bal ‘och as well Balouch in his bookCasts and creeds of Punjab, in1890; c) Dr. Shah Muhammad Murri, in his research work on Balouch Tribes, used the term Balouch in 1996. So far “Stan” stands here in Pakistan for a specific area, for instance, Balouchistan means “the area where Balouch tribes lives”. After changing the name of NWFP into Khyber Pakhtunekhwa, there is a debate on the name of Balouchistan, most preferred in official docoments as Baluchistan.