Thursday, February 03, 2005

Republic of Balochistan : 2006



Will Pakistan Army Invade Balochistan as per the NIC-CIA Plan

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

LONDON, January 29: It seems that our rulers, having learnt no lesson, stand condemned to repeat the same criminal blunders that converted Pakistan's most populated province into an independent state following the surrender of the Pakistani generals to the Indian army. That was December 1971.

Now 34 years later Pakistan has drifted into a similar situation in its biggest province. We had then, as now, a power drunk general heading an equally obdurate military coterie that would not listen to voices of reason, pleadings of political and saner elements for a democratic settlement according to the electoral verdict of the majority. Rest is history.

Balochistan today is facing a similar military operation as of erstwhile East Pakistan. President General Musharraf has cast the die. Not only a full-fledged military operation with all its fire and fury has been launched though denied by his media minions, the most deplorable rape of a doctor allegedly by army personnel, seems to have plunged a proud people into an irreparable and irreversible grief and a struggle that would be bloody with horrendous consequences.

Just when I sat down to write this piece I had before me four disturbing but relevant news items. The first one was the blasting of gas pipelines taking natural gas from Sui to the city of Lahore and many more around it. It was the second major blow to the infrastructure after the bombing of the plant in Balochistan.

The second item was regarding bombing of a rail track by terrorists near the Mushkaf Railway Station, about 85 kilometers from Quetta on Thursday, delaying all trains to and from Quetta. The latest attack came a day after the military authorities announced a plan to set up a cantonment in the area to protect gas installations.

Earlier, the railway authorities had stopped all train movements at night in the Balochistan after a railway bridge was blown up. An explosion on Saturday had hit the same track. According to the official version, some terrorists had initially opened indiscriminate firing to create panic and harassment in the area and then exploded the bomb. Now the authorities have also deployed armed personnel at all important bridges and tunnels to protect train tracks and to ensure a safe train travel in the province.

In a related development, a rocket landed near an electrical grid station in Sibi, about 150 kilometers from Quetta late Wednesday, but there was no damage. However, independent sources claimed that they had heard three blasts.

The third news item relates to the statement of the Chief of the Jamhoori Watan Party Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. He has ruled out any possibility of talks on the Sui crisis unless the issue of assault on a lady doctor is sorted out since, according to him, the atmosphere is not conducive for talks at that hour. Nawab Bugti told newsmen: "Such incidents do not take place in our land. It has become a matter of deep concern for the Baloch people."

Bugti also accused the authorities of making attempts at various levels to hush up the rape probe while not registering the FIR against those involved. He pointed out that it was only after the ugly incident, which angered the local people, that the Sui gas field was attacked.

In return, Nawab Bugti alleged, the government bombed the area, killing five people including women and children and leaving 32 wounded. Bugti does not hope much of truth to come out of the government inquiry. Bugti disclosed that he and his people were in "a semi-war like situation imposed on us by the center".

When asked if other local tribes would side with the Bugtis in case hostilities broke out, the Baloch leader said: "Only time will tell". As regards government's move to set up a military cantonment in the Sui area, Nawab Bugti believes that the people would resist such an 'occupation' of their land. He said that like the people of Kashmir and Palestine, the Baloch people were seeking their legitimate rights.

The fourth news items, in the same context, is the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani. He has demanded convening of a joint session of the Parliament to discuss what he said the 'grim and volatile situation' in Balochistan. In his statement Mian Raza Rabbani asked the ruler to heed the writing on the wall and not take the situation in Balochistan lightly. The regime must find a political solution through dialogue rather than hurling threats and warnings like it is not 70's. "Brute force has never solved complex political issues. Hurling threats will only exacerbate an already volatile situation."

Besides demanding a debate before the Joint Session of the Parliament both the major political parties, the PPP and PML-N, have conveyed their refusal to attend the so-called all parties conference convened by the MQM. They believe that it is a veiled attempt by a government coalition party to subvert independent movement to save Balochistan from becoming yet another victim of the oppressive military rulers.

The writing on the wall is crystal clear. It spells doom and disaster especially when the military establishment is hell-bent on creating a law and order situation to enable it to establish army cantonments in a province that is being described by it as the last of terrorist outposts.

The Pakistani generals religiously believe that by setting up new cantonments they can get a foothold for their operations in a particular territory. Besides that, they get an excuse to acquire local expensive lands to establish the cantonments that include housing complexes for the generals and officers doled out to them at throw away prices.

Setting up new cantonments obviously is the part of military establishment's brainchild of converting Pakistan into a garrison state. Recent developments including increasing acts of sabotage owned by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has confirmed military plans to build one of three new bases in Balochistan at the massive Sui gas fields. This decision has added fuel to the already simmering fire of discontent in the province and its tribal leaders and militant nationalists are reacting angrily.

They have been forewarning that the inferno that is being ignited by the military will spread and become a bigger conflagration. The bombing of railway tracks and other growing acts of subversion in which the insurgents have been using rockets and heavy gunfire, targeting the Pakistan Army and strategic installations, are attempts at disrupting infrastructures in the area and to warn Islamabad of their capacity to indulge in more serious violence.

Besides that, Balochi militants want to convey to General Musharraf that they are not "Bingos" (Bengali Muslims) who had no traditions of taking up arms or knew using them as compared to them when their child learns to wield the gun much before he gets his teeth. It may be recalled that just three weeks ago Pakistan's overconfident President General Musharraf had warned them much in the similar jingoistic language that General Yahya had used when declaring war against the Bengali population in East Pakistan.

Musharraf had warned the Baloch militants they would not know "what hit them" unless they stopped fighting. This warning has seen a chain reaction starting with the ferocious mortar attack on the security forces at the Sui Gas fields/installations. These clashes lasted several days and led to massive disruption of supplies to industries and homes. Many areas in Pakistan still have rationed supply of Sui gas despite the fact that the army was immediately moved in to secure supplies and protect installations.

Some political elements in the Musharraf government are seized of the gravity of the situation and they have tried to hold sort of talks with the recognized Baloch leadership, of course without success. The Baloch leaders do not like the way Islamabad wants to militarily handle the situation. They would like to sit across the table and hold dialogue with the government but
not at the cost of their own interests or pride.

They are absolutely justified in demanding that the military posing as an occupation force should withdraw from their area, cancel and cease building the planned cantonments. Only then, tribal leaders say, can both sides discuss the Balochi nationalists' demands for more autonomy, a greater share of the wealth from the province's rich mineral reserves and more investment in development and employment.

As a student of history what is disturbing me is the adoption of that diction for discussing Balochistan by the columnists and media commentators in Pakistan that is used mostly in dealing issues such Kashmir and Palestine. I find the term "confidence building measures" now being excessively used to urge for a dialogue between Islamabad and Balochi leaders, conceding by implication, that the two parties represent two independent states.

I used to get some feedback on the war in 1971 from a friend working in a senior position in Rawalpindi's Inter Services Public Relations Department. His answer to my "how is the situation" question used to be "Don't worry, everything is going according to plan". When it was over, I realised that everything had happened "according to the plan".

The Generals had planned it that way and so it happened. It is another story that my friend in the ISPR who was definitely more honorable than others, could not take the humiliation. He died soon after Dhaka's fall.

This brings out of me the apprehension: are our military rulers working on an a similar agenda or something that has been laid out for them in the various assessment reports over the years by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in joint collaboration with CIA. It was poor Miraj Khalid who as interim prime minister in early 1997 had dared to confide to the Pakistanis that CIA had forecast Pakistan's denouement by the year 2015.

In the previous edition of its Global Futures assessment the NIC report cast a dark shadow on Pakistan's future five years ago. It said that by the year 2015 Pakistan would be a failed state, ripe with civil war, bloodshed, inter-provincial rivalries and a struggle for control of its nuclear weapons and its complete Talibanization. It had predicted, "Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of political and economic mismanagement, divisive policies, lawlessness, corruption and ethnic friction.

Nascent democratic reforms will produce little change in the face of opposition from an entrenched political elite and radical Islamic parties. Further domestic decline would benefit Islamic political activists, who may significantly increase their role in national politics and alter the makeup and cohesion of the military, once Pakistan's most capable institution.

In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the central government's control probably will be reduced to the Punjabi heartland and the economic hub of Karachi."

Indeed, General Musharraf's "good governance", his "democracy", his "achievements", his war against Islamic terrorists, his handling of Kashmir issue, his voluntary surrender of the UN granted right of self-determination and his packing off Dr AQ Khan and Pakistan's nuclear program for which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto preferred martyrdom, his support to Mullas to become a formidable parliamentary force, are feats performed by him in his line of duty as blueprinted in above quotation from NIC Report.

Never before in the history of Pakistan did we have so much of sectarian violence as during the last five years. Inter-provincial rivalries are bursting at their seams on the water issue. There is widespread discontent in Sindh. Now Balochistan is asking for its fair share in the revenues from its natural gas and the Praetorian establishment is about to launch a genocidal operation to teach the proud Balochs a lesson.

The NIC has released its new report recently. It devotes to the global threat posed by terrorism and the dangers associated with proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It, perhaps, has a role for Osama Bin Laden since in one of its future scenarios it seriously discusses the possibilities of the re-establishment of the Islamic Khilafah Hizb Tehrir-style.

It has forecast the possibility of the next Indo-Pakistan war and probable use of nuclear weapons in that conflict from boom to doom. It has made interesting observations about the future growth of both India and China and their global role.

In the context of Balochistan, one would like to refer back to the 2015 NIC report. It forecast a Yugoslavia-like fate for Pakistan. The military operation that has been put in motion would further distance Baloch people from rest of the country. That perhaps is the plan. This brings me to an interesting observation in a book by Abul Maali Syed "The Twin Era of Pakistan-Democracy and Dictatorship" (1992). The caption of his First Chapter is 2006 and its opening para is as follows: "Who would have believed that Balochistan, once the least-populated and poorest province of Pakistan, would become independent and the third richest oil-producing country after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait".

One cannot but appreciate and acknowledge the insight of AM Syed and his premonitory observation. The entire chapter is devoted to what he describes as an independent state of Balochistan. In the light of his detached view (Syed was in Canada at the time of writing his book and I believe his book is banned in Pakistan) and the events that have taken place in the country since 1992 and what is being unleashed on Balochistan by the military, one can only pray, with no disrespect to Syed, that his academic premonition does not come true.

Although there are many observers who look confident in predicting Pakistan's future as a foregone conclusion but being a proverbial optimist I believe that though late the situation can still be retrieved. The ongoing crisis of identity confounded by the Mullah interpretations, need to be buried deep down by reverting back to Quaid's dream of a secular, democratic and federal
Pakistan.

The Praetorian establishment shall have to be told enough is enough, its concept of unity of command can be good for the military ranks but not for the working of a democratic society with complete freedom for dissent and socio-economic justice for all.

The Balochistan issue must be debated in a joint session of the Parliament. There is the utmost urgency to sort it out through negotiations and dialogue and at no stage should the military be used. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could resolve the tricky issue of the quantum of provincial autonomy in 1973 and give the country a consensus constitution, why cannot it be done again?

That being the least, relations with Iran heating up and with Pakistani military likely to get a substantive role in Bush's future anti-Iran operations, General Musharraf needs to be advised to seek broad based national consensus with genuine political leaders like Benazir Bhutto to collectively steer the country minimally scathed from a situation where even angels shall fear to
tread. To meet outside challenges, we have to forge internal unity.

The writer is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK

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