Thursday, December 29, 2005

Third time rebellious in Baluchistan

Third time rebellious in Baluchistan


This week India surprised by expressing concern over the crackdown in Pakistan’s largest province. C. Raja Mohan explains what is at stake.

December 29, 2005

India’s expression of concern Tuesday over Pakistan’s military crack-down in Baluchistan brought a swift and entirely expected condemnation from the foreign office in Islamabad which rejected New Delhi’s “meddling” in its “internal affairs”.

New Delhi is unlikely to prolong this war of words. South Block, however, appears to have decided it can no longer turn a blind eye to the growing violence in Baluchistan — a region of vital strategic importance for India and the world.

While the spokespersons of the two foreign offices were exchanging sharp words on Tuesday, a massive strike had nearly paralysed Baluchistan, which occupies nearly half of Pakistan’s territory. Baluchistan has been steadily drifting towards the third popular rebellion since Partition.

Demanding greater control over their rich mineral resources, including hydrocarbons, and protesting against the construction of new Pakistan army garrisons in their province, the proud Baluch have been on the warpath in recent weeks. The rocket attacks during President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Baluchistan in mid-December have brought a harsh response from the Pakistan army.

From all available indications, Delhi’s decision to finally speak up on Baluchistan was a deliberate one. The essence of India’s message was simple: people living in glass houses should not be throwing stones. If Islamabad continues to hector India on human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and demands restraint on the part of Indian armed forces, India would no longer keep quiet. It would politely ask Pakistan to look in the mirror.

Defensiveness, India’s decided, is no longer a diplomatic option. So the spokesperson’s special emphasis on the Pakistan “heavy military action, including the use of helicopter gunships and jet fighters”.

The spokeswoman in Islamabad, Tasneem Aslam, said she was “intrigued” by the Indian provocation “at this time when the two countries are engaged in the peace process to address all issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute”.

But it is precisely the Pakistani attitude on J&K that might have set off the Indian comments. In recent weeks, Pakistan appears to have been carried away by its own rhetoric on J&K. Its leaders have been demanding “demilitarisation” and “self-governance”.

While quiet negotiations could have produced progress on Indian troop reduction in J&K in tandem with a reduction of Pakistan-supported violence in the state, Islamabad decided to press for demilitarisation of specific areas in J&K.

The increasingly self-righteous rhetoric from Pakistan on Kashmir was a bit too much to digest in New Delhi at a time when the Pakistan army is using force in the Northern Areas, North and South Waziristan in the North West Frontier Province, and in Baluchistan.

India’s new approach was first unveiled last October when it urged Pakistan to exercise restraint in dealing with sectarian violence in Gilgit, part of the original undivided state of J&K. This was the first time in decades that India was commenting on the situation in the Pakistan occupied areas of J&K. India had turned its back on the Northern Areas even while claiming them to be part of the Indian territory.

Pakistan certainly protested; but it does not officially consider J&K to be part of either India or Pakistan. Having declared those parts of Kashmir under its control as “Azad” or “free”, and claimed a right to support the militancy on the Indian side of Kashmir, it could not dismiss India’s comments as interference in its “internal” affairs. That would under-cut the foundation of all of Pakistan’s arguments on Kashmir. But Baluchistan is different. There is no dispute between the two on the nature of Pakistani sovereignty over it.

It is not often that India voices concern over the internal struggles for reform and political change in Pakistan. The last time India made any noise on the “internal affairs” of Pakistan was in 1983, when Indira Gandhi expressed, rather mildly, support to the then raging movement against martial law.

All democratic movements in our neighbourhood have looked to support from a republican India with claims to regional primacy and great power status. India has never found it easy to balance its espousal of the values of federalism, democracy and secularism in the neighbourhood and the imperatives of realpolitik in engaging the regimes in power.

In reviving its focus on Baluchistan, India was also partly compensating for its guilt in letting them down in the past. At precisely the moment that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto launched an extended military repression in the early 1970s, India looked the other way. Believing that it had won perpetual peace with Pakistan under the 1972 Shimla Agreement, India muted its voice. In raising it voice again Tuesday, India was signaling that it had not lost all empathy with the Baluch.

While Baluchistan has largely fallen off Indian consciousness in recent decades, it remains emblematic of the unfinished business of modern state-building in South Asia after the British left in 1947. From Baluchistan in the southwest to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the northwest, from Kashmir to the North East Frontier Agency and undivided Assam in the east, the British Empire’s exercise of sovereignty and governance was minimalist in its approach.

India and Pakistan have had difficulty bringing them into the national mainstream. India has addressed the challenge within a democratic, federal framework with some success.

Pakistan, without a credible political structure, had to depend on manipulating old tribal and feudal hierarchies, use of force, or Islamic fundamentalism to counter aspirations for autonomy and development.

In what is now called Baluchistan, trouble started immediately after Partition when one of the principal rulers of the area, the Khan of Kalat, refused to join Pakistan. The forced integration of Kalat into Pakistan 1948 led to the first rebellion in the region for autonomy; since then sections of the Baluch have seen the Pakistan army as an occupation force.

After the failed uprising of the 1970s, the Baluch are at it again. The Pakistan army’s current marginalisation of traditional political parties and its encouragement to religious forces has shrunk the space for both moderates and modernists in Baluchistan. The main tribes also appear more united than in the 1970s.

The renewed Baluch quest for autonomy takes place amidst the region’s growing geopolitical importance. Whether Pakistan wants to bring natural gas to India from Iran or provide China access to the Arabian Sea at Gwadar port, the Baluch hold the key.

As a region bordering Afghanistan, Baluchistan has also become a haven for the remnants of the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Baluch spread into Iran adds to the significance of the region’s location.

From combating terrorism to promoting regional prosperity through integration, the fate of the Subcontinent and its environs depends upon satisfying the aspirations of people in outlying regions like Baluchistan, J&K and the North East.

The key lies in providing greater autonomy within the present territorial framework while altering the nature of the borders. As the unfinished business of nation-building engages both India and Pakistan, they need peace between themselves.

And that peace, in turn, depends upon Pakistan shedding its obsession with severing Kashmir from India and focusing on pragmatic steps that would at once facilitate political reconciliation with India and bring peace, prosperity and self-governance to its own troubled regions.


by B.Raman, Camp Bangalore

Apparently in reprisal for what has been projected as firing of rockets by unidentified elements at a helicopter carrying Maj. Gen. Shujaat Zamir Dar, the Inspector-General of the Frontier Corps, and at a public meeting addressed by President Pervez Musharraf at Kohlu during his visit to Balochistan last week, the Pakistan Army has launched since December 18, 2005, a military-cum-para-military operation in the Kohlu area of Balochistan, which is the stronghold of the Marri tribe.

2.The reprisal attacks have involved the use of at least three Brigades-strength of the Army and the Frontier Corps and about eight helicopters .At a time when the Pakistan Army has been complaining to the UN and the international community about the shortage of helicopters for quake relief in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), it has diverted eight of its own helicopters, which were being used for quake relief in the POK, to Balochistan for being armed and used as helicopter gunships. In addition to the use of helicopters, there have been at least two air strikes on suspected strongholds of the Marri tribe.

3. While details of the casualties suffered by the Marris are not yet available, reports from reliable sources in Quetta say that at least 60 members of the Marri tribe have been killed.

4. The members of the Marri, Mengal and Bugti tribes have been in the forefront of the revived indepedence struggle, which has been going on in Balochistan for nearly two years now. The first War of Independence of the Balochs launched immediately after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, was ruthlessly crushed by the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, then in power, with the help of the Pakistan Army and the Air Force. The first War of Independence was fought largely by the Marri tribe led by Khair Bux Marri and the Mengal tribe led by Ataullah Khan Mengal. The Bugti tribe, led by Akbar Khan Bugti, did not join the first War of Independence.

5. Taking advantage of the lack of unity among the various tribes, the Pakistani Army and Air Force managed to crush the post-1971 uprising after killing hundreds of Baloch youth through air strikes. The survivors led by Khair Bux Marri and Ataullah Khan Mengal crossed over into Afghanistan and took shelter there. They returned to Pakistan after the overthrow of President Najibullah and the capture of power by the Afghan Mujahideen in April, 1992. The returnees gave up their uprising and returned to the national mainstream.

6.The civilian Governments headed by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif made overtures to the Baloch nationalists and managed to persuade them to give up resort to violence, despite continuing differences between Islamabad and the Baloch nationalists over questions such as genuine political autonomy for Balochistan, larger allocation of central tax revenue and development funds for Balochistan and payment of inadequate royalty for the gas found in Balochistan and taken to Punjab to sustain its economy.

7. The return of the Army to power under the dictatorship of President-General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999, led to a gradual deterioration of the situation in the province. Amongst the reasons for this were: the traditional grievances of the Balochs over the lack of political autonomy, inadequate royalty payment for gas and lack of economic development; the construction of the Gwadar port by the Army with Chinese assistance without the involvement of the Baloch people and their Government in Quetta in the decision-making relating to the port; the award of all major contracts relating to the construction of the port to companies based in Karachi and Lahore ; and the re-settlement of a large number of ex-servicemen from Punjab and other parts of Pakistan in the Gwadar and the surrounding areas on the Mekran coast in order to assure the security of the new port. The fact that Pakistan's nuclear-testing site was located at Chagai in Balochistan also aggravated the grievances due to fears of long-term environmental and health damage.

8. This led to an organisation calling itself the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) launching a second War of Independence. For the last two years, the province has been in a state of increasing ferment due to the revived independence struggle. The BLA has been successfully indulging in tactics such as attacks on gas pipelines, electricity transmission lines, posts of the Pakistan Army and the Frontier Corps etc.

9, In response to the growing instability in the province, Musharraf decided to create more cantonments in the province. This aggravated the feelings of anger of the Baloch nationalists, who saw this as the prelude to a determined military attempt to suppress them.

10. Whereas the first Baloch War of Independence was triggered off largely by political grievances, the second War of Independence has been triggered off by a mix of political, economic and social grievances. Since the construction of the Gwadar port with Chinese assistance has been one of the important causes of the current uprising, part of the Baloch anger is also turned against the Chinese, who are perceived as collaborating with the Pakistan Army in its attempts to subjugate the Balochs.

11. There were some incidents of violence such as explosions directed against the Chinese engineers and other personnel working in the Gwadar project. While there is reason to believe that these incidents were the work of the Uighur nationalists fighting for the independence of Xinjiang, the Pakistan Army projected them as due to the activities of the BLA. The Army allowed the Chinese intelligence to post its officers in Gwadar to ensure the security of its nationals. It also allowed the Chinese intelligence to open a monitoring station at Gwadar to collect technical intelligence about the movements and activities of the Uighur and Baloch naionalists. The TECHINT thus collected by the Chinese is shared with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).This has added to the anger of the nationalists against the Chinese, but they have not so far specifically targeted the Chinese.

12. The political situation in the province has been further complicated by the re-settlement of a large number of Taliban leaders and fighters and the leaders and members of Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe Islami in the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan and in Quetta by the ISI. The Taliban and the Hizbe Islami remnants operating from the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan have been mainly active against the American and Afghan troops in Afghan territory. They do not pose any threat to the Pakistani Army.

13. For the last one year, the Pakistan Army has strengthened its military and para-military deployment in the province. In March last, it initially started a military operation in the Bugti area, where the gas production fields, which supply gas to the Punjab, are located. The operation ended in a stalemate resulting in what was described as a gentlemen's agreement between Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the leader of the tribe, and the Army to maintain peace and vacate each other's trenches.

14. Fearing that the launching of a full-scale military operation in Balochistan might result in an East Pakistan-like situation in the province, a group of pro-Musharraf political leaders headed by Chaudhry Shujjaat Hussain of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam) set up a parliamentary committee to enter into a dialogue with Bugti and reach a political compromise. This did not lead to any satisfactory compromise. While those negotiating on behalf of this committee were prepared to recommend to Musharraf to increase the royalty payments for the gas and to pay compensation to the Bugti tribe for the damages suffered by it in the military operation; they were not prepared to concede the demands relating to the Gwadar port.

15. Unlike during the first War of Independence when the lack of tribal unity enabled the Army to prevail, this time it has been confronted by a united front put up by all the three tribes. But the Army feels each tribe has joined the front for its own reasons----the Bugti tribe because of its interest in getting more royalty for the gas and the Marri and the Mengal tribes because of their feelings for independence and their resentment over the Gwadar port. The leaders of the three tribes do not seem to have worked out so far a common programme of action and a consensus on what they desire for Balochistan---greater autonomy or total independence.

16. In the meanwhile, a group of Baloch youths, who believe that their objective should not be anything short of independence, has constituted the BLA and taken up the fight in its hands. The Pakistan Army has launched a campaign to eradicate these youth fighting for independence. It is calculating that if it does so, the tribal elders would be more amenable to reason and reach a political compromise and give up their demands relating to Gwadar.

17. If the Baloch elders and youth are not alert to the machinations of Musharraf and fall into the Army trap to prevail over them once again through a policy of divide and rule, they will be repeating their historic blunder of the 1970s. They should draw inspiration from the Bangladesh struggle for independence and unite not only among themselves, but also with the Sindhi nationalists, the Shias of Gilgit and Baltistan and the people of the POK, who had seen how the Pakistan Army treated them as an expendable commodity after the recent quake in order to achieve their common objectives. Their strength will be in their unity. Disunity will be fatal.

18. The second Baloch War of Independence poses a moral dilemma for India. The Balochs had stood by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party during the independence struggle against the British. They had opposed the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. If India had to be partitioned, they would have preferred an independent Balochistan. The Balochs were the closest to Gandhi's heart.

19. Due to reasons of realpolitik, we let them down during their first War of Independence. The same realpolitik would dictate painful inaction by us now too. But that does not mean we should hesitate to draw the attention of the international community to the ruthless massacre of the Baloch nationalists by the Pakistan army. We owe our moral support to them. The struggle for an independent Balochistan is part of the unfinished agenda of the Partition.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:


by B.Raman

Foiled in his attempts so far to drive a wedge between the Marri and the Bugti tribes of Balochistan, Pakistan's military dictator President General Pervez Musharraf has ordered not only an intensification of the air strikes against the members of the revolting Marri tribe in the Kohlu and adjoining areas of Balochistan, but also an extension of the ground and air mounted operations against the members of the Bugti tribe in the Dera Bugti and adjoining areas.

2. Apart from rushing army and para-military reinforcements to the Marri and Bugti areas, he has also shifted four more helicopters, hitherto deployed on quake relief work in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), to Balochistan for use against the Marris and the Bugtis. Now, 12 helicopters are being used as gunships to quell the spreading second war of Baloch independence, spearheaded by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). Of these, eight are being used against the Marris and four against the Bugtis. In addition to the use of helicopters, there have been three more air strikes against Marri youth. Representatives of the Balochs have alleged that the helicopters have also been using napalm against Baloch youth.

3. As a result of these intensified operations, the casualties have been mounting. At least 160 Balochs have been killed since December 18, 2005---- 120 Marris and 40 Bugtis. A large number of injured Balochs has been prevented by the security forces from seeking medical assistance. The security forces have shut off electricity and water supply to many Marri and Bugti areas and blamed the BLA for having done so by firing rockets at electricity transmission towers and water supply lines.

4. Musharraf and senior Army officers as well as leaders of the Musharraf-created Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam), which is the only political formation supporting the military action, have denied undertaking any military operations against the Balochs. Instead, they have been projecting it as a law enforcement operation undertaken by the para-military forces against "fararis" (criminal absconders) who, according to Musharraf, have been trying to obstruct the economic development of Balochistan.

5. At the same time, they have also been projecting the operations as directed against the clandestine training camps of the BLA located in Marri territory in the Kohlu area. The army has claimed to have destroyed at least six so-called training camps and says seven more are still functioning.

6. It is learnt that the decision to extend the operations to the Bugti area was taken by Musharraf following an ambush of a convoy of the Frontier Corps in which over 15 para-military personnel were killed. There have been at least two ambushes of security forces convoys in the Marri area too, resulting in the death of about 20 members of the security forces. The Army has imposed an iron curtain in the areas where the war of independence is raging and has not been allowing details of the fighting to be disseminated by the media.

7. Even while projecting the operations as law enforcement action against absconding criminals, the military spokesmen have not denied that the action was provoked by a recent incident in which rockets were fired at a meeting addressed by Musharraf in the Kohlu area. The BLA has denied firing any rockets on Musharraf's public meeting and has accused the Musharraf regime of stage-managing the incident in order to use it as a pretext for ordering air strikes against the Balochs fighting for their independence.

8. Replying to statements made by military spokesmen and some members of the Government that no Government can sit quiet when the head of state is sought to be assassinated by criminal elements, Baloch and other political leaders belonging to the minority communities such as Mr. Afsandyar Wali Khan, the Pashtun leader of the Awami National Party of the North-West Frontier Province, have pointed out that even if the Government's contention was correct, it did not call for air strikes on the Balochs. They have referred to the two attempts to kill Musharraf in December, 2003, and the subsequent attempts to kill Mr. Shaukat Aziz, the present Prime Minister, and the Corps Commander of Karachi in which Punjabis were involved and asked whether Musharraf ordered air strikes against the Punjabis after those incidents.

9. In response to the military operations, the BLA has confined its tactics to guerilla actions directed against train and other means of transport, gas production and pipeline facilities and ambushes of military and para-military convoys. It has avoided a frontal confrontation with the security forces, in which it will be the loser. It has been trying to extend its guerilla operations to Punjab. It has also sought networking with the revolting Shias of Gilgit and Baltistan and the Sindhis, who have been angered by the attempts of Musharraf to force through the implementation of a project for the construction of the much controversial Kalabagh dam. The dam is meant for the benefit of the Pubjabi farmers. The Sindhis are strongly opposing it on the ground that it would reduce the water available for Sindhi farmers.

10. The Baloch nationalist elements have appealed to the international community and the United Nations to take cognisance of the ant-Baloch military operations and force the Army to stop them. They have also appealed to international human rights organisations to send their observers to Balochistan and to have the issue raised before the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva during its forthcoming meeting in February.

11. The Baloch nationalists have assured the international community that an independent Balochistan would put an end to the activities of Al Qaeda and the Taliban from its territory and co-operate with it in the war against international jihadi terrorism. It has also assured the international community that an independent Balochistan would not become another Bangladesh---- a hotbed of Wahabi/Salafi fundamentalism.

12. Pro-Independence Uighur elements based in the West and in Pakistani Punjab have made overtures to the BLA and offered to co-operate with it in a joint freedom-struggle against the Punjabis in Balochistan and the Han Chinese in the Xinjiang region of China. The BLA has not so far accepted this offer since it does not want to be seen as anti-Chinese despite its opposition to the Gwadar project being constructed by the Chinese in Balochistan.

13. Despite this, there is considerable nervousness among Chinese engineers and other experts working in Balochistan. Measures for their physical security have been strengthened by the Pakistani authorities, who had also kept the Chinese informed of their decision to launch air strikes on the Balochs.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:

Army operation in Marri and Bugti area of Balochistan 86 killed 100’s wounded

Army operation in Marri and Bugti area of Balochistan 86 killed 100’s wounded

On 17th December 2005 Pakistani Army launched an army operation against innocent Marri Baloch people throughout Kohlu District, Parts of Dera Bugti, Noshki, Makran Districts and other parts of Balochistan.

More then thirty thousand army personnel twelve Gunship helicopters, four fighter jets, several spy planes of different sizes, heavy artillery and missiles are being used only in Talli, Bambore, Kahan, Jabbar, Nasau, Quat, Mundai and other parts of Marri Area.

Due to ten days of intensive bombing and shelling by army Jets, Gunship Helicopters and heavy artillery at least 86 confirm deaths and more then 120 serious wounded have been reported. Mostly victims are women and young children.

It is time for the Baloch people to unite and stand up against such atrocities by Punjabi Pakistan. Let me remind the international community that it is not the first time that such severe measures have been taken against the Baloch Nation.

Until and unless the Baloch don’t unite and get the help of the international community to put a leash on Pakistani (Punjabi Army) this slaughter of Baloch people will continue.

Pictures of Marri women and children killed in bombing and shelling by Pakistani Army. This shameless Pakistani Army still denies that there is no Army Operation going on in Balochistan.

Take a look at the pictures below they speak for themselves, mutilated bodies of innocent young children who were deprived of all the facilities of modern world and now deprived of their own life, all this destitution to the Baloch is by the tyrant and shameless Punjabi Pakistani Army. By 28.12.05