Volume 6, No. 2, February 2024
Editor: Rashed Rahman
(The following report, although not current, is being published to throw light on the crisis in Balochistan – Ed.)
Balochistan, the largest but least populous province of Pakistan, is slowly descending into anarchy. Since 2002, Pakistani security forces have brutally repressed the Baloch nationalist movement, fuelling ethnic violence in the province. But the Pakistani armed forces have failed to eliminate the insurgency – and the bloodshed continues. Any social structures in Balochistan capable of containing the rise of radicalism have been weakened by repressive tactics. A power vacuum is emerging, creating a potentially explosive situation that abuts the most vulnerable provinces of Afghanistan. Only a political solution is likely to end the current chaos.
In 2002, a conflict once again erupted in the province of Balochistan, the largest and least populated of Pakistan’s four provinces.1 For months, tension had been rising over the price of natural gas produced in the southwest province, the construction of additional military cantonments, and the development of the port of Gwadar, which the locals felt benefited people from other provinces. The eruption of violence, led by Baloch nationalists, was generally perceived as merely another expression of restiveness in a province traditionally uneasy with Pakistan’s central government – after all, the two groups had come into conflict on four occasions in the past.2
The uprising was intensified by the rape of a female doctor, Shazia Khalid, in the small Baloch town of Sui in 2006. A military man allegedly perpetrated the rape, but the culprit was never arrested. The military establishment’s alleged effort to cover up the incident triggered a series of attacks against the security forces and the Frontier Constabulary by members of the Bugti tribe.
The rape of Shazia Khalid provided the spark that started a blaze throughout the territory. Relations between the military government and the province had been tense for months, centred on grievances related to provincial sovereignty, the allocation of resources, interprovincial migrations and the protection of local language and culture. These claims were not new. The tension was, however, particularly intense in the Bugti area, due to its rich natural gas resources and the determination of Akbar Bugti, the Bugti tribal chief and a former interior and defence minister of state and governor of Balochistan, to get for his tribe a greater share of the royalties generated by their exploitation.
At the time, Pakistani authorities presented the conflict as the creation of greedy sardars,3 local tribal leaders fighting for a greater share of provincial resources and opposing development in order to preserve their own power, the outdated relic of a feudal system. Pakistan’s military did not take Baloch nationalist leaders seriously. They also discounted the risk of a long-term war.4
But 21 years later, the conflict continues. Neither the fall of the Pervez Musharraf regime in 2008 nor the various goodwill statements of its successors has allowed the initiation of a real political solution. As a precondition of any negotiations, the insurgents asked for an end to the Pakistani government’s military operations in the province and for assurances that the intelligence agencies would cease their activities in Balochistan. They obtained neither.
Today, Balochistan is a bubbling “cauldron of ethnic, sectarian, secessionist and militant violence, threatening to boil over at any time.”5 Law and order in the province continues to deteriorate at an especially alarming pace.
The Pakistani military has so far proven unable to eliminate militant organisations and the larger nationalist movement, despite conducting targeted assassination campaigns and kidnappings and making various attempts to discredit the nationalist movement by associating it with terrorist groups.
Of course, every state opposes separatist tendencies, and Pakistan is no exception. But a close evaluation of Baloch nationalism shows that although real separatist tendencies persisted in the province in the early 2000s, the political groups that actively promoted separatism were a minority. Most (not all) activists had reconciled themselves to the idea that Balochistan’s future was within the Pakistani federation. They were struggling for more autonomy within the federal constitutional framework and for the government to respect the socioeconomic rights of the Baloch. It was the state’s repressive response that radicalised most elements of the nationalist movement. The conflict now demonstrates the absurdity of a repression that is reinforcing the very threat it is intended to eliminate.
The Pakistani security establishment proved relatively efficient in destroying Baloch social structures, but it has been unable to impose its writ on the province, much less propose viable alternative structures. Meanwhile, the security establishment has exacerbated ethnic tensions.
The attempted Islamisation of the province has led to less, not greater, control for the Central government, and a hotbed of extremism is developing in a part of the population where it was previously unknown. As a Pakistani journalist recently wrote, “Balochistan has clearly turned into a security and governance black hole where multiple political, financial and criminal interests either converge or play out against one another.”6
Sympathy with the Baloch has increased across Pakistan, and for some sympathisers, the military poses the most potent obstacle to national unity and stability, not the separatists. In their minds, the resilience of Baloch nationalism results from the persistent economic and social inequalities among the provinces that have been exacerbated by military repression and massive violations of human rights.
To avert further crisis, the challenge in Balochistan is to transform the widespread rejection of the military’s policies into reconciliation with the insurgency and a common political will that ensures the nationalist parties can participate in elections.
Historically, Baloch nationalism relates to the broader national question in Pakistan. Politically, it covers everything from aspirations to full independence from Pakistan to demands for autonomy within the Pakistani federation; the positions of the assorted nationalist parties and organisations vary over time.
Each of these dimensions is, of course, the object of an intense political struggle. Over the years, Pakistan’s central governments have tended to refute the idea of a Baloch nation. But reducing Baloch nationalism to a reminiscence of feudalism led by reactionary sardars has been for Pakistani central governments a convenient – but inaccurate – way to deny its popular dimension and its very existence.
The organisations that compose the nationalist landscape and its different sensitivities reflect the historical, political and sociological evolution of Baloch nationalism as well as the movement’s spectrum of motivations and (sometimes conflicting) strategies. Many of the most active parties promote independence, although the leanings of many Baloch have diverged from that stance.
The beginning of the Movement
According to Baloch nationalists, the broader Baloch nationalist movement that produced these groups has deep and broad roots – a 2,000-year-long history. Some historians, however, date the emergence of Baloch nationalism to the anticolonial struggle of the late 19th century, when the princely state of Kalat encompassed modern-day Balochistan. The rivalry between the British and Russian empires that led to the first British invasion of Afghanistan brought the British forces to Balochistan in their effort to control the supply roads to Kabul.12 However, the colonial power took care not to interfere in provincial affairs and established its direct control only on a thin piece of land along the Afghan border.
For other historians Baloch nationalism truly emerged nearer in time to the creation of Pakistan. Inspired by the Soviet revolution in Russia and the Indian independence movement led by Gandhi and Nehru, nationalist leaders had campaigned for an independent Balochistan during the last decades of the Raj. On August 11, 1947, three days before the creation of Pakistan, the Khan of Kalat, in response to a resolution of both houses of Balochistan’s parliament, declared his state independent – though essentially as a bargaining position – proposing to negotiate a special relationship with Pakistan in the domains of defence and foreign affairs. The Pakistani leadership rejected the declaration of independence, and Kalat was forcibly annexed to Pakistan nine months later.13 There followed in 1948, 1958 and 1962 a series of conflicts of various intensities between the Pakistani state and Baloch nationalists.
A Baloch resistance, which crystallised around the objective of protecting the populations and their interests and was inspired by Marxist-Leninist liberation movements, emerged shortly after the brief encounters of 1962. A few hundred ideologically motivated fighters assembled under the banner of Sher Mohammed Marri and the militant Parari movement, setting up what was to become the infrastructure of the 1973 insurgency. Although still under the authority of a member of the Marri tribe, this infrastructure extended far beyond Marri territory. By July 1963, 22 nationalist camps had been established, spanning from the Mengal areas of central Balochistan to the Marri territory in the northeast of the province. Some 400 full-time volunteers ran the operations.14
The demand for independence came later as a result of the gradual alienation and radicalisation of Baloch youth during the 1973-1977 conflict. President and later Prime Minister (PM) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given Pakistan a democratic Constitution but refused to respect the norms he had helped to establish. In 1973, he dissolved the provincial government formed by the opposition National Awami Party (NAP) and accused its main leaders of attempting to sabotage the foundations of the state. The most radical elements of the nascent Baloch nationalist movement then joined the guerilla effort initiated by the Marris and Mengals.15 Some 80,000 troops deployed by the Pakistani army could not eradicate the insurgency. Only after General Muhammad Ziaul Haq launched a military coup did negotiations begin, resulting in the eventual withdrawal of the army from the province and the freeing of the jailed Baloch leadership and several thousand activists.16 The province remained peaceful until 2002.
The tribes and the middle class
The emergence of Baloch nationalism as it is known today is the product of a long and complex process of emancipation of the Baloch middle class, often educated outside Balochistan. This middle class nationalism emerged in parallel and frequently in dialogue with the growing nationalism of the Baloch tribes, until time and military operations eroded tribal identity. Baloch nationalism grew within the tribal structures before gradually spreading to other sectors of society.
The tribal character of Baloch nationalism is as much a question of politics as of sociology or anthropology. Balochistan is divided among 18 major tribes and a number of lesser tribes and clans. The Marris and Bugtis, more historically prone to military confrontation, are the most politically important of them. Given the power of the tribes, the differences between them and their at times fraught interactions, the tribal question is still an essential component of any discussion on Baloch nationalism and has long been the main argument of those who refuted the existence of a Baloch nation.
General Pervez Musharraf justified using repressive tactics in Balochistan as part of a campaign to end the province’s oppression at the hands of a minority of tribal chiefs, who were supposedly responsible for the underdevelopment of the province. They constituted an easy scapegoat for the military government, which, interestingly, stated at the time that only seven percent of the province was involved in the insurgency but did not explain why the remaining 93 percent that it did control was similarly underdeveloped.
Among the some 100 plus major sardars of importance in Balochistan, only three had openly revolted against the federal government. Moreover, according to Baloch journalist Malik Siraj Akbar, the BLA “is not owned by any one sardar. No nationalist leader, including Bugti, Marri and Mengal, accepts responsibility for leading the BLA, even though all of them admit to backing the outfit’s activities.” And neither the assassination of Balach Marri nor of Akbar Bugti, the two main leaders of the initial phase of the current insurgency, ended the conflict between Balochistan and the Centre.
It can be argued that each conflict between Balochistan and Pakistan’s federal government marked a new step in the process of ‘detribalisation’. While the tribal factor never totally disappeared, it did lose its centrality.
Today, the Baloch movement is led by the educated middle class. With the exception of the Bugtis and Marris, the most popular leaders belong to this category. This class is under-represented in the higher echelons of the Pakistani army and the administration, and it provides a substantial part of the educated cadre of the Baloch nationalist movement. The middle class is also a strong factor of unity because it is deeply allergic to all separate agreements, individual or collective, between Islamabad and the tribal chiefs and knows how to take advantage of the rivalries among the latter.16
As a result, the geography of the resistance has changed, shifting from rural to urban areas and from the northeast of the province to the southwest. Sometimes it spills over to cities like Karachi. The sociological shift within the nationalist movement stems partly from the historical evolution of the movement itself, partly from the destruction of tribal structures in the most restive areas such as Dera Bugti or Kohlu, and partly from the increased involvement of areas where tribal structures are not dominant. All of these factors combine to strengthen Baloch nationalism in these areas while marginalising the sardars.
Many Baloch nationalist leaders now come from the urbanised districts of Kech, Panjgur and Gwadar (and to a lesser extent from Quetta, Khuzdar, Turbat, Kharan and Lasbela). They are well-connected to Karachi and Gulf cities, where tribal structures are non-existent. In fact, while there is violence all over the province, the insurgency seems to concentrate mainly in these urbanised areas. The Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary force that operates in Pakistan’s border provinces, has apparently concentrated much of its 50,000-man strength in Balochistan in the southwestern areas of the province, mostly in the Panjgur, Turbat and Kech districts.
Thus, the middle class is today the main target of the Pakistani military and paramilitary in what seems to be an attempt to eradicate all manifestations of Baloch nationalism and to rule out the very possibility of its renaissance.17 But by doing so, the central government strategy will jeopardise the future of the province itself. Most people involved in the insurgency today are said to be under the age of thirty and to belong to the middle class.
Unsurprisingly, Pakistan’s strategy has intensified the opposition and radicalised the most moderate elements of the nationalist movement. All organisations have had to radicalise – at least rhetorically – or else lose the support of their constituencies. As early as 2006, the late former NAP leader and BNP-M elder statesman Ataullah Mengal had to declare that “the days to fight political battles are over”.18
As long as the Pakistani Centre accepted nationalist representation, the nationalist leadership remained open to compromise. This possibility disappeared – or at least greatly diminished – as soon as it became clear that the military regime was seeking the elimination of the nationalist leadership.19
Election rigging and Musharraf’s devolution policy
Throughout the 1990s, ethnic tensions had greatly diminished thanks to robust representative participatory institutions. Nationalist parties emerged as significant forces. In the 1988 election, the combined vote for nationalist parties totaled 47.8 percent. It reached 51.74 percent in the 1990 elections, and Baloch nationalist parties dominated the elections again in 1997 and formed the government.20 Balochistan’s relations with the civilian federal government grew tense occasionally during the democratic interlude of the 1990s, but the province remained peaceful.
The equation changed with the 2002 elections, when the military rigged the elections and reinvigorated its long-standing alliance with the region’s mullahs, helping the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) coalition of religious Islamic parties to gain power in Balochistan. The Election Observation Mission of the EU reported vote tampering before, during and after the elections. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was accused of diluting strongholds of parties opposing the regime and favouring its supporters. The eligibility criteria for candidates were changed to require university degrees, but madrassa diplomas were considered equivalent.21 Some prominent nationalist leaders, even those who had previously held high office in the province without university degrees (including Akbar Bugti) were prevented from running, giving significant advantage to the MMA.
Islamabad’s electoral manipulation had a larger strategic objective as well.22 With Islamist parties in power in the two provinces adjacent to the Afghan border, it was easier for the military regime to provide the Afghan insurgency the sanctuaries it needed for the pursuit of a low-intensity conflict in Afghanistan while denying any responsibility in the process.
The Baloch and Pashtun nationalist parties found themselves fundamentally affected. A Baloch, Mohammad Jam Yusaf, was appointed Chief Minister (CM), but had little control over even his own cabinet, which was dominated by the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), a conservative Islamist party. Lacking a voice in their own province, Baloch nationalists rejected the military’s electoral, political and constitutional manipulation.23 The rigging of the 2002 elections thus constituted the first step toward the conflict.24
Determined to eradicate Baloch nationalism, Musharraf accelerated the arrest of its leaders even before the beginning of the hostilities. A parliamentary committee including members of the Baloch opposition convened in September 2004 and wrote recommendations designed to form the basis of a negotiation, but the situation kept deteriorating. Even when a compromise with Akbar Bugti seemed imminent, Musharraf deliberately opted for confrontation.
General Musharraf also attempted to tackle the Baloch issue politically by launching a devolution plan that bypassed the provincial Assemblies to create local governments entirely dependent on the central government for their survival. Although presented as a form of decentralisation, all provinces except Punjab perceived the scheme to be an imposition of a centralised form of government and a negation of provincial autonomy – clearly an irritant for Baloch nationalists.
The army intervened in Dera Bugti, the epicentre of this phase of the rebellion, leading to significant population displacements. Extrajudicial killings, torture and illegal arrests by security forces and the intelligence agencies became the norm. In 2006, the Pakistani press started reporting a new phenomenon: ‘enforced disappearances’. Akbar Bugti was killed by the Pakistani army, and although Pervez Musharraf presented Bugti’s death as a decisive victory, it only intensified the conflict.
The fiction of civilian power
In Balochistan, the post-Musharraf era started before the formal end of the Musharraf presidency in 2008. Rather than substituting a political dynamic for military repression, the new situation was characterised by parallel political processes, whose timid attempts at reconciliation could never compensate for an increasingly vicious and brutal security presence.
At the provincial level, the nationalist parties decided to boycott the 2008 elections because of the killing of Akbar Bugti. That opened the way for a massive rigging of the poll. The corrections of the electoral rolls by the ECP in September 2011 revealed that 65 percent of Baloch voters were fake in the 2008 election.25 Soon, all political parties represented in the Assembly and close to the security establishment, despite being in conflict with each other in other parts of the country, suddenly became bedfellows in a government that had no opposition worth the name and therefore no control over the way the provincial government was spending public money. All members of the provincial Assembly except one were made ministers,26 opening the way for corruption on an unprecedented scale in the province and annihilating all federal government efforts to end the crisis.
The federal leadership made further efforts to calm tensions within the region. Shortly after its February 2008 national electoral victory, the PPP apologised for the abuses committed by the Pakistani state in Balochistan. Later that year, newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari insisted on the need to heal the wounds of the past to restore confidence in the federation. Finally, in October 2009, the flagship Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Reconciliatory Committee on Balochistan unveiled its roadmap, calling for reconciliation with Baloch nationalists, the reconstruction of provincial institutions, and a new formula to redistribute resources.27
In early November 2009, the government promised to confer more autonomy to the province. On November 24, the government presented to parliament a 39-point plan for a more autonomous Balochistan, the so-called ‘Balochistan Package’. The text included the return of political exiles, the liberation of jailed Baloch political activists, the army’s withdrawal from some key areas, a reform of the federal resources allocation mechanism,28 efforts to create jobs, and greater provincial control of Balochistan’s resources. Parliament adopted the text in December 2009.29
The Balochistan Package addressed all initial Baloch grievances, including provisions related to the most controversial topics – the release of political workers, a political dialogue, the return of exiles, investigations into missing persons, judicial inquiries and more – as well as provisions related to the economic situation in the province.30 It promised to transfer additional funds and to create some 16,000 jobs in the province.
The nationalist movement, which had expected to be granted more provincial autonomy, immediately objected to the plan.31 Moderate Baloch nationalists also had concerns, fearing that the government’s proposals were no more than a smokescreen behind which it would continue the systematic physical elimination of Baloch nationalists. By the end of December 2009, convinced that self-determination was the only way out of the crisis, all major stakeholders in the Baloch nationalist movement had formally rejected the government’s proposal. The Balochistan Package was never implemented.
In 2010 Islamabad doubled Balochistan’s budget and immediately released an additional $ 140 million to the provincial government to settle outstanding natural gas revenue debts.32 According to some journalists, some members of the provincial government pocketed the money or spent it on lavish projects with little or no impact on nationalist sentiments.33
In fact, the government has done little to shore up Balochistan’s economy. It has allocated more funds to the province, but the money does not seem to have reached its targets.34 Industry has collapsed and no additional irrigation projects exist to compensate for the drought conditions of the past years. Teachers and professionals have left the province, while infrastructure, health and sanitation lie neglected.35
The provincial government has de facto abdicated its basic responsibilities. In its August 2012 report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported that the provincial government is “nowhere to be seen”; the government holds a number of its meetings outside the province. Nongovernmental organisations and development agencies are likewise retreating, fearing for the safety of their staff, while cross-border drug trade and kidnapping for ransom flourish.
The social and institutional fabric of Balochistan is facing systematic destruction, leaving behind only the province’s most radical elements. It took the killing of some 90 Shias in Quetta in January 2013 for the Central government to sack the elected CM, Nawab Aslam Raisani, under pressure from the Shia community, placing Balochistan under Governor’s rule (in fact, under the control of the military, as the Governor is allowed to call on the army to help enforce law and order).36
Over the years, the government’s repressive tactics in Balochistan changed. 37 Military operations were stopped, but across the province, people have been abducted, killed, and their bodies abandoned, acts widely referred to as ‘kill and dump’ operations. These operations are attempts to keep the province under control and reinforce the power of the state.
The exact number of enforced disappearances perpetrated in Balochistan by the Pakistani military is unknown. Baloch nationalists claim “thousands” of cases. In 2008, Interior Minister Rehman Malik mentioned at least 1,100 victims, but in January 2011, Balochistan Home Minister Zafrullah Zehri said that only 55 persons were missing.38 An editorial dated September 11, 2012, in the Express Tribune indicated that the bodies of 57 missing persons had been found since January 2012. However, other papers mention figures over 100 during the same period. In its August 2012 report, the HRCP indicates that it has verified 198 cases of enforced disappearances in Balochistan between January 2000 and May 12, 2012, and that 57 bodies of missing persons had been found in Balochistan in 2012 alone.39
The Pakistani press as well as international and Pakistani nongovernmental organisations have documented a number of cases relatively well. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which concurs on this point with the HRCP, there seems to be little doubt about the fact that most of these disappearances have been perpetrated by Pakistan’s “intelligence agencies and the FC, often acting in conjunction with the local police.”40 In most of the cases documented, the perpetrators acted openly in broad daylight, sometimes in busy public areas, and with apparently little concern for the presence of multiple witnesses.41 Relatives are, of course, denied access to the detainees. Torture and ill treatment are the rule, and extrajudicial killings frequent.
One case has been particularly publicised in Pakistan and abroad. On April 3, 2009, three political activists, including Ghulam Mohammed Baloch, president of the BNM, were abducted from their lawyer’s office in a courthouse in Turbat.42 The abduction occurred on the day the Anti-Terrorist Court of Turbat dismissed all cases against them.43 Their bodies were found six days later in a mountainous area some 40 kilometres away from the city.
The murder of the three activists marked a more brutal change in policy and the beginning of the kill and dump operations. Their number kept increasing thereafter.
In addition to activists and insurgents, other victims of these operations include sympathisers with the militancy, suspected nationalists, students, teachers, lawyers, journalists and other educated people. As a result, many professionals have fled the province, migrating to other parts of Pakistan, raising further questions about the future of Balochistan.
Although the military and intelligence agencies refute such accusations, the Pakistani press also reports the use of death squads composed of Baloch guns-for-hire, resembling the Al Shams and Al Badr militias that the Pakistani military employed during the Bangladesh war.44 The intelligence agencies allegedly created the death squads operating in Balochistan to counter the Marris, Mengals and Bugtis by creating confusion and disrupting their activities. They would possibly even replace tribal leaders with representatives of a Baloch nationalism that would become totally subservient to Islamabad.45
Some of the tactics employed by the militants in the past were equally abhorrent as they too had their share of ethnically targeted killings. In the initial stages of the insurgency, the BLA exclusively targeted the security forces. The Pakistani state and its agencies, considered instruments of Punjab’s domination, were the targets – not ordinary Punjabi citizens.
After the physical or political elimination of the political leadership of the insurgency, however, civilians too started to become victims of the militants. Targeted ethnic killing multiplied across the province. In July 2012, for example, the press reported the massacre of 18 people, most of them Punjabi, in Turbat.46 Responsibility for the massacre was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Tigers, a Baloch group never heard of before (or since – Ed.).
The nationalist camp itself has become increasingly polarised and subject to occasional internecine fights.
Military regimes in Pakistan have sought to eradicate ethnic identities by changing provincial demographics and pursuing Islamisation, or the substitution of a common Muslim identity for ethnic ones. This is not a new phenomenon in Balochistan. At the end of the 1970s, following Ziaul Haq’s coup, Balochistan also became one of the two focal points of the dictator’s Islamisation strategy (the other being the North-West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Since then, it has been an integral part of all centralisation policies. The period between the end of the Bhutto regime and the military coup of Pervez Musharraf witnessed major developments in Pakistan’s Balochistan policy, many of which endure in some form to this day. Ziaul Haq used Islamisation as a weapon against the insurgency. Zia officially sought a “new political system according to Islam”.47 The military dictator reconstituted the Council of Islamic Ideology, a consultative body set up for the sole purpose of formulating a more Islamic system of government; established the Hudood laws, a series of punishments for violations of laws ranging from adultery and fornication to rape and theft, and introduced a system of Sharia courts entrusted with ensuring that existing laws conformed to Islam.48 In 1986, a blasphemy law was introduced. In Balochistan, as in the rest of rural Pakistan, Islamisation brought the arrival of Islamic scholars, the establishment of madrassas and the revision of school curricula in accordance with Islamic law.
There was no particular novelty to these policies. Previous military rulers Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan had used religious symbols to help legitimise their rule. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto himself did the same thing under political compulsion. Like the British administration, the Pakistani elite perceived the vast majority of “the indigenous population as a stagnant, backward and politically immature mass governed by religious sentiments” and therefore saw the idea of an Islamic state as naturally representative of the aspirations of a majority of the population.49
However, Ziaul Haq went further than any of his predecessors – but not for ideological reasons. Whatever his personal religious convictions,50 Ziaul Haq pushed the logic of religious manipulation to its most extreme because he faced a relatively more difficult political situation than his predecessors.51 For him, the very nature of the ordinary Pakistani was religious and therefore an Islamic state was necessarily to his liking. Inheriting the Balochistan conflict only a few years after the partition of Pakistan, which created East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the new military regime also saw Islam as a powerful unifying force.
The Islamisation of the early 1980s, in particular, was also a response to a Bangladesh syndrome, which continues to haunt Pakistani decision makers to this day. Zia tried to subsume Baloch and other Pakistani ethnic identities into a larger Islamic one.
Baloch nationalism proved, however, more resilient and Islamisation policies failed in the areas where ethnic Baloch were predominant. Yet, they remained an important component of a long-term federal policy in Balochistan.
Zia had accepted the necessary compromises with the nationalist leaders,52 half of whom were in exile, and Balochistan was temporarily pacified. These policies marked, however, the beginning of a slow process which, combined with a growing Pashtun demographic presence as well as the Afghan war against the Soviet Union, bolstered the religious parties in the Pashtun areas of Balochistan.
Despite Pervez Musharraf’s rhetoric about “enlightened moderation” and his promise to remove provincial grievances by devolving power away from the Centre,53 he followed in Zia’s footsteps regarding Islamisation (although his provincial policy borrowed heavily from those of Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto).
The Musharraf regime continued through the Ministry of Religious Affairs to encourage the establishment of madrassas in Balochistan in order to penetrate deeper into the ethnic Baloch areas stubbornly opposed to the mullahs. New religious schools came at the expense of secular education. As a consequence, the role of the clergy increased, angering Baloch and Pashtun nationalists alike. Both movements have long demanded that the Ministry of Religious Affairs be dismantled.
Ironically, the growing power of the clergy has allowed the Central government to draw the attention of foreign powers to the risk of the spread of fundamentalism in the region and to launch a disinformation campaign equating the Baloch insurgency with Islamic terrorism. Attacks by al Qaeda, the Taliban or Baloch nationalists were systematically associated with one another in press reports. The same attempt at disinformation dictated occasional identification of Baloch nationalism with Iran’s Islamic revolution at a time when the US and Europe were actively opposing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
The rivalry between nationalist and Islamist parties that emerged during Ziaul Haq’s regime and continued under his successors was not an ideological struggle. The ideological façade was, first and foremost, an attempt by military regimes to break ethnic identities and centralise power.
Similarly, Baloch nationalists rejected the Islamisation process much less for its ideological content than because they rightly perceived it as part of a larger scheme to isolate individuals and make them more amenable to Islamabad’s policies. The rejection of Islamisation in Balochistan was primarily a rejection of centralisation and of central dominance, not of Islamic doctrine per se.
However, Islamisation is experiencing a qualitative change in Balochistan. Amid the state of anarchy in the province and led by the Deobandi madrassa network, radicalisation is on the rise and sectarian groups have stepped up their activities in the region. The number of sectarian killings has increased almost exponentially over the past few years in a province traditionally known for its deeply entrenched secularism.
A strong Taliban presence in Balochistan developed under Musharraf and in connection with the MMA government. The province is also increasingly becoming a nexus of sectarian outfits. Afghan and Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Janghvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba (SeS) Pakistan, Imamia Student Organisation (ISO) and Sipah-e-Muhammad are said to have established a presence in the province.54 Their presence is partly the result of Pakistani security agencies pushing them there from Punjab, partly a result of a vast network of Deobandi madrassas, and partly a consequence of the Islamisation policies pursued by the federal state since the 1970s. At the same time, some analysts credit the Afghan refugee camps in the province as a key source of recruits for the Taliban.55
Balochistan’s sectarian groups continue to multiply, fragment and collaborate at a dramatic pace. The SeS Pakistan has a large support base in Balochistan. Although banned twice by the government, it remains intact in the province and provides ground support for LeJ terrorists. The group seems to operate as two different outfits, the Usman Kurd group and the Qari Hayee group. Some factions of the defunct Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) seem to have established an operational relationship with LeJ, while a large number of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Harkat Jihad-e-Islami militants are said to have joined the group. The ISO, influential among Shia youth as well as in mainstream Shia politics, seems to play a role in sectarian violence as well.56
The most worrisome factor is the changing sociology of the Islamic radicalisation in Balochistan. Unlike the Pashtun-populated areas of the province, the Baloch territory was until very recently largely secular. Today, the Tablighi Jamaat conducts its activities outside the Pashtun areas. LeJ is now recruiting in the Baloch population, and five of the most prominent leaders of the organisation in Balochistan are said to be Baloch.
The post-Musharraf evolution has, in fact, witnessed a change and a worsening of the situation in Balochistan that shifted religious activism from politics to militancy. The JUI no longer leads the provincial government, but radical religious proxies are now an integral part of the military’s strategy in the province.
Sectarian violence continues to thrive in Balochistan, with attacks directed mainly against the Hazara community – a Persian-speaking Shia minority that lives in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The phenomenon is not new in Pakistan; some 700 Hazaras were killed between 1998 and 2009.57 But violent attacks occurred relatively rarely in Balochistan until 2002, when Musharraf banned sectarian groups such as the SeS Pakistan and JeM, prompting them to move to the province, where they came in contact with Taliban militants.
Targeted assassinations of Hazaras have grown more common since the killing of the chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party in January 2009. On September 20, 2011, 20 Shia pilgrims travelling to Iran were shot dead in front of their families in Mastung; three days later, three Hazara men were killed outside Quetta, and on October 4, 13 Hazaras were dragged off a bus and shot dead. The trend continued unabated in 2012.58
Shias are not the only victims of sectarian groups. LeJ Balochistan has also killed Baloch nationalist leaders, such as Habib Jalib Baloch. Interestingly, LeJ denies killing Shias while claiming to be involved in actions supposedly aimed at protecting the Baloch community. Some of its leaders talk of “carrying out defensive actions against people who are supported by foreign intelligence services.”59
Some analysts conclude that the SeS and LeJ enjoy official protection. Supposedly proscribed, they still hold rallies in major cities, openly displaying arms.60 Many attacks take place in areas with a strong FC presence.61 “Sectarian violence has increased because of a clear expansion of operational spaces for violent sectarian groups to function within, and without fear of being caught,”62 implying that the “ease of the operations could come from the fact that the police and the courts do not have the capacity to investigate, prosecute and convict sectarian killers,”63 or, more likely, that they are prevented from acting by the intelligence agencies.
Shia leaders blame the intelligence agencies but also accuse prominent members of the provincial Baloch government of protecting sectarian leaders.64 The groups perpetrating violence seem to rely on the fact that no serious action will be taken against them.
Some Baloch leaders also blame the intelligence agencies, which they perceive to be using both religious and Baloch renegade groups to suppress nationalism and kill Hazaras. At the same time, the agencies seem to have been successful in their attempt to build up the perception that the Baloch community is targeting the Hazaras. The government itself has tried to give credit to the idea of a connection between LeJ and the BLA; Interior Minister Rehman Malik declared to the Senate that the two groups “had been related to each other for five years.”65
If the suspicion of these Baloch leaders were confirmed, it would mean that the security agencies in Balochistan no longer rely primarily on a set of well-established and controlled fundamentalist organisations such as the JUI or others like it. Instead, they are using increasingly radical proxies at a time when they seem to have the utmost difficulties in controlling groups that they sponsored in the past.
Whether Balochistan can normalise its situation or if the current route to chaos is irreversible is an open question. The unstable status quo will inevitably lead to more anarchy, but reversing the situation would prove difficult and would most likely take several generations. In the search for a way out of the current mess, several factors must be taken into consideration.
The Baloch insurgency now generates debate in broader Pakistani society
First, a majority of the Baloch population wants greater autonomy for the province but does not demand independence. According to a July 2012 survey, only 37 percent of the Baloch favour independence, and a mere 12 percent of Balochistan’s Pashtuns favor that option. However, 67 percent of the total population supports greater provincial autonomy.66
These figures alone do not predetermine the future of Balochistan – the 37 percent of Baloch who favour independence indeed constitute a large plurality that could even grow in the future. But they undoubtedly indicate a trend toward integration with the national mainstream. They also mean that there is space for political negotiation and that Balochistan is not simply a law-and-order problem. It indicates that the possibility for some compromise exists.
Second, examined through the prism of Pakistan’s English-language press, the situation in Balochistan seems to echo positively in the rest of Pakistan. Unlike the 1970s, when the Baloch insurgency remained essentially a Baloch problem, it now generates debate in broader Pakistani society. Pakistani media outlets, especially electronic media, have proliferated and become more robust. With few exceptions, the mainstream English-language press appreciates that “separatist feelings are on the rise in Balochistan, thanks mainly to the action of the military and paramilitary forces, who are systematically accused of picking up, torturing and killing Baloch activists.” Those sentiments do not just appear in obscure Baloch nationalist newspapers (although the Baloch media is systematically banned and its journalists targeted by security forces and their proxies, which seems to indicate that the security establishment may fear their influence outside Balochistan).
The English-language press also recognises the inability of the civilian politicians to solve the problem,67 especially blaming the provincial government for being corrupt and impotent.68 The provincial authorities blame the media for presenting a gloomy picture of the law-and-order situation in Balochistan,69 but they have little to show to counter the press’s arguments.
It is difficult to assess the exact representativeness of the English-language media in their critique of the management of the Balochistan crisis, but the support they lend to the socioeconomic grievances of the province seem to indicate a real empathy for the Baloch, demonstrating some true unity in Pakistan. It also indicates a growing gap between Pakistan’s civil society and its military.
Third, the Baloch nationalist movement is divided and in no position to achieve independence. Baloch nationalists have occasionally engaged in internecine fights that pit hardline groups and individuals against those more amenable to dialogue and willing to resolve the crisis through a political process. Moreover, while the hardliners seem able to harass the military and its proxies, they do not possess the means to prevail over the Pakistani security forces. Despite the widespread allegations of the Pakistani authorities, the hardliners do not seem to enjoy any significant foreign support likely to change the provincial balance of forces in their favour.70
Fourth, the security establishment is unable to eliminate the insurgency, and its approach to the conflict threatens to further exacerbate the situation. And it is largely (though not solely) responsible for the increase in violence. It can objectively be argued that some of the most important leaders have been eliminated, but the insurgency has not disappeared.
And fifth, the Supreme Court (SC) has been unable to force the security forces to respect the law but has been instrumental in shedding light on the Balochistan issue. Since the beginning of the conflict, the SC has held more than 70 hearings on the situation in Balochistan and issued orders for the implementation of law and the Constitution in the province,71 supposedly as a response to real government inefficiency. None of its orders, however, has produced any tangible results. The court has, in the process, exposed its own inefficiency and further highlighted the total absence of accountability of the security establishment.72
The hearings have nevertheless been useful. They have contributed more than any other official body to informing the Pakistani press, public opinion and the international community about the situation in Balochistan.
Given these conditions, is there really space for a political dialogue? The refusal of the nationalist hardliners to negotiate with Islamabad is well known, but it remains unclear if more moderate nationalist organisations are ready for a political process and willing to re-enter electoral politics. During his brief stay in Islamabad in September 2012, BNP-M President Akhtar Mengal met the leaders of two mainstream parties – the head of the PML-N, former PM Nawaz Sharif, as well as the leader of the Tehreek-i-Insaaf, Imran Khan. This perhaps indicates that Mengal is ready for political dialogue. It is said that the PML-N offered to propose his name for the post of caretaker PM, which he declined. For the mainstream political parties as for the nationalists, the priority seems to be the security situation of the province and the end of abuses by the security forces.
Mengal has proposed a “peaceful divorce” with Pakistan – i.e., a referendum in Balochistan on self-determination. On the military side, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, responded to that proposal by stating that the army would extend its support “to a political solution to the Balochistan problem provided that the solution be in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan”, adding that “any steps taken in violation of the Constitution would be unacceptable.”73
Any political solution will have to include the nationalists, and the participation of the nationalist parties in elections could be a key component of a solution to the Balochistan issue. The provincial government will undoubtedly be much more legitimate if the nationalist parties do take part, and that will in turn help pacify the province. Some nationalist parties are debating the possibility of participating in elections. However, they will do so only if there is a reasonably level playing field. Should the parties decide to boycott the elections once again, the situation is likely to worsen due to the predictable absence of legitimacy of a government in which they will not be represented.
No political agreement will be sustainable, however, without a significant improvement of the human rights situation and guarantees on the security of individual Baloch. But it is unclear whether the security establishment is ready to reverse its kill and dump policies, put an end to forced disappearances, and disband death squads as a precondition for peace. Moreover, the international community is unlikely to bring much attention to the issue until the completion of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The constraints imposed by the need to keep open troop supply and exit routes through Pakistan will limit the willingness of individual states to challenge the Pakistani military establishment.
In this context, international monitoring of the human rights situation in Balochistan conducted by the UN and its various agencies could be a limited yet effective means of pressure. But ending the assassination campaign and the enforced disappearances is a precondition for such a process. The recourse to proxies and the willingness of the military to transfer responsibility for security to the FC demonstrate that they are uneasy with their own policies in Balochistan. The monitoring would not only expose the abuses of military proxies, it would essentially provide an incentive to change them. And monitoring – should the military authorities prove serious about restoring a semblance of normality in the province – would confer credibility to the process and, paradoxically, help restore part of the prestige of the armed forces.
Should there be a real change of mind in Rawalpindi, UN monitoring of the situation in Balochistan could become a way of gradually bypassing the mistrust among the various parties. As the UN would assess the policy of the Pakistani state in Balochistan in reference to international norms, not out of a particular national political agenda, it could also prove more acceptable for the Pakistani security establishment.
The impact and utility of the mission conducted by the UN in September 2012 should be understood in this dual perspective. It spent 10 days in Balochistan, meeting with government officials and about 100 private citizens to investigate the fate of disappeared persons in Balochistan.74 The delegation came at the invitation of the Pakistani government, a tacit admission that there is a problem despite official denials. Unsurprisingly, the leadership of Pakistan’s ISI and the paramilitary FC, which have been blamed for most of the disappearances, refused to meet the delegation, a position consistent with their previous denials.75
The UN mission was primarily an attempt to call international attention to the issue of enforced disappearances. Similarly, the US and the UK both expressed concerns over the human rights situation in Balochistan during the nineteenth session of the UN Human Rights Council.76
Anarchy in Balochistan is not simply another unfortunate situation in an already fragile region. The power vacuum emerging as a result of the systematic weakening or destruction of all social structures capable of containing the rise of radicalism creates a potentially explosive situation that abuts the most vulnerable provinces of Afghanistan: Helmand and Kandahar. It seems likely that no state power will truly be in a position to control these volatile provinces after 2014, conferring additional latitude to the groups whose re-emergence the US intervention in Afghanistan was supposed to prevent.
The Balochistan issue cannot be resolved, or at least mitigated, by addressing the socioeconomic grievances of its people – that time is long gone. Those grievances remain, but the political forces willing to negotiate them within the framework of the Pakistani federation have been marginalised and forced to harden their positions. The Pakistani security establishment seems to have decided to eliminate the very idea of Baloch nationalism, even in its most innocuous forms. Moreover, the Baloch leaders who have neither been bought off by the Pakistani security establishment nor joined the militancy are rejected by both sides. This does not augur well for finding common ground and forging a political agreement that would end the hostilities.
Though the population of Balochistan has lost whatever confidence remained in Islamabad, only a minority (although a sizable one) seems to favour independence. This is an indication that the political space for negotiations, however small it may be, still exists – but it does not guarantee that negotiations will ever start.
That a majority of the population supports Balochistan’s future within the Pakistani federation also indicates, at a deeper level, that Pakistan’s unity is less fictitious than commonly thought. This and the failure of the security forces to end the Balochistan conflict by the sword should suggest to Islamabad that Pakistan’s diversity will have to be managed politically, not repressed or suppressed by military means. The choice is ultimately between some form of popular participation or complete fragmentation. If a solution is to be found, it will have to be political.
In Balochistan, the military wanted to eliminate the traditional and local structures to reinforce state power. It has unquestionably managed to destroy traditional social structures, but in the process, it has further weakened the Pakistani state and advanced the hardliners’ position. In many ways, then, Balochistan is thus reflective of the fate of Pakistan as a whole.
1 With 347,190 square kilometers, Balochistan constitutes 43 percent of Pakistan’s territory but about five percent of its population.
2 Since independence, the Pakistani federal state and Baloch nationalists had already fought on four occasions – in 1948, 1958, 1962 and 1973–1977.
3 Tribal chiefs in Balochistan.
4 Pervez Musharraf once said: “They don’t even know what is going to hit them.”
5 Naveed Hussain: “Fiddling while Balochistan burns” (Express Tribune, August 15, 2012).
6 Imtiaz Gul: “The Dynamics of a Crisis” (The News, July 13, 2012).
7 Michael Brown, Mohammad Dawaod, Arash Iranlatab and Mahmud Naqi: Balochistan Case Study, INAF 5493-S: Ethnic Conflict: Causes, Consequences and Management, June 21, 2012; www4.carleton.ca/cifp/app/serve.php/1398.pdf
11 The BNP-M blames underground death squads such as the Baloch Musalla Difai Council (Baloch Armed Defence Council). The group has regularly accepted responsibility for the killing of BNP-M activists.
12 See Taj Mohammed Breseeg: Baloch Nationalism: Its Origins and Development (Karachi: Royal Book Company, 2004, p. 159-60).
13 Selig Harrison: In Afghanistan’s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations (Washington, D.C., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1981, p. 24).
14 Ibid., p. 30.
15 The Bugtis had dissociated themselves from the movement.
16 Before the death of Akbar Bugti in August 2006, it is said to have, through the BNM, prevented the latter, the leader of the Jamhuri Watan Party, and Mengal, leader of the BNM-M, traditionally moderate, to conclude a separate agreement with the government. Both had to adopt a more radical posture and demand independence as opposed to simply autonomy. It became impossible for Islamabad to divide the movement by arresting some and bribing others. Frederic Grare: “Baloutchistan: fin de partie?” (Herodote, no. 139, 4th trimester, 2010: 111-12).
17 Sasuie Abbas Leghari: “The Balochistan Crisis” (The News, August 25, 2012); www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-128196-The-Balochistan-crisis
18 Malik Siraj Akbar: “The Days to Fight Political Battles Are Over – Mengal”, November 22, 2006; http://gmcmissing.wordpress.com/2006/11/22/%E2%80%9C-the-days-to-fight-political-battles-ore-over%E2%80%A6%E2%80%9D-mengal
19 For example, the Army tried to physically eliminate Nawab Bugti at the very first incident, before the negotiations between the latter and the Mushahid Hussain-led delegation started.
20 International Crisis Group: Pakistan: The Worsening Conflict in Balochistan (Asia Report no. 119, September 2006, p. 6).
21 Final Report of the EU Election Observation Mission to Pakistan: National and Provincial Assembly Elections, October 10, 2002; http://ec.europa.eu/comm/europeaid/projects/eidhr/pdf/elections-reports-pakistan=-02_en.pdf
22 Although the JUI came only second in the 2002 provincial election, it was asked to form the government, which it led for the entire legislature.
23 International Crisis Group: Pakistan: The Worsening Conflict in Balochistan, 8.
24 Ibid., 7.
25 Balochistan was not the only province with a substantial number of fake voters. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas had 62 percent, Sindh 54 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 43 percent, and Punjab 41 percent. Irfan Ghauri: “Voter Fraud: 65 percent of Votes in Balochistan Were Bogus” (Express Tribune, September 22, 2011).
26 “The Farce in Balochistan” (Pak Media, February 8, 2013).
27 “Balochistan Matters” (Dawn, October 28, 2012).
28 The National Finance Commission (NFC) Award was so far based exclusively on the population criteria, which gave Punjab a decisive advantage over all other provinces, to the detriment of all others, in particular the least populated of them, Balochistan. The new mechanism took into account backwardness, the population living under the poverty line and so on, in order to give each province the means of its own development. The revised NFC Award increased the provincial share of the divisible pool from 47 percent to 56 percent for 2010-2011 and to 57 percent for the following four years. The new criteria for the Award included population 82 percent, poverty 10.30 percent, revenue generation five percent and inverse population density 2.7 percent. The Award changed the ratio of distribution of resources to the provinces: Punjab 51.74 percent, Sindh 24.55 percent, NWFP 14.62 percent and Balochistan 9.09 percent. See Mohammed Waseem: Federalism in Pakistan (LUMS, August 2010, 13).
29 For a detailed analysis of the package, see The Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan Package: An Analysis (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, December 2009).
30 See Balochistan Package presented to Parliament on November 24, 2009; www.theresearchers.org/Post&Update/Balochistan%20Package.pdf
31 “Pakistan: Balochistan Leaders Say It’s an Ethnic Cleansing Plan” (South Asian Media Network, December 6, 2009).
32 HRW: “We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years”, Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan, July 2011, 12.
33 “The Farce in Balochistan” (Pak Media, February 8, 2013).
34 Rs 250-300 million were disbursed annually to 54 out of a total of 65 Assembly members for development schemes without any monitoring or accountability system. “Aghaaz-e-Huqooq: Did the Package Make a Difference?” (Express Tribune, February 13, 2013).
35 See HRCP: Hopes, Fears and Alienation in Balochistan: Report of an HRCP Fact-Finding Mission (May 5–19, 2012), August 30, 2012, 45–46.
36 “Balochistan Officials Fired Over Shia Attacks” (Al Jazeera, January 14, 2013).
37 See, for example, Mir Mohammed Ali Talpur: “Winning the Battle of Algiers” (Daily Times, April 25, 2010).
38 HRW: “We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years”.
39 HRCP: Hopes, Fears and Alienation in Balochistan, 59-71.
40 HRW: “We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years”, 26.
41 Ibid., 32.
42 Lala Munir from the same organisation, and Sher Mohammed Baloch, an activist of the BRP.
43 Saleem Shahid: “Furore in Balochistan Over Killing of Nationalist Leaders” (Dawn, April 10, 2009). It should be noted that Ghulam Baloch was involved in the negotiation for the release of John Solecki, director of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ Quetta office.
44 Muhammad Akram: “Baloch Leaders Made Their Points Well. Is Anyone Listening?” (Dawn, September 28, 2012).
45 Four main organisations are said to be operating in Balochistan today. The Baloch Musalla Difai Tanzeem (Baloch Armed Defence Organisation) operates in the Mengal area and has claimed responsibility for the murder of six journalists in Khuzdar. The Saraman Aman (Peace) Force operates on the outskirts of Quetta as well as Kalat and Mastung. It used to specialise in kidnapping for ransom, but now kills nationalists as well. The other two organisations are the Sepah-e-Shuhada-e-Balochistan (Soldiers of the Martyrs of Balochistan) and the Graib Bawaw Tehreek.
46 Mir Mohammed Ali Talpur: “A Mere Ritual” (Daily Times, July 8, 2012. See also Dawn, The News, Daily Times, The Nation and Express Tribune from the same day).
47 John L. Esposito: “Islam: Ideology and Politics in Pakistan” in The State, Religions and Ethnic Politics: Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, Edited by Ali Banuazizi and Myron Weiner (Lahore: Vanguard, 1987, 344).
48 Soon, however, the martial law decrees were exempted from any examination of conformity with Sharia.
49 Markus Daechsel: “Military Islamization in Pakistan and the Spectre of Colonial Perceptions” (Contemporary South Asia 6, no. 2, July 1997, 141).
50 As rightly explained by Daechsel, “Manipulation is always more than just a supposedly rational game for, in order to manipulate somebody, a political actor has to know who that somebody is and which particular chord he has to strike to have maximum effect. Knowledge of the other entails knowledge of the self.” Ibid., 121.
52 Ziaul Haq had withdrawn the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case against the Baloch leaders and granted them and the Balochistan People’s Liberation Front (BPLF) militants general amnesty.
53 See International Crisis Group: Pakistan: The Worsening Conflict in Balochistan, 7.
54 Muhammed Amir Rana: “The Growing Nexus: Ethnic/Sectarian Violence Is Expected to Continue to Be a Long Term Challenge” (The News, July 29, 2012).
55 Safdar Sial and Abdul Basit: “Conflict and Insecurity in Balochistan: Assessing Strategic Policy Options for Peace and Security” (Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, October-December 2010, 3).
56 “The Growing Nexus” (Friday Times, August 3, 2012).
57 “Pakistan Hazaras Targeted Campaign of Ethnic Communal Killings” (World Socialist, May 22, 2012).
58 Huma Yusuf: “Sectarian Violence: Pakistan’s Greatest Security Threat?” (NOREF Report, July 2012).
59 Syed Shaoaib Hasan: “Sectarian Militancy Thriving in Balochistan” (Dawn, April 11, 2012).
60 Ibid. See also “Gunmen Kill 7 Shi’a in Balochistan” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 7, 2012).
61 It is also said that the provincial chief of the LeJ in Balochistan, Osman Shaifullah Kurd, was on death row, detained in a cantonment from where he was simply allowed to go.
62 Katja Riikonen: “Sect in Stone” (Herald, October 16, 2012).
64 Hasan: “Sectarian Militancy Thriving in Balochistan.”
65 Ijaz Kakhakel: “BLA and LeJ Main Culprits of Violence in Balochistan” (Daily Times, August 3, 2012).
66 Ansar Abbassi: “37pc Baloch Favour Independence: UK Survey” (The News, August 13, 2012).
67 “No Conspiracies, Please” (Express Tribune, June 6, 2012).
68 “Balochistan Bleeds” (The News, June 25, 2012).
69 “CM Unhappy With Media Portrayal of Balochistan” (Dawn, July 18, 2012).
70 Denouncing international conspiracies, a recurrent theme of Pakistan’s authorities, seems more common whenever they feel they no longer really control the situation. On June 3, 2012, for example, the Inspector General (IG) of the FC, Major General Ubaidullah Khan Khattak, told the press that some 121 training camps run by Baloch dissidents were active in Balochistan and supported by “foreign agencies”, 20 of which were directly operating in the province. Such allegations are echoed in some sections of the press; the most suspicion falls on India, but accusations are also directed at Afghanistan and the US and its allies, which supposedly conspire in Balochistan to coerce Islamabad into accepting Washington’s strategy for Afghanistan. Interior Minister Malik, who in April 2009 had “made a presentation of what he called evidence of the involvement of India, Afghanistan and Russia in Balochistan and other parts of the country”, reiterated his accusations in August 2012 before the Senate, blaming foreigners for using “banned outfits” and accusing the Afghan and Indian intelligence service of active involvement in “the destabilisation of the province and patronising of separatists, including Brahamdagh Bugti.” Apart from a very limited number of commentators, nobody seems to be buying the argument, although the serious analyst Ayesha Siddiqa does not refute the possibility of the involvement of foreign agencies (adding, however, that their help may be limited). The assertions of foreign conspiracies are actively refuted by the vast majority of the mainstream Pakistani press.
71 Mohammad Zafar: “Balochistan Conundrum: Hearings Spotlight ‘Crumbling’ Khuzdar Situation” (Pakistan Tribune, October 11, 2012).
72 On September 27, Akhtar Mengal, leader of the BNP-M, left his London exile where he chose to live after a period of imprisonment in 2008 and 2009, to appear before the apex judiciary of the country to present a “six-points plan” for Balochistan. In his statement before the court, the Baloch leader said “he had turned to the Supreme court to end 65 years of hopelessness” adding that “expecting anything from the incumbent government was a sin.” He reiterated the traditional grievances of the Baloch, insisting on their political marginalisation and exploitation, but focused mainly on the human rights situation in the province. He denounced the “ongoing military operations against the moderate Baloch nationalists in Balochistan, the indiscriminate use of force against civilians, target killings, displacement and disappearances, and accused the security forces and the intelligence agencies of having committed hundreds of unlawful killings in Balochistan, insisting that “Baloch nationalists [were] being eliminated and instead of giving representation to true representatives, manufactured leaders were being installed.” He ended by presenting a six-point charter enumerating the corresponding demands for correction by the government. The court immediately ordered the issues to be brought to the notice of the concerned authorities, including the PM and the heads of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and the Intelligence Bureau, and gave them three days to provide their responses to the court. Unsurprisingly, the military and intelligence authorities denied all accusations. There were no covert or overt operations going on in Balochistan, no death squads operating under the aegis of the ISI and MI, and no missing persons in the custody of the secret agencies.
73 “Army to Support Any ‘Constitutional’ Solution to Balochistan Unrest: Kayani” (Dawn, October 3, 2012).
74 Declan Walsh: “UN Presses Pakistan Over the Fate of Hundreds of Missing People” (The New York Times, October 21, 2012).
75 Baluch Sarmachar, September 19, 2012. Members of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, an organisation fighting for the release of the missing people, later sent a letter to the UN and the SC stating that they had received death threats after they appeared before the delegation. The threats were emanating from the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-i-Aman, one of the death squads allegedly supported by the intelligence agencies.
76 “Baloch Welcome US Human Rights Intervention at UNHCR” (The Guardian, March 28, 2012).
The writer is a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on Indo-Pacific dynamics, the search for a security architecture, and South Asia Security issues.
Excerpted from The Guardian