Caught in the middle
“I can’t tell you my observation about the current insurgency in Balochistan; however, I can tell you how many settlers have shifted from Quetta to other parts of the country and how many lost their lives without knowing their fault,” states Abdullah, who belongs to the third generation of a family referred to as ‘settlers’ that migrated to Quetta a century ago.
“My forefathers are buried in Kasi graveyard in Quetta and my father’s grave is in Mastung,” says Muhammad Riaz, another settler who retired from government service five years back. Elaborating further, he says, “We have been thoroughly integrated in the Baloch and the Pashtun society and always supported their political and nationalist movements”. A large number of settlers have married in Baloch and Pashtun families.
The representatives of settlers say that they are caught in the middle as they are neither taken as Balochistani by Baloch nationalists despite the fact that their ancestors came here over a century ago nor can they adjust in other parts of the country.
Balochistan Punjabi Ittehad (BPI) contend that the community, which suffered the most in this ongoing conflict, is settlers as over 1,500 have been killed in Quetta and other parts of the province during the last five years. “Over 150,000 settlers have migrated from Balochistan to other parts of the country,” says BPI leader Mohammad Amir. He adds that settlers living in Quetta have always supported Baloch and Pashtun candidates in the general elections and played decisive role in their success.
In the past, a large number of settlers joined a countrywide defunct National Awami Party (NAP) that did not give importance to ethnicity as it was enjoying the support of all nationalities including Baloch, Pashtoon, Sindhi, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Hazara and others. “Now, which political party can we join or support, as presently the Baloch and Pashtoon nationalists are running their politics on ethnic basis?” asks Abdur Rehman Qureshi.
“Majority of the settlers do not believe in ethnic groups, even in Balochistan Punjabi Ittehad, as they do not consider themselves separate from the local Baloch and Pashtun people,” says Mohammad Anwar Kakar, a leader of Pakistan Muslim League (N), while elaborating the position of settlers.