Balochistan insurgency will extinguish like a damp squib
25 March, 2012
By Asif Haroon Raja
Growth potential of a country devoid of natural resources remains seriously handicapped, but is less vulnerable to foreign intrigues and intervention. Conversely, a country rich in resources remains vulnerable to foreign intervention. Imperialist powers greedily searching for more resources mark the resource rich countries and go to the extent of waging wars in pursuit of their mercantile interests. They feel no compunction in stealing mineral resources of weaker nations incapable of fighting bigger powers. Geostrategic importance of a country/region is another factor which becomes an attraction for expansionist powers with imperialist agenda.
Poverty stricken Balochistan is one such region which has watered the mouths of many adventurers. Not only it is laden with gold, diamonds, silver, chromites, copper, zinc, uranium, marble, onyx, granite, coal, gas and several other carbon resources, it has a 700 km long coastline along Arabian Sea on which strategically important ports like Gwadar, Ormara and Pasni are situated. It is close to Strait of Hormuz through which bulk of oil flows to Japan, China, Europe and beyond. Balochistan provides shortest opening to landlocked Afghanistan with which it shares 1234 km long porous border. It also share border with Iran, which these days has become a target of US-Israel-EU intrigues. CIA is actively employing a Sunni-Iranian terrorist group Jundullah from the soil of Balochistan to destabilize Zahidan and Sistan provinces of Iran.
Right from the rule of Peter the Great and Tsarists, Russia has aspired to reach up to the warm waters of Northern Arabian Sea through Afghanistan and Balochistan so that it could gain access to the mineral resources of Africa and Middle East. Russian southward drive was checkmated by Great Britain north of River Oxus and Afghanistan was made a buffer zone between the two imperialist powers. The British during its rule of India had developed road and rail infrastructure up to Quetta and Chaman in order to launch wars in Afghanistan and to keep Russian southern expansionism at bay. The Great game played between Russia and Britain had been motivated by the desire of gaining political ascendency in the region.
In the aftermath of 2nd World War which gave rise to bi-polar world, economically exhausted Britain had to abandon its colonies in Asia and Africa. Division of Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 and withdrawal of Britain east of Suez gave an opportunity to Soviet Union to enhance its influence in Afghanistan and in India. Its age old yearning for warm waters motivated Soviet leaders to meddle into the affairs of Balochistan and to extend support to the idea of 'Greater Balochistan' during the 1973 insurgency. When it stepped into Afghanistan in December 1979, it had reached closer to the realization of its longstanding dream.
Once the USSR fragmented in 1991 and USA emerged as the sole super power, it hungered for tapped and untapped resources of six former Soviet Muslim Republics of Central Asia that had gained independence. One of the compelling reasons of USA to invade and occupy Afghanistan in November 2001 and to make it its permanent military station was to capture Central Asia's natural resources which are greater than Middle East resources. For the shipment of oil and gas to European and American markets, Gwadar situated along Mekran Coast figured out as the most suitable jump off point within its envisaged energy corridor. Saindak and Riqo Diq projects worth billions of dollars in Balochistan became added attractions. Riqo Diq in Chaghi district has world's largest gold mines. Cancellation of license of Tethyan Copper Company involved in exploration of mineral resources in Riqo Diq at a throw away price by Balochistan government and Supreme Court upholding its decision has caused an uproar among corporate circles.
China's engagement in Saindak project, Gwadar seaport and in other mega projects was another worrying factor to get attracted towards Balochistan. Launching of two major military operations in Helmand Province of Afghanistan by US-UK forces in 2009 and 2011 were aimed at securing a launching pad for future military operation either by Afghan Army backed by ISAF in conjunction with Indian military from the east or singly by ISAF. Or creating a justification to conduct hot pursuit operations inside peaceful belt of Pashtun inhabited Balochistan and disturbing their peace. The other purpose was to gain control over poppy trade in Helmand province and deny the same to Taliban.
Development of Gwadar deep seaport and construction of water dams initiated by Gen Musharraf were aimed at bringing the neglected province into socio-economic mainstream. Gwadar Port by itself had the potential to alleviate the poverty of the province. Commencement of work on several mega projects in Balochistan caused deep resentment to Akbar Bugti and other Sardars as well as to the US harbouring ill designs against Balochistan. The Sardars who had kept their respective tribes in bondage viewed development works in interior Balochistan a threat to their Sardari system. On one hand they aired political and economic grievances and on the other they objected to the mega projects vehemently. They propagated that Gwadar Port would be monopolised by the affluent class from other provinces at the cost of people of Balochistan. Opening of schools and colleges and development of road infrastructure in rural areas was also resented. Anti-development stance contradicted their earlier stance that Balochistan being the biggest province and rich in resources had been kept backward and neglected.
Balochistan ranked highest in the priority list of the targets chosen for subversion by USA and its allies. Taking advantage of the fears of the rebellious Baloch Sardars, the US tempted them and they got easily induced. Massive financial and weapons aid flow coupled with intimate backup support of several world powers made Nawab Akbar Bugti headstrong. He rebuffed all efforts made by the government to arrive at a peaceful political settlement. He had been receiving heavy sums from the government in return for allowing extraction of gas from Sui gas fields and was demanding substantive raise in annual grants. He got miffed when his demand was not accepted on the basis that instead of utilizing the gas royalty and funds for the development of his region, he was pocketing it.
Finding that the government was determined to proceed with uplift programs and was not giving a raise in gas royalty, in consultation with mutinous Sardars of Marri and Mengal tribes and foreign patrons, Akbar Bugti decided to defy the government. In order to create an excuse for picking up arms, he drummed up a case of rape of Dr Shazia employed in Sui Gas Company. Insurgency which was initially kindled in Dera Bugti spread to Sui, Kahan and Kohlu. Subsequently the flames of terrorism reached capital city of Quetta, which received frequent rocket attacks. Terrorists targeted gas pipelines, electric grid stations and pylons, railway lines, security check posts, military convoys, passenger trains and buses. Even the helicopter carrying Gen Musharraf and IGFC was fired at with a missile. Hectic political efforts were made to convince Akbar Bugti to stop violence and to resolve the grievances through political means.
When reconciliatory efforts failed and Akbar Bugti shifted his command HQ to the mountains to oversee the armed insurgency, and the security situation kept deteriorating, a military operation had to be launched in 2006 in the troubled areas of interior Balochistan. Most of the 65 Farari camps established with the help of their foreign patrons were dismantled during the six-month operation. Death of Akbar Bugti in August 2006 further intensified the insurgency, which was supported by RAW, RAAM and Mossad from Afghanistan and CIA and MI-6 from within. Insurgency engulfed other Baloch inhabited regions of Kalat, Turbat, Khuzdar, Panjgur, Pasni, Lasbella, Awaran, Kharan, Machh, Dhadhar, Sibi, Dera Allah Yar, Dera Murad Jamali. The four Indian consulates in southern and eastern Afghanistan became the operating centres for cross border terrorism. India also made use of its consulate in Zahidan to funnel funds, arms and equipment to the rebels.
Once the Baloch insurgency picked up momentum, Indo-US-western propaganda machinery sprung into action. The US media and think tanks started playing up human rights violations against the Baloch in Balochistan. Stories of Balkanization of Pakistan and maps of Balkanized Pakistan kept appearing quite frequently, which were in line with covert plan hatched to separate Balochistan from Pakistan. The US and its allies are least interested in the people of Balochistan. They hate them as much as they hate Muslims living in other regions. Selfish merchant and strategic interests are the only attractions to champion the cause of Balochistan. The anti-poor rebellious Baloch Sardars rolling in money who have enslaved their tribes are their friends.
Despite India's outward wish of peace and friendship, its RAW is still actively involved in the province and the government is in the know of it. Balochistan specific training camps are still functional in Afghanistan. 65 Farari camps in interior Balochistan, each housing 30-40 terrorists, which were dismantled in 2006-07 as a result of a military operation have become functional again as a result of the military returning to barracks and intense censure by the human rights activists, foreign paid NGOs, USA, India, western world and local/foreign media against any proactive action taken by the Army. The FC is now in the firing line and demand for its withdrawal from counter insurgency operations is getting louder.
The self-exiled Baloch Sardars are being mollycoddled and provided hefty amounts of cash and constantly nudged to keep promoting the idea of independent Balochistan. Encouraged by the statements of Brahamdagh Bugti, Harbyar Marri, Dr Wahid Baloch and several other Baloch leaders in exile and section of Pakistani media not only promoting the separatist agenda but also bashing Pak security forces and ISI, three US Republicans moved a highly controversial bill in the Congress which supported the cause of Baloch separatists. The bill has further emboldened anti-Pakistan Baloch Sardars to spew out poison against Pakistan. However, they are not making any headway since the people of Balochistan do not subscribe to their separatist ideas. Their chief supporter USA itself is entangled in Afghanistan and direly needs Pakistan's support to get its troops pulled out safely. Closure of NATO's supply line has put the US on the defensive. As long as NATO supply line remain suspended and initiative remains in the hands of Taliban in Afghanistan, and situation in Strait of Hormuz remains tense, the US can ill-afford to provide overt support to the rebellious Baloch Sardars.
India which is deeply involved in Balochistan is also very keen to promote trade with Pakistan and to make use of land route to Afghanistan and Central Asia through Wagah to expand its business. India knows that sooner than later the ISAF would depart from Afghanistan and India at its own will not be able to twist the arm of Pakistan. Its military limitations together with economic interests would keep India restrained. The Baloch Sardars in exile are conscious of the fact that once the ISAF exits from Afghanistan and Taliban return to power, their sanctuaries in Afghanistan would close and flow of funds and arms from their patrons would also cease. Stoppage of monthly salaries to the Baloch fighters would compel them to come down from the hills and surrender. They also know that common people of Balochistan hate them for keeping the province backward and impoverished and are welcoming the development works and wholesome initiatives taken by the Army and Navy to boost up the poor segment of Baloch.
Under the fast changing geo-political conditions, insurgency in Balochistan which is already on a downward curvature will get extinguished like a damp squib no sooner the US-NATO troops abandon Afghanistan. The Federal and Balochistan governments must however go all out to address the genuine grievances of people of Balochistan and take steps to break the perverse influence of Sardars and Nawabs.
The writer is a freelance columnist.