May 07, 2013

2013 Pakistan Elections and Balochistan: An Overview



CrisisBalochistan | May 7, 2013 | 2013 Pakistan Elections and Balochistan: An Overview

By Jawwad Baloch

In a nutshell, it seems unlikely that the elections will be conducted fairly in Balochistan due to the army's presence and the outcome could be no less than that of the 2008 elections, but a responsibility lies on the Baloch stakeholders to find a feasible solution to lessen the agony of the people. While taking part in elections will not guarantee any solution to the issues all at once, it can give a fair share of hope to the Baloch political parties and allow them to gain some breathing space for reorganizing themselves.Boycotting the elections risks paving the path for the army to install a dummy government like that of Aslam Raisani's and creating more opportunity for the likes of Shafeeq Mengal and Siraj Raisani to continue expanding their reign of terror across Balochistan.

As the 2013 general elections fast approach in Pakistan, the security situation all across the country has taken a serious blow with armed militant outfits carrying out attacks on the election offices and corner meetings of various political parties of Pakistan. In the past month, the media has been filled with headlines related to the attacks on candidates of various parties resulting in casualties and death. The motive behind these attacks is to disrupt the electoral process and compel the political parties to boycott it. Though there are different theories behind these attacks, the clash for power between the Pakistani political elite and military establishment seems clear. The latter is determined to retain its supreme power as it had a free role in suppressing the Baloch insurgency, double crossing the West in the war on terror and so on without considering the adverse repercussions on the country's stability. So to prolong its reign, the army is trying its best to derail the electoral process via its backed militant outfits to prevent the political elite from taking over the next government, fearing its writ in the country's internal and foreign affairs could be limited. The coming general elections could be decisive in determining Pakistan's future depending on the outcome and the party that will run the presidential office.

The political elite of Pakistan seemingly want to bring a transitional change in the country's internal and foreign affairs in order to pull it out of the current entangled mess. Various political parties are in contention to be the ruling party after the elections. PPP, MQM, JUI,PML-Q, PTI are widely regarded as parties loyal to the military establishment whilst on the other hand PML-N seems to be the opposition party determined to halt military rule. The army, aware of the consequences, is endeavoring to disrupt the election campaign by creating an atmosphere of lawlessness through its proxies. And to accomplish this task, even supportive parties, such as the MQM and ANP which were part of the previous government, are being targeted to malign the credibility of the elections. In these circumstances, the post-election scenario appears to be such that even if Nawaz Sharif wins the elections, he will find it hard to complete his tenure due to the chaotic situation which will likely prevail during his government.

A political government opposing the army's vigilante role, should it come to power, can bring a cosmetic change in normalizing the unstable situation prevailing in Pakistan and repair the breakdown of trust of the Baloch nationalists caused by the army's reprisal policies. To sustain its economic interest in Gwadar, Chamalang and Reko Diq mega projects and other illegal drug trafficking trades the army considers such a situation unfavorable to its interest and wants no barriers to continuing its loot and plunder of Balochistan. The military wants the anarchy in Balochistan to prevail because it supports their interests and with no political atmosphere and the absence of Baloch leadership it will ease their task to cause the situation to further deteriorate by creating a breeding ground for more anti-Baloch proxy organizations as measures to neutralize the Baloch struggle.

For the Baloch, it is essential to restore the political environment in order to revive the surface politics and recover the losses endured in the past decade of struggle. Nawaz Sharif, vowing to resolve the Balochistan issue as the main priority of its party manifesto, gives the impression that he if comes in power he can help Baloch get some breathing space by forging a negotiation process. The political elite have realized that the country is on the verge of destabilization due to the tyrannical approach of the army in handling internal issues, in particular the Balochistan conflict. In the past few years, it is evident that the army has established death squads such as Nifaz E Aman Balochistan and Balochistan Mussala Defa Tanzeem to target kill the cream of Baloch society. The army with the illusion of being the wrath of God still believes the issue can be defused by using lethal force and is therefore unwilling to allow the political elite to take over as it wants to sustain the current atmosphere of anarchy to militarize the Baloch society, leaving no hope of any political settlement of the issue.

Furthermore, to preserve its interest in the region, the army has turned Balochistan into a sanctuary for terrorists. The breeding of Islamist forces on Baloch soil has a negative impact on neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan's role in harming the West's interests and efforts to disrupt the reconciliation process in Afghanistan are hidden to none as it is providing safe haven to terrorists in Balochistan. The May 2nd Abbotabad incident summarizes Pakistan's role in the war on terror.

With surface politics being jammed, religious fundamentalism is also gaining momentum across many districts of Baloch society. ISI-backed Tableeghi Jamaats and terrorist outfits such as Lashkar e Jangvi and Sipah e Sahabah have been given a free hand to operate and use the tool of religion to establish firm roots in many districts of Balochistan. The purpose of promoting religious sentiments among secular Baloch societies and the recruitment of Baloch youth is to make them what the military establishment regards as 'perfect Muslims,' to cause them to abandon their support for Baloch nationalism and hence to be used in the attacks on Shia minorities and eventually against the Baloch nationalists.The prime motive behind this is to give an impression to the international community that the law and order situation in Balochistan is worsening not due to the Baloch national struggle but sectarian violence.

The politicians who are aware that Pakistan is a sinking ship want to repair the damage caused by the army's mishandling of the situation in Balochistan and the war on terror by starting peace talks to reconcile with the Baloch nationalists and also to make amends to rebuild the trust between Pakistan and the West caused by the army's double policy in fighting the Taliban, which has put the country's sovereignty at stake. The mismanagement of both situations has tarnished Pakistan's image internationally and they seem eager to take over and control the situation should they secure a two-thirds majority, which seems difficult.

Regarding the topic of the disruption of election campaigns in Balochistan by Baloch militant outfits, there are several setbacks caused by the situation. The Baloch who earn their livelihood from government institutions, primarily teachers, officers and so on, have been threatened by the Baloch groups to refrain from performing their duties held in polling stations. The government, however, has warned it will cut the monthly salaries (and possibly suspend) those who avoid attending. These twin threats have put the common people into a state of shock and confusion whether to risk their livelihoods or to preserve their lives. It is pertinent to ask why through the barrel of the gun the Baloch outfits are forcing a boycott by those willing to take part in elections when they themselves vow to endorse democracy and equal rights of Baloch people. The use of guns to force people to submit to their will is not a solution, rather it gives a negative image of the Baloch struggle to the international community. If they are not in the position to compensate the ones who risk losing their livelihood due to their actions then why make their lives more miserable by negatively impacting the psychology and economy of the commoners? Indeed, the sentimental attachment of the Baloch populace to the Baloch nationalist forces still persists, but adopting such tactics could make the people lose their hope in them.

In a nutshell, it seems unlikely that the elections will be conducted fairly in Balochistan due to the army's presence and the outcome could be no less than that of the 2008 elections, but a responsibility lies on the Baloch stakeholders to find a feasible solution to lessen the agony of the people. While taking part in elections will not guarantee any solution to the issues all at once, it can give a fair share of hope to the Baloch political parties and allow them to gain some breathing space for reorganizing themselves. Boycotting the elections risks paving the path for the army to install a dummy government like that of Aslam Raisani's and creating more opportunity for the likes of Shafeeq Mengal and Siraj Raisani to continue expanding their reign of terror across Balochistan. There is a sliver of hope that the Baloch might reduce their prevailing grievances in the case a political environment is restored. Without it, Balochistan will evolve into another Afghanistan where its people will be forced to live under the shadow of the gun.

Beware the Syrian sucker punch


Those seeing the human tragedy unfolding in Syria with a heart full of hell, ready to jump in, stop the bloodshed, and deliver Bashar Al-Assad a knock-out punch might do well to recall a telling anecdote from journalist Dexter Filkins from his days in Iraq.
 
In 2003, with tensions running high, a car carrying Filkins got stuck in a hole. Luckily, just ahead he espied a "highway patrol," its six members wearing gleaming white shirts and leaning against a car parked beneath an underpass.
 
Filkins approached them for help. "Are you an American?" he quoted one officer as asking. "We're looking to kill an American." Another officer chimed in: "I hate the Americans. It's an occupation."  Weren't they being paid by American dollars? "No, it's our oil that is paying," said an officer. In his splendid book, The Forever War, Filkins related similar incidents. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Bing West, who was also a Marine, reported similar scepticism among Afghans towards Americans in his fine book, The Wrong War.
 
There's a lesson for those who advocate aggressive U.S. intervention in Syria. You can bet that those who thank us today for saving their lives will blame us tomorrow for anything that goes wrong. They'll even resent needing U.S. assistance. And the price we've paid for assisting in the region is stiff. Department of Defense data shows reports 4,409 U.S. troops and 31,928 wounded, not to mention our spending well over a trillion dollars. Today's thanks? Fearing a Sunni-dominated Syria, Iraq's Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Alaki is pulling for Assad and allows Iran to ship arms to him.
 
The Syrian civil war is messy and likely to worsen. The 70,000 dead are a humanitarian tragedy. But in deciding what to do, the U.S. needs to take a cold, hard look at its strategic interests, and not focus merely on understandable outrage at the slaughter and murder that grind innocent Syrian lives.
 
Two dangers affect our strategic interests. First, Syria's formidable arsenal of WMD (or, as the military terms them, CBRN -- Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear). Second, the increasing threat that the civil war will widen into a regional conflict. The 2 million refugees add a third, humanitarian concern that affects our interests as they could prove de-stabilising to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
 
Indeed, for those owning crystal balls, here's a forecast: Jordan is next up for civil chaos.
 
Yes, who controls Syria in a post-Assad era, presuming he falls, matters. But we'd be wise to think hard about who replaces him. Violent Islamic extremists have achieved a central role among the rebels at the expense of early "moderates" who support democratic pluralism and religious tolerance. Picking exactly who to support now is extraordinarily difficult and we better look closely at who benefits before we provide lethal aid, especially anti-air or anti-missile weapons.
 
What are our realistic options?
 
1.  Keep WMD out of the wrong hands
Work with regional allies to step up surveillance and monitoring of Syria's WMD arsenal. If chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands, the Boston Marathon tragedy could look like a picnic. Every nation is at risk to this threat, including Assad's ally Russia. Military professions need to work out the right military strategy and tactics to deal with this concern.
 
Two strategic points stand out. We must forge and be ready to execute a plan to secure or destroy that arsenal should extremists seize or get to the verge of seizing these arsenals, or if weapons are transferred to Hezbollah. Ideally, regional allies, not the U.S. should take the lead, with the U.S. providing intelligence and logistical support.
 
That's easier said than done. It's easy to talk about what allies must do.  Yet it's na├»ve to overestimate their capabilities or to think that a plan to secure or destroy WMDs can be made or executed without significant direct U.S. engagement.
 
2.  Work to contain the conflict
Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah has declared that Hezbollah would intervene in Syria to protect Assad. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has correctly denounced Nasrallah as putting Lebanon's survival on the line to serve Syrian and Iranian agendas.
 
The SecDev Group has detected hacking by the Syrian regime into Jordanian websites. That's no surprise. The Syrian civil war is the world's first cyber war, as both sides employ cyber tools to gather information and intelligence, gain credibility, discredit other parties, for command & control, and to manoeuvre.
 
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confronts multiple problems. His diplomacy is misfiring. He's avoidably become perceived as supporting Sunnis over Shiites. Critics suspect that an extremist Sunni group that Ankara directly or indirectly supports abducted Pavlos Yazici, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop for Alleppo and Iskenderun, and Yuhanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Archbishop for Alleppa. The International Crisis Group reports that the crisis has blocked Turkey's main trade routes to the Arab world. Many perceive Erdogan's policy in Syria as pro-Sunni, not pro-democracy – fuelling anti-Turkish sentiments.
 
Meanwhile, refugees are flooding into Turkey. It needs help. Here the U.S. could step up its support.
 
What to do? First, try and persuade others – including Russia – to help keep the conflict from spreading, but recognize that many parties may resist U.S. pressure. Second, should that fail, pressure Vladimir Putin by placing responsibility for Assad's actions on Russia for standing by as violence persists. That option must be carefully considered. Is compassion for Syrians worth prejudicing U.S.-Russian relations? Still, a civil war that erupts into a regional conflict will de-stabilise the region, with unpredictable, dangerous consequences.


Next in line?...Jordan could be the next Arab nation to see major civil strife
3.  Be wary of claims that Assad has used chemical weapons
Free Syrian Army chief of staff General Salim Idris wrote President Barack Obama asserting that Assad has used chemical weapons three times. Obama is taking heat for wanting more proof. But his caution is prudent. Assad opponents want to draw the U.S. into intervention. Objective observers are sceptical. Media stories in the last few days have underscored how cloudy the picture is. Some have even suggested that perhaps it was the rebels who used Sarin. The lesson is that verification matters. Realistically, the better judgment is that should Assad employ such weapons, expect that he'll use them for real tactical gain, not as a test.
 Obama has made use of WMDs a red line. Assad knows that employing them verifiably will force Obama's hand.  Still, another lesson is to be wary about what you promise or threaten.  Do not light draw lines in the sand, especially red ones. But once drawn, one has to take serious action if they are crossed.  There comes a point when it is not credible to deny the evidence that does exist, even if it's incomplete. We may already be at that stage.  This poses a significant challenge for the President, whose hand may be forced.
 
4.  Be wary of demands that the U.S. create no-fly zones
Syrian air defences, rooted in Soviet-era weaponry, may not be cutting edge but they remain dangerous. The benefits of success seem evident. But if somebody's going to take on this job – let's place that burden on regional allies, not ourselves. History teaches a lesson applicable here: be wary as well of allowing people to believe that anything is possible.  There are lots of things we can't do, even if we wanted to.  This is real life, not a film.
 
Syria presents a fundamental issue for U.S. policy: how do we balance our idealism that rejects use of WMDs or political repression with pragmatic realism which recognizes there are some things we cannot do and others that we should not do as the costs outweigh the benefits. And query whether if action that could kill any human being is taken, should the target be Assad himself or his key advisers? Why value their lives over that of other Syrians? U.S. policy eschews such action, but that doesn't hold true for other players, and it's a discussion that merits exploration.
 
A human tragedy outrages all of us. Ill-judged or precipitous action that injudiciously inserts us into another Middle Eastern morass will compound, not overcome that tragedy.

Send in you views and comments to haveyoursay@defenceiq.com.

James P. Farwell is a national security expert who has advised the U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND. He is the author of Persuasion & Power (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2012) and The Pakistan Cauldron: Conspiracy, Assassination & Instability (Washington: Potomac Books, 2011). The views expressed are his own, and do not represent those of the U.S. Government, its agencies, departments, or COCOM.

May 05, 2013

BEIJING UNDERLINES PLA’S ROLE IN WESTERN CHINA

 

B.RAMAN

 

According to the Xinhua news agency, the Xinjiang authorities have arrested 11 more suspected terrorists in connection with the investigation of a violent incident on April 23,2013, in a town in Kashgar'sBachu county, 1200 kms south-west of Urumqi, in which 21 persons allegedly  belonging to different communities were killed.

2. Since the clash, 19 arrests have been made by the police from the Kashgar Prefecture, the Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture of Bayingolin and  Urumqi.

3. The Xinjiang Police have blamed the clash on a new terrorist group headed by one QasimMuhammat, which, according to them, was founded in September 2012.

4. The Police have alleged that since  early December 2012, the members of this groupused to   gather at the house of oneMuhanmetemin Barat,  to undergo training with the help of video clips.

5. The Police further alleged that in March, they fabricated explosive devices and tested them.The clash occurred when the Police and some members of the local community co-operating with the police tried to arrest them.

6. The World Uighur Congress (WUC) based in Munich and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples' Organisation (UNPO) based in Holland have strongly questioned the police version and called upon the European Parliament to urge an international enquiry into the incident.

7.The Chinese authorities are worried that despite frequent occurrence of violent incidents in different parts of Xinjiang, they have not been able to convince the international community that these incidents are due to terrorism sponsored from outside.

8. In an article contributed to the "Global Times" of the Communist Party of China,an associate research fellow of the Sociology Institute with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences has stated: "The Bachuincident  reflects the severe social conflicts within Xinjiang. In recent years, Xinjiang has achieved substantial progress in terms of economic development, the social insurance system and people's livelihoods. However, the social conflicts in Xinjiang remain complicated.

"While the policies made by local authorities are mainly to improve the economy, they are still inadequate in fully and timely responding to the political demands of ethnic groups. Social conflicts have been accumulating rather than being resolved.

"The Bachu incident has aroused international attention, and external observers mainly cast doubt on whether this violent attack was really terrorism.

"The nature of terrorist attacks in China is not very different with that in Western countries. They are, cruelly and inhumanely, targeted randomly at innocent civilians.

"What's different is that the terrorist attacks in Western countries can be traced to external input, while those in Xinjiang have shown a tendency to come from inside.

"There have been terrorist activities in Xinjiang, but so far there hasn't been enough evidence to show a concrete terrorist organization exists.

"A terrorist organization needs an explicit political doctrine, leading figures and a set of organizational bodies to raise funds, train its staff, purchase arms and support logistics. Judging from this, there is no terrorist organization in Xinjiang.

"The terrorist activities are committed mainly under the influence of terrorist thought and partly because of dissatisfaction with local governments and the Han people.

"In the long run, violent terrorism is likely to take place in Xinjiang again, and a terrorist organization in the real sense may emerge. But terrorism is preventable and its head can be lowered. It depends on whether we conduct solid work."

9.The PLA's concerns over the internal security situation in the peripheral regions inhabited by Tibetans and Uighurs were reflected at a meeting convened by the Central Military Commission at Beijing on May 2,2013, to underline the PLA's role in the economic development and internal stability of China's soft Western region.

10.According to Xinhua, addressing the meeting,XuQiliang, Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the military should prioritize improving people's livelihoods and addressing issues that affect their most immediate interests, while participating in the development of western regions.

11.He asked the PLA  to make utmost efforts to maintain border security, enhance solidarity between the military, local governments and the public, as well as to uphold ethnic solidarity.

12.Xinhua has quoted him as saying as follows: "The prosperity, development and stability of western regions are of strategic importance to national security and development.The military should  be fully aware that helping develop the west boosts the military's capacity to carry out diversified tasks."

13. There are no indications that the meeting might have been triggered by the Indo-Chinese stand-off in Eastern Ladakh, but the PLA's inability to strengthen internal security in the Tibetan and Uighur areas and signs of continuing anti-Han alienation among the Tibetans and Uighurs is a factor that needs to be continuously monitored and assessed by Indian policy makers.( 5-5-2013)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )