Balochistan, China and India

September 23, 2015 OPINION/NEWS

Balochistan

By

Sattar Rind

Balochistan in the southwest of Pakistan is the largest province by area, representing 44% of the country’s total land mass, while at the same time constituting only 5% of Pakistan‘s total populace of 200 million.

The province’s geopolitical regions cover the Middle East, Southwest Asia, Central Asia and South Asia. Balochistan lies at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz and provides the shortest route from seaports to Central Asia and Europe.

Balochistan’s economy is based largely on the production of natural gas, coal, iron, gold, copper, expensive stone and many other minerals, though have not been fully explored due to the Baloch nationals’ resistance from time to time, with the exception that is of coal and natural gas.

The Balochs never had an independent state in the proper sense of the word, the Kalat State not being considered a truly independent Baloch State. However, four Princely States under the British Raj willingly joined Pakistan in 1947 following independence, except Kalat and these were Makran, Las Bella and Kharan.

Kalat however decided to join Pakistan under the agreement that it will be an autonomous State within the country, in which only foreign affairs, currency and security would be dealt with by federal Pakistan. Within a few months however such a dream turned sour as they did not feel confident that Pakistan would honour its promises resolutely.

Balochistan’s local system has for a long time been tribal. The Kalat State has united many Baloch tribes. They wanted their system to run with no interference from others. As their tribal system is very much associated with honour, it might be an individual Baloch or collectively as a tribe, thus a Baloch nation.

They soon therefore felt they should be given more and started demanding greater autonomy and increased royalties from natural resources and provincial revenue, and in some cases, full independence.

The result was obvious that Pakistan was not keen on fulfilling such demands, this response by Pakistan bound to lead to insurgency in Balochistan. Nevertheless, the running of one insurgency in Balochistan is the fourth instance of such rebellious movements; it is though the worst when compared to the past three such occasions.

The implications of this fight were felt around the world, epecially as it had been discussed in UN and US congress meetings, the world’s media focusing on it accordingly. In Pakistan however this remained under discussion as both Pakistani newspapers and electronic media hardly gave it its due coverage.

This fourth insurgency started from the killing of one of Balochistan’s powerful tribal chiefs, ex-Chief Minister of Baluchistan and Chief of Bugti Tribe Akbar Bugti, in August 2006. He challenged General Musharraf and left his home city for the mountains where he made his base in the caves to fight back, Pakistan’s government earlier holding him responsible for a series of deadly bomb blasts and a rocket attack on President General Musharraf.

From the killing of Akbar Bugti, the leader of the Balochs’ fourth rebellion went into the mountains to fight against the Pakistani Government, demanding total freedom from it. Responding to the new wave of Baloch rebellions, more than eighty chieftains of Baloch tribes sat together under the leadership of Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Dawood, in September 2006 in Kalat to discuss the newly emerging situation of Balochistan.

The Baloch tribal leaders had decided that Khan of Kalat Mir Suleiman Dawood, a ceremonial head of the Kalat State, must leave the country to fight a legal battle in the International Criminal Court in the Hague and should in exile announce the independence of the state of Kalat.

Interestingly many leaders who had attended this meeting soon joined the government, two of them becoming Chief Minister and Governor of Baluchistan, following the election of 2008. Most recently one of the existing senior ministers of the Balochistan government, Sardar Sanaullah Khan, is pursuing Khan of Kalat and other rebellion leaders living in exile to come back to Pakistan to disown the rebellion movements. According to reports they are much closer to an agreement in this regard.

Even though on 12 August 2009, Khan of Kalat declared himself ruler of Balochistan and formally announced a Council for an independent Baluchistan, the council claimed the allegiance of all separatist leaders including Nawabzada Bramdakh Bugti, the grandson of martyred Akbar Bugti and son of the Chief of Mari Tribe, and veteran separatist leader Nawab Khair Bux Mari, Hair Biar.

Suleiman Dawood had also suggested that the UK had “a moral responsibility to raise the issue of Balochistan’s illegal occupation at international level.”

As many young Baloch leaders and chieftains left Pakistan for Dubai, London, United States, Canada and Switzerland, it is still assumed they are leading the rebellions’ fighters from these countries and providing moral support for those in the Balochistan battlefield. This way, an even bloodier battle rages on.

Folllowing General Musharaff’s government the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari became president of Pakistan and offered the Baloch people an excuse as head of State and requested they stop fighting, but no one paid attention from the rebellions or took it seriously.

He also announced a development package of a large amount and a number of jobs for the young people of Balochistan, but nothing whatsoever came from this appeal. Interestingly nor did the law enforcement agencies stop their brutality of Balochs, killing them in a way that when Baloch people found the bodies, they were unable to recognise whose body it was.

It is also believed that Pakistan law enforcement agencies, after arresting somebody, refused to acknowledge they had ever done so. However within a few days they had killed the person, in the aforementioned way that no one would easily recognise him. This was referred in local lingo as ‘Musakhshud’, literally meaning the unrecognisable face of a dead body.

The numerous instances of people being taken or arrested never came to light and such ‘missing persons’ created great panic, human rights activists and organisations starting to demand that this should be stopped and those involved be brought before the courts of Pakistan. This issue has also been raised before the Supreme Court of Pakistan but no decisions have yet emerged for the parents of missing people to get satisfaction.

A march under the leadership of Mama Qadeer and the relatives of missing people had also been initiated, it being the longest march in the history of Pakistan, from Quetta to Karachi to Islamabad. But they were humiliated every step of the way and harassed at such a great level when they were on the road to Islamabad, particularly in the Punjab province.

They were accused of being funded by Afghanistan and India, an allegation that had never been denied by the Baloch leaders living in exile. Most recently the leader of one of the strongest fighting groups, Brahumdagh Bugti, when being interviewd by the BBC, did not categorically deny such allegations. Rather he said that if India would support its cause he would be happy to receive its funds and any other support.

The Pakistani government, from the beginning of the recent uprising, has constantly levelled accusations against India that they are behind the liberation movement of Balochistan.

Many western observers also believe that India secretly funds the Balochistan freedom fighters. The ex-Defence Secretary of the US, Chuck Hagel once accepted that India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan.

In June 2015 the interior minister of Balochistan Sarfraz Bugti openly accused the Indian prime minister of supporting the separatists and trying to subvert the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The Balochs who do not agree with the struggle, in their private meetings, claim that many young Baloch leaders living in self exile in the US and Canada are trying to get support from Israel and the CIA for their cause.

However all rebellion leaders are not ready to accept the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, arguing that it is nothing but a plan to plunder the vast mineral resources of Balochistan through China. They are also holding China responsible for coming into Balochistan to help Pakistan genocide the Baloch people.

This is though a very old war between the Balochs and the government of Pakistan, both having experience of fighting each other. The population of Baloch people in the enormous land area of Baluchistan is very low, 6.7 million people. Another powerful group of people, the Pashtuns also live in Baluchistan. They are the second largest group and live in peace with the Baloch people but will not agree on any account with them that Baluchistan should be free from Pakistan.

That many Baloch people seem ready to divide Balochistan into two parts is itself a enormous issue equal to climbing Everest or the peak of the Himalayan mountains.

Nonetheless all three spells of war between the Balochs and government of Pakistan lasted no longer than than three years, especially the last which was fought between 1973 and 1977. The ongoing Baloch fighting has however created severe challenges for Pakistan over the last ten years and this battle has been noticed more than ever before internationally. Even the US congress discussed the issue in 2012 and supported the demand for a free Baloch land, this a surprise to many.

However, from last year the momentum of Baloch freedom fighters has declined rapidly, many levelling serious blame on one another.

One of the leaders Allah Nazar Baloch has recently disowned Mir Suleiman Dawood and issued a statement that he was trying to be king of Balochistan while living in London. He called his desire a ‘day dream’. Besides there are a few reports that state they are killing each other’s commander.

The most popular leader for the freedom of Balochistan, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, who also caused a decline in the Baloch separatist movement, died in June 2014 of natural causes. He was the father of armed movements and was supposed to be behind almost all of the existing fighting groups.

What will ultimately happen in the near future and when will this war end? This is the question in every peace loving person’s mind who wants to see a resolution to the conflict? It is the longest war between the government and Baloch people in Pakistan’s history. However no one can be sure for any reason that it will be easy for the Baloch people to get Baluchistan free. Instead, there are chances that Balochistan may become a battlefield for regional powers.

At the same time though, one can not underestimate the power of the Pakistani army.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sattar Rind

Sattar Rind lives in Sindh, Pakistan. and is an Author with four books to his credit. three poetry and one on politics. As a Columnist he has written for a number of newspapers and magazines since 1991. Sattar can be contacted at the following email address: sattar-rind@hotmail.com

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