Monthly Archives: January 2012

Unrest follows death of Baloch ‘Tiger’

By: Naveed Ahmad
The death of Balochistan’s most powerful and defiant Baloch tribal elder, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, continues to unleash riots, nationwide strikes and public processions across Pakistan, as the country’s military president, General Pervez Musharraf, pursues a hard-handed strategy that has so far resulted only in increasing violence.
Bugti, known as the “Tiger of Balochistan,” met his death at the hands of Pakistani military forces on 26 August in his hideout in the remote hills of the province.
The government says Bugti and some of his loyalists were killed when the cave they were hiding in collapsed after a massive explosion during clashes in the Baloch district of Kohlu.
“We did not want to kill him, but the cave collapsed during the shootout,” said military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan.
Observers and the Baloch people doubt the official version of the story, and the fact that the military took its time, seven days, to evacuate the chieftain’s body from the cave, only added fuel to the fire.
Only about 30 Bugti tribesmen attended the funeral at the ancestral graveyard in the town of Dera Bugti, some 245 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital, Quetta. Bugti’s family members were prevented from holding their own funeral, and refused to attend the state-organized funeral.
Cleric Maulana Malook, who led the funeral prayer under tight security, was later found dead, presumably killed by his fellow Bugti tribesmen for leading the funeral prayer on government orders.
Jamil Bugti, one of Nawab Akbar’s five sons, told ISN Security Watch in Quetta: “The body should have been handed over to us so that we could lay him to rest with honor.”
Some 10,000 mourners joined the funeral procession in Quetta city.

Bugti’s legacy
Bugti claimed to spearhead a militant movement to win decades-old demands for autonomy and a greater share of the province’s vast natural resources.
Spread over 350,000 square kilometers, Balochistan remains extremely underdeveloped with only marginal access to education and health facilities, even in the major towns. This is despite the fact that the strategically placed energy-rich province, bordering Afghanistan and Iran, meets 40 percent of the entire country’s natural gas needs.
Today, a sense of deprivation has taken hold of Balochistan, and appears directly proportionate with development taking place in other parts of the country, especially the most populous and neighboring Punjab province.
Over the last couple of years, a renegade army, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), has consistently attacked gas facilities, infrastructure and security forces.
The situation took a turn for the worse when scores of rockets were fired at General Musharraf’s helicopter in the Kohlu area on 14 December last year. In response, the increasingly unpopular Musharraf, who had already escaped three attempts on his life, ordered a large-scale military operation in the volatile Baloch districts.
Ironically, Bugti’s death at the hands of the Pakistani military could very well unite more moderate Baloch politicians and the extremist BLA as both fight for rights they believe the Pakistani government has denied them for decades.

From mainstream to mountains
The 79-year-old Bugti started his political career in 1946 when he voted for the creation of Pakistan. Immediately after Pakistan was founded as an independent nation in 1947, Bugti was appointed adviser on Baloch affairs to Pakistan’s agent to the provincial governor-general.
Bugti became a formal leader by being elected to the National Assembly in May 1958. His federal credentials went a notch higher when he became minister of state for interior in the federal cabinet of then-prime minister Sir Feroz Khan Noon, but only for a few weeks.
Bugti’s first transition from the national to the nationalist began when he was arrested and convicted by a military court in 1960 for the alleged murder of a close relative. He was sentenced to death and later pardoned, but was disqualified from holding public office and prevented from contesting the 1970 general election.
After being ousted from the national political scene, Bugti decided to rehabilitate himself politically at the provincial level. To create space for himself at this level, he joined hands with then-prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, helping to remove Bhutto’s political nemeses in Balochistan. In February 1973, Bhutto appointed Bugti as governor of Balochistan, deployed the army and began a crackdown on the opposition there.
Bugti quit power acrimoniously in January 1974, heralding his slide into political hibernation by returning to the tribal system. In February 1989, he was elected the chief minister, but only to deal with a hostile leader in the center, then-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Bugti’s disillusionment with the federation set in when the governor dissolved the provincial assembly in August 1990, but his influence remained with caretaker provincial chief minister Humayun Khan Marri, his son-in-law.
Later, in 1993, he was elected to the National Assembly, but again the lower house of parliament was sacked by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The Oxford-educated tribal chieftain had lost faith in federation as well as politics of pragmatism.
Bugti became vociferously critical of the military dictatorship after General Musharraf assumed power in a bloodless coup on 12 October 1999. His criticism came to a boil in February last year, after Shazia Khalid, a doctor at a mineral gas refinery plant, was allegedly raped by an army captain whom Musharraf absolved of any wrongdoing. The Baloch leader vowed to seek revenge.
But Bugti’s key legacy lies in his death, and in Musharraf’s apparent miscalculation of the tribal elder’s popularity.

The root of the violence
Under the guise of developing Balochistan, General Musharraf has embarked on a number of “mega projects” in the province, but the Baloch people suspect the true intentions of these projects are less than benevolent, and as such, they were doomed from the start.
The creation of cantonments (basically military bases) in Bugti’s Sui district and the coastal area of Gawadar sparked attacks and ambushes on army convoys and government installations by Bugti’s private militia.
The construction of a deep sea port at Gawadar, a new coastal highway and lucrative mining contracts also fell under suspicion – and eventually attack.
Many Baloch nationalist leaders fear the strategic military facilities will be used by US forces against neighboring Iran, while Islamabad would pump out the region’s natural resources, fleecing the province without returning any of the profits to the people.
Several months of fierce fighting last year finally ended in a brief ceasefire when the leaders of Musharraf’s ruling party had negotiated a deal with Bugti that would have seen the Baloch people benefit, finally, from the province’s resource wealth. However, Musharraf shot down the deal, accusing Baloch insurgents of cooperating with foreign forces (money from India and safe haven in Afghanistan).
Talks were clearly over in December when rockets were fired at a rally attended by Musharraf in the province. Musharraf responded by sending the military to attack Bugti’s village.
For the military establishment, Bugti’s death may be the end of an irritating tribal leader, rebel and traitor, but for politicians across the country, the tribal chieftain was much, much more – having accomplished in death what they could not in life: uniting the Baloch nationalists and opposition politicians across the country. Bugti, thus, has become a legend for the defiant youth of the rebellious tribes.

The political fallout
One of the most important immediate outcomes of Bugti’s death was its near unanimous condemnation by all religious and political parties. Quetta and some other parts of Balochistan have witnessed unprecedented riots since the news of Bugti’s death.
Condemning Bugti’s killing, Mir Hasil Bizenjo and other Baloch leaders say the incident has whipped up resentment against the army, and that the Baloch people will never forget what they view as an outright assassination.
“The killing of Nawab Bugti has further widened the gulf between the Balochs and the government,” the Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Daud, told ISN Security Watch in Quetta.
Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told a press conference last week in Islamabad that the army operation would continue against the renegade Baloch army and other anti-state elements.
The Pakistani army refuses to deal with Balochistan on a political level, seeing it as an administrative issue that can easily be resolved by the use of force. Limited access provided to the media and human rights groups further undermines the credibility of official claims of silencing a few enemy-aided miscreants as the government seeks to embark on mega projects in the gas-rich region that are ostensibly geared toward local socio-economic development.
Though the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) last week resigned from the assemblies and the Senate in protest against the killing of Bugti and the ongoing military action, the political parties likely will seek more mileage, and their anger is more directed against Musharraf’s military rule in Pakistan than for greater autonomy for the Baloch people.
The bigger issues facing the Pakistani government involve elimination of isolation by provision of better infrastructure and more jobs, particularly in the so-called mega projects. In the meantime, violence could affect the country’s economic growth, as continued attacks on petroleum and natural gas pipelines are not likely to be halted by military action.
General Musharraf and his army are facing the worst ever media assault and political criticism in the wake of his aggressive sound bites coupled with miscalculated use of force. Still, there is no indication that Musharraf is ready to soften his tone and adopt a different strategy – one that would allow for a greater Baloch voice in the provincial government.
With the death of Bugti, the leadership vacuum is likely to fill up quicker than expected, particularly through the youth, and all the signs point to a rebellion that is only growing in boldness and ferocity.
Attacks have continued, unabated, and have increased since Bugti’s death. On Sunday, an attack on transmission lines cut off power supplies to 15 of Balochistan’s 29 districts. On Monday, a bomb exploded near the post office and intelligence office in the town of Kharan, damaging the buildings but resulting in no human casualties.
For the past three years, gas pipelines, productions sites, army installations and railroads have been attacked with increasing bravado as Musharraf has sought to solve the “Baloch problem” through sheer use of force.
But the bottom line is, Pakistan cannot escape “terrorism” in its own backyard without addressing its root causes.

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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Research Papers on Political Issues


State of education in Balochistan

By: Mir Balach Baloch

In modern times, no government, and particularly an economically shattered country like Pakistan, could control a massive land and its people through outdated colonial policies and an oppressive regime

Pakistan’s strategic heartland and resource-rich province Balochistan is deprived and suffering from all types of social, political and economic crises. Unbearably mismanaged and misgoverned by Islamabad’s puppet leaders, Balochistan is only thriving in the field of institutional corruption, appalling human rights violations, mutilated corpses and endless political violence.

The major concerns of Balochistan are rarely mentioned and highlighted in the Pakistani media. Centuries-old perceptions and rhetoric coined by the colonial rulers and followed by the current establishment is widely repeated by the less-informed and mostly controlled media persons, journalists and TV anchors.

Along with other appalling issues, education in Balochistan has always been intentionally neglected by the federal and provincial puppet regimes. The recent spate of violence, started in 2001 and escalated into a full-fledged civil war during 2005, has unimaginably resulted in worsening meagrely available education resources and institutions.

Indiscriminate military operations, condemnable killings and intimidation of teachers by armed groups, a corrupt regime, daily protests, strikes and growing insecurity among the Baloch youth has resulted in a sharp decline in the quality of education.

Over the last six decades, the federal government very successfully and uninterruptedly established a security network consisting of naval bases, cantonments, airfields and strategic developments but when it comes to education, Islamabad’s colonial mindset always blames the Baloch people and so-called Sardars for the poor and outdated education network and facilities.

In the words of former Senator and Baloch leader, Sana Baloch: “How can a region progress when it has more soldiers than teachers, more garrisons than universities, more naval bases than science and research centres and more funds for extermination rather than training? In Balochistan today, the Frontier Corps (FC) cantonments outnumber colleges, there are more police stations than vocational training centres and more checkposts than government high schools.”

This is the exact cause of frustration among the Baloch youth that in this modern age Balochistan has all modern security arrangements but when it comes to its demand for just rights, education and graceful employment the same security institutions are being used to intimidate and torture them.

The poorly designed education system in the province is further destroying the life of thousands of students. At an early age, in the public schools they are compelled to read and write in Urdu, which is not even recognised at the provincial and federal public service structure. With 43 percent of the total national territory and vast natural resources, Balochistan happens to be the largest province of Pakistan. But the province has the lowest literacy rate.

The province also has the smallest number of educational institutions, according to the NES: “Out of the total number of institutions, 48 percent are to be found in the Punjab, 22 percent in Sindh, 17 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 5 percent in Balochistan.”

No doubt, students in Balochistan have eagerness and talent but lack of proper institutions, modern teaching techniques and guidance are stumbling blocks in their career. If the government of Pakistan is truly sincere and wants to win the hearts and minds of the Baloch people and particularly enraged youth, they have to focus and modernise Balochistan’s education system rather than the FC and police. They have to ensure slow but steady social change through education, not by force. They have to focus on recruiting more qualified teachers than soldiers, building modern schools and institutions rather than expending security networks.

In modern times, no government, and particularly an economically shattered country like Pakistan, could control a massive land and its people through outdated colonial policies and an oppressive regime.

The only way out of Balochistan’s appalling crisis is to develop a social and economic bond between the Baloch and the state by increasing the Baloch people and Baloch youth’s stake in the system. If the FC, Coast Guard, Navy, police and all government security consists of non-locals, what option and trust will the Baloch youth have in the state system?

Trust and respect must be mutual and investment in the social sector, particularly in modern education, and the security sector must be just and fair.

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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Balochistan


The Re-Emergence of The Baloch Movement in Pakistan

By: Dr. Rajshree Jetly
Institute of South Asian Studies,
National University of Singapore.

1. The Baluch movement in Pakistan, after a dormant period of almost two decades, has been reignited with renewed vigour and threatens to destabilise Pakistan and potentially cause problems with regional security and economic development in South Asia. This paper will:
a. provide an overview of the Baluch movement in Pakistan;
b. explain some of the causes that have propelled and sustained the movement; and
c. consider the implications of the resurgence of this movement over the last few years on the stability of Pakistan and the region.

2. Baluchistan, situated on the southwest border of Pakistan, is the traditional homeland of the Baluch. It is a vast area covering 222,000 square kilometres and occupying almost 43% of Pakistan’s total land area. Baluchistan is a land abounding in national resources with large reserves of gas, minerals, fisheries, and coal. Apart from its wealth in natural resources, Baluchistan is also geo-strategically very significant, given its location.
3. It shares borders with Afghanistan to the northwest and Iran to the west. Apart from regional importance, Baluchistan has always been relevant at the international level during the Cold War and now in the era of global terrorism. Its coastline is along the Persian Gulf and, significantly, it is along the major sea lanes near the Straits of Hormuz through which about 40% of the world’s oil tankers pass.

4. The Baluch are a tribal minority and constitute a mere 5% of Pakistan’s population. The Baluch are fiercely protective of their identity and take great pride in their community bonds, tribal affiliations, language, folk lore and community. There are 17 major tribal groups and many sub-groups. Each major group is headed by Sardar, who is a leader of the group and exercises considerable authority.
5. Baluchistan remains the most underdeveloped region as evidenced by the socio-economic growth indicators – health, literacy, civic amenities, industrial infrastructure and per capita income which point to its backwardness and underdevelopment. For example, literacy rates in Baluchistan have always lagged behind the national average. In 1981, literacy rate in Baluch was 10% while national average was 26%. Even as recently as 2004-05, Baluchistan’s literacy rate was the lowest (37%) as compared with other provinces (Sindh 56%, Punjab 55%, north western frontier province 45%) and the national average at 53%.

6. The Baluch have been involved in many armed rebellions against the federal government, with the last major insurgency in the 1970s, which was largely fuelled by the Baluch’s perception of disenfranchisement by the federal government in terms of their economic, social and political expectations.

The Baluch Perspective
7. Economically, the Baluch feel the central government in Pakistan is treating Baluchistan as a colony, exploiting its resources without sharing the benefits. Natural gas was discovered in the Sui fields in the province in 1953 and by 1964, the gas was being piped to Multan and Rawalpindi in Punjab. Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, received none of the gas from its own land until 1986.
8. Baluchistan also does not receive a fair share of the royalties from its natural resources. The federal government has under-priced Baluch gas, as compared with other provinces and, further, has only paid 12% of the royalties due. The Baluch have been demanding a revision of royalties on Sui gas which have remained the same since 1952.
9. Socially, most Baluch feel that they are marginalised in their own land. The federal government, dominated by Punjabis, has allowed many Punjabi civilian and military personnel posted to Baluchistan to buy prime land in the province.
10. Development projects which were launched by the federal government such as the Pat Feeder canal, RCD highway and Hub-chowki were viewed with suspicion. For example, there was cynicism that the Hub-Chowki project was not intended to benefit the Baluch. It was located near the border with Sindh, close to Karachi and has attracted mainly non-Baluch workers. The development of infrastructure, especially construction of roads to connect Baluchistan with other provinces, was also seen as a means to provide access to the central government to penetrate Baluchistan and control it, rather than to facilitate development.

11. Politically, Baluch discontentment and feelings of relative deprivation have functioned at two levels – the federal level and the provincial level. The federal government is largely Punjabi and the Baluch feel that the Punjabis are disproportionately represented in terms of wielding power at the centre. At the provincial level, the ire was directed towards the Pashtuns who flooded the province after the Afghanistan crisis in the 1980s. The Pashtuns soon dominated the business sectors, especially construction and transport.
12. Apart from being socio-economically disadvantaged, the Baluch are also politically disenfranchised at the provincial and central levels, with poor representation in the civil service and armed forces. For example, in 1972, only 5% of the provincial civil service in Baluchistan itself was made up of Baluch.
13. At the federal level, a quota system was implemented by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to facilitate proportionate representation of all provinces in the civil service. This operated to the disadvantage of the Baluch due to the fact that the Baluchistan population only constituted a very small percentage of the national population and further, the Pashtuns and Punjabis domiciled in Baluchistan were able to count themselves under the Baluchistan provincial quota, further diluting ethnic Baluch representation.

The Pakistani Government’s Perspective
14. The Pakistani government views the Baluch as an insular community that is unwilling to break away from its tribal ways and integrate into the national mainstream.
15. The government has been pumping vast amounts of money into the province to boost development and to win over the Baluch. For example, during the 1970s, when the insurgency was at its height, the government raised its grant-in-aid from Pakistan Rs12.6 million in 1971-72 to Pakistan Rs717.2 million in 1978-79. Government officials maintain that much of the money was embezzled along the way at the provincial level and did not reach the people.
16. There is also a strongly held view that tribal chiefs have politicised development issues in order to maintain the status quo and thus preserve their power. It is always in the interest of leaders of discontented groups to ensure that conflict continues, as that guarantees their leadership positions as well as access to funds and support. As one government official put it recently, “While the tribesmen remain in primitive conditions, the leader of the Bugti tribe, Sardar Nawab Bugti and his family enjoy scores of other perks and privileges.”
17. Whatever the views of both parties, the reality is that the Baluch feel a strong sense of injustice and this perception has not been fully addressed by the Pakistani government, which is why history is repeating itself. This paper compares the 1970s insurgency with the present to highlight the common features that sustain this movement and to speculate on possible future scenarios based on new variables in the equation.

18. The Baluch are presently in the midst of another crisis that gained momentum in 2004. The civil war of the 1970s and the present insurgency have many striking parallels and most of the issues that dominated the 1970s civil war have also contributed to the present crisis. Underdevelopment of the province, lack of economic and political participation at the national and provincial levels, exploitation of the province and lack of trust between the Baluch and the federal government are common themes in both cases.

Commonalities with the 1970s Insurgency
19. In the past, projects such as the Pat Feeder Canal and Hub-Chowki were seen as generating employment for non-Baluch and to serve the strategic interest of the federal government. Similar suspicions surround today’s projects. For example, the construction of the new port at Gwadar and the Ormara Naval base along the Mekran coast has raised several concerns.
20. The Gwadar port project has been controlled exclusively by the federal government, with negligible participation by Baluch, thus depriving them of any meaningful role in the development process. Gwadar, which also has a defence and strategic function, could see an increased presence of the Pakistani military in the region, and this raises concerns amongst the Baluch of greater interference by the federal government. It also risks diluting the Baluch’s presence, with the influx of people from other provinces seeking employment opportunities.
21. The Baluch already feel deprived of employment opportunities at Gwadar. For example, of the 600 people employed in the first phase of the project, only 100 of them were Baluch, largely in the lower end jobs. Nawab Akbar Bugti, the late veteran leader of the Baluch movement, had lamented that even though “the government had promised that all jobs that the locals could do would be given to them…people are being brought in, even for unskilled labour.” Similarly, the Ormara naval base project has hardly involved the Baluch.
22. Related to the Gwadar project is the fear that Baluch are being dispossessed of their land. The government acquired the land around the port at below-market value and distributed much of it to navy and coastguard personnel who are largely non-Baluch. It has also created a speculative market, with the cost of land in Gwadar soaring. According one newspaper report, a 500 square yard plot that used to cost US$130 has shot up to US$7,000.
23. A further parallel to the 1970s insurgency is seen in the Baluch’s response to the high-handed approach of the Pakistani government. In 1973, the Bhutto government decided to flex its muscles by dismissing the provincial government in Baluchistan and following that with a massive military offensive in 1974. These actions triggered a civil war and insurgents resorted to guerrilla warfare tactics, blocked main roads, disrupted rail links and obstructed oil drilling and survey operations. The federal government responded with all its might and, with assistance from Iran, managed to quell the uprising and eventually took full control of Baluchistan. It arrested the three main leaders – Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, Khair Bux Marri and Ataullah Mengal – and stationed the Pakistan army in the province to restore order.
24. In the recent escalations of violence from 2004, the Baluch forces have resorted to similar tactics. In January 2006, the rape of a female doctor by Pakistani soldiers in a Sui hospital complex sparked off widespread protests and Baluch guerrillas attacked railway lines, gas supply lines and gas installations affecting gas supply to the rest of the country, and causing power failure in the capital city of Quetta and other areas. The Pakistani military responded with full force, killing many of the insurgents, and ultimately leading to the death of Akbar Bugti.

Differences with the 1970s Insurgency
25. There are some critical differences which could make the picture more complex and complicate matters for the Pakistani government. In the 1970s, the insurgency declined for a variety of reasons. For one, Zia’s multi-pronged policy of coercion, co-option and conciliation turned the tide in Baluchistan in favour of the federal government. Second, there were intra- and inter-group cleavages and clashes of personalities, ideologies, strategies and goals of the various leaders.
26. The Pakistan National Party, successor to the old National Awami Party was formed under Bizenjo and argued for greater provincial autonomy for Baluchistan. Another organisation, the Baluch People’s Liberation Front wanted to create a greater Baluchistan to include the Baluch in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A third group called the Baluch Students Organisation wanted an independent Baluchistan.
27. These differences were exploited by Zia who managed to buy out some of the Baluch who were by now directionless. The movement also had never enjoyed wide popular support as it was driven by a few tribes. Finally, the movement failed because it did not enjoy sufficient external support to advance their cause. Afghanistan was experiencing its own crisis in the late 1970s and Iran was in favour of the Pakistani government as it did not want the insurgency to spread to its own Baluch population. India had no real incentive to help the Baluch although it was willing to exploit the situation in its conflict with Pakistan.
28. Today, the situation is very different. The Baluch are no longer as fragmented and guerrilla fighting is being carried out under the aegis of the Baluch Liberation Army (BLA), which comprises the Marri, Bugti and Mengal tribes. In the 1970s, there was some friction and rivalry between these tribes, whereas today, there is much greater cooperation. Indeed, when Bugti’s tribal territory came under attack by Pakistani troops, the Marris offered him sanctuary in their tribal area. This suggests much greater cohesion and cooperation amongst the various Baluch tribes.
29. The BLA has also attracted many educated Baluch from a middle class background into its fold and the leadership also appears to be more united in pursuing the goal of greater provincial autonomy. The four main Baluch political parties [Baluch National Party (Mengal), the Baluch National Party, the National Party and Nawab Akbar Bugti’s party, the Jamhoori Watan Party(JWP)] have come together for a common cause under the umbrella of Baloch Ittehad.

30. This could make it more difficult for President Musharraf to exploit differences between the various tribes, which General Zia was able to do successfully in the 1970s, as described above. Furthermore, the Baluch are now better equipped with heavy weaponry and sophisticated equipment.
31. More importantly, the biggest difference between the 1970s and now is that the Pakistani military is stretched to its maximum, as it is engaged on three visible fronts – the US-led global war on terrorism in the north-western frontier province and the Afghan border, the Line of Control in Kashmir and the revived Baluch insurgency.
32. Further, the external support dimension may also be very different. In the 1970s, Pakistan had received assistance from Iran but it may be less likely for such assistance to be forthcoming, especially if the Baluch make it clear that their goal now is only for greater provincial autonomy and not an independent or greater Baluchistan, which could have repercussions in Iran. There is also speculation that Al-Qaeda is moving into Baluchistan and there is therefore a possibility of the United States forces collaborating with Pakistan to enter Baluchistan both to fight Al-Qaeda and, more relevantly, to prepare for a potential strike against Iran. The United States rhetoric on Iran lends credence to this speculation, and it may, therefore, be in Iran’s interest to ensure that Baluchistan does not come under the full control of the Pakistani military.
33. Iran, in collaboration with India, has built the Chabahar port to compete with the Gwadar port in order to remain a key player in the shipping routes and energy trading related to Central Asia. Any conflict that delays the Gwadar port project could be viewed as advantageous to both Iran and India.
34. In terms of India, it is likely that it is providing active support for the Baluch. India’s interest may not be in de-stabilising Baluchistan per se but there are some collateral benefits to India. First, the Gwadar port is clear competition to the Chabahar port in which India has an interest. Second, India has a strategic interest in checking the extension of Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region which the Chinese may be able to achieve through their involvement in the Gwadar port. The strengthening of relations between China and Pakistan will also be viewed with concern by India. Third, prolonging or intensifying the Baluch conflict may compel Pakistan to increase its military engagement in the area. This may result in Pakistan having to divert some its military resources away from its conflict with India over Kashmir.
35. Thus, the new Baluch crisis, while arising from the same causes as the earlier crisis, is operating in a geo-political environment that is different and therefore may be less predictable. While it is too early to draw any conclusions, one can however imagine several possible scenarios.

36. First, the killing of Bugti could well intensify Baluch operations against the Pakistani government and provide a rallying point for future Baluch generations. President Musharraf’s recently vowed to get Bugti, saying, “I do not consider him Nawab (baron) any more, he and two other tribal chieftains are indulging in anti-state activities with the help of foreign money and weapons. We will soon sort them out.”

Soon after, Bugti died at the hands of the Pakistani military. This could well make a martyr out of the late Baluch leader.
37. Second, if the Baluch do incline towards greater militancy, it will lead to a protracted struggle rather than a quick solution to the problem. Provoking a more intense or lasting confrontation could be disastrous to Pakistan’s economic stability, as Pakistan is already spending a huge proportion of its finances on domestic and cross-border conflicts.
38. Third, the new crisis could provide Al Qaeda with a strategic opportunity to exploit differences between the Baluch and the federal government to undermine President Musharraf. The Baluch are essentially secular in outlook and have in the past not shown an inclination to join hands with Islamic fundamentalist elements. However, with the Al-Qaeda now using Baluchistan as a base for its operations, there is a risk that the Baluch will cooperate with Al-Qaeda/Taliban forces for strategic reasons, thus enhancing the internal security threat in Pakistan. President Musharraf is in a difficult position as he balances the various competing interests of Pakistan’s domestic politics and the United States’ strategic interests in its war on terrorism.
39. Fourth, a continued military confrontation in Baluchistan could spill over to neighbouring Sindh which has been tense in the past, and trigger ethnic disturbances. These could have an adverse impact on the already fragile political and economic fabric of the country.
40. Fifth, the killing of Bugti could also provide an opportunity for pro-democracy forces to get together and work against the military regime. Already, leaders of the main opposition parties, such as Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy have found common cause in cooperating with each other and are pressing for the setting up of a judicial commission to probe into the death of Bugti. The MMA had differences with Bugti and his party, JWP, in the past, but Bugti’s killing has brought the democratic elements together against the military establishment. This could have important implications for the forthcoming elections of 2007 which will be a litmus test for President Musharraf and the pro-democracy forces.
41. Sixth, the Pakistan army could use force and successfully quell the rebellion as it did in the past. However, this will not guarantee any permanent solution. In the 1970s, Pakistan did manage to subdue the insurgents, but as we are witnessing, the insurgency has resurfaced.
42. Seventh, apart from the heavy cost to both the Baluch and the Pakistani state, this ethnic conflict may have broader implications on the region as a whole, as any instability in Pakistan will have a ripple effect on South Asian regional peace and security. Ethnicity in this region is heavily interlinked and a flare-up in Baluchistan could quite easily spread across borders.
43. Eighth, if, as contemplated above, the Al-Qaeda-Baluch nexus develops, it could well be the tinderbox of fundamentalist terrorism that will engulf the region. Given the interconnectedness of oil and gas pipelines, ports and trade routes, the entire South and Central Asian regions could well end up being hostage to a continued Baluch crisis.

44. The Baluch crisis is not going fade away by itself. To resolve the problem, the government will have to allay the apprehensions of the Baluch and give them a vital stake in being part of the political and economic process of the country. At the end of the day, perceptions are very important and unless both sides are able to arrive at a mutual understanding and demonstrate a genuine willingness to improve relations with each other, the problems will remain.
45. The Baluch movement may wax and wane depending on the prevalent situation. In most ethnic conflicts, it is the nature of the movement which includes its organisational structure and leadership that ultimately decides its future.
46. The state also plays a crucial role in exacerbating or reducing ethnic tensions – the nature and timeliness of the state’s response will determine whether the movement is contained or assumes a more confrontational form. Finally external support also remains a crucial factor in fostering an ethnic movement.
47. The interplay of all these factors has decided the fate of the Baluch movement in the past and it is suggested that similar dynamics will help to shape the course of the movement in the future.


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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Research Papers on Political Issues