187784    1/20/2009 4:30    09KARACHI18    Consulate Karachi    CONFIDENTIAL    08ISLAMABAD3533|08KARACHI339|08KARACHI472    "VZCZCXRO0215 OO RUEHLH RUEHPW DE RUEHKP #0018/01 0200430 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 200430Z JAN 09 FM AMCONSUL KARACHI TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0874 INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 0339 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0200 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 2628 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 4511 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY"    "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KARACHI 000018

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/20/2019 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, PK SUBJECT: TALIBAN INFLUENCE IN BALOCHISTAN

REF: A. A: 08 KARACHI 472 B. B: 08 KARACHI 339 C. C: 08 ISLAMABAD 3533

Classified By: CLASSIFIED BY CONSUL GENERAL STEVE FAKAN FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) and (d).

Summary: --------

1.  (C) An often overlooked element about the presence of the Taliban shura in Quetta, Balochistan, is the ongoing friction between an expanding of Afghan refugees presumed to be Taliban and the fiercely nationalistic Balochis.  The current Pakistan People's Party government is trying to mend fences with the Balochis after years of Musharraf-era military operations against a long-simmering separatist movement (ref C ).  However, many Baloch leaders claim the GOP continues military operations in tandem with support for a growing Taliban presence in Balochistan.  Baloch leaders have a clear political agenda in making these claims, and, so far, provincial leaders insist the Taliban do not possess sufficient influence to threaten provincial authority. However, Balochistan's poverty, illiteracy, and poor health care make it ripe for exploitation by extremists.  As the U.S. examines ways to increase economic and development assistance in Pakistan, Post firmly believes we must expand development programs in Balochistan.

Taliban in Balochistan ----------------------

2.  (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told Post on January 7 that Balochistan's northern districts and the provincial capital Quetta are safe havens for pro-Taliban elements.  XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed with a January 4 public waning by former Senator Sana Baloch about growing Taliban influence in Quetta, adding his theory that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) provides key support to the religious extremists.  XXXXXXXXXXXX pointed out that Quetta is the reputed hiding place of Taliban Leader Mullah Omar.  (Note:  A number of leading Taliban have been found in Balochistan, including former Taliban Defense Minister Obaidullah Akhund, and Taliban commander Abdullah Mehsud.  End comment.)

3.  (C) According to city Nazim (Mayor) Mir Maqbool Ahmed Lehri, Quetta has some ""no go"" areas populated by a large number of illegal Afghan refugees, possibly including Taliban.  The Nazim noted that Pashtun nationalists have opposed city government efforts to register illegal aliens.

Baloch Nationalists Accuse GOP of Supporting Taliban --------------------------------------------- -------

4.  (C) Nationalist leaders in the province tend to see an underlying GOP hand supporting the growth of religious fundamentalism in Balochistan.  Senator Abdul Malik Baloch (National Party) claimed that a large Taliban presence in the province is beginning to infiltrate Baloch dominated areas and affecting the city of Quetta.  The Senator believed the GOP supports the religious fundamentalists as a counterbalance to the more secular Baloch nationalists, some of whom have called for independence from Pakistan.

5.  (C) Usman Kakar, General Secretary of the secular Pashtun-nationalist party Pashtoonkwha Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), insisted that there is a Taliban presence in Quetta. He accused the Pakistan military of providing support for Taliban leaders.  Kakar claimed that many madrassahs in Balochistan, operating with tacit GOP support, provide training to militants to prepare them to conduct terrorist actions in Afghanistan.

Some Officials Confident About Maintaining Control --------------------------------------------- -----

6.  (C) Provincial Minister of Public Health Maulana Abdul Bari (JUI-F) opined that although there are Taliban in Quetta, mainstream religious leaders would keep them in check. This sentiment was echoed by Balochistan Minister for Public Affairs Maulana Abdul Bari Aga, who believed that there might be support for the Taliban in Balochistan, but insisted the group would not be able to undermine law and order in the province.

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Religious Parties Reject Notion of Taliban Infiltration --------------------------------------------- ----------

7.  (C) However, conservative religious leaders downplayed claims of a Taliban presence in Quetta.  Maulana Noor Mohammed, a former National Assembly member and leader of the religious party Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam-F (JUI-F), rejected claims of a Taliban presence in the city.  Maulana Noor Mohammed, a cleric reputedly sympathetic to the Taliban position, denied Taliban presence in Quetta, claiming that the accusation was promulgated by nationalist groups to alarm the public.

8.  (C) Comment: Given its proximity to the Afghan border and the long history of conflict and religious fundamentalism in the area, there is almost certainly a Taliban presence in both northern Balochistan and in its capital city, Quetta. Nonetheless, ethnic bias could exaggerate some accusations and raise the potential for more violent conflict (ref A). The native Baloch have felt increasingly threatened by the growing Pashtun population, many of whom are refugees from Afghanistan or northern Pakistan.  Tribal leaders in the tightly knit Baloch society have vigorously resisted any usurpation of their authority by outsiders, especially Pashtuns.  This could make it particularly difficult for relatively new groups, like the Taliban, to consolidate any control in the province.

9.  (C) Secular Baloch-nationalists have repeatedly accused the GOP of supporting Pashtun religious extremists to counter their often violent struggle for autonomy and control over natural resources (ref B).  Ultimately, countering their influence among Balochistan's impoverished and largely illiterate population will require significant improvements in health care, education and economic opportunities.  End Comment. FAKAN "