Balochistan `insurgency ‘and its impact on CPEC

40
0

Shafaqna Pakistan:A dispute arose between Baloch leader Akber Bugti and then government led by Parvez Musharraf. Bugti was killed. How he was killed remains a mystery. But, his death triggered a lingering `insurgency’, with ebbs and flow in foreign support.

However, there is no let-up in global anti-Pakistan propaganda from Dr. Naila Baloch’s `free Balochistan’ office, working in New Delhi since June 23, 2018. When this office was opened many Bharatya Janata Party parliamentarians and India’s Research and Analysis Wing’s officers attended it.

The office was opened in line with Doval Doctrine that aims at fomenting insurgency in Pakistan’s provinces, including Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. `Free Balochistan’ sponsored offensive posters on taxi cabs and buses in Switzerland and Britain. USA has recently outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army. However, earlier, in 2012, a handful of Republican had moved a pro-separatist bill in US Congress. It demanded `the right to self-determination’ and ` opportunity to choose their own status’ for people of Balochistan.

Pakistan caught a serving Indian Navy officer Kalbushan Jhadav (pseudonym Mubarik Ali) to foment insurgency in Balochistan. Indian investigative journalists Karan Thapar and Praveen Swami suggested that he was a serving officer. India’s security czar,

Along with Baloch insurgents, Pushtun Tahafuzz Movement is being backed up by India. In their over-ebullient speeches, PTM’s leaders openly scold Pakistan’s National Security institutions. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations had to warn them `not to cross the red line. Yet, sponsored by Pakistan’s enemies they continued their tirade.  While addressing a rally at Orakzai (April 20, 2019), Pakistan’s prime minister expressed sympathy with Pashtun Tahafuzz Movement demands. But he expressed ennui at anti-army slogans shouted by them. Earlier, Pakistan’s senate’s special committee had patiently heard their demands. PTM voices concerns that are exterior to Pashtoon welfare. For instance, Manzoor Pashteen, in his interview (Herald, May 2018, p.48), berates Pak army operations and extols drone strikes. He says, ‘The army did not eliminate even a single Taliban leader.  All the 87 Taliban commanders killed in the last 18 years were eliminated in drone strikes’. At a PTM meeting in Britain, even Malala Yusafzai’s father (Ziauddin), like His Master’s Voice, echoed anti-army sentiments. He said, “Pakistan army and intelligence agencies knew that Fazalullah was a terrorist who continued to operate radio station in Swat’.

For one thing drone strikes amount to aggression. In an article, David Swanson pointed out that any use of military force, be it a drone attack, amounts to a war. The Kellogg-Briand Pact made war a crime in 1928 and various atrocities became criminal acts at Nuremberg and Tokyo.

Genesis of insurgency: Balochistan has been experiencing an armed insurgency since 2005, when veteran Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti became embroiled in a dispute with then-President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf. The differences initially centered on royalties from natural gas mined in the resource-rich town of Dera Bugti, in northeast Balochistan. Subsequently, the building of military cantonments in Balochistan, and the development of Gwadar port by China, also became reasons for conflict (The Quint, August 26 2017). On August 26, 2006, Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed in a mountainous region of Balochistan; although the Pakistani government denied killing Bugti, Baloch groups blamed the government for his assassination, and thus the armed insurgency was further intensified (Dawn, August 27 2006).

Baloch insurgents allege that the China is a “partner in crime” with Pakistan’s government in looting the natural resources of Balochistan (The Balochistan Post, November 25 2018). In December 2018, Pakistan officials foiled a plan to attack Chinese workers on the East Bay Expressway in Gwadar, seizing weapons and ammunition that Baloch insurgents had stockpiled for that purpose (Samaa Digital, December 6 2018).

The most active separatist groups in Balochistan are Baloch Liberation Army, Balochistan Liberation Front, Baloch Republican Army, and United Baloch Army.

Balochistan separatist groups are divided into two distinct groups. The first group consists of BLF, UBA and BRA, whereas the second group includes Balochistan Liberation Army and Balochistan National Liberation Front

Emergence of BRAS: In the early hours of April 18, a group of militants in southwestern Pakistan blocked the coastal highway that connects the port of Gwadar, near the Iranian border, to Karachi farther east. The militants stopped six buses near a mountain pass and checked the identity cards of all the passengers. They singled out 14 members of Pakistan’s armed forces, and then executed them all. Hours later, a coalition of three Baloch separatist groups, known as Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar, or BRAS, claimed responsibility. The same group had previously owned attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi and a bus of Chinese engineers in the town of Dalbandin, north of Gwadar.

Iran’s woes: Iran worries that Pakistan is allowing Saudi Arabia to use Gwadar as a launching pad to destabilize it. Just as Pakistan accuses Iran of harboring Baloch separatists like BRAS, Iran blames Pakistan for giving sanctuary to militant Sunni Baloch groups such as Jaish al-Adl that have attacked Iranian security forces in Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan province.

Active insurgent groups in Balochistan: Balochistan separatist groups are divided into two distinct groups. One sunni funded by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for attacks in Iran. And the other shia funded by Iran. The main groups are: Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar  (involved in attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi), Baloch Liberation Army, Baloch Liberation Front, , United Baloch Army, Baloch Liberation Tigers, Baloch Nationalists, Baloch Young Tigers, Balochistan Liberation United Front , Balochistan National Army, Lashkar-e-Balochistan, Baloch Republican Party, Baloch Mussalah Diffah Tanzim (Baloch Militant Defense Army), Baloch National Liberation Front, Free Balochistan Army, Baloch Student Organisation, and Baloch Republican Army (BRP). BRP is the political wing of the armed Balochistan Republican Army. However, its central spokesman Sher Mohamad Bugti denies any relation with the BRA.

Strengths and weaknesses: The insurgency draws its sustenance from the popular misconception that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is detrimental to Baloch interests. When completed, it would follow influx of foreigners. They would grab their land, plunder their resources and change their demography.

Infighting is the main weakness of the insurgency. Unable to harm armed forces, the insurgents began “killing fellow Baloch and non-Baloch settlers, and launching attacks against Sindhi and Pashtun citizens.” Infighting became obvious when the Baloch Liberation Army “killed on of its commanders, Ali Sher, and detained four of its freedom fighters” in 2015,

Solution

Seminars need to be held inside the country, instead of in China, to create awareness in gullible masses. Issues relating to royalty should be settled. Economic deprivation of the people should be reduced.

Sardari (chieftain) system is the bane of economic deprivation: Even when the British government had consented to creation of India and Pakistan as independent states, one thing continually badgered Churchill`s mind. It was concern about downtrodden masses who would groan under tyranny of the nawab, wadera and chaudhri, after the Englishman`s exit from the Sub-Continent. Churchill believed that the Englishman`s legacy to the Sub-Continent was a modicum of justice and rule of law.

No-one better knew the psyche of the feudal lords better than the Englishman himself. Loyalty to the British crown was sine qua non of being a protégé of the British raj. After all, the wadera icons were the Englishman`s own creation. Of all the lords, the conduct of late Akber Bugti baffles one`s wits. His father, Mehrab Khan, was given title of `Sir` by the English rulers and allotted land not only in the Punjab but also in the Sindh province. Akber Bugti, former governor of Balochistan (1972), owned houses in Quetta, Sibi, Jacobabad, Kendkot, Sanghar, besides his native house in Dera Bugti along with about 12,000 acres of land.

The wadera in the yesteryears used to be tyrannical only to the inhabitants of their own constituency, not to the whole country. The situation appears to have changed now. Is it justified to aid or abet blowing up of gas pipelines, shooting at army helicopters, dragging the innocent Punjabi from the Punjab-bound buses and shooting them point-blank, looting buses going to the other provinces.

Will killing innocent passengers lead to forced payment of money by the gas companies, in addition to agreed royalty? By no stretch of logic, such a step could be justified. The matter needs a closer pry by the government into the psyche of our Baluch lords. Why Pak army can`t build cantonments on Pak soil?

The grievance appears to stem from the perception that lion`s share of windfall gains from the multi-billion dollar Gwador port and city project will go to affluent and influential non-Baluchi civilians and non-civilians. Well, that issue could be sorted out at talks.

In terms of area, Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan. It covers 43.6 per cent of the country`s total area with only 5 per cent of the total population. It is rich in natural resources. Pakistan`s industrial infrastructure mainly depends on the gas and coal of this province. The gas from Dera Bugti meets 60 per cent of Pakistan`s, mainly Punjab`s, domestic and industrial needs. The province has 200 coal mines, which again meet the industrial requirements of Punjab. The province is rich in marble and mineral wealth which is being explored by foreigners under contracts from the Government of Pakistan. Balochistan benefits from the resources of the other provinces just as the other provinces benefit from the resources of Balochistan. The Nawabs received crores of rupees as royalty for the gas transmitted. They are to be blamed for the backwardness of the province. Why don`t they spend a pittance out of the received money on economic development of the province?

Not long ago, gas pipelines in Dera Bugti, the source of the Sui Gas, were frequently attacked by missiles. The government said the attackers were from  Bugti tribe. The Pakistan government had to detail about 50,000 para-military troops to protect sensitive installations in Dera Bugti.

In the Sui-gas-fields area, Akbar Bugti initially owned no land. In collusion with revenue officials he got 7,000 acres transferred in his name. He has been receiving royalty from two gas companies at the rate of Rs. 14,000/- per acre, to the tune of ten crore rupees annually. But this land was the property of the Kalpar tribe.

In 1992 armed Bugti tribesmen forcefully evicted six thousand Kalpars and Masuri Bugtis and occupied their lands, gardens and houses. These people are wandering hither and thither in different districts.

Conclusion

The PTM’s criticism of Pakistan’s armed forces is not fair. They wrogly defend drone attacks. The UN charter maintained war as a crime, but limited it to an ‘aggressive’ war, and gave immunity to any wars launched with the UN approval. If that is indeed the case, did the UN allow drone attacks on Pakistan? Drone attacks on Pakistan’s territory are a clear violation of the country’s sovereignty as an independent state.  Doubtless `patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’. Lest the PTM is dubbed unpatriotic, it should stick on course. And confine itself to its demands.

The root cause of the problem is the medieval sardari system in Balochistan. This system is responsible for suppression of the common man. This system should be abolished. If the Sardars of today had not been constantly loyal to the Englishman, he would have dis-knighted them.

Not all the nawabs are so malevolent, as our Baluch scions of nawabs.

Nawab of Kalabagh tried to abolish the Sardari system by setting up about 40 police stations in Balochistan. However, General Moosa was averse to the policy. The government should seriously consider such steps as would effectively extend its writ in every nook and corner of Balochistan. The Sardari system must be abolished. Meanwhile, a study should be undertaken to evaluate loyalty and political nuisance of the nawab, sardar, waderas, and their ilk. If the Sardars are not loyal to the national interests, what is the fun of propping them up with government`s patronage? Why not take corrective action to cut them to size?

India should stop stoking up insurgencies in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear armed. There is no reason why they should be toujours at daggers drawn.  Entente may flare up into a nuclear Armageddon. India need to shun jingoism, stop its evil machinations in Pakistan, and solve differences through talks.