A historical rift resurfaces from the rubble in Balochistan where an earthquake killed 400 people and affected at least 300,000 last Tuesday. As soon as the Pakistani government and armed forces reached the jolted area, they were met with resistance and even hostility from local liberation groups and ordinary village dwellers. In several cases, helicopters carrying relief equipment for earthquake victims were shot at by what the army describes “anti-state” militants. Unarmed rural civilians of Teertaj themselves told reporters on the ground that they want nothing from the army even if it includes aid for the wounded and displaced. This is only a brief glimpse into Balochistan’s resentment against the state for years of neglect.

Baloch representatives have stated reasonable and understandable demands before the government of Pakistan on many occasions, but their exigencies remain unnoticed. Operations by paramilitary troops, namely the Frontier Corps, continue within Balochistan. Further disintegrating the already volatile relationship between the average citizen and the state is the neglected case of missing people in Pakistan. A considerable number of people displaced by force hail from the turbulent province of Baluchistan. Despite suffering human loss and displacement – of both natural and political kinds – the Baloch resistance to life-saving military aid in the face of a deadly earthquake only demonstrates the chasm inflicted by a festering conflict. Assurances, suo moto notices, political slogans, all have come to naught and the average Baloch is no better off than before. The new arrangement under the NFC award has also failed to be of benefit to the average Baloch, with corrupt politicians pocketing much of the cash meant for public uplift. The fact that even at a time of such tragedy and trial, help meant for young and old is being turned away is a sad reminder of the hurt and desolation the Baloch are feeling. The democratic government at the center, and at the provincial level must make their presence felt. If the civilian government fails to address the complaints of the Baloch, there is no else in Pakistan who can. The rejection of aid after the earthquake must be heeded as a dire warning.