by: Maloy Krishna Dhar, April 25th, 2008
Most puzzling problems of history-the inscrutable cruces; are creatures of history, intertwined with political geography, which often transcend to the realms of geostrategic Gordian Knots. Balochistan is such a cruces of history, which lay in the main marching tract of human civilisation spanning the east, west and central Asian ethnic and civilisational entities.
Therefore, writing about present day Balochistan cannot be confined to a few skirmishes between the Pakistani Establishment and the glorious Baloch people and other ethnic and linguistic groups, which have merged edges with their Baloch brethren.
The Baloch are an ancient people, perhaps contemporaneous to the inhabitants of Mohenjo-Daro. Before entering into their heroic struggle against the myopic Pakistani leaders and Army Establishment we need to understand about this historic people that bridged various meridians of Asian civilizations.
Historians seek approximation of truth through disagreement, finally settling down on a common minimum parameter. The Baloch riddle is no exception.
Some historians guess that they inhabited the northern regions of Elburz and east of Caspian Sea. This tract is now inhabited by Ashkanis, who claim Aryan origin from trans-Caucasian people. This school believes that the Baloch and the Kurds are of Aryan origin, as are the Iranians and certain strains of Indians. Baloch language still treasures certain traits of Indo-Aryan-Iranian roots and applications, akin to Sanskrit. Some proto-Baloch speaking people still live in Turkmenistan and surrounding areas.
Some scholars attribute migration of the Baloch people to their present geographical location around 1200 B.C. Recognition of their existence even during the times of king Cyrus and Combyses have substantiated their route of migration from Caspian Sea region through northern Iran.
Some scholars assert that the Balochs are the indigenous people of Balochistan and they had created the first civilisation of the World around Mehergarh. Some Baloch nationalists prefer to support this theory. Other historians, with a view to support supposed Semitic origin of the Baloch, maintain that they came from Halab, Allepe, and are people of old Sumerian of Mesopotamian stock. The propagators of Pakistan being a saga of the Indus alone subscribe to this theory.
Whatever the pundits say the historical Baloch tract had witnessed admixture of the Scythians, Parthians, Ashkanis, Sakas, Kushans, Huns, Turks and Mongols. Most of the pundits agree that the Baloch have more in common with the Qurdish people and other peoples of Aryan stock and they have basic ethnic differences with the Punjabis, Sindhis and Pathans.
It is also borne out of the fact that the Brahuie Balochs (Kalatis) are ethnically different from the peoples of other provinces of Pakistan. The historians also debate the origin of the Brhuies fervently and agreement amongst them is as rare as conjunction of illuminated cosmic dust bowls. It is more or less agreed that the Brahuie Balochs of Balochistan and Sind are linked to the people who inhabited the Harappan and Moenjodaro civilisational tracts along the Sindhu and Saraswati (running through Gujarat and Sind).
Most pundits however, agree that the word Baloch was derived from brza-vaciya, (brza-vak), meaning a loud cry, in contrast to namra vak, polite way of talking. Some writers maintain that etymologically it is made of two Chandas (Vedic Sanskrit) words, Bal> Och, meaning powerful and magnificent.
History had repeatedly reshaped the geographical boundaries of the Baloch people. Besides the Pakistani part of Balochistan eastern Iran- Sistan - has a vast tract inhabited by the peoples of Baloch stock. The Saka people inhabited Sistan or the land of the Sakas-Sakastana around 128 BC. Two important ethnic groups are Barahuie and Baloch, who speak Boloch tongue with an admixture of Barahuie and Persian languages inabit both Pakistani and Iranian Baloch tracts.
In modern times Anglo-Afghan relations waxed and waned between 1838 and 1919 constantly changing and margin-skirting of the British indian and Afghan territories. The Anglo-Afghan agreement of 1893 signed between Amir Abdur Rahman, and Sir Mortimer Durand, (British Indian government) demarcated a permanent border between the two countries. It was supposed to be reviewed after 100 years in 1993. While Afghanistan insists on a review, Pakistan stoutly asserts that the border was finally signed and sealed. This dispute has not been resolved.
Over 300.000 ethnic Baloch people inhabit the Afghan part of Balochistan, though the Pakhtoons or Pushtuns (Pathan) heavily populate the tract. The Pathan people also inhabit large tracts in Pakistani Balochistan.
The Baloch people have followed a resilient secular attitude towards religion despite growth of religious fanaticism elsewhere in Pakistan. The majority of Baloch are Hanafi Sunnis, but there is a community of an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 Zikri Baloch, who live in the coastal Makran area and in Karachi. The Zikris believe in the Messiah Nur Pak, whose teachings supersede those of the Prophet Muhammad. Their beliefs, considered heretical, have led to intermittent Sunni repression of their community since founding of the sect in the fifteenth century. The Shia majority also often harasses the Iranian Balochs.
Of the total population of Balochistan the Balochs numerically dominate the south of the province. The Pushtuns are in majority in and around Quetta and the north. The Kalat region and other parts of the region are dominated by the Brahuie. In fact, the ruling family of Kalat represented Brahuie power in this region. Persian speaking Dehwars also live in the Kalat region and further west towards the border with Iran. The coastal Makran regions are inhabited by Meds and small groups of descendents of African slaves known as the Hubshi. In addition, 769,000 Afghan refugees can be found in the province including Pushtuns, Tajiks, and Hazaras. Sindhi farmers have also moved to the more arable lands in the east. A large number of Punjabis have occupied fertile land in the east and they are prominently present in industrial complexes in Sui gas project, Port Gwadar and Port Qasim facilities and other military installations. Majority of the professional workforce in the province originate from Punjab and Sind.
The Baloch society follows strict hierarchical pattern characterized as feudal militarism. The hakims are at the top of the system and his retinue consists of pastorals, agriculturists, tenant farmers and descendants of former slaves (hizmatkar). Sardar system is firmly embedded amongst the Bugti, Marri, Mengal, and Zarakzai, Achakzai etc tribes.
It would therefore, be seen that the Baloch people of Pakistan historically walked into the modern ages as an independent people-an admixture of Baloch, Brahuie, Pathan etc people. While the State of Kalat had emerged as the kernel of Baloch political evolution, smaller States like Makran, Kharan, and Las Bela also enjoyed considerable prosperity. They were not the people of the Indus as claimed by certain Pakistani scholars. They belonged more too Persian, Afghan and Kurdish orbits.
The British, on the eve of departure, played a neat trick with the Baloch people. They prescribed the 3rd June Plan and proclaimed that the future of British Balochistan was to be determined by a voting college comprising the Shahi Jirga -excluding the representatives of the Balochistan States-and the elected members of the Quetta Municipality. The plan virtually limited the voting exercise to certain loyal clients of the British and the Muslim League.
The Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, who dreamed of an independent Balochistan under his suzerainty, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, an emerging Baloch nationalist, and Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai, an avowed Gandhian and the leader of Indian National Congress, campaigned to prevent the voting college from opting for Pakistan. Their efforts failed on 29 June 1947 and the selected Electoral College, under pressure from the British Agents and Muslim League, voted in favour of Pakistan.
Concerned Sardars of major tribes protested against British manipulation of the sordid episode.
The British had assessed that a Pakistani Baloch province would stand them in good stead in their strategic bulwark against Iran, Afghanistan and not so distant Soviet Union. The Crown representatives persuaded the States of Kharan, Mekran and Las Bela to accede to Pakistan.
The British had declared in the Government of India Act, 1935, that Kalat was an Indian state. At the dawn of partition the Kalat ruler Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, asserted independence. He was pursuaded by his former legal advisor M. A. Jinnah and British officials to join Pakistan. A compact Balochistan political unit was formed in 1952. The States of Balochistan - Kalat, Makran, Kharan and Las Bela - were permitted to form The Balochistan States Union. In 1955, these States were made a part of the One Unit or the single province of West Pakistan to facilitate the framing of a constitution on the basis of the principle of parity between the two wings of the country. But by mid 1957 it became apparent that the political system established under the Constitution of 1956 was not likely to survive.
Formation of one unit of Balochistan came much later. The tract witnessed rebellion in 1948 itself. Prince Karim, brother of the Khan of Kalat, revolted against Pakistani rule. The genesis of Baloch resistance is normally traced from the rebellion of Prince Karim. It was not a mere revolt of a tribal leader. It represented the aspiration of a historical people to live as an independent entity. It is necessary to examine each phase of the important resistance wars fought by the Baloch people since their unfortunate relationship started with Pakistan, a promised land of the Indian Muslims, created by the British. The process witnessed the emergence of another promised land in the continent, the Land of Israel. History has supported the diagnosis promised lands often turn cancerous.
Jinnah had coerced the State of Kalat through military pressure and deceit to join Pakistan. However, the Khan of Kalat ruled even after Jinnahs death as Pakistani government had very little control on the area. Anti-Pakistani rallies and meetings in certain areas of the Khanate had become an order of the day. Pakistan responded by enlarging its cantonments and deploying military in areas dominated by the Bugti, Marri and Mengal etc tribes. The Government of Pakistan decided to take complete control of the administration of the Khanate of Balochistan on April 15, 1948. Several political leaders including Mohammad Amin Khosa and Abdul Samad Achakzai were arrested. The pro-Congress (INC) Anjuman-i-Watan Party, headed by Samad Achakzai, was declared unlawful.
The first struggle for Baloch independence started soon after annexation of Kalat by Pakistan and refusal to concede internal autonomy. The Balochs interpreted the Pakistani move as unilateral violation of the Sandeman system (Baloch-British agreement that allowed autonomy to the Sardars). This resulted in civil unrest. Prince Abdul Karim Khan, the younger brother of the Khan of Kalat, decided to lead a national liberation movement on April 16, 1948. He invited the leading Baloch nationalist members-the Kalat State National Party, the Baloch League, and the Baloch National Workers Party etc to join for creation of an independent Greater Balochistan.
Prince Karim initially solicited Indian support. But New Delhi was not in position to extend logistics and political support in view of its involvement in Kashmir war and contrary advises from the British Governor General.
Karim decided to migrate to Afghanistan in June 1948. Prominent political leaders like Mohammed Hussein Anka, secretary of the Baloch League and editor of Weekly Bolan Mastung, Malik Saeed Dehwar, secretary of the Kalat State National Party, Qadir Bakhsh Nizamami, a member of the Baloch League, Maulvi Mohd Afzal, a member of Jamiat-Ulema- e-Balochistan) accompanied him. Some members of Sind-Balochistan branch of the Communist Party also joined him. Pakistan alleged that India had incited the Prince through Hindu Balochs (about 19% that time) and some Communist leaders of Sind, who maintained steady relationship with Indian Communists. It tried to depict the Baloch nationalist leaders as pro-Moscow.
The entourage encamped at Sarlath, Kandahar. Karim contacted Mir Ghulam Faruq (Rudini tribe), Sardar Mehrab Khan, Sardar Mir Jumma and Mir Wazir Khan Sanjrani of Chagai district (nuclear testing range), and several other chiefs. He also contacted the Afghan and the USSR emissaries for help.
Besides spreading the news of Baloch nationalism and religious tolerance Karim organized the Baloch Mujahideen, a liberation force consisting of former soldiers and officers of the Khanates army. The Baloch liberation army had separate wings, Jannisar (devotee), Janbaz (darer), and fidayeen (suicide) squads. His GHQ was known as Bab-i-Aali (secret war office). However, the first Baloch liberation army did not have an impressive strength.
Prince Karims efforts were hindered by Afghanistan and the Soviet Unionís unwillingness to offer assistance. Prince Karim appointed Malik Saeed and Qadir Bakhsh Nizamani as emissaries to contact the Afghan government and other embassies. The Afghan authorities refused to provide help but allowed Karim to remain in Kandahar as political refugees. Kabul was not inclined to allow Karim to operate from its soil, as it was apprehensive of its own Baloch and Pushtun population. Ahmed Shah Abdali had treated Balochistan as a subordinate territory. Only after Baloch-Afghan war of 1758 the Afghans and Balochs signed an agreement of non-interference. Afghan rulers Shuja Shah and Abdur Rahman Khan later demanded incorporation of the Indian Baloch territory. In fact, on the eve of partition, the Afghan government kicked up the issue of creation of Pashtunistan, a region stretching from Chitral and Gilgit to the Baloch coast in the Arabian Sea. Kabul described it as South Pashtunistan. With such susceptibilities in mind Kabul decided to play safe.
The Iranians were apprehensive of similar movement by their own Baloch nationality. The Soviets under Stalin had not yet developed a policy towards the changing situation in the Indian subcontinent and in Afghan territory. Stalin was focussed on East Europe and Central Asian territories. He did not want to antagonise the British and Afghan powers.
India was in no position to support the rebel Prince. Nehru was struggling for power within the Congress party, Pakistans Kashmir invasion and he was yet to determine where he belonged, to the West, East or the nowhere-Non- aligned realm.
Pakistan pressurised the Kalat ruler in May 1948 to declare his brother a rebel. Pakistan moved its army to the military posts of Punjab, Chaman, Chashma, and Rastri near the Afghan border with a view to cut off Karim from Baloch support. The first Army action in Balochistan had taken a toll of 65 Baloch lives. In the process two armed clashes ensued. However Karims movement was split from within. Anqa and Malik Saeed favored armed struggle in the form of guerrilla war, while Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo and other prominent leaders wished to resolve all issues by negotiation.
The Khan of Kalat later persuaded Karim to return to Balochistan. He was, however, not yet ready to surrender. He organised a rebellion against Pakistan in the Jalawan area and received assistance from Mir Gohar Khan Zahrri, an influential tribal leader of the Zarakzai clan. Major General Akbar Khan, (Kashmir famous General Tariq) Commander of Pakistani army�s Seventh Regiment mounted counter attack and arrested Karim with his followers. General Akbar Khan, in an article published in the daily Dawn, August 14, 1960, (Early Reminiscences Of A Soldier) stated that there was a plan to invade the Khanate. He narrated the clashes between Pakistan army and Karim�s forces. Akbar claimed that under Jinnah�s instruction this news was withheld from media.
Balochistan witnessed a second resistance movement in 1958. The Khan of Kalat organized a rebellion to secede from Pakistan. President Iskandar Mirza directed Pakistan Army to take control of the Kalat Palace and arrest the Khan on charges of sedition. Informed circles asserted that Iskandar Mirza had played up the dormant dreams of the Khan, encouraged him to raise a banner of revolt with a view to justify imposition of martial law, which he did on 7 October 1958. His hope of hegemony was exterminated when on 27 October 1958, the Chief Martial Law Administrator, General Mohammad Ayub Khan, removed Mirza and assumed full authority.
Arrest of the Khan of Kalat witnessed spontaneous disturbances in most parts of Balochistan that continued for about a year. It was during these disturbances that Nawroz Khan alias Babu Nowroz raised banner of revolt. His revolt was not serious in nature but it symbolised the Baloch psyche. Babu Nowroz, head of the Zarakzai tribe started an armed struggle against Pakistan. His band of fighters numbering about 150 fought valiantly and offered serious battles to the army headed by Lt. Col. Tikka Khan (later General of the Pakistani army, Butcher of Bangladesh). There are reports to support the allegations that Tikka Khan had obtained surrender of Nowroz Khan through the mechanism of etbar- or oath on the Holy Quran. He and his followers, including his sons and nephews, were taken to Hyderabad Jail, where his sons and nephews were executed for armed rebellion against the state. Nowroz was held in prison where he died at the age of 90. The Khan of Kalat was subsequently forgiven and freed.
Tikka followed up the surrender of Nowroz with widespread depredations on Zarakzai, Achakzai, Marri and Bugti territories. According to Baloch chroniclers over 1000 Baloch civilians lost lives. Ironically, Tikka had the privilege of meting out more atrocities on the defenceless Bengalis of East Pakistan. Tikka Khan has earned his place in Pakistans history as the butcher general.
The third Baloch uprising was much more serious in nature. The Marri tribe initially triggered off this phase of Baloch resistance in 1962. The Marris objected to rapid incursion by the Punjabis, attempted curtailment of privileges of the Sardars and denial of development instruments to the area. Frontier Guards and the Inter Services Intelligence as usual, suppressed this.
However, inglorious defeat of India in 1962 war and political somersaults by feuding factions in Afghanistan had encouraged Z. A. Bhutto to impose a fade of peace in the Baloch area. With a quiet Baloch front at home he planned an invasion of India in 1965. The inglorious history of Pakistan between 1965-71 was characterised by certain idiosyncratic personalities and regional convulsions. While ailing Ayub Khan was preparing to fade into oblivion, General Yahya Khan, Z. A. Bhutto and Mujibur Rahman (in East Pakistan) were locked in an intractable war that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. Inglorious defeat of the Pakistan Army had not dampened Bhutto, who was happy to rule over a truncated Pakistan. After all, he had plotted the balkanisation of Pakistan.
The secession of Bangladesh influenced Baloch nationalists to demand greater autonomy. The bitter Bangladesh lesson had not mellowed down Bhutto. He turned down Baloch requests for better shares in Pakistan resources and more autonomy. The Baloch leaders were provoked by Yahya Khans action of abolishing the one unit formula for Pakistan and creating an integrated province of Balochistan on 1 July 1970, which comprised former Balochistan States and directly governed Balochistan territory. The Baloch Sardars and traditional rulers smelt a rat. Against expectations of the military junta the National Awami Party (NAP) and the Jamait-ul-Ulema- Islami secured majority in the general elections of 1970. Bhuttos and Punjabi intransigence had frustrated all efforts to allow the Awami League majority to assume power in Islamabad and Dhaka. Similarly the Punjabi elite and Bhutto delayed devolution of power to the elected parties in Balochistan.
A drifting Pakistan encouraged NAP and JUI leaders like Ataullah Mengal and Khan Wali Khan to demand larger say in the affairs of the province. President Bhutto, however, refused to negotiate with chief minister Ataullah Mengal and Mufti Mahmud. His arrogance propelled the Baloch tribes to think in terms of struggle. The Baloch rebellion on the heels of rebellion by the East Pakistanis took a serious turn and Bhutto sacked two provincial governments within six months, arrested two chief ministers, two governors and forty-four MNAs and MPAs. He managed to obtain a Supreme Court order banning the NAP and ordered trial of all the leading members for high trason.
The civil disobedience movement launched by the Marri, Mengal, Bugti, Zarakzai etc tribes and Pakhtoons very fast turned to armed struggle. Mir Hazar Khan Marri led the Baloch liberation movement under the banner of Balochistan Peoples Liberation Front (BPLF). The BPLF was forced to move to Afghanistan along with thousands of its supporters. From the original BPLF the Baloch people, in recent times, have branched into organisations like BLA, BLM, BLO, etc. There exists a Balochistan Government in Exile in the USA with branches in Europe.
Pakistan alleged clandestine Indian and Afghan assistance to the rebels. Bhutto sent in the army in 1973 and the air force was inducted to fight about 20,000 Baloch insurgents. Iran, fearing similar uprising by their own Baloch groups, assisted Pakistan with helicopter gunships and pilots. It is alleged that the Reza Shah Pehalvi was motivated by US pleading to come to the rescue of friend Bhutto, who had established a bridgehead between Washington and Beijing. Washigton was also worried about India staging another Bangladesh coup in Balochistan. In short, the movement was mercilessly suppressed by Pakistan Army, Air Force and the ISI inflicting an estimated casualty of 15, 000 Baloch people.
Transition from Bhutto to General Zia did not bring any breather. Zia appointed Gerneral Rahimuddin Khan as martial law administrator and governor of Balochistan. An Uttar Pradesh born strict disciplinarian and married to a niece of Dr. Zaqir Hussian, former President of India, Rahimuddin ruled over Balochistan with an iron hand, curtailed powers of the tribal Sardars, and brought about some developmental activities. Several hundred Baloch were incarcerated and thousands of Punjabis, Mohajirs and Sindhis were inducted to strengthen the presence of Pakistan. Census operations conducted by Rahimuddin drastically downgraded the Baloch headcount. It was an administrative pogrom by Pakistan.
General Zia declared a general amnesty to those willing to give up arms. Tired and terrified minor Sardars surrendered to the military machine of Pakistan. Feudal leaders such as Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Ataullah Mengal were isolated. A ruthless dictator, General Rahimuddin, however, was known for personal integrity.
The period of stability between 1973 and 1988 Balochistan witnessed large Punjabi, Mohajir and Pathan influx. Most professional work force belonged to other parts of Pakistan. In the eyes of Punjabi elite Balochs and Bangalis carried same connotation- inferior country cousins.
In the meantime, Quetta, the hub of US, Saudi and Pakistani actions against the Afghan regime and Soviet Union, had witnessed influx of about 900,000 Afghan refugees. After the fall of Najibullah government and accession of a chaotic mujahedeen junta at Kabul the Baloch leaders like Khair Bux Marri and Ataullah Khan Mengal returned to Pakistan in April 1992. With a roaring upheaval in next-door Afghanistan the tribal leaders had no option but to accept peace initiatives of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. However, tension between Pakistan Army, civilian government at Quetta continued as Islamabad failed to address the socio-economic and political grievances of the Baloch people.
The present phase of Baloch war of independence was propelled by socio-economic reasons. Baloch-Pakistan relationship did not rest on even keel even after Sui gas started flowing to Pakistani homes and industries in Punjab and Sind (some Baloch areas were connected much later), Port Qasim and Gwadar were being developed with Kuwaiti and Chinese assistance. New industrial infrastructures attracted professional and labour forces from Punjab, Sind and other areas of Pakistan.
President Musharrafs arrival did not improve the situation. Baloch demand for political autonomy, royalty from Sui gas, and award of major work orders to Punjabis and Sindhis and induction of more Frontier Guards and regular army contingents increased the ambience of tension. Islamabad added to the tense situation by rehabilitating large number of ex-servicemen on denotified tribal land and inducting more NWFP Pushtoons to Quetta areas. Some minor Sardars were either bought off or disinherited by affluent Punjabis and rich ex-army personnel. Islamabad even failed to negotiate an acceptable formula on gas, copper, silver, gold and coal royalty. The Baloch Sardars resented the fact that Islamabad had not considered it necessary to consult the provincial government before conducting nuclear tests at Chagai Hills.
Since 2000 the Kachhi Canal, Mirani Dam, Gwadar Port, Makran Coastal Highway, Saindak Copper Project and Quetta Water Supply Scheme were announced by Islamabad. Over 300 percent increase was made in the national budget for development programs in Balochistan. These things have failed to materialize from paper into concrete. Along with the development programmes came in the Punjabis, Pushtuns, Sindhis and Chinese work forces. The Baloch people suffering from economic distress developed clash of economic interests with the Chinese and other Pakistanis. Examination of economic indices of this period brings out the facts of glaring disparity between Balochistan and Punjab and Sind. The Balochs, like the Bengalis were treated as raw material suppliers.
Some sources allege that the fourth phase of Baloch insurgency was triggered off by sexual assault on a female doctor, Dr. Shazia Khalid, by a gang of Punjabi employees of the PPL at Sui. Islamabad handled the matter in a cavalier fashion. Accumulated anger incensed the people and they mounted attack on the Sui facility. Nawab Akbar Bugti, the leader of Jamhoori Watan Party of Balochistan, stated that the attack was a manifestation of anger of the people and had nothing to do with nationalist struggle for freedom by the tribals. General Musharraf retaliated by ordering the ISI and the Army to mount operations against rebel Baloch forces headed by Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Bugtis critics alleged that he had rebelled demanding higher royalty payment for Sui gas. These charges have not been proved.
Before proceeding further on the present phase of Baloch struggle it must be pointed out that Pakistan has been facing innumerable problems from its multiple fault lines-toeing the USA line against war on terror, Taliban, Al Qaeda, MQM, and the Waziri tribal unrest. The Balawaristan Movement (Gilgit-Skardu- POK) can be added to this cart. Musharraf also faces tremendous pressure from the home grown jihadi tanzeems, which have intricate relationship with the Inter Services Intelligence and International Islamic Jihad Movement. His agenda is topped by the Kashmir pie, which Pakistan is trying to eat and keep since 1947. In the backdrop these problems growing Chinese, USA, Afghan and Indian interests in the Baloch tract have complicated the geostrategic dimension. We propose to discuss these in later paragraphs.
The Balochstan Liberation Army and factions like Balochistan Liberation Front are piloting the present phase of resistance movement. Balach Marri, the son of Khair Baksh Marri, heads the BLA. His force of about 300 is well armed with sophisticated weapons. These weapons are purchased from former Taliban elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Afghan militia members and international gunrunners. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, before his assassination, headed another group of Baloch fighters in coalition with Balach Marri. After his death, Pakistani sources point out, his surviving grandson Brahmhdag Bugti is heading the liberation struggle.
There have been spates of attack on Sui gas installations, pipelines, powerhouses and several convoys of the armed forces in Quetta, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohlu, Dera Bugti etc places. On occasions Chinese workers were kidnapped and in a few cases they suffered fatal casualties. Islamabad retaliated by deploying over 25,000 troops and bombing and strafing rebel strongholds at Kohlu, Dera Bugti, Marri and Mengal tracts. It is not our intention to catalogue the incidents and count the body bags.
Carlotta Gall, New York Times correspondent visiting the area in April 2006 reported having witnessed deep bomb craters caused by MK-82 bombs. According to her, Hundreds of political party members, students, doctors and tribal leaders have been detained by government security forces, many disappearing for months, even years, without trials in well-documented cases. Some have been tortured or have died in custody, say officials of Pakistans Human Rights Commission.
She proceeds to comment, In places like Dera Bugti and Kohlu, government forces have carried out reprisals against villagers, Baloch leaders and human rights officials say. In a case documented by the Human Rights Commission, the Frontier Corps killed 12 men from Pattar Nala on Jan 11 after a mine explosion near the village killed some of its soldiers. Two old men from the village who went to the base to collect the bodies were also killed. The next day, the 14 bodies were handed over to the women of the village. Local fighters say the Frontier Corps has carried out 42 such reprisal killings in the last three months, the latest involving six villagers during the week of March 6.
President Musharraf made several recent pronouncements expressing his intent to crush the movement and develop Balochistan. He impugned foreign interference; obviously direct indictment of Afghanistan, India and Russia. Speaking at Charsadda on February 12, 2006 Musharraf sternly warned the Baloch resistance forces and offered certain imaginary carrots. Again speaking at Lahore on March 24, 2006 Musharraf asserted, these two or three Sardars who are fighting against their own people will be sorted out very soon. They are already on the run as they know they have lost support among their own people.
Musharraf again asserted on June 20 that Baloch revolt was crushed. However, Daily Times commented in an editorial on June 21, 2006, the evidence for the pacification of Balochistan is not strong. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has not ended its operations and the big sardars are still challenging the writ of the state through statements and disruptive action on the ground. Acts of sabotage against public projects have not stopped and those who are inclined to go against the terrorists are being picked off by the rebels.
State employees who show enthusiasm in their work and thus displease the liberation movement walk in fear of the consequences of their betrayal. Above all, the linkage of insurgency with Baloch nationalism is nowhere near being broken by the efforts made in Islamabad the rhetoric and sentiment of nationalism in Balochistan is economy-based because of the awareness of the people that Islamabad derives its major economic resources from the province. Almost in pattern with all such provinces in the world, nationalism has acquired the sharpness of separatism, which has an exaggerated effect on a centre that has been obsessed with unity in past history President Musharrafs opinion that the insurgency has ended in Balochistan must spring from the awareness that his action in Balochistan has not been the quick surgical strike the world thought it would be. The longer it takes to decide the discord in the province the more difficult it will become to pacify it.
Military dictators like Musharraf are not generally propelled by newspaper editorials realistic ground tremors. They act for self-preservation. The Pakistani dictator is confident that force alone can cow down the Balochs. Finally, he got better of the most well known face of Baloch resistance. Nawab Akbar Bugti, leader of the Bugti tribe, president of the Jamhoori Watan Party and the driving force behind the anti-government rebellion in Balochistan. Bugti was killed in a massive military operation in the Bhambore Hills, an area between the cities of Kohlu and Dera Bugti. Balach Marri, commander of the BLA was also reportedly killed along with 80 close family members and followers of the Nawab. Pakistan army claimed that the cave in which Bugti was hiding had caved under heavy bombardment. Reliable sources indicate that ISI operators trapped the Nawab and he was killed in cold blood after a close-quarter encounter.
Earlier the federal government exercised its powers under Section 11(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 and declared the BLA a terrorist outfit.
After Nawab Bugtis death president Musharraf claimed that the stray terrorist incidents in Balochistan were eradicated. Claimers and disclaimers from a military dictator do not reflect the real state of affair in a country. A Bugti, Marri and Mazari might be assassinated. Millions of Bengalis and Balochs might be consigned to flames but as Historian Suret Khan Marri tells, the movement is there. Sometimes it is crushed. Now it is the fifth insurgency, and it has spread all across the Baloch area.
Suret Khans statement is supported by events that followed the dearth of Nawab Bugti. Balochistan has been tackled by the Islamabad junta but the Baloch people have not been won over for the causes of a Unified Pakistan. The fault line is widening rapidly.
The Balochs homeland is strategically important to Pakistan. Bangladesh was not a strategic outpost of Pakistan. It was a raw material extraction tract for the Punjabi and assorted money-market controllers of Pakistan. It was an extension of the fallacious Two-Nation theory that still recognise the centrality of religion in the making of a nation. Punjabistan, which is erroneously projected as Pakistan, has miserably failed to assimilate the ethnic, linguistic, cultural and regional economic interests of the people of Sind, Balochistan, NWFP and other regions.
Besides the Chagai nuclear testing range, Balochistan is the main base for space programme and rocket experimentation facilities of Pakistan. Baloch copper fields at Saindok are being exploited with assistance of Chinese company MRDL. Saindok has assumed importance after gold and silver were struck. Sharig is a coal-mining town in which Chinese presence is significant. Recently huge deposit of gas was confirmed from Sharig exploration sites.
Besides copper, oil and natural gas (Sui) large deposits of coal, silver, gold, platinum, aluminium appreciable deposits of Uranium have also been found in the Baloch tract. In fact, Balochistan is the only tract that promises extraction of Uranium to quench Pakistans thirst for weapons grade fissile materials.
In addition to the strategically important Gwadar harbour nearing completion with Chinese collaboration, Pakistan and Kuwait have recently developed Port Qasim on Makran coast. The Jiwani peninsula near Iran border is being developed as a strategic airport and berthing facility for Naval ships. Jiwani and nearby areas are being explored for petroleum and some Chinese firms are aiming for offshore exploration for oil reserves.
The Makran coast has a secret port facility near Ormara, used by Pakistan�s Hangor Class submarines. Knowledgeable circles in Pakistan allege that the secret port in between Gwadar and Karachi is being used to receive clandestine missile and weapons supplies from China and North Korea. Some secret weapons supplies by the CIA are also landed at Ormara facilty.
Recent information indicates that Adi and Damb on Sonmiani Bay are being developed as strategic ports. Pakistan is reportedly seeking US help to develop the Bay as a big naval base.
Important strategic airports in Balochistan are at Gwadar, Pasni, Turbat (also a mining complex), Juzzak and Robray. Situated near Iran and Afghanistan borders these airports are valued by the USA for strategic use against Iran, if such a situation arises in near future.
Quetta does not need any introduction. Pakistans strategic road head to Kandahar in Afghanistan, Quetta witnessed massive mobilisation by Pakistan, USA, Saudi Arabia and other forces that had coalesced into a coalition to fight the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Quetta had also housed the ISI operational forward base; besides being used by the Afghan mijahideens and the Arab mercenaries under command of Osama bin Laden. Even now Quetta is being used by Pakistan to clandestinely support the resurgent Taliban forces. Under no circumstances Pakistan would like the Afghan, Indian and other forces to have any toehold in the strategically important capital of Balochistan.
From Pakistani point of view Balochistan has assumed more importance as a number of Taliban elements and members of Gulbuddin Heckmatyars Hizbe Islami have been settled by the ISI in the Pushtun majority areas of Balochistan and in areas around Quetta. Whatever president Musharraf may assert about Pakistans war against Taliban and Al Qaeda, it is widely known in Pakistan that Balochistan bases are being used by the Taliban, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar and Osama bin Laden against Afghan, USA and NATO forces. Repeat showing of the Taliban forces in Afghanistan are being staged from Waziri and Baloch tracts of Pakistan. Musharraf wants to paint the resurgent Taliban movement with brush of peopleís war. Pakistan watchers have confirmed reports of two live Taliban camps 120 km due south of Chaman in a hill valley and near Sheihk Manda, north of Quetta. The USA has the historic habit of behaving like the proverbial Ostrich when it comes to assessing real strategic value of its presumed allies. It is difficult to convince Washington that Pakistan and not Afghanistan is the fountainhead of Islamic jihad.
With so much of strategic, economic and geopolitical factors at stake Pakistan cannot afford to have a roaring insurgency in Balochistan. The Bugti fire has been apparently doused, but Balochs are preparing for renewed fight for their rights, though circumstances in Afghanistan and Iran are not conducive to their strategic preparations. The Bengali Pakistanis fought a single war of independence. The Balochs have fought four so far. Baloch leaders say they are ready to fight another four to achieve their goals.
The Chinese have a big stake in Balochistan. Besides collaboration with Pakistan in nuclear and missile technology, developing mining facilities and modernising the Gwadar port, China is interested in joint operation with Iran and Pakistan for laying oil and gas pipelines from Makran coast through Baloch territory, part of Sind, Punjab, and POK to destinations in Xinjiang province of China. This would facilitate China to curtail a longer sea route via the Straits of Malacca and areas of American naval presence in South East Asia. With the same objective in view China is exploring the possibility of laying a pipeline from Bangladesh to China via Myanmar.
The Daily Times of Pakistan reported on May 24, 2006, that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was actively considering a feasibility study for an oil pipeline from Gwadar port to Western China to transport Chinas oil imports from the Gulf. The Gwadar and Karachi ports offer the shortest access to the Arabian Sea for Western China, as well as Central Asia, Aziz said at a seminar on 55 years of Pakistan-China relations, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies. A major oil refinery at Gwadar would further facilitate Chinas oil imports. Pakistan is now in a position to exploit its strategic location at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia to promote corridors of cooperation.
The Chinese are also worried about presence of Uighur rebels in Taliban and Al Qaeda camps in Waziristan. There were unconfirmed reports that the BLA had taken helps from the Xinjiang rebels to procure weapons and to plan attacks on Chinese facilities in Balochistan.
Closely linked to Chinese interest in Balochistan are the aspects of up- gradation of the Karakoram Highway, communication between Gilgit-Skardu and connecting Kashgarh and Urumqui (Xinjiang) with Pakistan. Elaborate comments on these aspects deserve a separate treatise.
Innayatullah Baloch writes in his book, The Problem of Greater Balochistan, that the strategic importance of Balochistan has had a positive as well as a negative effect on Baloch nationalism. The Baloch people believe in the saying of the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa salam- Whoever fails to oppose a tyrant is guilty of tyranny. However, the USA does not appear to be appreciative of the noble spirit of the Baloch people. To Washington a Saddam is a tyrant and a Musharraf is a dictator of garden variety. It allowed the Bengali Muslims to be butchered by Islamabad and in Balochistan Washington is repeating the same act. Americaís strategic consideration categorizes Balochistan as a pivot of history. The tract and its people have become pawns in the proverbial Great Game of Central Asia. Halford Mackinder, a former Director of the London School of Economics had long back described Balochistan as a gateway to the Central Asian heartland. This holds good even today.
The USA considers Pakistan as a key geostrategic ally for strengthening its Great Game against Iran, China, and burgeoning influence of Russia in the CAR countries. Afghanistan has become another quagmire for the USA and Pakistan knows well that Washington cannot but depend on its treacherous ally to fight the Taliban, Al Qaeda and to manipulate the Islamic jihadis of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya and Uighur rebels of western China. With a standoff situation with Iran, Venezuela, Peru, Columbia and Panama the USA has to depend more on Arab oil. The Russian authorities have entered the oil market in a bigger way and Washington is worried about re-emergence of the Kremlin as another Cold War superpower. It is keenly exploring the possibilities of tapping the oil rich CAR countries and piping down the oil from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan etc countries through Afghan and Baloch territories of Pakistan. Balochistan has the potential to offer energy corridor to the Central Asian Republics. There exists a plan to construct a gas pipeline from Daulatabad to Gwadar through Afghan territory for onward export to the USA and South East Asia. For this purpose, under the US aegis, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan have already concluded an agreement.
About 30% of gas facilities Balochistan are being controlled by the USA. It is, like the Chinese, also engaged in on and offshore exploration of oil and gas in Baloch areas. Some reports indicate that the CIA and the ISI are collaborating to subvert some of the tribes like the Jamalis, Marris and Bugtis. Due to its common border with Afghanistan, the United States considers Balochistan territory as important for military operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In fact, the United States has military bases in Dalbandin and Pasni on the Balochistan coast. Strategic and economic interests often bring strange bedmates together. No wonder Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and USA are using the Baloch territory as a convenient strategic bed.
Pakistani media and political personalities aligned to the junta have often blamed India and Afghanistan for aiding the Baloch rebels. According to Daily Times of Pakistan (09.01.06) president Musharraf clearly blamed India for backing the Baloch militants, there are lots of indications, and yes indeed there is a lot of financial support, support in kind being given to those who are anti-government, anti-me and to those feudal people who are anti-national.
Musharraf told a visiting Indian CNN-IBN team said that he was annoyed and disappointed by Indian government statements and alleged actions in Balochistan. Itís a direct interference in our internal affairs.
Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam also responded by accusing India of an unacceptable proclivity to interfere in the internal affairs of its neighboursSuch tendency is contrary to efforts aimed at building an environment of trust, peace and stability in South Asia. Federal Information Minister and the presidentís chief spokesperson Sheikh Rashid had said that good relations with neighbours had restrained Pakistan from making public evidence of the involvement of foreign countries in the Balochistan insurgency. Speaking to the Reuters, he commented in Peshawar, We have evidence that foreign countries are involved but we donít want to spoil the good relations we have with our neighbours.
Pakistan Muslim League Secretary General Mushahid Hussain in an interview to the Outlook India magazine said (16.04.2006) , RAW has established its training camps in Afghanistan in collaboration with the Northern Alliance remnants. Approximately 600 ferraris, or Baloch tribal dissidents, are getting specialised training to handle explosives, engineer bomb blasts, and use sophisticated weapons in these camps.
Similar allegations have been made against the Afghan government. Some Pakistani leaders went to the extent of alleging Russian proxy involvement through Karzai government. They forget that Karzai is a USA and not Russian surrogate.
It would be futile for an Indian to rebut Pakistani allegations. It is better to fall back on the US sources to contradict Pakistan. The US sources have refused to accept involvement of foreign hand in Balochistan. Khalid Hassan, writing in the Daily Times on April 04, 2006 reported that The Karnegie Endowment for International Peace report authored by Frederic Grare concluded that, almost six decades of intermittent conflict have given rise to a deep feeling of mistrust towards the central government. The Baloch will not forget General Pervez Musharrafs recent promises and the insults hurled from time to time at certain nationalist leaders. The projects that were trumpeted as the means to Baluchistanís development and integration have so far led only to the advance of the Pakistani military in the province, accompanied by the removal of the local population from their lands and by the intense speculation that benefits only the army and its henchmen.
The Grare report argued that Baloch nationalism was a reality that Islamabad could not pretend to ignore forever or co-opt by making promises of development that were rarely kept. For the moment, with little certainty about the conclusion of an agreement between the central government and the nationalist leaders, the province is likely to enter a new phase of violence with long-term consequences that are difficult to predict. This conflict could be used in Pakistan and elsewhere as a weapon against the Pakistan government. Such a prospect would affect not only Pakistan but possibly all its neighbours. It is ultimately Islamabad that must decide whether Balochistan will become its Achilles heel.
According to the Carnegie report, in the last 30 years the conflict in Balochistan resulted in 8,000 deaths, 3,000 of them from the army. The province seemed to be heading for another armed insurrection. The report identified three separate but linked issues that keep alive Baloch nationalism: Pakistanís strategic evaluation of Baloch territory, centrality of the role of Army and promotion of Islamism to recapture lost bases in Afghanistan. In the process, Pakistan has criminally neglected the genuine aspirations of the Baloch people.
The Carnegie Foundation report summed up the international reactions to Pakistanís criminal activities in Balochistan; Todayís crisis in Balochistan was provoked, ironically, by the central governmentís attempt to develop this backward area by undertaking a series of large projects. Instead of cheering these projects, the Baloch, faced with slowing population growth, responded with feat that they would be dispossessed of their land and resources and of their distinct identity.
In addition, three fundamental issues are fuelling this crisis: expropriation, marginalisation and dispossession. Since India reopened its consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar, it has been suspected of wanting to forge an alliance with Afghanistan against Pakistan. At the least, it is thought to want to exert pressure on Pakistanís western border to force it to give up once and for all its terrorist activities in Kashmir, and, if possible, to bring the composite dialogue to an end on terms favouring India.
India may also see the Chinese role in the development of the Gwadar port as a potential threat to its economic and strategic interests in the area. Pakistanis, Grare added, also suspected Iran of supporting Baloch activists to counter a Pak-US plot to make Balochistan a rear base in a future offensive against Iran. Iran also wants its Chah Bahar port, renamed Bandar Beheshti, as an outlet for Central Asia at Pakistanís expense. The Carnegie Foundation report believes that Pakistanis, including the Baloch, see the US as a potential troublemaker.
The pains of the Baloch people cannot be diagnosed by brief narration of their heroic struggle and international strategic power play in the region. Something must be told about blatant Human Rights violations.
Wahid Baloch (31.01.2006) of Baloch Society of North America, USA, drew attention to appalling human rights violation in Baloch territory. According to him Pakistani dictators have started the 5th military operation against the innocent Baloch people, using US gunship helicopters and F-16 jets, to crush their peaceful struggle against the occupation of their land and exploitation of their resources by Pakistan.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a January 2006 report accused President Pervez Musharrafs military-led government of gross human rights violations in Balochistan. The HRCP rejected government claims that it was not using regular armed forces in a crackdown in the province launched last month after rocket attacks by tribal militants battling for greater autonomy and control of natural gas fields. The group said it had received evidence that action by armed forces had led to deaths and injuries among civilians and that populations had also been subjected to indiscriminate bombing.
The HRCP report said that up to 85 percent of the 22,000-26,000 inhabitants of Dera Bugti had fled their homes after paramilitary forces shelling repeatedly hit the town. There were alarming accounts of summary executions, some allegedly carried out by paramilitary forces. The HRCP received credible evidence that showed such killings had taken placeAcross Balochistan, the HRCP team found widespread instances of disappearance, of torture inflicted on people held in custody, and on those fleeing from their houses,
Asma Jahangir, Chairperson of HRCP said, I have a very different view. It is not a matter of Indian government or Pakistan government. My view is that human rights issues are universal And I think when our government takes out the issue of the massacres that took place in the Indian Gujarat, not only our government but all governments of the world should make India accountable for what they did And therefore, it is just right that when systematic human rights violations are taking place as they took place in Gujarat and what is taking place in Baluchistan, that the world community does pay attention to it. India is part of the world community and India is part of the region and I hope that not only India but other countries do pay attention so what is happening in Baluchistan is grave enough to take notice of.
The Baloch fault line is wider than the East Pakistan tectonic gap was. No amount of scholarly research can sum up the pains of the Baloch people, no strategic consideration can heal the wounds and no amount of armed attack on the Baloch people can subdue them. Mr. Najam Shethi has spoken the sanest words in his Daily Times editorial on 04.10.2006. I quote him, In short, one can say that Pakistan itself emerged from a separatist nationalism that could have subsided had the All India Congress handled it well. But after becoming a state Pakistan quickly developed further separatist symptoms, which point to a future of many mini-states in the region. Let us accept that all sub-nationalisms aspire to a national state but are thereafter incapable of applying closure to the process of fragmentation
Balochistan must stay inside Pakistan and the federation must learn to mould itself to the need of the federal units to be as autonomous as possible without actually destroying the state. There were times when we thought that Awami National Partys (sic) Six Points were not negotiable; today hardly anyone will disagree that they could have been accommodated. These days, states do not come to an end easily. In fact many states in the recent past reached the black hole status and stayed like that without changing their morphology. There are many failed states in our world, which are on the map because the international system doesnít allow annexations any more.
Pakistan was the result of Muslim separatism. It runs the risk of splintering under the weight of the regional demands for autonomy. To prevent the emergence of mini-states in place of the federation, it must nurture its provinces into mini-states by consent. Balochistan has to stay within Pakistan to become autonomous. Once outside, it will succumb to further fragmentation and chaos.
To a conscious Indian a question pops up: Has Delhi worked on any Baloch strategy? The pundits and trusted friends of the Establishment might answer gorgeously. A common mans view is: Delhi has very little time beyond daily political survival angst.