Pakistan's Other Problem Area: Baluchistan

Discussion in 'Balochistan - Freedom Struggle' started by Vladimir79, Nov 2, 2009.

  1. Vladimir79

    Vladimir79 Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    Pakistan's Other Problem Area: Baluchistan

    When the world looks at Pakistan, its attention justifiably focuses on the rugged northern border with Afghanistan, a nexus of Taliban activity and the site of an ongoing multi-pronged campaign against the militants. Battling jihadism there is a pivotal plank in the Obama administration's plans to stabilize the war-ravaged region and eventually dial down America's military presence.

    But in the shadow of this "Af-Pak" frontier, another conflict has grown new life in recent years and, according to experts, poses a possibly greater existential threat to the Pakistani state. The province of Baluchistan, situated along Pakistan's west and northwest borders with Iran and Afghanistan, comprises more than 40% of Pakistan's landmass but less than 5% of its people. Its unforgiving deserts nearly annihilated the armies of Alexander the Great as they marched home. The native Baluch, descendants of nomadic tribes who roamed these arid wastes, number around five million and have for years complained of marginalization and mistreatment, particularly at the hands of the Pakistani military.

    Beneath their homeland's soil lies a treasure trove of natural gas and oil reserves, which, while largely untapped, yield revenues from which the Baluch feel excluded. Successive generations have waged armed rebellions against Pakistani rule — in 1948, 1953, through the 1960s and 70s, and now. According to analysts, continued abuses at the hands of security forces and Pakistan's shadowy intelligence agency, the ISI, have intensified separatist feeling to an unprecedented scale. "Baluch nationalism is more broad-based, is a more serious phenomenon than at any time in the past," says Selig Harrison, director of the Center for International Policy in Washington, a leading authority on the Baluch. (See pictures of Pakistan's vulnerable North-West Frontier Province.)

    The dimensions of the Baluch struggle are made all the more complicated by the region's political geography. Around a million ethnic Baluch live on the other side of the border in Iran and there, too, have long agitated against a repressive state for greater freedoms. During Pakistan's most brutal crackdown on Baluch separatists in the 1970s — when civilians reportedly died in the thousands — Iran lent Pakistan logistical support, including helicopters. At the time, the two countries were allied together under the U.S.-led CENTO Cold War pact, but following Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979 relations changed, with Tehran's Shia establishment increasingly wary of their Sunni counterparts in the Pakistani military leadership. The Iranians loath the Afghan Taliban, who were created in part by elements within the Pakistani state. "There's an inherent set of tensions [between the two countries] based on their prior strategic choices," says Sameer Lalwani, a Pakistan watcher at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

    On Baluchistan, the cooperation of old has shifted to a more guarded mutual distrust. On Oct. 18, Jundullah, a Baluch militia based on Pakistani soil struck the Iranian border city of Pishin, killing 41, including a number of senior figures in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. A week later, Pakistani troops detained 11 Iranian agents who had infiltrated across the border, possibly in a mission aimed against Jundullah. They were eventually released, but the incidents spotlighted the uncomfortable place Baluchistan occupies in both Tehran and Islamabad's internal affairs — and their dealings with each other.

    These tensions may balloon in the future as other regional powers expand their interests in Baluchistan as well. The presence of some 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the province has raised the prospect of significant outside investment, but it has only deepened Baluch anxieties of alienation. China has already set about securing access to Baluchistan's other rich veins of resources: it owns a controlling interest in the massive gold and copper mine at Saindak and has steered the building of a $1 billion blue water port at Gwadar, mostly using Chinese labor. The growing hub of Gwadar, which Islamabad has slated to become a special economic zone, is not only a focal point of Chinese strategic interests in southwest Asia, but also a source of contention for the Baluch, who have been almost entirely frozen out of its development and, as in elsewhere in the province, kept at arm's length by ethnic Punjabis and Sindhis arriving to do business here from other parts of Pakistan.

    Baluch separatists claim that they never wanted to be part of Britain's partitioning of colonial India into the independent states of India and Pakistan and that they are the victims of an empire that barely ruled them. The border that splits Iranian and Pakistani Baluchistan was a line plotted in 1871 by a British colonial official, ceding territory to Iran's rulers in a bid to win Tehran's support against Czarist Russia. Now, the Baluch in Pakistan and Iran who fear independence may be out of reach campaign for expanded freedoms and guarantees to preserve their language and culture within the Pakistani and Iranian states. Others have taken arms over the years. Suggestions made by some Pakistani officials linking Baluch separatism to the activities of the Taliban are wrong, says Harrison. Baluch nationalism has always been a secular project; its militant fronts warring with Pakistan, like the Baluch Liberation Army, descend from a tradition of Marxist-Leninist guerrillas that took root in the 1970s. Jundullah, though an avowedly Sunni group, articulates its identity as a rejection of the Shia clerics ruling Iran — a political act — rather than one born out any particular fervor.

    When trying to discredit Baluch separatism, Islamabad often blames its regional rival, India, for abetting and influencing the rebels. Pakistan's wariness of India's hand in its affairs has only grown after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan saw Indian engagement there bloom — Pakistani officials say Indian consulates in the Afghan cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad are behind the destabilizing acts of subversion in Baluchistan. Baluch attacks are frequently followed by Pakistani accusations of Indian involvement, though Islamabad, which has a noted record of being a breeding ground for terrorists who make their way to India, has yet to show any evidence of Indian collusion. Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected any notion of India backing insurgents. "The people and government of Pakistan know jolly well that this is a false accusation," said Singh.

    Meanwhile, Baluchistan simmers. Beyond the standard detachments of border troops, the Pakistani military has kept an occupying army in six major garrisons across the province since 1958. For decades, the Baluch have accused the army of kidnappings, disappearances and extrajudicial killings. In April, three dissident Baluch leaders were reportedly abducted by Pakistani security forces and found days later, their bodies bruised and ridden with bullets, triggering weeks of rioting and violence. A 2008 Amnesty International report, "Denying the Undeniable: Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan," charted at least 600 unresolved disappearances in Baluchistan alone. The 2006 killing of Akbar Bugti — at the time, the emotive figurehead of Baluch separatism — in a firefight with Pakistani troops gave the current wave of Baluch nationalists a martyred hero to latch onto. "The continued atrocities all over Pakistani Baluchistan has kindled a very strong separatist feeling that will have to be answered," says Harrison of the Center for International Policy.

    In a report published earlier this year, Harrison recommends the withdrawal of a chunk of the Pakistani occupying army and a political solution that grants the province greater autonomy and control over its resources. The Baluch desire for greater autonomy commands a decent level of sympathy among the Pakistani public, but is a non-starter with the military, who view the province as a vital geopolitical bulwark against Tehran, Kabul or New Delhi's interests. The political paralysis in dealing with this remote, restive province is another sign, experts say, of the real power the military holds over the country's weak civilian government. "[Pakistani President Asif ]Zardari and his entourage understand what needs to be done," says Harrison. "But they have no ability to get the armed forces and the ISI to cooperate."

    The U.S. has remained mostly quiet on the matter, in part because it only has so much leverage that it can wield over the Pakistani military. During the Bush administration, there were suggestions that Washington was even secretly backing anti-Iranian groups like Jundullah and staging covert operations against Iran from Baluchistan. But a more public effort to reach a just solution for Baluch grievances would go a long way toward securing stability for Pakistan in general. The Baluch disturbances have put on hold plans to build a lucrative gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan — a link that would enhance regional cooperation as well as boost the nation's wealth. Calming separatist passions would also serve as a lesson to the Pakistani military, which, as seen during the traumatic and bloody independence of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), has a habit of trying to brutally stomp out secessionist movements. At a moment when there are so many hearts and minds to be won — and boots on the ground stretched so thin — it wouldn't hurt to give peace a chance.

    Baluchistan: Pakistan's Other Problem Area - TIME
     
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  3. bhramos

    bhramos Elite Member Elite Member

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    Why cant India help Baluchistan?
    they are fighting for freedom.
    they are asking our help, so can we .
     
  4. IBRIS

    IBRIS Senior Member Senior Member

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    As long as US will backs terrorist group like jundullah to harass Iran. I'm afraid we can't take any action in Balochistan. :twizt:
     
  5. bhramos

    bhramos Elite Member Elite Member

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    as why is US supressing Taliban on one hand, and on other hand they are helping jundullah to harass Iran?
    so simillar why cant we supress LeT on one hand and Baluchs?
     
  6. Vladimir79

    Vladimir79 Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    Jundullah is against the Iranian side. You can always support the Balochistan Liberation Army in Pakistan. Islamabad continues to claim Indian support for this group, might as well make it true.
     
  7. IBRIS

    IBRIS Senior Member Senior Member

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    CIA approval to launch covert “black” operations to achieve regime change in Iran, Pakistani army and intelligence sources have given jundullah free hand to carryout their activities while staying low key.

    Just like 2002 standoff was defussed by US of A medling, Our current leadership will not dare upset our allies ongoing campaign in Afghanistan. Let alone giving pakistan the excuse to abandon it's western sector to come to AID it's beloved baby LET from getting spanked.
     
  8. proud_hindustani

    proud_hindustani Regular Member

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    lol USA and Israel are two big mischievous boys.
     
  9. tarunraju

    tarunraju Moderator Moderator

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    If the US wants, it can wrap up the wars in AF-PAK in a matter of days. It doesn't want a quick resolution pending vested interests (like mining AF, keeping defense-contract holders back home busy (and not jobless), etc.)
     
  10. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    When you say wrap up, what exactly do you mean? Are you saying US could win the wars in AfPak or are you saying US could run away with their tails in between their legs from AfPak 'in a matter of days'. Please clarify and explain.
     
  11. tarunraju

    tarunraju Moderator Moderator

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    It can mean either. US can afford to eject from the conflict just as it has done in conflicts in the past, and, it can work out a solution bringing all belligerents to the table. Neither of those want an end to the conflict, either, as conflict has become bread and butter for them. "Winning" and getting what they ask for isn't as lucrative as keeping the conflict alive. Conflict ensures the states (people who run the countries) of AF and Pak get tons of western aid, while militant groups already have their ways of pooling in money for the conflict. A US pullout effectively cuts the string. The US is getting its cut too, which is why it is there.
     
  12. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    Its true that Pakistan gets a lot of US aid due to US' war in AfPak, but what is US gaining? Also, US cannot afford to eject out of conflict without a pretense of winning the war, or put it better Obama cannot afford to lose the war and retreat. Honour and Diginity of US is at stake in AfPak. Already several states like Iran and NoKo, even Pakistan have been daring US. If US retreats from war, then they would lose their clout further and they will be pushed further by more states with due backing from commie dragon.

    As for US 'winning' the war 'in a matter of a few days', I have my doubts.
     
  13. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Complete shutterdown strike in Quetta | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online

    QUETTA-A peaceful and complete shutter-down strike was observed in provincial capital and many other parts of Balochistan on the second death anniversary of Baloch nationalist leader Nawabzada Balaach Marri on Friday.
    Balaach Marri was killed on November 20, 2007 in an armed clash between security forces and Baloch fighters near Pak-Afghan border.
    In many areas of southern and central Balochistan the traffic remained off the roads on the call of a wheel-jam strike by the Anjuman Itihad Marri which was also supported by the Baloch Republican Party, the Balochistan National Party (Mengal), Balochistan National Front, National Party and Baloch Women Panel and Baloch student organisations.
    The business community and traders responded positively to the strike call and all main shopping centers, plazas, markets and business establishments remained closed in Quetta and its surrounding areas during the day.
    According to reports reaching from other parts of Balochistan ,all kind of business activities remained suspended in Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar, Sibi, Machh, Nushki, Dalbandin, Wadah, Dera Bugti, Kohlu, Dhadhar, Turbat, Pasni, Gwadar, Panjgour and Hub.
    All shops, business centers and educational institutes remained closed in these areas.
    Vehicular traffic also remained suspended. Workers and supporters of Baloch nationalist parties blocked national highways linking Quetta with Karachi, Quetta-Sibi and other parts of the country putting barricades.
     

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