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The dynamics of a crisis


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The recent decision by the Supreme Court to investigate the state of governance in Balochistan has once again put the spotlight on Pakistan’s longest running insurgency which also continues to be the biggest headache for the country’s security establishment.

Over the years, the insurgents’ ranks have swelled, as increasing numbers of Baloch political leaders have opted from the mainstream politics towards the nationalists’ side. Increasingly, they have little choice as the insurgents say whoever is not with them is against them and that call has been gathering massive public support in the province evoking sentiments that no politician can ignore.

Balochistan’s geographical location has always made it a strategically important pivot for the region. Its coastline runs up to the Iranian border — ending just before the straits of Hormuz through which pass a good 30 per cent of the world’s oil supply. It shares borders with Iran and Afghanistan.

Nato officials have consistently stated that Balochistan is the main centre of Taliban recruitment and training and that the Taliban high council — the fabled Quetta Shura — operate out of the provincial capital. Additionally, Iran also accuses Sunni militants’ group, Jundullah, of carrying out a series of bomb attacks in the neighbouring Sistan-Zahedan province.

Added to that is the growth of sectarian militancy across the province — with the Shia Hazara community of Quetta increasingly being the main target.

The increase in militant groups has also led to an increase in general crimes such as kidnapping for ransom and extortion, as criminal gangs take advantage of the growing lawlessness.

This presents a multidimensional threat to the local population, which increasingly feel to have been left alone as the security forces concentrate on controlling the nationalist insurgents.

The Supreme Court also started an investigation into the excesses committed by the security forces during their ongoing operation against militants in the province. While this heavy-handed approach has definitely exacerbated the problem — the inability of Pakistan’s political elite to come up with a viable alternative has lent strength to the military’s model.

There has been talk of dialogue and political rehabilitation of those who have taken up arms, but little work has been done on the ground to make this possible. At the moment the situation seems to be fixed in a state of bloodletting, with neither side prepared to talk but depending on increasingly brutal tactics to win what now many call Pakistan’s ‘dirty war’.

Both the sides appear unwilling to break this deadlock. The state says external forces (read India and in some cases the US) are using the insurgents to punish Pakistan, while the insurgents — while never denying this allegation — say they have burnt their bridges with Pakistan and the only road for them leads to full independence. In such a situation, there is no easy or quick fix solution to the problem.

Probably the last real effort was made in 2004, when Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain Syed met with Nawab Akbar Bugti in Dera Bugti.

“Nawab Bugti’s murder was a turning point for the movement,” says Maqbool Baloch, a young nationalist from Quetta. “After that there was no turning back for us.” Maqbool is a resident of New Marri Camp — a Baloch settlement just outside Quetta. Despite being nearly two decades old, it has no running water, gas or electricity — all available across the road.

Another major game changer that has led to this situation was the construction of the Gwadar port. The construction of another port near the Straits was always going to be an international political concern. Added to that is it’s potential to supply energy from Central Asia. But suspicions were raised in western capitals — particularly Washington — with the involvement of China in the port.

In this scenario the government has pressed on with its initiatives; the chief amongst which was the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan package. Although it has achieved general consensus amongst the leading political parties, it has found few takers in Quetta.

The package included a basic three-point agenda, divided as confidence building measures, doables and strategic issues. The government insists that most of the work has been completed but for the common Baloch it is all too irrelevant.

“The question at the moment in Balochistan is of fundamental rights,” says Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director of the international Human Rights Watch organisation. “For there to be any viable solution, first of all both the parties need to stop waging war on each other and come to the negotiating table. Both have committed excesses, and especially all political activists or people arrested due to political reasons need to be produced in court.”

“The situation in Balochistan is a failure of both the administrative and judicial authorities and with the coming elections, the first task would be to convince the nationalists to participate in that process which would be a huge step forward,” he adds.

At the moment the nationalists appear in no mind to take such a step — militant insurgent leaders have already warned of dire consequences for any Baloch who takes part in the political process.

“We regard anyone who talks to Pakistan as an enemy,” says Maqbool and adds, “We are now ideologically of the view that we no longer want to be part of Pakistan and we are prepared to fight till death to achieve this. We will not stop this struggle no matter how many of our people they kill — or whatever incentives they offer us.”

Comments (9) Closed

MOHAMMAD Dec 17, 2012 03:33am
excellent waleeed bhai. really impressive. you are really sincere to balochs and PAKISTAN. ISLAM teaches forgiveness and handshake, not division. QURAN SAYS" HOLD FAST THE ROPE OF ALLAH AND DO NOT CREATE DIVISION''(near translation.) so please let us all work for unity, country, people and like that obey the orders of ALLAH.
Waleed Ikram Dec 16, 2012 12:08pm
The history of Islam is full of events where forgiveness lead to the rise of nations. Our prophet Muhammad forgave the people who had pushed him out of his own city and had murdered a lot of his followers and also his uncle Hazrat Hamza, when he conquered Makkah. We now have the example of South Africa where the leader of the blacks, Nelson Mandela choose the way of forgiveness and avoided a major bloodshed and destruction of an entire generation. The whites and the blacks are all thankful to this great leader who spent 27 years in jail and still forgave for the sake of his country. Our leaders whether in Islamabad or in any other area including Balouchistan should open up their eyes and take decisions which can take us forward in a respectable manner. No one can just blame the other for the mess we are in. The leaders of Balouchistan are fully responsible as are the leaders in Islamabad for the poverty and illiteracy in Balouchistan. These leaders have never really put an effort for the upliftment of their people. Forgiveness needs courage and only real men have courage. The leaders of Balouchistan should show courage as this will InshaAllah take their people to progress and development. "Divided we Fall United we Stand" The ordinary people whether they are living in Balouchistan, Sindh, Punjab etc all love each other and that is the reason that whenever there is a calamity we help each other. We pray that we see in our lifetime a real leader who will bring us all together Ameen
Keti Zilgish Dec 17, 2012 02:44am
All governments (states) are meant to take from the poor and give to the rich and any intellectual who ventures to teach the poor otherwise is a traitor to their interests which can be protected only by the organization of the poor.
MOHAMMAD Dec 17, 2012 03:39am
division bears no fruits. we have seen in islamic history that division is a big problem. unity is the best solution. FORGIVENESS IS THE GODLY QUALITY OF A GOOD MUSLIM. GOD ALSO FORGIVES. if finally THE GOVT OF PAKISTAN IS READY TO EXTEND HAND FOR HANDSHAKE BALOCHS SHOULD ACCEPT IT WHOLE HEARTEDLY. baloch leaders should be GOING above personel gains, BECAUSE ALLAH WANTS UNITY NOT DIVISION.ALLAH IS WATCHING US ALL.. we need to be sincere to balochs and PAKISTAN. ISLAM teaches forgiveness and handshake, not division. QURAN SAYS" HOLD FAST THE ROPE OF ALLAH AND DO NOT CREATE DIVISION''(near translation.) so please let us all work for unity, country, people and like that obey the orders of ALLAH.
HM Dec 17, 2012 12:12am
Every effort big or small is met with suspicion by the baloch leaders. See the Sandak , Gwader or other projects. If Baluchistan develops their(baloch leaders) kingship is gone.... that's the problem.
Yogesh Dec 16, 2012 07:16am
This is a grave problem for Pakistan. Somehow the deadlock has to be broken. The way to do it should be to develop the region, get local people jobs, open schools, colleges, develop the energy sector and get companies to open plants, offices, roads etc This will give confidence to the local people. Immediately put law and order in place - unbiased and true. Politicians should be put to account for this state to ensure exploitation and corruption minimal. Pakistan needs untainted and trustworthy politicians, dismantle any terrorist groups if they exist. I am sure things will change ....... after this the rebels should calm down for discussions on way forward. Tough to implement these suggestions however there is no other way ......
Saleem Dec 16, 2012 06:28pm
we are not going to forgive you and you cannot call yourselves Muslims....
Aht Dec 16, 2012 07:23am
Our lovely democracy Government is responsible of this issue...
Reality Check Please? Dec 16, 2012 07:25am
The reason it continues to be an issue is the failure of the democratic forces to engage the residents of Balochistan in a meaningfull and genuine way.....