The government plans to announce a package for the restive south-western Balochistan province, including indemnity for dissident Baloch leaders, in bid to quell the unrest in the region.
President Zardari would soon visit Quetta and announce indemnity for all dissident Baloch leaders, who would be invited to a jirga.
Since Pakistan’s largest natural gas reserves were discovered in the
province four decades ago, Baloch nationalists have repeatedly
criticised federal government in Islamabad for failing to give the
province its share of gas royalties.
Separatists have for decades waged a low-level revolt, eyeing a bigger share in income from the province’s natural resources. But the violence threatens to distract security forces from tackling Taliban fighters along the Afghan border, most of which abuts Balochistan.
The continuing unrest in the province has also prompted China to suspend plans to build Pakistan’s largest oil refinery in Gwadar, where Beijing has financed the construction of a deep-water port.
The government package will include addressing local grievances related to economics and politics, with the province set to get 12 percent shares in the federal assets in the province such as the gas infrastructure, mines and the Gawadar Port. However, secretary general of Baloch National Party (BNP) described the proposed package for Balochistan a “tactic”, saying its people have no hopes from any package. He alleged hundreds of people lost their lives while nearly 8,000 Baloch leaders and workers are languishing in jails and torture cells and cases have been filed against hundreds of people. The entire system has been silent over injustices with the Baloch people since 1940. The BNP leader further said that the people of Balochistan have their own package which is to end the occupation over their land and that the people of Balochistan will not accept any package for the province.
Mir Hasil Khan Bazinjo of National Party said practical steps, including tracing missing people, release of Baloch leaders and withdrawing of paramilitary FC from the province were needed before announcing any package. Experts fear that if Pakistan fails to stabilise Balochistan, plans for stabilising Afghanistan could suffer.
The Baloch nationalists have carried out a number of attacks on
Pakistan’s military and paramilitary troops in the years since the 2006 killing of Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti. The government and the army has been accused of killing him in a well coordinated military operation.
Balochistan is attached with Iran as well as with landlocked Afghanistan with which it shares 1200 km border and single crossing point at Chaman. About 8-12000 people cross the border daily and 3-4000 vehicles cross Chaman checkpoint daily.
Balochistan has huge quantities of natural gas and unexplored oil
reserves. It is the largest province covering 48% of Pakistan territory. However, its population accounts for only 5% of total population of Pakistan. It is divided into Baloch, Brahvi, Pathans, Hazaras, settlers and Mekranis living along Mekran coast.
Population of settlers is more than others; they have contributed a lot in development of province. There are several Baloch nationalist parties with differing agendas but all are secular. There is no single party that represents Baloch voice or any worthwhile leader who can galvanize the people. There are 70 exploitative tribal Sardars that control the destiny of their respective tribes with an iron hand and have deliberately kept the people backward. Of the 70, Sardars of Bugti, Marri and Mengal are most influential and troublemakers and each maintains private militia. Bugtis and Marris were on warpath till as late as 2005.
Successive governments are equally guilty of keeping the province under developed since they appeased Sardars instead of uplifting the province.
Economic deprivation and political victimization led to Marri-Mengal led insurgency in 1970s; now again the Baloch are up in arms against the government. Contrary to Baloch inhabited areas which are restive, the Pashtun belt is peaceful since Pathans are relatively more educated, they are religious minded and are involved in business. They have kept the militants of Waziristan and Taliban at bay. Mekran belt was also peaceful but of late has become restless. Neither Pashtuns nor Hazaras share the idea of separation for they know that they would be biggest losers in independent Balochistan ruled by Baloch.
Balochistan continues to simmer and smolder because of vested interests of foreign powers. Low level insurgency is raging since January 2005 and is gradually assuming dangerous ramifications. Among several Indo-US-Israeli objectives, one of the objectives was to destabilize Balochistan by fomenting insurgency and creating conditions for its detachment from Pakistan. Balochistan with Gwadar deep seaport lies within the envisaged energy corridor for shipping gas and oil from Turkmenistan to Arabian Sea via Afghanistan towards western shores.
Gwadar lies at the opening of Strait of Hormuz through which over 40% of world oil passes.
US Navy together with Indian Navy are already jointly working towards achieving complete dominance of sea lanes in Indian Ocean. China too gets attracted towards Gwadar since it provides shortest route to Indian Ocean. Iran views it unfavorably since it has the potential to undermine Port Chahbahar. Russia would not like trade from Central Asia shifting southwards and therefore would like to keep Afghanistan and Balochistan turbulent. Mineral resources particularly black diamonds in Balochistan and its geo-strategic location are other reasons for the US to evince profound interest in that province. Balochistan also provides CIA an excellent launching pad to launch covert operations against
Sistan-Balochistan in Iran.
Nawab Akbar Bugti was induced to work towards making Balochistan independent through armed insurgency. He was promised huge funds, arms, ammunition, explosives and wherewithal for training of terrorists to conduct insurgency initially in rural Balochistan and later extended towards urban areas. An advanced insurgency infrastructure complete with
printed material in Urdu and English, audio and video tapes and
propaganda in local dialects was prepared inside Afghanistan and
smuggled to Balochistan. People were instigated on the themes of extreme economic deprivation, political victimization and thievery of their natural resources. After raising hue and cry over development of Gwadar Port and other mega projects in 2004, Nawab Bugti picked up arms in January 2005. By that time he had received huge stocks of weapons of all hues and cash from his mentors and was in good position to inflame Dera Bugti.
Government of Balochistan in exile was established by militants in April 2005 with its HQ in Jerusalem. A short military operation had to be launched in troubled areas of interior Balochistan in 2006 which destroyed more than fifty terrorist camps and forced Bugti to flee to a hideout in inaccessible mountains. He died in the cave in which he was hiding due to artillery shelling. He was eulogized as a leader of Baloch who had died fighting for their cause and was turned into a hero.
Insurgency which was confined to Dera Bugti-Sui-Kahan spread far and wide and enveloped settled areas of Mekran, Sarawan and Jhalawan Divisions. Apart from frequent attacks on gas pipelines, grid stations, power transmissions, security check posts and military convoys, kidnapping and target killings of settlers and Hazaras are on the increase. So far, about 30 killings of Punjabis and Hazaras have taken place in 2009 forcing settlers to migrate.
Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), initially created by KGB in 1980s was resurrected and the mantle given to Balach Marri. After his death in Afghanistan in 2007, Brahamdagh Bugti took over. BLA was headquartered at Kandahar with the active assistance of RAW and CIA. Brahamdagh has been spitting poison against Pakistan and is actively pursuing path of independence of Balochistan. He is involved in a series of kidnappings, targeted killings, sabotage and attacks on forces and installations in different parts of the province. He has threatened to kill all non-Baloch in Balochistan.
Some other terrorist outfits like Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Republican Party (BRP) and Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) have also cropped up. In reality, only BLA is operating while others are phony. All four names have been coined by RAW and fed to Brahamdagh for propagation to give an impression to the world that the separatist movement in Balochistan is wide based. BLA doesn’t represent aggrieved Baloch people and has a very narrow support base amongst disgruntled elements. These shadowy outfits proudly accept responsibility of criminal acts. Since none of the Baloch nationalist parties took part in February 2008 elections, they have veered towards the separatists.
Provincial government comprising mostly of Sardars from
PPP and PML-Q, is out of sync with people of the province. Misled Baloch youth belonging to various tribes has become assertive and violent.
Their grouses and demands are maximum provincial autonomy bordering independence, release of detained political activists, whereabouts of missing persons (official figure is 831), abandonment of plan of building military cantonments in interior Balochistan, stoppage of army operations and withdrawal of security forces, control over natural resources and mega projects, larger job quotas in federal services and within the province. Baloch nationalists are now openly talking of independence and feel no compunction of their links with India and other foreign powers. Brahamdagh has publicly asked India and other countries
to help them fight Pakistan and gain independence. Attaullah Mengal said that he would even accept the devil’s help against Pakistan. On the occasion of 3rd anniversary of Akbar Bugti on 26 August, the province virtually came to a grinding halt.
Baloch Legal Fund (BLF) has address originating from Washington DC. It is ironic that champions of global anti-terrorism who promptly ban any religious outfit on slightest suspicion and freeze its funds have closed their eyes to BLF. Likewise, Brahamdagh and his team based in Kandahar indulging in covert operations in Balochistan are being patronized by RAW, Mossad, MI-6 and CIA. Indian Consulates in Zahidan, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Kandahar bordering Balochistan are providing all forms of
support to the insurgents with full connivance of USA. Arrest of Gazin Marri in Dubai in March 2006 for channeling funds to BLA from Dubai proved Indian connection.
Anti-state activities of London based Mir Suleiman Dawood; Khan of Kalat is an open secret. He has been holding international rallies and carrying out propaganda that Balochistan had been forcibly annexed by Pakistan. In an interview with Indian Daily he said the Gilani-Manmohan declaration in Sharm-el Sheikh helped in highlighting Baloch issue internationally and would pave way for international intervention in Balochistan. British government has neither taken any action against him nor extradited him to Pakistan. Likewise, Harbayar Marri based in UK was caught indulging in covert operations against Pakistan. He was arrested
but later on released.
Several RAW agents have been caught red handed indulging in sabotage and subversion in Balochistan. Export of terrorism from Afghan soil into Balochistan and FATA and Swat was brought to the notice of USA, Afghanistan and India several times but none has ever heeded to our complaints. Balochistan cauldron will continue to fester as long as we tolerate intrusion of foreign agencies and treat our enemies as friends.
Anti-social and anti-state elements must be punished and efforts made for repatriation of Brahamdagh. Proposed All Parties Conference should be convened at the earliest and practical measures taken with utmost sincerity to remove sense of deprivation of people of Balochistan.
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