February 26, 2012

Ongoing war in Pakistani Balochistan


A.H Amin

It is a great mystery of history that the ongoing war in Balochistan took so long to begin ? As a young student in 1968 in Quetta I do not remember anything Baloch about the city other than few fellow students , all sons of leading sardars who were my classfellows or contemporaries. All this was a British legacy.

The British had created Quetta , to serve the army. The police was almost entirely Punjabi with some Pashtuns and Hazaras.They had even raised two purely Hazara battalions which were used with ruthless effect by Brigadier General Dyer in the Persian Campaign in Iranian Balochistan in the First World War. The British found the Pashtuns friendly and gave them preference while they found the Baloch hostile.Pakistan inherited this British legacy and instead of improving things mishandled it. Kalat the biggest of Baloch states was handled arrogantly and old political agents like Iskandar Mirza were the fathers of this excess of arrogance. Ayub Khan was a diasaster in the Baloch saga.His arrogance and contempt for the Baloch aggravated things.He was treating Balochistan like Karachi where he could settle his district mates and terrorise the Baloch just like his clan terrorized Karachi in 1965 ! The Baloch were not tailored like that !

Thus retaliation of Sardar Nauroz Khan Zarakzai and his surrender obtained on promise of honourable treatment sworn on the Holy Quran.A promise that was rudely broken in torture chambers at Qully camp Quetta and on the gallows of Hyderabad and Sukkur Jail. The worst blow on the pride of Baloch was thus delivered by Ayub Khan .Bugti came only much later. Between 1960 to 1968 a fierce but forgotten war was fought by the Baloch against a military usurper against whom all Pakistan should have been in arms ! The torchlight was then picked by the Bengalis in 1971 who finally decided to call it a day and sought a divorce with a crude political arrangement where the minority ruled over the majority. In 1969 martial law by Yahya Khan was welcomed in Balochistan because this was Pakistans only martial law which restored direct adult franchise in Pakistan,demolished the infamous facist one unit and which held Pakistans first real elections in 1970 !

A job which should have been done by Pakistans first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan. My father was GSO 2 Operations of 16 Division in Quetta.All major leaders of Balochistan were invited by the general officer commanding for pre election friendly consultations.A young but charismatic Sardar Akbar Bugti then explained Balochistans demographic dilemma in the following words. Sardar Akbar Bugti then stated that development in Balochistan would mean turning the Baloch indigenous population into a minority and this would not be acceptable to any Baloch whether a common man or a Sardar. This faux pas was committed by Musharraf once he started Gwadar. Interestingly Gwadar a future Chinese naval base and a city that would turn the Baloch into a minority in their own province is a thorn both for the Baloch and the USA. A deadly possible convergence of interest in a delicate geopolitical era once USA is the only Roman Empire fighting the Barbarians ! The 1973-76 Balochistan crisis was engineered by the Jam Sahib of Lasbela , a non Baloch and Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan who engineered Mr Bhutto into launching a military action.

When Bhutto wanted to make peace with the Baloch in 1976 he was restrained by the arch intriguer Zia who made peace with the Baloch after usurpring power, thus robbing ZA Bhutto of the credit of doing so earlier. Ironically the present Balochistan crisis's father is the same Jam Sahibs son and a man with no understanding of Balochistan , ironically nominated as the governor by the usurper Musharraf i.e Owais Ghani. In mid 2002 I told my coursemate and friend then a lieutenant colonel in the military intelligence and now a major general in the ISI that the next Baloch rebellion will commence from the south west tip of Mand Bullo and Turbat district.This was a strange proposition in 2002.My assessment was based on extensive visits to the area as a custom clearing and forwarding agent. Gwadar was the catalyst as it was seen as Bugti had said in 1969 , a scheme to alter the demography of Balochistan.Bombings and incidents of sabotage thus started from 2002-3 in Balochistan.There may have been a US angle of checkmating the Chinese but the average Baloch felt like an outsider in the Pakistani state.

The important change took place after US invasion of Afghanistan.Baloch grievances against the Pakistani state were genuine but what kept the Baloch in restrain was absence of a state actor or state actors to support their armed insurrection.In 1974-76 the Baloch had received very limited support from Afghanistan but after Novemver 2001 the entire scenario changed. Every insurgency in order to succeed requires support of a state actor.Thus the Afghan Mujahids of 1979-92 succeeded not because of their Jihadist zeal but thanks to US Dollars , military hardware and Pakistan as major base area.ISI officers like Brigadier Yasub Dogar was penetrating as far as Gardez to supervise rocket attacks on Gardez.For almost each major Mujahid attack a video film was made and sent to the CIA headquarters .Just like a contractor who has to support his invoices with supporting documents.

While Gwadar acted as a catalyst , Operation Enduring Freedom enabled many state actors to support the Baloch with military hardware and US Dollars just like what Pakistan did to Afghanistan in 1979-92 ! The wheel had turned full 360 degrees.But history is cruel and does not stand ignorance and injustice. The Pakistani military establishment under the usurper Musharraf stayed in supreme denial.Thus when I stated in an article published in daily Statesman Peshawar that the next low intensity war may be fatal ! In 1971 there was West Pakistan to fall back upon ! In the next conflict the existence of what remains of Pakistan may be at stake ! Baluchistan and NWFP can absorb thrice as many Pakistani troops as Indian Held Kashmir can absorb ! I received an e mail from the editor stating that my article had caused a stir in GHQ and that the newspaper could not publish my second article.

My work in Balochistan takes me to every nook and corner of the province.Over last seven years ambushed laid by the Baloch have grown in sophistication with the biggest ambushes being laid at Bahlol Basri on Kingri Chamalang road in late 2011. Turbat and Panjgur are in the lead with the fiercest ambushes at Niwano in Buleda , Kalatuk and Mad Bullo.Panjgur is like what Marri area was in 1974.Middle class leaders like Dr Allah Nazar command allegiance from Mashke near Khuzdar till Mand Bullo on the Iranian border.My dear friend now a major general told me that all is in control but the civilians in the intelligence setup were more skeptical.The most brilliant summing up which one of them gave me was that we may be able to physically eliminate some separatists but we have failed to eliminate the idea of independence from the heart of the Baloch youth.

When I met legendary Baloch leader Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani at Tadhri in December 2011 , he remembered young Punjabi and other leftists like Ahmad Rashid,Najam Sethi,Dillip Das and Rashed Rehman who had come to Tadhri Ghar in early 1970s.Now in his old age Mir Hazar Khan was more philosophical and narrated that the corps commander Quetta had visited him.Alas he said that the new generation was alienated.Although the Marris , the fiercest of all Baloch tribes wanted to make peace, there were major irritants hindering the process. This is a time to think , to reflect and to meditate.Wars were never won by bullets or swords alone.Blaming India , USA , Israel is counterproductive.All will be OK when we agree that the fault was inside us also .By us I mean the Pakistani establishment. The first step must be to hold new elections in Balochistan. Amend the 1973 constitution allowing all provincial governments to enter into partnership with foreign governments for any business enterprise .This would bring prosperity to all provinces and specially Balochistan. Ironically Balochistan is not the only sufferer.

In 1995 the Pakistani Federal Government contested Punjab’s right to construct a ring road in Lahore and the Faiasalabad Pindi Bhattian Motorway with foreign Build Own Lease and Transfer system. Thus the Lahore Ring Road was delayed by some seven to eight years. The issue is not Indian interference or US designs but an inbuilt intellectual constipation in Islamabad inherited from the British viceroys. Times have changed , so we have to change also. Or we will be drowned and taken to the bottom of the sea by the ruthless tide of history. New states can be created in a jiffy when it comes to serious issues of global geopolitics.

The congress defied the British in 1939 by non cooperation in the British war effort.The British revenge was partition of India which has kept the Indo Pak in relative instability since 1947. Bosnia ,Kosovo were created with US support trampling all international principles.Iraq was literally divided in three parts in last ten years. Afghanistan may be divided into two or three parts in the next five years.Maps change , boundaries change. States are important but not sacred.

It is time that Pakistani establishment thinks proactively rather than staking their entire strategy on a few intelligence bosses assessments. Nothing is inevitable in history. What was lost in Hyderabad Jail in 1959-60 can be retrieved with a major change of political and constitutional posture in 2012.Fear made men believe in the worst , but in this case , if major changes are not made in Balochistan policy , the worse may come true. Maj (retd) Agha Amin is a strategic thinker and writer in Pakistan

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