Re-educational camps in Balochistan- A Copy-Paste of Xinjiang Model?

Updated: May 26

Satyajith MS,

Junior Research Analyst,

Internationalism Research.

Urvashi Arora,

Research Member,

Internationalism Research.

A so-called ‘re-educational’ centre built in the province of Balochistan for the reformation of Baloch fighters, is likely to exhibit a different reality. What Pakistan claims is that these indoctrination camps will not only help in building a peaceful province of Balochistan, but will also transform the Baloch fighters into law-abiding citizens. However, the techniques that are being forced upon these fighters are similar to the ones that the Chinese government is using on its Uighurs population. The Xinjiang model can be described as a ‘brainwashing’ and ‘forceful’ method that has been adopted to eradicate religious extremism and propagate Chinese culture and ethics. The international community is scrutinizing the idea of such camps being established in parts of China, that are responsible for elevating laws against humanitarian rights. Before analyzing the major consequences of these indoctrination camps, it is important to focus on the initiation as well as the rationale behind developing these camps, particularly based on the unethical system of reformation.

Several reports have been published on various media platforms, indicating the gruesome reality of indoctrination camps built in the Xinjiang- an autonomous region in Northwest China. If we trace back to history, we notice that Xinjiang province was conquered by the Chinese empire in the nineteenth century and has not been autonomous consistently. It is pertinent to point that even when the Communist revolution was forthcoming, the Xinjiang province was independent as a part of East Turkistan state. However, as previously stated, now the province is infamous for suppressive Sinicisation and exploitation of the Indigenous population. If one were to analyze the policies adopted by the Dragon in the last 70 years, an impassionate inference would certainly be that there has been a near-successful suppression and alienation of the Uighur Muslims. For example, the clash between the Uighurs and the police authorities, known as the Baren Township Uprising was followed by the ‘Great Leap Forward’ initiative which sought to bring the Uighurs into the Chinese order.

If one were to look at the recent trends, estimates suggest that around 1 million Uighur Muslims have been detained since 2017, with China aiming to accommodate maximum number of Uighurs population, by constructing more than 85 camps. These horrific practices of repression are refuted by the Chinese government, who are likely to manifest it as a platform promoting harmony, cultural education and eradicating the idea of religious extremism. In past, Uighurs Muslims have been held accountable for spreading violence and indulging in terrorist activities, which can be a threat to China’s internal security. Apart from this, the government has also banned men from growing beards and women from wearing veils. But detaining the entire population belonging to a single community cannot be regarded as a justified measure to probe the violence. Rather, it can be held as a radical, as well as an extreme approach, currently undertaken by the authority of the People’s republic of China.

The Pakistan government has left no stone unturned in making efforts to replicate then Xinjiang model in the Baloch region. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan can be held responsible for procuring a similar approach to pressurize Baloch fighters in obeying state-held norms and instilling patriotic feelings amongst them. However, the psychological impact can be disruptive for these fighters as they are continuously being repressed and manipulated by the authority.

The Balochistan issue has been there since Pakistan became independent in 1947. The region lies in the south-west of the country and accounts to over half of the country’s territory. It is also considered to be one of the least developed provinces in Pakistan. Moreover, the ethnicity of the Baloch community also starkly differs from the rest of the country. Due to these reasons, there has been a constant call for more political and economic autonomy for the region. The division of power particularly favours the federal government, rather than the federal unit. This uneven power balance has further led to the alienation of the Baloch community from receiving their due.

The alienation has intensified due to the fact that Pakistan benefits largely from the vast resources that the region has, while not granting its proportionate share in the form of benefits. The so-called developmental projects in the region which are funded by China including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have only increased the fears. It is said that non-involvement of the local community in such development projects coupled with the instances of increased economic immigrants has threatened the preservation of the ethnicity prevalent in the region.

If one were to compare the story of economic development in the Xinjiang region and the Baloch region, the common factor is that the local ethnic community feels threatened by a large number of economic immigr