Who Gets Counted
Amid the hue and cry for a national census, Balochistan, the country’s insurgency-hit and marginalized province, has yet again convulsed with contradicting views on the upcoming census. The chief tenets of the Baloch nationalists’ list of grievances are the case of Afghan refugees, internally displaced person (IDPs) and temporarily dislocated persons (TDPs); the migration of Afghan refugees into Baloch dominated areas; the migration of Baloch people amid the wave of insurgency and extremism; the provincial apparatus’ capability (or lack thereof) to deal with counting in remote areas; the case of fake Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) in Pashtun-dominant areas; and lastly, the prevailing insecurity of the province.
However, given the present ground realities, if the census is held, it may end up solidifying and impairing divisions between the province’s Pashtun and Baloch populations. Therefore, it’s imperative for the federal government to delay the census only in Balochistan, for a period, until the concerns of both Pashtun and Baloch nationalists are addressed. All in all, it’s also an opportunity for the PML(N)-led government to address the apprehensions of Baloch and Pashtun nationalists, and make the situation a win-win for all. Nevertheless, if neglected these apprehensions may further add fuel to the fire of insurgency.
The Balochistan Nationalist are leading the campaign for exodus of Afghan refugees from Balochistan before the forthcoming census. The natives of occupied Balochistan claim that millions of Afghan refugees have acquired fake nationality documents by bribing government officials. Baloch nationals says that on one side the population of Pashtun areas would increase in the census due to influx of Afghan refugees whereas on the other side the population of Baloch areas would be reduced because census can’t be taken place in several districts of occupied Balochistan due to law and order situation.
Independent analysis of the claims of the natives of occupied Balochistan proves that there is some weight in their plights. In three different cases, Nadra employees have been convicted in occupied Balochistan by accountability courts for issuing illegal CNICs to Afghan refugees. Over a dozen Nadra employees are serving imprisonment sentences at the moment in those cases. These employees have confessed, during investigations conducted by the FIA, that they issued hundreds of thousands of CNICs to Afghan refugees. According to a report, 64,000 fake CNICs were issued by Nadra in the seven months of 2015 only.
A Quetta-based analyst claims that if Afghan refugees are not excluded from the population in Pashtun areas then the entire population dynamic of the occupied Balochistan will be turned upside-down. That would result in several other problems and end up fuelling the ongoing insurgency in occupied Balochistan. The Pakistan government, therefore, must handle the situation of Afghan refugees in occupied Balochistan with the utmost care. Afghan refugees must not be allowed to be a part of the census in occupied Balochistan. If the right decisions are not made at the right time it will result in a highly volatile situation in occupied Balochistan.