Sunday, December 26, 2004

'Violent Development' Breeding Terrorism in Baluchistan

'Violent Development' Breeding Terrorism in Baluchistan

By Dr. Tarique Niazi

WISCONSIN, December 13: The Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) has claimed the responsibility for the December 10 bombing in Quetta, which left 11 dead and 26 injured. Two army enlisted men were among the dead. The intended target was a military truck that was parked in a busy shopping district, Mizan Square.

This is the second deadly attack after the killing of 5 soldiers in Khuzdar on August 1. Gen. Musharraf’s “gigantomania” has awakened the slumbering jaguar in the BLA, after its 30-year hiatus. He is seeking legitimacy for his power-grab in the rapid “militarization” and “self-serving development” of Baluchistan.

Both combine into a “violence” of development. Such development is evident in his plan for province-wide building of cantonments, especially in areas that are endowed with hydrocarbon resources and strategic waterways.

In Baluchistan’s Marri-Bugti areas, which are known to have the country’s largest reservoirs of natural gas, Gen. Musharraf has ordered several cantonments built. Baluchs are resistant to such initiatives as their province is already infested with military forts.

They are so numerous that the Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood Khan (Dawn, November 8), stumbles on one every thirty miles. Instead, Baluchs want Islamabad to invest the capital for cantonments in social provisioning: education, healthcare, and job security. They are opposed to both militarization and self-serving “development.”

They believe the first is aimed at subjugating them, while the latter is intended to steal their natural wealth. To counter the opposition, Gen. Musharraf is further building the firepower of state institutions of violence.

He had the provincial government replace “Levies” (i.e. community policing) with an additional 16,000-strong police force and Baluchistan Constabulary, as reported by Dawn (November 4). This will bring 25 districts of Baluchistan into province-wide policing, which will do away with the traditional institution of “Levies,” which are “manned” by 100 per cent natives.

What is wrong with this picture is the domination of the police force by non-Baluchs. Such police force is strategically deployed to violently pursue the development agenda that also is aimed at benefiting non-Baluchs. So in a vicious way, violence is pushing “development,” and development is fueling “violence” to the benefit of non-Baluchs.

To further safeguard his “armored development,” Gen. Musharraf has done everything in his power to discredit and dismantle the Baluch resistance. Yet he has failed to achieve his aims. Instead, he saw the resistance grow in strength, scope, sophistication, and daring. Its targets have since been the top officials of the provincial government as well as the military. It has twice targeted Baluchistan’s sitting chief minister and his residence in Quetta.

The recent surge in the BLA’s violence also has to do with the “strategic depth” it has achieved in the post-9/11 world. Unlike the one under Taliban, contemporary Afghanistan has become far more hospitable to the BLA’s operations. Hundreds of thousands of Baluchs living on the Afghan side of the border warmly welcome their fellow Baluchs, who are fighting for their rights. Thirty years ago, the Afghan Baluchs offered their Pakistani kin the same level of hospitality to help them in their struggle for rights. But then, the Afghan Baluchs were all that there was to support Pakistani Baluchs.

Today, the Baluch resistance movement’s strategic reach has extended far beyond Afghanistan into neighboring Iran and Oman. The Seistan-Baluchistan province of Iran has lent it another sanctuary, where Iranian Baluchs take in the fellow Pakistani Baluchs. Siestan-Baluchistan that has come to assume the reputation of Iran’s “wild west” swims with lethal arms and illicit drugs. What makes it more attractive to the resistance is its geographical proximity that, many believe, is powering the “drug-for-arms trade” between Iranian and Pakistani Baluchistan.

Most recently, the governments of two provinces have elevated their “neighboring” provinces to a “twin provinces" status. The visiting governor-general of Seistan-Baluchistan, Hussain Amini, and his counterpart in Pakistani Balochistan signed an agreement to this effect on November 23. These ceremonial bonds further help the Baluch resistance. In addition to forming a rear guard of Afghanistan and Seistan, the Baluch resistance is widely believed to be benefiting from the oil riches of the gulf state of Oman, where the Baluch population of Pakistani origin outnumbers the native Omanese.

Thus, the resistance’s strategic depth has now extended into a triangulation of Afghanistan, Iran, and Oman.

Besides its cross-border links, the Baluch resistance also has taken full advantage of the ongoing operation in South Waziristan, which has blurred the lines between Baluchistan and Pakhtunkhaw. Insurgents in the tribal belt freely cross into the mountain ranges of Baluchistan. They seamlessly melt into the latter’s capital city, Quetta, which houses predominantly Pakhtun population, alongside the burgeoning demographic growth of Baluchs on its skirts.

Mountain fasts are the roving tribesmen’s redoubts, which make them unbeatable. These mountains offer them invisible passages on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. If you stand on the top of Toba Kakari, Pishin, Baluchistan, you can reach into Afghanistan with a stretch of the arm.

Proximity with Afghanistan places both Baluchs and Pakhtun insurgents at a far greater advantage than their pursuers. Just as Baluch insurgents readily find refuge with their kin on the Afghan side of the border, so do Pakhtun insurgents, who too have extended tribal siblings in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Although Pakhtun and Baluch insurgents are fighting for divergent causes, their ends converge on keeping the military stretched thin. As of now, they are winning. The military has never been stretched so thin. Its concentration in South Waziristan alone has grown over 70,000 troops. Since the fall of Taliban, Pakistan had to deploy more than one-third of its entire armed forces along its western borders with Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s strategic planners never anticipated such deployments, let alone an active insurgency that the military had to fight since January this year.

What is further aggravating the already worsened situation is Gen. Musharraf’s violent means to crush the resistance. In November 2003, he bragged to an invited gathering of journalists in Islamabad that only 5 per cent of Baluchistan is a trouble spot and that he will “straighten out” the trouble-making Baluch leaders. On November 20 of this year, he delivered on his threat. He had an anti-terrorism court in Quetta sentence a top-ranking Baluch leader, Nawab Khair Bux Marri and his sons to three years in prison, and order their property confiscated for “missing a court hearing!”

Since Gen. Musharraf seized power in a military coup, Nawab Marri and his sons have been implicated in one murder case after another. They no longer take these fabrications seriously. After the November 20 sentencing, Nawab Marri and his sons have been declared “fugitives,” and their homes in Quetta were placed under police siege. This indeed provoked a Baluchistan-wide resentment against the violent approach of the government, which wants to bend Nawab Marri to its will to have him open his land for prospecting its sub-surface resources.

To discredit the Baluch resistance, Gen. Musharraf does not flinch at using the weapon of last resort: Indian hand behind it. He speaks through proxies to identify India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) operatives among Baluch insurgents. His handyman in Baluchistan, who is grandly designated as Chief Minister, publicly blamed India for infiltrating RAW agents into Baluchistan.

Citing Pakistani intelligence sources, The News (November 8) reported that India is running a Baluch Web site (balochvoice.com) to fuel insurgency in Baluchistan, and “RAW has set up many terrorist camps in the province.” The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood Khan, calls these camps “Baluch Camps.” In an interview with Dawn’s Messrs Muhammad Ali Siddiqi and Shamim ur Rehman (November 7), he defiantly demanded: “Give us our rights or we will fight. For achieving those rights, the Baloch could go to any lengths and contact any power.”

The Khan of Kalat even refused to condemn the “terrorist killing” of three Chinese engineers on May 3 in a bomb blast in the coastal town of Gwadar. Instead, he claimed that Gwadar was being built to benefit China alone.

Baluchs are certainly not opposed to “genuine,” self-empowering development that has long been denied to them. Their opposition to development projects such as the building of Gwadar Port is rooted in Gen. Musharraf’s attempts to colonize them and their resources. As the Khan of Kalat put it in his interview with Dawn, Gwadar is a town of 60,000 people. With its full-blown operation, it will need a million people to run it, who will be imported from the rest of the country. This massive human transplant will outnumber the native population by 17 to 1. A province that has a population of as little as 6 million people has every reason to scream foul at such a self-serving development agenda.

There is no doubt that the Gwadar project is aimed at enriching the economic, military, and political elite at the expense of the masses of Pakistan, regardless of their province or origin. Gen. Musharraf who owned 7 properties in 1999 did not mind helping himself to one more in Gwadar as well! So did his cronies. They have found in the Gwadar port project a giant feeding trough at which every top bull in Gen. Musharraf’s cabinet is fattening “itself.”

This is why the “development of Baluchistan” has become so violent and it is the violent development that is breeding terrorism in Baluchistan.

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