A Balochistan Reader

[With so much bullshit out there and people sticking their heads up Rehman Malik’s rectum and speaking FC tongue, I just want to post a few articles from (mostly) mainstream press that I came across recently that do give a bit clearer picture about the situation in Balochistan….(And no — it is not the “Sardars” or “RAW” that is responsible for the mess) I am intentionally picking articles that in no way can be brushed aside as biased as none of these are by “Baloch Nationalists” (or even Baloch). In fact they are anything but…]

Balochistan: Pakistan’s broken mirror

Baloch children hold up nationalist posters. Photographs by Asim Hafeez for The National

Islamabad’s brutal attempts to crush ethnic Baloch nationalism have met with fierce, escalating resistance – and have laid bare the strains that threaten the founding idea of Pakistan. Madiha R Tahir reports from the rallies, homes and hospital rooms of the fifth Baloch rebellion.

A child is fiddling with a poster of a mustachioed man, a missing political worker who may be his father or his uncle, and who is in all likelihood, dead. He draws my immediate attention, this child, because out of the thousands seated around him in row upon neat row inside the open-air tent, he is the only one not focused on the stage, the blazing lights, the young man holding forth in angry punctuated bellows.

“I am not a friend of Pakistan!” Zahid Baloch bangs the podium to emphasise his point, his countenance flushed, severe. “I am not a friend of the People’s Party!” He bangs the podium again, and the evening air swells with the ferocious stillness of his audience, tense and alert like a taut muscle.

Two days earlier, on January 15, the Pakistan army’s Frontier Corps had opened fire on a student protest in south-eastern Balochistan, killing two students and injuring four more – the latest casualties in an escalating war between the state of Pakistan and nationalists in Balochistan, the country’s largest and most sparsely populated province, where the fifth sustained rebellion against Islamabad since 1948 is seething.

A motorcyclist rides past graffiti in a Baloch neighbourhood in Karachi, Pakistan. A famous quote from Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, it reads: “Freedom needs patriots instead of voters”

Zahid is the secretary-general of the largest student movement in Balochistan, a fierce opponent of the central government and the more mainstream Baloch parties. At this twilight gathering in Lyari, home to a sizeable Baloch community, he delivers a verbal blow to the waffling nationalist parties. “The Baloch are the enemy of the National Party! The Baloch are the enemy of the BNP-Mengal!” The crowd has heard itself affirmed. Wild applause erupts, a release.

The next speaker is Abdul Wahab Baloch, the scruffy and soft-spoken, white-bearded head of the Baloch Rights Council. Midway through his talk, he switches abruptly from Balochi into Urdu. “Tonight, we have a foreign journalist among us who is here to report the Baloch cause, and we welcome her.”

I turn around to hunt for a foreign face, eager to find another female journalist – and find the crowd watching me. The realisation blooms. Oh. You mean me. Here in Karachi, the city of my birth, I am suddenly a foreigner. I wave nervously, unsure of how to respond. How many among the crowd will talk to me when they realise I am a Punjabi, the politically and numerically dominant group in Pakistan, and the eternal target of Baloch nationalist ire?
Karachi residents sit near a wall painted with the Balochistan Liberation Army flag and a poster of the assassinated nationalist and tribal leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.

A caterwauling rises up from the semidarkness, and then a rallying cry. “Pakistan murdabad!” “Die Pakistan!”

Outside, my taxi driver has been waiting uncomfortably, ringing my phone every so often as darkness descends in a plea to hurry it up. He is an ethnic Pashtun: the two groups have an uneasy peace, and Lyari, a large ghetto with a million residents, is nowhere to be after dark. As I get into the car, he asks, “Everything done?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” He sounds relieved that I will not be directing him elsewhere. “Let’s get out of here.”

Nearly half of Pakistan’s land mass, Balochistan is a voluminous desert, a bone-dry expanse unfurling into sinuous cliffs set on a rilled desert floor. In the south along the Makran coast, weathered Baloch fishermen extract their livelihood from the coruscating waters of the Arabian Sea. Further inward, sheer bluffs give way to date palm groves and patches of green farm.
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A portrait of Nawab Khair Baksh Marri adorns a wall in Karachi’s Baloch district.

To the west and north, the province is bounded by Afghanistan and Iran, each of which has its own Baloch population; the Pashtuns who predominate in the northern part of the province also spill across international borders. The province’s location at this explosive geopolitical crossroads – as well as its vast mineral resources and valuable coastline – have focused the anxieties of international powers near and far, suggesting that a new Great Game may take Balochistan as its target. Tehran worries about what conflicts in Balochistan will mean for its own Sistan-Balochistan province, whose Baloch population has been brutally suppressed by the state. The Americans are concerned about the Taliban who have taken refuge in the province’s Pashtun belt and the leaders of the Afghan Taliban long believed to be operating out of Quetta. Washington is also concerned about China’s increasing involvement in the area, most visibly the deep-water port at Gwadar, built with Chinese investment and intended to provide an Indian Ocean foothold for Beijing.

But for the government of Pakistan – and particularly for its army – Balochistan is first and foremost the epicentre of a stubbornly secular Baloch national rebellion whose endurance poses a threat to the state’s ideological and geographical coherence.

Balochistan is a looking glass for Pakistan today, reflecting the tortuous struggle to imagine a national community. How the state handles the rising tide of Baloch nationalism will also determine the future of Pakistan’s nationalist project.
Posters of martyred Baloch leaders on display in a local electrical repair store.

So far the tidings are poor. Over the course of six decades Islamabad has failed to come to terms with Baloch nationalism; the province has almost always been under the effective control of the army or the intelligence services. During the 1970s and the 1980s, the threat of secular Baloch nationalism provided one rationale for the Islamicisation policies of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Zia ul Haq, who hoped that a resurgence of Islamist-nationalist sentiment would undermine the appeal of Baloch nationalism. Ironically, the government routinely attempts to discredit the Baloch separatists internationally by associating them with the Taliban. More recent reports have alleged that American funds intended for use against the Taliban have been diverted to the war on Balochistan’s secular militants.

Before its accession to Pakistan, parts of modern-day Balochistan were ruled by the British; other parts comprised the princely state of Kalat. As Pakistani nationalism crystallised around the idea of a homeland for a religious minority, Baloch nationalists stressed their ethnic identity as the basis for an independent state. They cast Pakistani nationalism, underwritten by religion, as a ruse for Punjabi dominance, but under pressure, the Khan of Kalat acceded in March 1948, triggering the “first rebellion”, which was quickly put down by the army. Two more rebellions rose up in the 1950s and 1960s, paving the way for the bloody confrontation that stretched from 1973 to 1977, pitting some 55,000 Baloch against more than 80,000 Pakistani troops. Hundreds of Pakistani soldiers and 5,000 Baloch died before the insurgency was finally suppressed. One of its initial leaders was the militant nationalist and sardar, Nawab Khair Baksh Marri.

When I go to meet Marri in his Karachi home, a man carrying the most enormous brown rooster swings the gate open and tells me to wait. As we head down the garden path, I hear more roosters crowing; Marri is well-known as a lover of cockfighting. A line of men sit in the neat garden, huddled in quiet conversation. Marri is seated in the veranda wearing an impeccable Baloch-styled peach salwaar kameez and Baloch cap listening attentively to a man with a bright turquoise ring and a peak cap. They’re speaking in Balochi flecked with English; the occasional word or phrase can be overheard: “ideology”, “human rights”, “NGOs”.

Marri was an apolitical youth, but he was radicalised by the army’s merciless campaign to put down the “second rebellion” in 1958; he emerged from several prison stints as a Marxist-Leninist and a hardline nationalist who rejected Baloch participation in parliamentary politics. “The rules are theirs, so you can’t win a match,” he tells me. In his telling, the very structure of the state is illegitimate: “We were Muslims already,” he says. “We were Baloch already. The British grouped all the conquered people together [into Pakistan]. That’s not a justification: grouping people together just for being Muslims.”

Marri has been linked to the ongoing armed struggle, and his Moscow-educated son, Mir Balaach Marri, was killed as he waged guerrilla warfare in 2007. His son’s death spurred Marri, usually reclusive, to argue more publicly for Baloch independence, but his manner remains deceptively soft, like a knife cloaked in silk. The Baloch, he says, can draw inspiration from the Vietnamese resistance to America: “Vietnam wasn’t an atomic power,” he concludes. “That’s why we have to do the same thing: Punjabi sons will die.”

Though the stakes today are higher than ever, most of the Baloch grievances are now decades-old. The province, whose gas reserves are among the largest in Asia, accounts for half of the country’s gas production, with the lion’s share forcibly exported to Punjab. Balochistan’s resources produce roughly a billion dollars annually for the central government; the Balochis receive pennies in return. The local population remains gut-wrenchingly poor, living in sparse shanty towns with little in the way of infrastructure outside of multiplying army encampments – only one reason why local discontent, especially among young Baloch, has found its outlet in increasingly militant Baloch separatism.

During the tenure of General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in 1999, the army again took a leading role in the administration of the province, and the government proceeded apace with the construction of army garrisons and other mega-projects that the Baloch regarded as inimical or irrelevant to local interests, like the massive Chinese-funded port at Gwadar. These became targets for attacks by guerrilla groups like the Baloch Liberation Army.

The “fifth rebellion” began in earnest in 2004, and grew more intense after the rape of a Baloch doctor who worked at the province’s largest gasfields. After the army refused to allow the police to interrogate the suspects, one of whom was an army officer, massive protests erupted, led by the ageing nationalist and tribal leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.

“Don’t push us,” Musharraf warned Baloch militants during an interview in January 2005. “It isn’t the 1970s when you can hit and run and hide in the mountains. This time, you won’t even know what hit you.”

Bugti, who once worked with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to oust more hard-line rivals from the provincial government, went underground to lead an insurgency with 5,000 of his tribesmen. Helicopter gunships pounded Bugti’s tribal areas, and on the morning of August 26 2006, the snow-bearded Bugti was killed while hiding in a cave in Kohlu. Islamabad hoped that this would be the final blow, but it gravely miscalculated. Rioters burst onto the streets, burning cars and smashing windows in the immediate aftermath. Shopkeepers went on strike. The central government deployed the paramilitary Rangers, arrested over 450 people and imposed an indefinite curfew, but the violence spread to Baloch neighbourhoods in Karachi where protesters rallied and burnt tires. The assassination was roundly condemned as a major political blunder. Bugti was, after all, a leader who had been open to dialogue with the state. His death provided yet another blood-soaked example to consolidate Baloch nationalism and awaken younger Baloch to the futility of dialogue.

I arrived in Quetta on a crisp January afternoon to join a throng of camera crews crowded on circular embankment to film a Balochistan National Party rally making its way down the city’s main artery.

A few thousand men – I saw no women either among the journalists or the protesters – marched purposefully, dressed in Baloch wear and light jackets, while policemen stood by, batons in hand. The BNP has traditionally participated in electoral politics, and its focus has been on greater autonomy for Balochistan and local control of natural resources; its willingness to work within the Pakistani system has brought the inevitable accusations of treachery and opportunism from more militant nationalist factions. But the intransigence of the central government seems to have alienated even the more moderate members of the BNP: when I scrambled off the concrete island to walk alongside four of the young protesters, they evinced little appetite for elections or compromises.

“They killed the Baloch! They’re trying to spread fear!” a young student named Tauqir Ahmed tells me loudly. A hopeful fuzz lines his upper lip. He keeps his eyes on the road as he talks, moving in quick strides. “They should know that we prefer to be killed than to put our heads down!” Ahmed is suffused with his own certainty, a self-conscious bravado animating his words. “They think they can just kill us. Now we’ll show them what a Baloch is!” And then as though he’s decided he must declare this to someone down the road tout de suite, his pace quickens. His friends, invigorated by their comrade’s words, and not to be outdone, bruise the air with their fists, swell expansively and shout: “Pakistan murdabad!” Other men and other boys roll past repeating the slogan, throwing it back to the crowd, holding it aloft in the air.

In the week preceding this march, targeted killings in Karachi neighbourhoods, including Lyari, have claimed the lives of 27 Baloch. Raids conducted by the police to “clean up” Lyari fanned the flames even further, leading to massive demonstrations by local Baloch. The neighbourhood had traditionally been a stronghold of the Bhutto family’s Pakistan People’s Party, but it has increasingly come under the sway of Baloch parties, who have been working hard since Bugti’s murder to inculcate ethnic nationalist sentiment – and thereby connect the Baloch scattered across the country into one force. That the murders in Karachi are being protested in Quetta is one sign that they have been successful.

Three days after this march, the Frontier Corps opened fire on students in Khuzdar – sparking the protest led by Zahid Baloch that I attended in Lyari.

When I spoke to the organiser of the Quetta protest, a BNP leader named Akhtar Hussein Langau – who held a seat in the Balochistan Assembly until he resigned after Bugti’s assassination in 2006 – he pointed to the army presence as a principal cause of the alienation young Baloch feel from the state of Pakistan. “We asked them to stop building the army cantonments and they wouldn’t,” he told me over tea shortly before the rally, “but they had no problem killing [Bugti].” Four army cantonments exist in Balochistan and Islamabad is planning several more. Most of these are not where the Taliban roam, but in Baloch lands that are resource-rich and seething with rebellion. Pakistan’s Air Force has six bases here; the Navy has three. And hundreds of checkpoints dot the province. “The ground reality,” asserts Langau, “is that all of Balochistan is a cantonment.”

In November, Islamabad offered to halt construction as part of a deal intended to tamp down the insurgency: touted as a historic concession, the offer outlined constitutional, administrative and political reforms for Balochistan, as well as an inquiry into Bugti’s killing, a promise for fair dividends, and the immediate release of missing political workers. The package was tabled in Parliament on November 24, but by the end of the day all the major Baloch parties had rejected it.

Islamabad’s approach is marred by inconsistency, partly because the civilian government has little to no control over the army establishment: while the state rolled out its proposed reforms, the army continued to disappear Baloch activists. Sangat Sana Baloch, a 28-year-old, was abducted only two weeks after the reform offer was announced. He had been active in the BSO as a student, and then joined the Baloch Republican Party, headed by a militant grandson of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. He was picked up while driving into Quetta. “They had blocked the road,” his father tells me with a face crumpling into sorrow. “They were waiting for him.”

The police have refused to register Sana’s case. “They’re scared and they don’t have the nerve,” his father says. In the absence of police reports, family members file constitutional petitions in the provincial high court asking a judge to take notice. Amnesty International documented at least 600 disappearances two years ago; Baloch activists now claim nearly 6,000.

“This government doesn’t want to admit that the Baloch are human,” says Chakar Qambrani, a BRP activist who was abducted in February 2008 and held for six months and 10 days. We sit on the carpeted floor of Qambrani’s living room, an electric heater glowing orange in a corner as he recounts his time in an underground cell and the savage beatings inflicted on him after his torturers had stripped him naked. “They would curse me and they would hit me with their hands, with leather straps and with sticks. Then they would start interrogating me about my party, who gives us money, why we go on strikes.”

Outside the Quetta Press Club, a group called Voice for Missing Baloch has set up a protest camp to call attention to the disappearances; a banner with bold red lettering hangs over the entrance: “UN Should Take Notice Against Illegal Abduction of Baloch Missing Persons By Intelligence Agencies.” Oversized photographs of disappeared men line the walls of the cloth tent, which was pitched by families of the missing men in late December; dozens gather here every day to hold vigil. “They claim we have courts, but the point is, we have no rule of law,” the group’s chairman, Nasrullah Baloch, tells me outside the tent. “If the agencies really think that these people have done something, then try them in court. Otherwise, what’s the point of having courts?” He adds laconically, “Just end them.”

In Tump, on the border with Iran south of Quetta, I meet Banok Karima Baloch, a 26-year-old student activist who has faced several cases in the antiterrorism courts; she was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in absentia last year. “They claim that people are free, but that’s not true… Even students who speak against them have had cases registered in the antiterrorism court.”

Karima is light-eyed and apricot cheeked, a member of the BSO central committee and the daughter of a solidly middle-class doctor. When the court demanded that she present herself, she refused. “The agencies disappear thousands,” she says, “and even if they present them in court, [the court] never bothers to ask what happened.”

Karima has suspended her studies to focus on activism. She explains that women have been compelled to take on a public role because their husbands and brothers have been abducted, but admits that she likes her work. I ask what will happen once the nationalist struggle is over. Will the women return home? Will she? “In Baloch tradition, women are respected,” she counters, hedging. “We get educated as much as the men.”

On the subject of tactics, however, she pulls no punches. “The ones who talk about autonomy and rights,” she says, referring to the mainstream nationalist parties, “have a different vision and different goal from those of us who want freedom.” For her, resistance is the only possible step. She notes succinctly, “You can’t get freedom through talk.”
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Islamabad’s feckless, incoherent policies have amplified a strident Baloch nationalism, and even the most pliable Baloch nationalist parties are feeling pressure from young activists. These nationalists have lost faith in Pakistani overtures; the hardliners among them now view any effort at reconciliation as a ploy to muffle and then quash this resurgent Baloch nationalism.

For the next generation, the only significant question is how soon Balochistan will become independent – which they now regard as the only way to preserve a distinct Baloch identity. To protect this “imagined community”, militant nationalists are willing to kill and to die. As a young, wiry activist, Abdul Qayyum Baloch, put it to me in a callow remark: “It’s just as well when they disappear and shoot people. It needs to happen, so more Baloch recognise the true nature of Pakistan.”

A day after the murder of the students in Khuzdar, the BLA launched its retaliation, killing three Punjabis in Balochistan. Rather than religion, which draws the lion’s share of attention when analysts contemplate Pakistan’s coherence, these increasingly strident ethnic divisions pose the greatest problem for the government – which cannot seem to evoke a sense of Pakistani nationhood broad enough to encompass them.

“What is Pakistan?” Qayyum asked me. “I understand Sindhis, Baloch, but Pakistani?” The question of Balochistan, it seems, is really a question about Pakistan itself.

The pressures of the American war, and its overriding obsession with the Taliban, seem likely to direct Pakistan only toward unsavory answers to those questions. The billions of dollars sent to Pakistan’s army by the United States have reinforced what may be the nation’s most long-lasting problem: the dominance of a military establishment that knows no language but force, and pursues the cause of Pakistani nationalism by bludgeoning and disappearing its own citizens. Ironically, the abuses of the US-funded army – which heighten ethnic discontent and delegitimize a broad and secular Pakistani nationalism – are the thing most likely to bring the Islamists that Washington fears so to power.

When I returned to Karachi, I visited Liaquat Kurd, who had been shot by the Frontier Corps in Khuzdar, and was now recuperating in a hospital bed – a film of sweat on his round face, instruments monitoring his heart rate as blood mixed with a yellowish liquid soaked through the bandaged stump of his left leg. “When they told me they had to amputate, I said just give me poison,” he recalls.

After Kurd was shot, the FC continued its rampage. Kurd’s friends dumped him in a graveyard promising they would return. Strangers found him an hour later and took him to the local hospital, which was ill-equipped to handle his wounds. By the time Kurd arrived, by road, in Karachi, too much time had lapsed: the nerves in his leg were destroyed. I asked him whether he would continue with his activism. “When you close all paths,” he said, “the youth will either leave politics or pick up a gun. Those are the only two options.”

Later I went to meet Jamil Bugti, the son of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, at his home in Karachi. I asked him who were the heirs to the towering political figures who led the Baloch nationalist movement in its earlier days. “The next generation is all in the mountains,” he replied, “And they’re not willing to talk to anyone. People like me, and others, like the different nationalist parties that are in Parliament, they don’t have any role to play. They look very good on TV. That’s about it.”

Madiha R Tahir is a freelance journalist reporting on international conflicts and currently based in Pakistan.

Two extremes digging in their heels

On the Baloch side, the armed radicals are bent on intimidating, perhaps even eliminating, moderate voices, making the possibility of a compromise with the state that much more distant. — Photo by AFP

By Cyril Almeida
Saturday, 24 Jul, 2010
ISLAMABAD: The killing of Habib Jalib Baloch on July 15 has sent a wave of concern across Balochistan and Islamabad that the insurgency in the province has entered a dangerous new phase.

 

Mr Jalib was the secretary general of the Balochistan National Party led by Akhtar Mengal, a moderate party considered to be secular, middle class and at a remove from the oppressive sardari system that dominates politics in the province.

While publicly Mr Jalib’s death has been blamed by Baloch leaders on the intelligence agencies, there is growing concern in the ranks of some nationalist groups that hard-line Baloch separatists may be eliminating those willing to work inside the Pakistani federation.

“We are in a very difficult position,” Senator Hasil Bizenjo of the NP said. “The message to us is that people talking about nationalist politics, about staying within the federation, will not be spared.”

According to Mr Bizenjo, the BNP-M and NP are viewed as collaborators by the separatist forces. “They (the hardliners) say, ‘We are being killed by the ISI and you people are working for them.’ ”

The killings — Mr Jalib was the third former BSO chairman and one of a dozen Baloch leaders killed in the last three years — raise a more fundamental question: why is the cycle of violence still continuing in Balochistan?

While the violence is down from the 2005-2008 peak period, the Pakistani state and parts of the Baloch population are undeniably still locked in conflict.

In a series of conversations with Dawn, senior government and army officials and Baloch representatives attempted to explain why, in their view, a conflict that has claimed between 500 and 1,500 lives since 2001 continues today.

Foremost is the issue of missing persons.

Estimates vary wildly: the Baloch claim thousands of fellow citizens are missing; rights groups like the HRCP suggest a figure in the low hundreds; the army acknowledges no more than a few dozen missing. Yet, it isn’t necessarily the detentions per se but the lack of information about the detainees that makes the missing-persons issue so incendiary.

“We asked them (the army) to do two things. One, produce all the missing persons in court and file charges against them. Two, allow the families to meet them,” according to Hasil Bizenjo.

A senior federal minister involved in discussions concerning Balochistan concurred: “We weren’t even asking to set them free. But they (the army) weren’t willing to listen because they considered them (the missing persons) to be treasonous. We said, they may have done things they need to be punished for, but they are still Pakistanis and we have to treat them as such.”

Army officers deny the charge. A high-ranking officer claimed that comprehensive internal investigations have been conducted: “We’ve looked and we haven’t found anything. It’s a myth, one of those unfortunate consequences of this situation.”

The army does admit nearly 30 suspects are in the custody of agencies such as the ISI, MI and Corps Intelligence and are being investigated by Joint Investigation Teams. In addition, senior officers admit some of the missing have been killed in encounters.

Beyond that, high-ranking officers claim they are ready to investigate any and every case of alleged disappearances brought to their attention.

That does not cut ice with rights groups.

Ali Dayan Hasan of the Human Rights Watch says, “It’s the state’s responsibility to protect its people. If the families are claiming people are missing, then the MI should prove that they aren’t. Find these people and show us where they are.”

Part of the problem, according to Hasil Bizenjo, is that the army does not understand the impact of missing persons. “Balochistan is a backward society. If you pick up a boy from a village, you make an enemy of the entire village.”

The depth of anger over the missing persons can be gauged from the fact that it has dislodged as the central complaint the decades-old grievance of the Baloch: that the province’s gas and mineral riches have been exploited by the Pakistani state.

No one, not even army officers, denies that reality.

Referring to the disparity in the gas price offered to Balochistan and the other provinces, Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Naveed Qamar explained: “There was definitely an anomaly in pricing. Sui was discovered in the mid ’50s and the subsequent increases in the price were made using the original price as a benchmark. Qadirpur (in Sindh) was priced using the benchmark of international oil prices. That doesn’t justify it, though. It was wrong.”

However, Mr Qamar disputes the notion the centre is still exploiting Balochistan’s resources: “Over the last 18 months, significant change has come about. We’ve fixed the gas-price anomaly to a large extent. Rikodiq (where large reserves of gold and copper are reported to exist) has been handed over to the provincial government and Saindak will be soon.”

Even so, perceptions about the intentions of the army and ‘centrist’ bureaucrats in Islamabad linger.

“It’s about greed. They want Balochistan’s resources to create prosperity in the other provinces,” claimed Syeda Abida Hussain, co-founder with her husband, Fakhar Imam, of the Friends of Baloch and Balochistan.

“It’s no longer about the resource-sharing at present. It’s about the potential,” Naveed Qamar suggested. “Balochistan contributes 17 or 18 per cent of gas today to Pakistan’s needs, but the vast resources that are still untapped because of the security situation, that is the real prize.”

The Baloch look no further for modern-day proof of the Pakistani state’s intention to ‘colonise’ Balochistan than the port at Gwadar. “There are these beautiful, paved boulevards in the port area. And right outside the poverty of the Baloch is shocking,” said Sanaullah Baloch, a former BNP-M senator. “Gwadar has nothing to do with concern for the Baloch.”

If the Baloch, army and government do agree on one thing, it is that a great deal of the blame for the violence continuing must be shouldered by the Balochistan government.

The February 2008 provincial elections were boycotted by the moderate Baloch parties such as the BNP-M and NP, an “unintended consequence that we didn’t understand at the time”, according to a senior army official, and which “the province is paying for”.

The provincial government is widely perceived to be epically corrupt and monumentally inefficient. That has real consequences.

For one, it allows the army to deflect attention from the heavy-handedness of the Frontier Corps, which is still tasked with law and order duties. Practically speaking, it becomes difficult to debate the withdrawal of the FC, a major demand of the Baloch, when the police are incapable of establishing even a modicum of law and order.

The provincial government’s incompetence also impacts on the possibility of winning over disaffected Baloch. “They’ve got all this extra money,” Naveed Qamar said referring to the Rs12 billion of new resources-related payments to the province, “but will it make its way to the people? That’s a big question mark.”

Another commonality among the Baloch, government officials and army officers spoken to: none were optimistic the violence will abate soon.

In fact, many suggested the two extremes appear to be digging in their heels.

On the Baloch side, the armed radicals are bent on intimidating, perhaps even eliminating, moderate voices, making the possibility of a compromise with the state that much more distant.

On the army’s side, while it fiercely denies it has a ‘colonial’ approach towards Balochistan, there is a steely resolve to prevent any ‘mischief’ by outside powers in the province — an approach which severely diminishes the possibility of concessions towards the Baloch extremists.

“If the federation is to survive, the moderates need to be heard,” according to Raza Rabbani. The trouble is, no one seems to believe that is an imminent possibility.

[The following is an eight-part series by Amir Mateen of The News.]

Watching Balochistan slipping through our fingers … (Balochistan-1)
August 7, 2010

By Amir Mateen

QUETTA: Anybody who has not been to Quetta for some time will be aghast to see the ghost town that it has become. Half of the once-bustling and lively town goes to sleep as soon as the sun sets. The other half trembles even to the sound of a cracker while locked inside their overly guarded houses.

The British garrison city that was known for its cultural diversity and for its laidback evenings stands divided into quarters based on ethnicity and religion. And, more important, whether you are a “uniformed person” or not. A quarter of the city is a no-go-area worse than Karachi’s killing alleys in the 1990s. A non-Baloch would not venture into areas around Saryab Road and Arbab Karam Road even during daytime.

The localities of Spiny Road and Smungli Road are no less dangerous as the marauding gangs of armed youth are found witch-hunting for anybody wearing trousers or matching the profile of a “non-local.” Local police enter the localities at considerable risk. Even the paramilitary Frontier Corps pickets get attacked occasionally. The picket leading to Bolan Medical College, meaningfully named as “Golimaar,” has been targeted more than once by grenade attacks. In suburbs, 16 kilometres off Quetta city on the western bypass, the Hazar Ganj bus stand was ambushed by rockets. The situation on the east side is equally scary. Life in the Quetta Cantonment is stable, thanks to the 24-hour armed-to-the-teeth vigilance. But the ordinary citizenry has been left to the butchery of a lethal mix of extremist nationalists, political separatists, religious fanatics, smugglers, drug dealers and the land mafia hand in glove with criminals, not to forget international terrorists and foreign intelligence agencies. The locals are shifting to the relatively safer Pashtun localities of, say, Nawankali and Sraghurdhi. The so-called Punjabi settlers, who may have lived in Quetta for generations, are being forced to leave for other provinces, sometime after selling their assets for pennies.

“The country seems to have given up on Balochistan,” says social activist Dr Faiz Rehman. He believes doctors are being discouraged to attend clinics in trouble areas so that such incidents do not get reported. Dr Yousaf Nasir, a top surgeon who was a cousin of former federal Minister Yaqoob Nasir, was ambushed in a target killing on Thursday. Another senior surgeon Chiragh Hassan is also receiving threats to move out. “Everybody wants to get out of here,” he added.

Security officials are on top of the hit lists. Around 1,600 government officials have applied for long leave and for transfer to other provinces.

Under such trying times, one hardly finds a notable politician in Quetta or even in Balochistan. The doyen of Baloch nationalism, Sardar Khair Bux Marri is in Karachi, Sardar Attaullah Mengal in Wadh, his son Akhtar Mengal in Dubai and MNA Hasil Bizenjo in Karachi. Equally important among Pashtun nationalists, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai is believed to be in London. His family said he was out of the country but they would not share where or when he might return home. Most Balochistan politicians who pour their grievous heart out regularly on television talk shows reside either in Islamabad, Karachi, London or the US.

While half of the province is inundated because of floods, killing scores of people, Chief Minister Aslam Raisani is languishing in Dubai. His staff said he was in Dubai for many days and they could not confirm when he would return. In any case, he is known to be a part-time CM as he lives in Dubai or Islamabad nearly 15 days a month and is never available, intelligibly that is, after 8:00pm come crash floods or cyclone. The only exception was when, military sources confirm, his son was caught by the Frontier Constabulary in a vehicle name-plated “Sarawan 2.” The chief of Sarawan tribes that he is, Aslam had to seek the intervention of military and political leadership at the highest level to bail out his son.

In the meantime, on average two persons die every day in target killings. The official figure for target killings in the last 10 months is 370 but others say the actual number should be around 600.

The country, particularly Islamabad, wakes up to the Balochistan tragedy only when a high-profile politician like Habib Jalib gets killed. That he was murdered in the wake of other Baloch Nationalist leaders like Maula Bux Dasti and Liaquat Mengal makes it all the more tragic and mysterious. Theories abound about these killings depending on whose side you are on.

Many like Jamhoori Wattan Party Secretary General, Rauf Khan Sasoli, believe that the commonality among these killings was that they were middle class leaders who opposed separatists and supported the Baloch cause while remaining with the framework of the Pakistani federation. “It’s the extremist separatists who have killed Jalib,” Sasoli said emphatically. Others think that Sardar Khair Bux Marri has issued the decree for the Baloch youth to choose violence as the only way for the independence of Balochistan. Political sources say on the condition of anonymity that the ‘lumpen’ groups are targeting the moderate Baloch. Still others blame it on the intelligence agencies like the CIA, KGB and, interestingly, those of India and Pakistan.

Military sources at the highest level confirm that they have proof of the involvement of the exiled Brahmadagh Bugti, the grandson of the Nawab Akbal Bugti, who allegedly runs the Baloch Republican Army from Afghanistan, in these killings. They say they have a copy of Brahmadagh’s Indian passport which the Pakistan Army has also furnished to the Indians as a proof.

The Pakistani security agencies are equally blamed. “The target killings of Baloch nationalists are being carried by those who think they can control us by eliminating our political brains,” says former Senator Manzoor Gichki. Many in Quetta believe that Baloch Massallah Daffah Army (BMDA), the outfit that has claimed all three recent killings, is a front for Pakistani agencies.

Most people in Quetta have stories to share that they believe proves the involvement of Pakistani security agencies. Chairman of Balochistan’s Peace Committee, Sardar Hameed Khilji names many people who were caught with evidence on close circuit cameras but later released. “I have helped catch many culprits but they always come out to threaten you,” said Khilji.

Military sources explain that the biggest problem was the lack of prosecution and investigation, sometimes out of negligence or incompetence but mostly because of fear. They say it is very hard to prosecute criminals. In some cases, judges refuse to take up cases and in nine cases out of 10 witnesses fail to give evidence. Investigators operate under tough environment. In many cases senior police officials wear scarves to hide faces from the accused terrorists. “There are serious flaws in the legal and administrative systems to handle the situation,” said one military source. “Once these people get out they become more confident while those who help us get punished, even killed,” he said.

The Balochistan issue may not be as simple as the policy makers and pundits in Islamabad think. It’s not just about politics and terrorism. It is also about the crisis of governance, capacity, the feelings of deprivation and exploitation. Most important, it’s a psychological issue that exists in the hearts and minds of the people of Balochistan. It will take much more than the so-called the Aghaz-e-Hqooq-e-Balochistan. We shall focus on that in the coming days. (Continued….)

(The News – )

Is it more anarchy, than an insurgency? (Balochistan-II)
August 7, 2010

By Amir Mateen

QUETTA: Violence is no longer an abstract word in Balochistan’s capital city. It is a dreaded reality and one so close and deadly that you can see it writ large on the faces of people in the bazaars of Quetta, what to speak of other areas which were never known for any admirable writ of the state.

Walking through the markets here one cannot help noticing that people no longer look into the eyes of another for the fear of the unsaid, the unknown, the deadly. Nobody even strikes a real conversation without first judging the other’s ethnicity, sect and political ideology. Violence has impacted life in every way, right down to what you wear. Trousers are out, because anyone wearing one would be deemed as a settler or Punjabi and more likely to be gunned down than someone sporting a traditional shalwar qameez. People are painfully careful about the choice of words and delivery of their dialect in a clear attempt to protect their identity. Festivity on weddings and other social occasions has become a rarity, if ever. People avoid gatherings lest they become targets of bomb explosions.

Quetta’s bowl-like geography is such that a firing or explosion in one part of the city can, in most cases, be heard all over the city. This in turn unleashes rumour factories that push the city’s panic button. Mothers can be seen rushing to schools, fathers back home to protect their families, shutters come down like clockwork while the legions of the young unemployed youth get out to watch or to be part of some action of tyre-burning or stone-pelting. Meanwhile, in the nearby Quetta Cantonment, the officers, particularly those likely to be promoted as generals at the Staff and Command College, receive calls from families and friends pleading them not to send children into the wilderness outside their safer confines.

For the rest of the country, particularly in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, such events happening here merit a mere single-column news on inside pages, a momentary blot or a crawling scroll on news channels and life goes on as this picture is not reflected in the national news media as much or as often as it should. One big reason being the ‘small’ local journalists’ fear of writing too much about it. They can name names of the people involved in most crimes but only in private. Almost all journalist colleagues requested anonymity while talking about the issue. A senior journalist in Quetta was candid enough to say: “You can afford to write or talk about this because you don’t live here whereas we can lose a limb or life for saying a lot less.”

In most schools in Quetta’s Baloch localities, Pakistani anthem is not allowed to be recited or the national flag to be hoisted. Many have been forbidden from teaching Pakistan Studies as a subject. Only recently, five Baloch youngsters turned up at the St. Mary’s Convent to burn the national flag, and it’s happening all over. Anti-Pakistan separatist slogans are chalked on walls anywhere you traverse in the northern parts in what is known as Jhalawan or the southern Baloch territory of Sarawan.

Yet, many believe that while the situation may be dreary it still cannot be compared with earlier Baloch insurgencies. “Most of the action is sporadic symbolism than concrete political realities on ground,” says analyst Noor Kakar. “It is more anarchy than an insurgency.” The present spate of violence is different from the earlier insurgencies in many ways. One, the present phase does not have the class of leadership in terms of experience, organisation, unity and respect. The first three Baloch conflicts in 1948, 1958 and the 1960s were relatively smaller than the major insurgency of the 1970s but the leadership then was revered by the insurgents.

Prince Abdul Karim Khan had the credentials to gather nationalists of those days for the ‘greater Balochistan’ after his brother Mir Ahmad Yar, the Khan of Kalat, signed accession that the nationalists claim was forced on him. In the end it took no more than a small army battalion to quell the rebellion.

In the 1958 insurgency, Nawab Nowroze Khan was highly revered by his followers who took up arms against the formation of West Pakistan as one unit. In the end, five of his family members were hanged for killing Pakistani troops and the Nawab also died in captivity. Sher Mohammad Marri was perhaps the ablest Baloch leader to lead the insurgency from 1963 to 1969. The initial provocations for the insurgency were the army bases that were built in the Baloch area but later ballooned into a larger movement for the Baloch rights on mineral resources and independence. General Sherov, as he was called, raised parallel posts across the 445 mile Baloch belt giving the Pakistani establishment tough time until General Yahya Khan abolished the One Unit.

The Parrari movement of the 1970s is listed among the top 10 wars in the 20th century in terms of the casualties that the Pakistan Army suffered at the hands of the Baloch insurgents led by Nawab Khair Bux Marri. He had the support of most major Baloch leaders of the time, except Nawab Akbar Bugti who, nationalists believed, stabbed the movement in the back by becoming the governor after Sardar Attaullah Mengal resigned in protest against the dissolution of the National Awami Party government in NWFP (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa).

The present conflict is hardly a comparison by any standard. The most prominent leader of the Balochistan Republican Party and its militant wing, Brahamdagh Bugti is too young and inexperienced to match his predecessors. He has to first get himself accepted from his own Bugti tribe as a tribal chief and from his rival cousins and uncles. He may have gone too far in his relationship with the Indians and in times that are different from the 1970s. The Baloch leadership stands divided on the issue. Khair Bux Marri stands on one extreme in his support for armed insurgency. The incorrigible Nawab is too old and isolated to lead. While Balaach Marri died in mysterious circumstances, none of his other sons have an iota of their father’s charisma. Attaullah Mengal may support the movement morally but he stayed out of action even during the 1970s insurgency. His son, former Chief Minister Akhtar Mengal, is angry for being imprisoned and tortured by the previous regime but his faction of Balochistan National Party is still reluctant to support the separatists openly. Others like the National Party led by Dr Maalick too remains committed to work within the federation of Pakistan.

The rebel groups in the field are such a hotchpotch that it is as difficult to keep a track of them as to know who is sponsored by whom. A hotchpotch of rebel groups exists including Baloch Liberation Army, Baloch Liberation United Front and Baloch Massallah Daffah Army. They seem to all work on their own agendas, often at variant with each other. The organisation, unity and the support in the masses are no match to the earlier insurgencies.

Most important, times may have changed a lot. The Pashtun factor and the rise of the clergy in Balochistan cannot be ignored. A sizeable section of Baloch nationalists, even if they are angry over what they believe is the exploitation of Islamabad, will agree that an independent Balochistan or new states are not possible in this day and age. Afghanistan may be harbouring Brahamdagh but it is not like the Afghanistan support of the insurgency in the 1970s. “All we want is a better and a fairer deal from the establishment,” says JWP Secretary General Rauf Khan Sasoli. “Is this asking for too much?”.

For a change, unlike the 1970s or even the Musharraf regime, Islamabad is more receptive to the demands of Balochistan. The problem is that Islamabad has no idea who to give what and how to appease the angry nationalists. There are serious flaws in the administrative and political set-up to execute the agenda even if every demand of the nationalists is accepted. Politicians need to do more than issue statements and the army more open minded than it has been so far. (continued)

(The News – )

Balochistan conflict, the most complex issue in the country …(Balochistan – III)
August 7, 2010

By Amir Mateen

QUETTA: The Balochistan conflict, at one level, happens to be the most complex issue in the country. A sectarian quagmire exists where the local Shia population, predominantly the Hazara community, is under constant threat by local Taliban helped by militant fanatics from as far as Punjab, Waziristan, to Kandahar and Khost in Afghanistan.

A whole gamut of Baloch nationalists from moderates to extremists are fighting for their rights — some against Islamabad, others against ‘Punjabi imperialism’ and still others against the Pakistan Army and the State. An underlying tension prevails between the Pashtuns and the Baloch over distribution of power, resources and territory; between Pakistani Pashtuns and their Afghan counterparts over business and turf; between nationalists and religious political parties and sometimes also between local militants and al-Qaeda. A tug of war also simmers between the settlers (read Punjabis) and locals; between secular and religious elements over lifestyle, not to forget between those who live in the cantonment and those who do not.

Add to this a nexus of smugglers of goods, arms and drugs; the land mafia that makes millions when people sell prime property for peanuts and criminals who take contracts for killing people for as little as a few thousand rupees.

The picture gets more complicated when regional and international forces get involved in this power play. A whole set of theories from the ridiculous to the sublime prevail about the classical ‘great game’ over the mineral resources of Balochistan. Enter the British, Americans, Chinese, Arab Sheikhs and all those jazzy players backed by multinationals that make James Bond movies so watch able. The only five-star hotel in Quetta presents a leaf from the classical movie, Casablanca, where every shady character is out to sell each other.

Some facts, however, belie the Hollywood scripts. The Chinese want to expand their investment in Gwadar by linking road and rail links for the cheaper energy and commercial supplies in future. “The Americans and many regional countries have a problem with that,” says PML-N’s Anwaarul Haq Kakar. “It’s quite possible that these powers are fomenting trouble in Balochistan.”

The same powers may have a problem with the proposed Iranian pipeline into Pakistan. The Afghan legacy is there in the shape of massive refugee camps. Replicas of Kandahar exist in Quetta’s localities of Nawankilli, Kharrotabad, Pashtunabad, Killi Khotik Chashma, and Killi Raiti Bulledi. “Kandaharis hold jirgas in Nawankilli as if they were in their own country,” says journalist Farhan Bokhari.

The mystery of the so-called Quetta Shura remains unsettled but the linkages of Balochistan with the war in Afghanistan and its impact on the provincial polity cannot be underestimated. Finally, the Indian footprints are all over. It is only in Quetta that one realizes the severity of the proxy war being played between India and Pakistan. If all this does not qualify as a momentous mess, then what does?

On another level, the fundamentals in Balochistan are quite simple. The conflict revolves primarily around four factors: The administrative (mis) governance in controlling the law and order; the political handling as opposed to the military solutions; a fairer economic development and its execution cutting across the corrupt ways of the Sardari system, and lastly the curtailment of foreign interference.

More simply, it boils down to just one-governance, without which the other three could not be executed. And that, sadly, is the weakest link in the Balochistan chain. “There is no governance in Balochistan,” said former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Nawab Wazir Jogezai. “The province has been left to the rules of jungle.”

Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani is extremely handicapped as he has feuds of blood running with, among others, the Rinds, Bugtis, Domkis, Jatois, Kalhois involving scores of murders taking place on each side. This makes his personal enmity stretching to nearly half of the Baloch tribes. The Interior Ministry put its foot down recently when Raisani sought the FC para-military troops to settle scores with former Federal Minister Yar Mohammad Rind, whom he accuses of murdering his father. The Nawab of Rinds, Yar Mohammad is one of the only two Balochistan opposition MPAs in a house of 65. Such is Raisani’s terror that ‘Rind’ has not come to the Balochistan Assembly after his oath taking two years ago.

Raisani is running the administration like a personal fiefdom. The chief minister, who is a former police DSP, is always keen to promote rankers as District Police Officers (DPO), some of them old colleagues. DPO Pishin Asad Nasir, DPO Nasirabad Javed Hashim, DPO Chamman Rauf Bareech, among many others, are rankers who got promoted on the whims of the higher authorities. Even the crucial post of RPO operations in Quetta has been given to a ranker, Hamid Shakil Sabir while many able regular officers have been sidelined as OSDs.

Taking the cue, most of the 60 plus cabinet have got the police officials down to the level of SHOs of their choice. This has messed up the entire administration setting into motion a wave of crime and sabotage. Former Inspector General Police (IG) Chaudhary Yaqoob is on record saying, “the political set-up is so weak that the law and order situation cannot be controlled.” IG Police Javed Bokhari, disheartened on political interference, left on a two-month leave for Canada that got extended to six months and his colleagues say he may not come back at all. Malik Iqbal, a highly respected officer, has been appointed as the new IG and it is yet to be seen how long he will survive. And this is just the beginning.

The police have no writ beyond a six-mile ring outside main cities. Over 80 per cent of Balochistan is what is called as “B-area,” which is the British legacy of running affairs through local tribes hired as levies. The Police Reforms of 2006 abolished the system by converging ‘B area’ into regular police administered ‘A area.’ This was a blow to the Sardari system through which they retained control in their areas. The Sardars in the Balochistan Assembly got a resolution passed against it. The process got stalled as a few Levies’ officers challenged it in the Services Tribunal. The issue is now believed to be pending in the Supreme Court.

The provincial government was quick to revert back to the old system. This may have contributed to the worsening of the law and order situation. Reports say that there have been cases of 12 murders in Jhal Magsi but none of them has been reported, as they will be decided in a jirga. This gives the local Sardar, in this case Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi, the leverage to control people. “This has happening all over and the situation is worse in Dera Bugti and Kohlu,” confirmed a police source on the condition of anonymity.

This is how the Sardars not only influence the administration but also run a parallel judiciary. The proponents of the Sardar system may claim that in the absence of swift judiciary, the old system serves the purpose. But the fact remains the system has not been able to control the present law and order situation. Former Federal Minister for Law and Human Rights opines that the judiciary should see it as the case for parallel justice system like the Sharia courts in Swat and dispose off the matter. Till then, the crisis of governance in Balochistan continues to get worsen.

There is lots of clamour from the political class to get rid of the Frontier Corps troops from trouble areas. One hears numerous complaints about their over stretching their authority. Yet, military sources point out, it is on the request of the provincial government that the FC is involved in the security duties. “Given a choice, we would like to go back to the frontiers,” said the sources.

The provincial government has a love-hate relationship with the FC. The chief minister does not like it when the FC nabs his son in a case but wants it to perform security duties. “We may not like it, but imagine what will happen without the para-military,” says Anwaarul Haq. “The police alone cannot handle it”. Apparently, till there is a responsible police and administrative order, the FC is all that Balochistan appears to have got even though it is definitely not the ideal agency to handle the chaos that Balochistan has become. (Continued)

(The News – July 27, 2010)

Disarray in political parties a bad omen … (Balochistan-IV)
August 7, 2010

By Amir Mateen

QUETTA: Everyone aggress that only politics can offer the panacea for Balochistan’s problems. But herein lies another predicament: which politics? For Balochistan’s political landscape is dotted with fractured political parties, more often than not led by fractious leaderships, seemingly more obsessed with changing their loyalties and luxury SUVs, rather than the fate of their milling masses. If one thing they all seem to readily agree upon is to disagree with one another.

Such is the political mess that it is difficult to keep track of the A to Z of every faction. Take the Baloch parties first. After the demise of the Balochistan National Alliance, one Balochistan National Party (BNP) is headed by Sardar Attaullah Mengal’s son Akhtar Mengal while the BNP (Awami) is presided by Sardar Israrullah Zehri. Nawab Akbar Bugti’s Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) is divided into the factions of Aali Bugti and Talal Bugti, while Brahmadagh Bugti is running his militant wing, the Balochistan Republican Army. The divisiveness of the Baloch militants is no less.

Pashtunkwa Milli Awami Party and Awami National Party have never been able to unite the Pashtun nationalists despite the fact that their party heads, Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Asfandyar Wali, were once close friends. Even Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) now has a faction named as JUI (Ideological) led by Maulana Ismatullah.

It is because of the divisive polity that Balochistan always had a coalition government. This has never allowed any government to take bold decisions. Balochistan does not have a political culture, except a few pockets in Makran, Kharan, Quetta and some Pashtun areas. The provincial Assembly is a grand cluster of individuals who have pockets of votes, most of them tribal Sardars. This breeds corruption and manipulation of power in a few hands. Transparency International placed the Balochistan as the second most corrupt provincial government, but many contest that it should merit the top position by the miles.

A crude indicator might be the parking lot of the Balocistan Assembly when it is in session. The 60 ministers, plus the Speaker and his deputy, in a house of 65 have fleets of super SUV jeeps along with armoured land cruisers manning dozens of armed-to-the-teeth guards. It’s a rare sight that one might just see in movies alone. Many of them bought their way to the Assemblies, particularly in the Senate.

The system is such that no matter how much money is poured into Balochistan, there is only a fraction of it that will reach the masses. Balochistan nationalists will admit that in private but never in public. “It is convenient to talk against Islamabad and ignore the structural lacunas that will not let the change happen even if Balochistan’s all demands are accepted,” said analyst Farman Kakar.

The biggest jolt to middle class politics has been the exclusion of populist nationalist parties. Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s PMAP always had a political culture. The Pashtun icon that he is, Achakzai was always a saner voice who always contributed positively to the national politics while he was in the parliament.

The President of his BNP faction, Akhtar Mengal may be the son of a Sardar (Attaullah Mengal) but is enlightened enough not to act like one. The party that shuns the Sardari system and tops the chart of middle class politics is the National Party (NP) with former BSO leader Dr Maalick as its President. The National Party may be seen as the new version of Ghous Bux Bizenjo’s Pakistan National Party (PNP) but without the prefix of Pakistan, which just shows the changing times. The PNP, like the ANP, had pockets of workers in Lahore and Karachi. None of the existing nationalist parties have any presence outside their own belts of Balochistan.

The boycott of nationalists in the last elections has given way to the religious parties in the case of Pashtuns and the Sardars filled the vacuum of the Baloch nationalists. One may have contributed to the rising fanaticism and the other has ruptured the administrative structure leading to the anarchy that we face in Balochistan today.

The Musharraf regime, like all military dictatorship, had deliberately undermined the middle class nationalists who were considered as anti-national. “They needed loyalists more than political workers,” said former Senator Manzoor Gichki. A whole generation of middle class politicians is either in exile, subdued or wiped out with the killing of Faizuddin Sasoli, Maula Bux Dasti and Habib Jalib being the latest.

The Baloch politicians are in a fix. “If we talk about our rights and demand fairer deal on our resources we are marked by the agencies and if we favour the politics of federation and Pakistan we get equally marked by nationalist extremists,” said a Baloch leader on the condition of anonymity.

The security agencies overseeing the province see politics with a black and white prism. Either you are patriot or you are not. They do not have the political training to understand the ‘grey area.’ Military sources confirmed that the highest authorities have decided to let the politicians take control of the province. “First, we got the army out and would like to see the FC out as soon as the government asks us,” said a military source. But the problem is that the intelligence officials at the lower level may not be as neutral as the high command thinks. The security officials are the most sought after persons in Quetta and behave like demi-gods. If you know them “your file never stops” goes the dictum. There are just too many stories about their trespasses.

The so-called mainstream parties are virtually non-existent in Balochistan. They do have few individuals but have not invested anything on promoting political culture. All of them have retained the big Sardars. PPP’s provincial president is Lashkari Raisani, who happens to be the brother of the Nawab of Jhalawan (the northern tribes), Chief Minister Aslam Raisani. PML (Q) has the chief of Lasbela, Jam Yousaf as the President where the PML (N) might replace Sardar Yaqoob Nasir with the Nawab of Jhalawan (the southern tribes), Sanaullah Zehri.

Not to be left behind, the JWP has Nawab Aali Bugti as President and BNP (Awami) Israrullah Zehri. None of them allows his tribesmen to sit on their level let along mingle with them. So much for the grassroots politics.

Interestingly, most of these Sardars retain a secretary general from a middle class. JWP has Rauf Khan Sasoli; BNP (A) has Asad Baloch Jamaldini; BNP (M) had Habib Jalib. “They need them for sending messages to other sardars and to do the dirty political work,” said one of them requesting, like always in Balochistan, that he not be named.

All may not be lost, however. Besides the nationalists, JUI (F) always had a popular culture, thought it may be changing as we have seen their pauper members becoming billionaires by being part of every coalition government in the last 25 years. Mekran has never had a Sardari system; Kharan too has a culture of middle class politics.

“We cannot resolve the problems of Balochistan without creating a politic culture which can only happen if the process is allowed uninterrupted,” said NP President Dr Mohammad Maalick. “This is the only way we can drag the province out of this conundrum.”

One cannot agree more. The issue of governance is directly linked with the political process. Well, we might just have to wait till the next Assembly or somehow induct the political outcastes in the political decision-making. It’s easier said than done.

(The News -28 July 2010)

Time to mend fences in Turbat, but is Islamabad cognizant …(Balochistan-V)
August 9, 2010

By Amir Mateen

TURBAT: A Baloch, they say, has a long memory. In any political discussion, they take a long perspective starting from the days when the Khan of Kalat was ‘coerced’ to accede to Pakistan, the betrayal of Nauroze Khan to the insurgencies of the 1960s and 1970s and, finally, the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti.

This discourse takes place on roadside cafes of Turbat where Baloch nationalists, mostly young, share their numerous conspiracy theories, the cases of missing persons, the alleged brutalities of the state. It is here on the streets of Turbat, sitting on wicker charpoys and sipping tea from cracked crockery that the Baloch grand narrative shapes up. The cycle of current violence, it seemed, accelerated after the killing of three prominent Baloch Nationalists — Baloch National Movement (BNM) President Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir, also of the BNM, and Sher Mohammad Baloch of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) in Turbat last year.

The three were picked up by unidentified armed men from the chamber of Advocate Kachkol Ali on April 3, 2009, and were found dead 40 miles outside Turbat six days later. The mystery of the killings remains unresolved.

The plot thickens as Ghulam Mohammad Baloch was also a member of the 10-member committee constituted by BLA’s Hyrbyar Marri to negotiate the release of UNHCR’s American official, John Solecki. Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) had owned the kidnapping of Solecki. Both Khair Bux Marri and Brahmadagh Bugti were involved in negotiations as the UNHCR approached them.

Solecki was released, reportedly after paying a ransom, a day after the three Balochs were abducted. Theories abound on this issue. While most people point fingers at the ‘agencies,’ a Baloch website, Sardar Watch, blames Khair Bux Marri for the killings. Others say it was all about the ransom money. Still others say that the BLUF vanished after the incident, and it is operating under the name of Dr Allah Nazar’s BLF now.

“It is possible that Ghulam Baloch was deeply involved in some of the investigations regarding the missing persons and had uncovered something crucial,” a cousin of Ghulam Mohammad was quoted as saying in the press. “Maybe that is why he and his colleagues were killed.”

Whatever the truth, it threw the entire Mekran into a tailspin of violence. Mand, a town close to the Iranian border, remains a no-go-area even to this day. Former Federal Mnister and now PML-Q MNA, Zubeda Jalal, who hails from Mand, says that the conditions are so bad that she has not been to her hometown in over two years now. She opened a model school in Mand but had to evacuate its 80 percent settler staff to Karachi. “Most girls from my school now participate in demonstrations and are led by the widow of Ghulam Mohammad,” said Jalal.

A political vacuum exists as the popular parties of the area, Dr Malick’s National Party (NP) and Balochistan National Movement (BNM), are out because they boycotted the last elections. Those who got elected, reaping the windfall, hardly come to the area.

Others who command local respect, Dr Maalick, Hasil Bizenjo and Manzoor Gichki, are scared of extremist threats. The border trade (read smuggling) with Iran, which is the main livelihood, has lessened because of tighter border controls. One sees lots of unemployed people as Balochistan has the highest number of youth under 25 in Pakistan. Rival gangs of various factions of Balochistan Students Organisation (BSO) keep fighting on the streets of Turbat. This is a perfect ground for extremists to breed militancy.

One hardly sees any evidence of the government’s writ. The local administration is all about making money out of issuing permits (rahdaari) for the border trade. Almost 100 percent vehicles in town, actually the whole division, are stolen or smuggled without any registration. Fuel is smuggled from Iran and there are lots of indoctrinated youth to ram them into easy targets, the most vulnerable being the three Frontier Corps pickets.

The city that was home to Punnu of the Sassi ballad fame, Turbat is a political and administrative mess. Only one police station in the 15km radius of Turbat copes with the barrage of frequent target killings, rocket and grenade throwing. The regular police force in the strategically placed second biggest town of Balochistan consists of just 120 constables. The rest 400 plus levies force has not been paid any salary. Reason: The issue over the bifurcation of the police and levies has bequeathed total confusion among the administration and nobody knows who is under whom.

The settlers among the police have all gone on long leave, perhaps forever, after eight of them were ambushed in a year. If this was not enough, half of this limited police force is deputed on protocol and security of politicians and the city Wajas as these local elders like to be addressed.

Local politicians are scared to visit the area, the provincial government apathetic and the establishment in Islamabad too far away and unconcerned with the consequences of ignoring this strategic intellectual and political hub of Balochistan. “Actually, the time may be ripe for making a beginning as the people are dismayed by the recent killings of the cream of moderate politicians,” said a local politician on the condition of anonymity. “The moderates need to be protected so that they come out in the open to resist the extremists.”

Signs of strong reaction against the killings of Kech Nazim Maula Bux Dasti and others are obvious. BNM stands divided on the issue as its acting President Asa Zafar has resigned. NP President Dr Maalick and Hasil Bizenjo have also taken a strong stand against the inhuman acts.

“We always had an moral basis of our cause which was supported by intellectuals from all over, including Lahore and Karachi,” said Dr Maalick. “Nobody can justify the inhuman target killings of not just the Baloch intellectuals but also the settlers.”

Most nationalists argue that the extreme terrorism has damaged the high moral ground that the Baloch nationalists always carried. Others favour a more peaceful resolution of the problem. “We have been down the path of violence many times earlier causing the loss of many generations of Baloch youth,” said analyst Ghazanfar Baloch. “The state is much more powerful and our leadership much less united and capable. In this day and age, new countries are out of fashion.”

The argument goes that the LTTE in Sri Lanka was much more organized and powerful and yet it collapsed in the end. “I think there is a change in the air for a better realization for our objectives, but our leadership does not have the capacity to reap it,” argued PPP’s Rahim Zafar.

Another feature of Baloch in Pakistan is that because of their secular nature, they do not join hands with, say, Taliban. This is different from the Baloch nationalism in Iran, which is based on Sunni resistance against the Shia domination. Interestingly, both of them share an element of the American backing.

“The Jundullah in Iran has obvious pat from the Americans but Brahmadagh Bugti could also not have operated from Afghanistan without the consent of the yanks,” said PML-N’s Anwaar Kakar. “Much higher stakes are being played by multiple international forces in Balochistan.”

The youth at Turbat’s roadside cafes have a fairly good understanding of such factors. The question is whether Islamabad realises the situation in this far outpost of Turbat. (To be continued)

(The News – August 08, 2010)

Mekran–real battleground of Nationalists … (BALOCHISTAN – VI)
October 6, 2010

By Amir Mateen

Turbat—The first news that I was told when I landed in Turbat was that there had been a rocket attack a day earlier on the Navy camp next to the airport.

On the way to this town of roughly 300,000 largely Baloch population, which is the second biggest city after Quetta in Balochistan, I was informed about more scary details: That roughly 10000 Punjabi settlers have been forced to leave the town; that anybody could be shot any time particularly when wearing a trouser like I was; that 16 people, including 8 policemen were ambushed in a target killing in the last one year, two of them in July; that grenades were hurled on a police station a fortnight ago; that Pakistani anthem could not be recited in schools or the national flag hoisted in colleges; that any office symbolizing the federation like the NADRA, PTCL or the National Bank could not be operated without the Frontier Corps (FC) protection. The drive to the city, such ghastly images in mind, felt longer than the 30 minutes that it took.

Yet, like always, it was not as bad as they tell you, particularly when one is in the protected company of local elders. The first impression that one gets is the contrast in economic disparity. Either one sees the wretched majority that cannot afford two meals a day or the huge mansions mostly in the outskirts that were reportedly owned by the ‘gentry’ or smugglers of diesel and drugs.

On the surface, it seems just another shabby, pot-holed town that pockmark the barren, mountainous wilderness of Mekran. However, beneath this deceptive expanse lies key to a myriad political problems that bug not just Quetta and Islamabad but ring alarm bells as far as Tehran, Kabul, India, Oman and even London and Washington. It is only 150 km from both the Iran border in west and Gwadar on the Arabian Sea in south—one route planned to link gas Iranian pipeline to the rest of Pakistan and the other proposed to open the Arabian sea to China and the Central Asia through roads and railways.

The impediment to this grand agenda is that this town happens to be the most violent town in Balochistan after Quetta. “The Baloch issue cannot be resolved without appeasing the aspirations of our people,” said National Party’s President Senator Dr Maalick, whose party boycotted the last elections. “We need to be satisfied that we get a fairer share out of our ancestral largess and we should be treated as equals in every respect.”

Mekran and its divisional capital Turbat happen to be the intellectual and political centre of Baloch nationalism. It has always had a political culture and shunned the repressive Sardari system of the rest of Baloch areas. And it is here that the battle between the moderates and extremists of the Baloch nationalism is being fought.

The moderates, in local parlance, are those, like National Party (NP) and to some extent Akhtar Mengal’s Baloch National Party (BNP), who want the realization of Baloch aspirations while working within the framework of Pakistan. The extremists are the Baloch separatists who want to win an ‘independent Balochistan’ through an armed struggle. On top of the ‘separatists’ list is Nawab Khair Bux Marri’s Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). After the death of his son Balaach Marri, the younger Marri, Harbiar, is believed to run the BLA. However, military sources insist that the grand old Nawab K B Marri despite his age remains the guiding spirit behind the BLA. Another militant faction, Balochistan Republical Army (BRA) is run by Nawab Akbar Bugti’s grandson Brahmadagh Bugti allegedly from Qandhar.

However, the person who impacts the militant Baloch youth more than K B Marri and Brahmadagh is somebody that people in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi may not even know about. The new kid on the bloc is Dr Allah Nazar. “He has become a mythical figure among young militants as he dares the Sardars like K B Marri and Brahmadagh Bugti, “ said a local journalist on the condition of anonymity. “This goes well with the middle class politics of Mekran and Khuzdar.”

Originally from Mashkay in Avaraan district, Dr Allah Nazar is believed to be the person calling the shots among the Baloch militants, particularly in Mekran, Khuzdar and Avaran. He is also accused of the recent killings of moderate Baloch leaders like Maula Bux Dashti, Liaquat Mengal, Rehmatullah and Khalil Tufail. Some nationalist allege that he may also be involved in the killing of BNP leader Habib Jalib in Quetta. However, intelligence sources say that Jalib may have been shot by the BLA which avenged the killing of Balaach Marri who was allegedly killed by Jalib’s Qaimkhawani tribe.

Whatever the truth, Dr Allah Nazar’s message to the moderates is clear: “I’ll come after anybody who talks about Pakistan.” He recently owned the killing of Turbat’s Nazim Maula Bux Dasti saying that he was targeted because, one, he had sought military operation against the militants and two he was rewarded as the best Nazim in Pakistan. The second count was seen as a proof of his closeness towards the establishment. His word or message is seen as a death warrant in Mekran and even senior Baloch leaders like Senators Dr Maalick and Hasil Bizenjo are believed to be on his hit list. He is the only one among the Baloch separatist leaders who is fighting it out while living in the mountains. This fits into the popular imagination of the Baloch way of fighting and puts him one up on Khair Bux, Harbiar Marri and Brahmadagh who are operating from posh mansions in Karachi, London and Qandhar.

Allah Nazar got active in Baloch Student Organisation (BSO) politics while he was doing his medical degree at Bolan Medical College in Quetta. He was picked up by security agencies when the Musharraf regime decided to clamp down the protests provoked by the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti. According to published accounts, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch was kept in custody for six months. He was allegedly “stripped naked and hung from the ceiling for hours on end, deprived of sleep for many days and given anaesthesia injections.” His photograph that shows him brought out on a stretcher is haunting. He was in hospital for three days and could not stand for two months. The myth goes that the day Allah Nazar got up, he looked up in the sky and swore to fight against the state of Pakistan till he died. He is doing precisely the same since then.

Military sources acknowledge that Mushrraf went overboard in controlling the Baloch issues. But they also allege that Dr Allah Nazar too has an Indian connection. “We have proofs that he is in competition with Brahmadagh and Harbiar in taking money from the Indians,” claimed an intelligence source. “What makes the present Baloch conflict different from the earlier insurgencies is the Indian factor.”

The Pakistan Army is trained to fight India. Any linkage with India transforms them into an action mode, as in the movie ‘Terminator,’ where they see the militants as the infra-red “enemy” that they have to “terminate.” Perhaps somebody needs to add the ‘abort’ mode in the khaki robots which should differentiate between the ‘enemy’ and the local political elements gone awry because of wrong actions. While the security forces are capable of ‘overkill’ when it comes to the Indian link, Dr Allah Nazar’s terrorism is not winning him any admirers among the ideologically driven nationalists either. In fact, most nationalists think that his extreme actions devoid of any humanism and ideology are harming the Baloch cause. For that, see tomorrow’s newspaper.

PS: The Balochistan government has accused me of not listening to their side and not meeting who could give the official version. This is incorrect as I had sought meetings with the Chief Minister and his entire top brass in writing. Chief Minister Aslam Raisani’s was out of province, despite the crash floods, in the five days I was in Quetta. But I met all the relevant politicians and government officials including the provincial Chief Secretary. The new press secretary appointed after my reports should first check his facts before issuing such statements. I thank the CM’s invitation for a meeting and would like to avail the offer soon.

Time to mend fences in Turbat … (BALOCHISTAN – VII)
October 6, 2010

By Amir Mateen

Turbat—Baloch, they say, have a long memory. In any political discussion, they take a long perspective starting from the days when the Khan of Kalat was ‘coerced’ to accede to Pakistan, the betrayal of Nauroze Khan to the insurgencies of the 1960s and 1970s and, finally, the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti.

This discourse takes place on road-side cafes of Turbat where the Baloch nationalists, mostly young, share their numerous conspiracy theories, the cases of missing persons, the alleged brutalities of the state. It is here on the streets of Turbat, sitting on wicker charpoys and sipping tea from cracked crockery that the Baloch grand narrative shapes up. The cycle of current violence, it seemed, accelerated after the killing of three prominent Baloch Nationalists— Baloch National Movement (BNM) President Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir, also of the BNM, and Sher Mohammad Baloch of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) in Turbat last year.
The three were picked up by unidentified armed men from the chamber of Advocate Kachkol Ali on April 3, 2009 and were found dead 40 miles outside Turbat six days later. The mystery of the killings remains unresolved.
The plot thickens as Ghulam Mohammad Baloch was also a member of the 10-member committee constituted by BLA’s Hyrbyar Marri to negotiate the release of UNHCR’s American official, John Solecki. Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) had owned the kidnapping of Solecki. Both Khair Bux Marri and Brahmadagh Bugti were involved in negotiations as the UNHCR approached them.
Solecki was released, reportedly after paying a ransom, a day after the three Baloch were abducted. Theories abound on this issue. While most people point fingers at the ‘agencies,’ a Baloch web site, Sardar Watch, blames Khair Bux Marri for the killings. Others say it was all about the ransom money. Still others say that the BLUF vanished after the incident and it is operating under the name of Dr Allah Nazar’s BLF now. “It is possible that Ghulam Baloch was deeply involved in some of the investigations regarding the missing and had uncovered something crucial,” a cousin of Ghulam Mohammad was quoted as saying in the press. “Maybe that is why he and his colleagues were killed.”

Whatever the truth, it threw the entire Mekran into a tailspin of violence. Mand, a town close to the Iran border, remains a no-go-area even to this day. Former Federal Mnister and now PML (Q) MNA, Zubeda Jalal, who hails from Mand, says that the conditions are so bad that she has not been to her home town in over two years now. She opened a model school in Mand but had to evacuate its 80 per cent settler staff to Karachi. “Most girls from my school now participate in demonstrations and are led by the widow of Ghulam Mohammad,” said Jalal.

A political vacuum exists as the popular parties of the area, Dr Malick’s National Party (NP) and Balochistan National Movement (BNM), are out because they boycotted the last elections. Those who got elected, reaping the windfall, hardly come to the area. Others who command local respect, Dr Maalick, Hasil Bizenjo and Manzoor Gichki, are scared of extremist threats. The border trade (read smuggling) with Iran, which is the main livelihood, has lessened because of tighter border controls. One sees lots of unemployed youth as Balochistan has the highest number of youth under 25 in Pakistan. Rival gangs of various factions of Balochistan Students Organisation (BSO) keep fighting on the streets of Turbat. This is a perfect ground for extremists to breed militancy.

One hardly sees any evidence of the government’s writ. The local administration is all about making money out of issuing permits (rahdaari) for the border trade. Almost 100 per cent vehicles in town, actually the whole division, are stolen or smuggled without any registration. Fuel is smuggled from Iran and there are lots of indoctrinated youth to ram them into easy targets, the most vulnerable being the three Frontier Corps pickets.

The city that was home to Punnu of the Sassi ballad fame, Turbat is a political and administrative mess. Only one police station in the 15 km radious of Turbat copes with the barrage of frequent target killings, rocket and grenade throwing. The regular police force in the strategically placed second biggest town of Balochistan consists of just 120 constables. The rest 400 plus levies force had not been paid any salary. Reason: The issue over the bifurcation of the police and levies has bequeathed total confusion among the administration and nobody knows who is under whom. The settlers among the police have all gone on long leave, perhaps forever, after eight of them were ambushed in a year. If this was not enough, half of this limited police force is deputed on protocol and security of politicians and the city Wajas as these local elders like to be addressed.

Local politicians are scared to visit the area, the provincial government apathetic and the establishment in Islamabad too far away and unconcerned over the consequences of ignoring this strategic intellectual and political hub of Balochistan. “Actually, the time may be ripe for making a beginning as the people are dismayed by the recent killings of the cream of moderate politicians,” said a local politician on the condition of anonymity. “The moderates need to be protected so that they come out in the open to resist the extremists.”

Signs of strong reaction against the killings of Kech Nazim Maula Bux Dasti and others are obvious. BNM stands divided on the issue as its acting President Asa Zafar has resigned. NP President Dr Maalick and Hasil Bizenjo have also taken a strong stand against the inhuman acts.

“We always had an moral basis of our cause which was supported by intellectuals from all over, including Lahore and Karachi,” said Dr Maalick. “Nobody can justify the inhuman target killings of not just the Baloch intellectuals but also the settlers.”

Most nationalists argue that the extreme terrorism has damaged the high moral ground that the Baloch nationalists always carried. Others favour a more peaceful resolution of the problem. “We have been down the path of violence many times earlier causing the loss of many generations of Baloch youth,” said analyst Ghazanfar Baloch. “The state is much more powerful and our leadership much less united and capable. In this day and age, new countries are out of fashion.”

The argument goes that the LTTE in Sri Kanka was much more organized and powerful and yet it collapsed in the end. “I think there is a change in the air for a better realization for our objectives but our leadership does not have the capacity to reap it,” argued PPP’s Rahim Zafar.

Another feature of Baloch in Pakistan is that because of their secular nature they do not join hands with, say, Taliban. This is different from the Baloch nationalism in Iran which is based on Sunni resistance against the Shia domination. Interestingly, both of them share an element of the American backing. “The Jundullah in Iran has obvious pat from the Americans but Brahmadagh Bugti could also not have operated from Afghanistan without the consent of the yanks,” said PML (N)’s Anwaar Kakar. “Much higher stakes are being played by multiple international forces in Balochistan.”

The youth at Turbat’s road-side cafes have a fairly good understanding of such factors. The question is whether Islamabad is cognizant about the situation in this far outpost of Turbat.

(The News – )

Agoniizing contrast of Gwadar dream … (BALOCHISTAN – VIII)
October 6, 2010

By Amir Mateen

Gwadar—The contrast between the dream that Gwadar was promised to be and what it has become today is, to say the least, agonizing.

The dream was that the sight of Gwadar’s emerald green waters would make us shake our shoes off to stroll on its white sands. It was supposed to fulfill our longing for the beeches of Bahamas, the skyscrapers of Shanghai and the lifestyle of Dubai.

It was meant to be a strategic deep water port that would snatch away trans-shipping business from regional giants like Dubai and Muscat; outsmart Iran’s upcoming Chahbahar port in unlocking the gateway to the central Asian markets and in turn transport their oil and gas to the ‘warm waters’ of the Persian Gulf. It was designed to be a tax-free trade and industrial hub that would link China’s western regions to the outside world through the ancient silk route.

The reality of Gwadar was dreamt in different ways. Locals resented that they were being marginalized as “red Indians” in their ancestral lands but secretly hoped that this might one day bring more jobs and development to their impoverished region. Many thought Gwadar’s proposed international airport and a network of railway and roads linking to national and Turko-Iranian highways might fetch their perch, bass, trout, snapper, tiger prawns, sardines, swordfish, and skates to world markets.

Businessman saw it as a shorter route than Karachi for imports and exports; others eyed its proposed industrial zones as a prized grab; and still others planned refineries, energy plants, fertilizer factories, to name a few, close to this upcoming international trade hub.

Gwadar fit well into the military strategy. The Navy saw it as an alternate port to stall any Indian blockade of Karachi in a possible future encounter. The air force was hoping to expand the Pasni air base nearby. The generals under Musharraf found another chance to announce more defence housing schemes to share the bounties of political power with the army. Other khakis ganged up with wheeler dealers in Dubai, estate brokers in Karachi, bureaucrats and politicians in Lahore and Islamabad to make mega bucks in one of the biggest land scams in the country’s history. Scoundrels from places as far as Landon, New York and Singapore rushed in to stake a claim in the grand booty.

A deliberate hype was weaved around Gwadar as the dream city where ordinary Pakistanis could have a feel of the ‘abroad’ without having to put up with sniff dogs and long immigration lines. A poster in Gwadar showed a couple holding hands while resting in hammocks before a thatched-roof hut with rainbow colours of the sea in background. As is so typical of the middle class, such images set millions of common Pakistanis to invest billions of rupees to grab “that hut on the beach.”

Sadly, Gwaadar is now revulsion of the dream. It’s a ghost town with half-constructed mega structures like hospitals, schools, skeletons of government buildings haunting the landscape. Thousands of electricity poles lie abandoned as are half-finished roads, sewage pipes and landmarks in the suburbs. The town of some 80000-people presents a scene from a medieval Oman, of which Gwadar was a part until 1958 when Pakistan bought it back from the Sultanate. Not much has changed as locals still use the old ways of Arabia in fishing and boat-making. Its T-shaped peninsula is set between white ash cliffs and sea the colour of emeralds from three sides. But the populace, immersed in the glaring poverty, seems divorced from the natural beauty surrounding them.

Half of Gwadar is a shanty town with its noisy bazaars crammed with shabbily dressed largely Baloch and Brahui inhabitants. It is every bit a window of Balochistan’s reality—the locals surviving on a bare minimum amidst this grand agenda of the ‘new great game.’

Behind the façade of government buildings on its coast lay Gwadar’s slums, its pot holed roads, sewage water spewing out all around. The stink mixed with the smell of fish, piles of filth, open tiolets and the sweat of workmen is a recipe for dizziness. But locals remain undeterred, sipping tea under the shade of bamboo in broken-backed jute chairs. Perhaps musing over the more difficult times ahead.

Gwadar port remains virtually inoperative except when a government-subsidized ship brings fertilizer or wheat. The government suffers a loss for every ship that is unloaded in Gwadar and then brought to Karachi. Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), which was given the lease of the port for 40 years, has not been able to bring a commercial private ship in over three years. The PSA blames the Pakistan government for not providing the infrastructure that was required for the port development. The network of roads and railways that was to connect Gwadar with the National highways and on to China and Afghanistan remains shelved; the tax-free industial zones have not been formed; even the coastal highway to Karachi has become less secure. In turn, Islamabad blames the PSA for not investing the money it had promised. The deal is close to be cancelled as the government is mulling over giving the port to the Chinese as was originally planned. It may not be as easy it seems as the security situation has deteriorated sharply in the area.

Targeted killings are on the rise. More then 12 persons have been killed in the last ten months. Most Punjabis and settlers, who monopolized skilled labour, have left Gwadar. A serious shortage of car mechanics, electricians, plumbers exists in town. But some skills, barbers for instance, are more essential than others. “Most barbers were Punjabis who have left,” said PPP’s Rahim Zafar. “It may seem like a small problem but it’s not when you don’t have a hair cut in months.”

More seriously, tourists, investors and foreigners that are essential for running a modern port are scared of visiting Gwadar. Prices of land have come down to a quarter of their original. The only five-star hotel, which is perhaps the best in Pakistan, was recently attacked by a rocket. The management is fighting a lost war by keeping an almost vacant hotel afloat.

Worse, the town is swarmed by unemployed, disillusioned youth. Hostels in Mekran are known to give refuge to the ‘miscreants.’ The local youth is poor, angry and bitter—a combination that comes handy to the Baloch separatists and their sponsors backed by a plethora of foreign players who have a stake in Gwadar’s rise and fall. The key to the materialization of Gwadar’s majestic agenda lies with these ‘angry young men.’ Without them the grand pipelines passing through Mekran will remain pipedreams.

(The News – )

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25 Responses to “A Balochistan Reader”


  1. 1 nota November 25, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Someone had raised an excellent point on an Express Tribune article (“In defence of the Baloch sardar”) that I want to repeat here:
    @Gurchani
    “Can some one ask Punjab’s elite and Islamabad’s security establishment that if Sardars in Balochistan are so powerful that they can stop social, economic and human developmentt then how come Army, NAVY, FC and Airforce was able to construct six large cantonments, fourty threee massive FC garrisons, Six Navel base, Missile testing sites and Nuclear testing site ?

    No Sardars are not able to stop development, Islamabad is unwilling to develop Balochistan for several stratagic reasons.”

  2. 2 Observer November 27, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    “No Sardars are not able to stop development, Islamabad is unwilling to develop Balochistan for several stratagic reasons.”

    Though I agree that if there is a will in Islamabad, then there is not a chance for any sardar to stop a (positive) development, but what are the “several strategic reasons”, which stops the development? I might be wrong but I mainly see a corrupt nature and nothing “strategic”.

  3. 3 Project Humanbeingsfirst.org November 28, 2010 at 1:18 am

    Thank you for this extensive compilation. Would be a good reference to read when I have some more time.

    Just wanted to leave a quick comment to this: ‘I might be wrong but I mainly see a corrupt nature and nothing “strategic”’, as I imagine that this misperception could be common among those weaned on mainstream.

    Baluchistan, like Kashmir, is entirely strategic. Strategists can always rely on the corruption of the ‘untermenschen’, specifically the House Negroes in Nota’s favorite parlance, to execute for them.

    And, to not be able to perceive the strategists and their overarching stratetgies amidst all the controlled chaoses and corrputions, i.e. the puppetshows, is a political-science strategy for ‘cloaking’ the puppetmasters from the eyes of the public.

    This should be self-evident by now. The empirical basis for this is described in a report I wrote a while back, “Anatomy of Conspiracy Theory”.

    Proof of the strategic significance of Baluchistan to globalists is in the clandestine privatization of its riches.

    Here is a link to an old article by Talpur “Requiem for Reko Diq” which first drew my attention to this privatization, and my comments to its author:

    Begin Excerpt

    ‘Dear Mr. Talpur,

    I came across your last year’s opinion in Dawn
    dawn.com/2008/09/30/op.htm#1

    The raison d’etre for the Balkanization of Pakistan has many angles. The mineral and gold deposits angle is interesting, especially because
    as you may already know, the controlling interest in Barrick Gold is
    the Rothschilds. There is a clandestine move afoot to switch back to
    gold-backed currency in the new global monetary system
    under-consideration, and it is utmost essential to commandeer all gold
    deposits worldwide so that all peoples would be obliged to purchase it
    from the underground vaults in the City of London. You might find
    this month’s Terrorism newsletter interesting because it highlights
    the Pakistani Negro [who enables it in Baluchistan]:

    print-humanbeingsfirst.blogspot.com/2009/05/newsflash-terrorism-may2009.html

    End excerpt

    But please don’t take my word for it. Do your own due diligence, and that is easier said than done as the effort required to do so is often no less than doing multiple Ph.D theses on different domains simultaneously. If one does however take the considertable time to ferret out the conspiracies and reads their own writings, one will realize that all of the world’s precious metal mines including gold, and minerals, are indeed intelockingly controlled by the same few hands which control the private central banks and the issue of debt-currency in G-7! “give me control of a nation’s money supply and I care not who makes its laws’ wasn’t an idle boast. Its impact today on even ordinary matters has so many layers and degrees of separation from the primemoving cause that almost no one is able to see it in normal visible light spectrum dominated by fools and imperial narrators.

    The overarching significance of all this privatization of all the world’s resources, including water (and we are already beginning to see efforts in that direction by way of mantra creation) can only be appreciated deeply in the context of the drive towards world government at the planetary level. So long as that agenda merely remains a kookish ‘conspiracy theory’ in the mind of the reader, all the rest of modernity, and current affairs, will also remain whatever the reader wishs it to be, and whatever he and she is told it is. Even confessions in the empire’s own organs cannot pursuade these good peoples (just like Morpheus told Neo in the Matrix)

    print-humanbeingsfirst.blogspot.com/2008/12/responseto-ft-gideon-rachman-worldgov.html

    Baluchistan, in the hierarchy of its global and local significance, at its apex – the ‘highest order bit’ so to speak – is primarily signficant for what’s under its soil, and for the remarkable depth of its shoreline to off-load it all from via the deep-sea ports under construction.

    Best wishes,

    Zahir Ebrahim
    Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

  4. 4 nota November 28, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Below are the videos of a recent seminar (“BUC Seminar on Baloch Missing Persons”). I am including it here because you probabaly will not come across it on any regular news source. Of special interest is Part 4. See the attitude of the media, see how they try to shut the speaker up (this is in the very start of that clip). “Aap Sach say qiuoN dartay haiN”, Indeed. Another bit is near the end where the speker exposes the just-honored-again-by-UN and just-elected-SCBA-president “Human Rights Activist” Asma Jehangir…

    Part 1: Majeed Baloch ( Organizer Baloch Unity Conference )

    Part 2: Yousuf Masti Khan ( Workers Party Pakistan ) Asadullah Bhutto ( Jamat-e-Islami )

    Part 3: Prof.Saba Dashtiyari ( Baloch Intellectual )

    Part 4: Prof.Saba Dashtiyari (continued)

    Part 5: )Khaliq Jonejo ( Geay sindh Mahaz )

    Part 6: Justice (R) Wajihuddin Ahmed

    Part 7: Iqbal haider Adv. ( HRCP and Lawyer )

    Part 8: Hamid Khan ( Ex.President Supreme Court Bar )

    Part 9: Owais Ahmed (Lawyer Leader)

  5. 5 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Kayani announces army’s withdrawal from Sui
    (Remember he did not say FC withdrawl…so nothing changes. And how could it when more gas is there for the taking…)

  6. 6 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Failing the Baloch
    By Basil Nabi Malik
    THE mutilated bodies surface quietly in various parts of the province, and usually without any forewarning. The killings take place sporadically but surely, the bodies dumped on unforgiving mountains or on deserted, half-constructed roads. Perhaps they are meant to constitute a message for certain segments of society.

    On some occasions, the arms and legs of these corpses are found to have been snapped; often, their faces are smashed in and swollen. At other times, the flesh shows that severe torture was inflicted on various parts of the body, the wounds indicating the use of knives, electric prods or drills that tore gaping holes into the body. The remains are often unrecognisable. And all of them have a gunshot wound in the head.

    These aren’t scenes from a battlefield in Afghanistan, Iraq or even the former Yugoslavia. Instead, this is the situation in the largest province in Pakistan: Balochistan. According to assessments made by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), severe human rights violations have been taking place in Balochistan since the onset of the latest phase of the insurgency.

    Of the many incidents of torture reported by the organisation, one is the case of Alam Pirkani Baloch who belonged to the Pirkani tribe. Apparently, he was arrested and placed in the custody of the Federal Intelligence Unit (FIU). During his incarceration, he was allegedly hung upside down with some sort of sharp-edged tool between his thighs and in his hands.

    After his hands and legs had bled for a while, he was taken down. Then chillies and salt were rubbed into his wounds.

    In another incident, Ali Beig of the Marri tribe was said to have been arrested by personnel of the City Police Station, Quetta,
    and handed over to the FIU. He was made to stand naked in freezing weather, electric shocks were administered to him and he was beaten with strips of rubber. After two months of being in the custody of the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and the FIU, he was transferred to a jail where the FIU would, allegedly, take him away at night for further torture. After a year, he was once again transferred to the FIU camp where he was subjected to torture with heavy steel rollers.

    In another example of the types of activities taking place in Balochistan, Eid Mohammad, son of Haji Wali Jan, was arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Act. He was kept in custody for three months. At the time of his arrest, Eid was a student of class 8 and was only 14 years old at the time. Although details of what that happened to him during his detention are sketchy, it is reported that Eid can no longer go to school. He regularly suffers nightmares, during the course of which he screams hysterically and pleads that he should not be tortured.

    These are just a few of the various incidents of alleged torture recorded by the HRCP in its fact-finding missions over the years.

    Furthermore — and shockingly — these incidents of torture are not considered separate to and distinct from the instances of disappearances that are taking place in Balochistan.

    In fact, many reports pouring in nowadays indicate that most of those desolate and mutilated bodies discovered on the uninhabited mountains or empty roads were actually persons reported as missing. Additionally, suspicion is raised by the fact that many such bodies come to light after there has been an attack on paramilitary or government forces that is blamed on nationalist forces.

    Despite the seriousness of the situation in Balochistan, which is indicated by the examples given above, these incidents seem to have raised little concern in other parts of the country. The media appears more concerned about the presence of CIA agents in Pakistan than the actual damage that is being caused apparently by state agents in Balochistan. Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan is more concerned about completing its tenure than actually trying to heal the wounds of the Baloch.

    The Supreme Court, on the other hand, appears more interested in issuing contempt notices to certain PPP leaders as compared to ensuring the fundamental rights of all those tortured and maimed souls who happen to call Balochistan their home. As for the people of Pakistan, sadly, they appear more interested in scrounging for national pride on the fields of Mohali rather than resurrecting the same on the shamed mountains and empty roads of Balochistan.

    However, whatever the motives behind such dismissive attitudes, and civil society and the state authorities’ lack of reaction to such incidents, it is clear that the said acts have served to perhaps irreparably harm any possibility of the Baloch placing their trust in the state of Pakistan and attempting at reconciliation.In fact, it has unfortunately now come to such a head that the hatred that certain Baloch tribal people have long held for the state of Pakistan is seeping into other segments of society.

    The educated classes, students as well as other parts of the middle class are all growing increasingly militant.

    As stated by Jamil Bugti, son of the late Nawab Akbar, Bugti, “The next generation is all in the mountains, and they’re not willing to talk to anyone. People like me, and others, like the different nationalist parties that are in parliament, they don’t have any role to play. They look very good on TV. That’s about it.”

    The writer is a Fulbright scholar and a Karachi based lawyer.

    basil.nabi@gmail.com

  7. 7 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

    BALOCHISTAN : A perfect Slaughterhouse of Pakistan’s military butchers
    by Ali Baloch
    (April 12, Karachi, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Baloch land once was a free and sovereign country, on August 11,1947,the British acceded control of Balochistan to the ruler of Balochistan, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan – the Khan of Kalat. The Khan immediately declared the independence of Balochistan, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah signed the proclamation of Balochistan’s sovereignty under the Khan.

    The New York Times reported on August 12, 1947: “Under the agreement, Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state with a status different from that of the Indian States. An announcement from New Delhi said that Kalat, Moslem State in Baluchistan, has reached an agreement with Pakistan for free flow of communications and commerce, and would negotiate for decisions on defense, external affairs and communications.” The next day, the NY Times even printed a map of the world showing Balochistan as a fully independent country.

    On August 15, 1947 the Khan of Kalat addressed a large gathering in Kalat and formally declared the full independence of Balochistan, and proclaimed the 15th day of August a day of celebration. The Khan formed the lower and upper house of Kalat Assembly, and during the first meeting of the Lower House in early September 1947, the Assembly confirmed the independence of Balochistan. Jinnah tried to persuade the Khan to join Pakistan, but the Khan and both Houses of the Kalat Assembly refused. The Pakistani army then invaded Balochistan on March 27th, 1948, and imprisoned all members of the Kalat Assembly. India stood by silently. Lord Mountbatten, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru or Maulana Azad, then the president of India’s Congress Party said nothing about the illegal occupation of Balochistan.Since the illegal occupation of Baloch land,Pakistan’s military is continuously trying to silent the voices of Balochistan’s freedom by the force of guns,tanks,fighter jets in all the other possible brutal ways.Nawab Babu Nauroz Khan waged an arm struggle along with thousands of Baloch tribesman for the liberation of Balochistan.But on May 15,1959 the Pakistani wicked rulers betrayed the Babu Nauroz through an oath on the holy Quran that Pakistan will settle all the Baloch grievances.However,when Nawab Nowroz Khan came down from the hills, he and about 150 of his followers, including his sons and nephews, were arrested for armed rebellion against the state. On July 15, 1960 five of the leaders were executed by hanging in Hyderabad Jail.Nawab Nauroz Khan was spared execution on account of his age, but died in Jail in 1964.

    The co-operation of Shah-e-Iran Raza Shah Pahlavi with Z.A Bhutto to crush the Baloch Uprising in 1973-77, when the Shah of Iran provided Pakistan with cobra helicopters, Iranian pilots and $700 million dollar in cash.In this deadly operation an estimately 15,000-25,000 Baloch tribesmen were killed,livestocks,fields,houses were destroyed by the joint aggression of Pakistan and Iran,and thousands took refuge to Aghanistan.

    The Pakistani state has been using regular troops and paramilitary forces against Baloch civilians.The region has been highly militarized, as Pakistani occupiers established one paramilitary post for every 500 people.There are four mega military cantonments, 52 paramilitary cantonments, five naval bases including Jinnah naval base in Ormara district Gwadar and six missile-testing ranges in Balochistan.

    On 17th March 2005, Pakistan’s Paramilitary Forces,Started Shelling the town of Dera Bugti,more than 60 Civilians were killed in this indiscriminate Bombardment, among them 33 Hindus killed and 19 were children.

    On 17 December 2005, paramilitary forces began aerial bombardment at Kohlu.By mid-June 2006, about 400 to 500 innocent Baloch people were killed in the army operations including in air raids in Balochistan, especially in Marri and Bugti areas.About 80 to 85% of those either killed or injured were women and children.The fighting caused widespread damage to buildings, and 85 percent people of Dera Bugti were forced to flee the town.The Pakistani Air Force chief Tanwir Mahmood Ahmed stated that the air force would continue to be used whenever and wherever the government desired.

    According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that Pakistani soldiers arrested four people on April 5 2008, in the Dera Bugti district of Balochistan, and subjected them to torture.They were asked to identify local supporters of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). After failing to get any names from them, the victims were immersed in scolding hot coal tar. Three of the men were literally boiled and burned to death. A fourth died later from his injuries.Villagers in the area also claim the Pakistan army used a form of chemical gas against them and that some of the gassed survivors were later shot.

    So far,according to one estimate about 8000 people, including men, women and children, have been abducted by Pakistani security forces from various parts of Balochistan.Pakistan has used all brutal ways to stop the Baloch freedom movement but Baloch nation is courageously facing all the brutalities of occupying state but not withdrawing from the national cause of independence.Pakistan now using her last method to suppress the struggle like did in Bangladesh by the ‘’Al-Shams’’ &’’Al-Badar’’ now these death squads are re-introduced in Balochistan by new names in order to hide her crimes.Pakistani military intelligence agencies ISI,MI,IB and Frontier Core are abducting the Baloch students,political workers,human right activists,journalists from every corner of Balochistan,like from colleges,houses,hospitals,highways.Pakistan military has kept all abducted persons in secret torture cells,and every week killing 8-10 of the Baloch youths and throwing their brutally tortured bullet riddled bodies in deserts and mountains,most of the deadbodies are not recogniseable as flesh been eaten by wild animals.The “custodial killings toll” has crossed the figure of “130” in a time span of only 10 months and exactly same numbers of Baloch youths has been abducted again.

    Pakistan military fighter jets and gunship helicopters still bombing,shelling the Dera Bugti,Kohlu,Mashkay,Mand town of Balochistan but unfortunately still a ‘’flyzone’’ for Pakistan Airforce, as lives of Baloch are not worthful like the Libyans.It’s the morale duty of all those champions of human rights who are crying for the human lives in Somalia,Egypt, Libya must play their role to save Baloch nation from the Pakistan military butchers.Infact Pakistan is an ally of US in ‘’War Against Terrorism’’ but we Baloch need world support in ‘’War Against Pakistani State Terrorism in Balochistan’’.

  8. 8 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Daily Times: Dr Nazar’s perspective on Balochistan situation
    You’ve probably never heard of Balochistan. A resource rich province of Pakistan wedged between Afghanistan and Iran, it is an area of great geo-political importance that includes the port of Gwadar, which many eye as a profitable road to China and Central Asia. Balochistan is also the site of what historian Selig Harrison has called “a slow motion genocide” of the Baloch people.

    Despite its strategic importance and harrowing human rights scandals, however, the region and its problems go virtually unreported because Pakistani authorities rarely grant journalists permission to travel beyond the capital of Quetta and its intelligence agencies routinely monitor and mistreat those journalists who do enter the province.

    When Pakistan was carved out in 1947, British drew lines through tribal lands regardless of the indigenous people who lived there, and the centuries-old Balochistan was tucked into Pakistan with the coerced signing of an accession agreement. The Baloch have been struggling for decades to gain back their independence — sometimes violently.

    Deprived of education and their own country’s resources, Baloch resistance fighters are made up of youth, farmers, shepherds, traders, salesmen, doctors, and ordinary citizens. The Pakistani government often conflates them with the far more violent extremist Taliban, waging all-out war against the secular Baloch resistance, imprisoning dissidents, abducting not only suspected fighters or sympathisers, but uninvolved citizens and, often, killing them. In February 2011 Amnesty International wrote in a press release: “The Pakistan government must immediately provide accountability for the alarming number of killings and abductions in Balochistan attributed to government forces in recent months.” In their effort to win independence, Baloch fighters have bombed gas pipelines, sabotaged railway lines and allegedly attacked persons regarded as collaborators, although in an area with limited freedom of the press, it is difficult to parse the truth of who did what.

    In a rare glimpse into this conflict and into a region veiled by its near-blackout media status, Dr Allah Nazar, one of the best-known and revered Baloch resistance leaders with boots on the ground, agreed to an interview. The questions to Dr Nazar were delivered to him at an undisclosed location by an intermediary.

    Q: What draws people to advocate on behalf of the Baloch?

    A: Those who know the history of the Baloch, those who see that Balochistan is being used as a colony, support our struggle for freedom. Those who have a conscience and are men of reason understand that it is our right to live as an independent people on our homeland. Some are attracted by our bravery, some appreciate our traditions, such as “mehman nawazi” [translates as ‘hospitality’. Mehman is ‘guest’ and nawazi is ‘supporting’], some voice their concerns over the violation of human rights in Balochistan by the Pakistan army.

    Q: You founded the student political group BSO (Azad) in 2002. What were your goals at the time?

    A: We founded it on February 2nd 2002 to do two things. One was to announce that the Baloch want a free homeland and the other was to say no to the politics of vote and parliament, as it was one of the biggest hurdles between us and freedom. [By that I mean] the politics of the groups that were said to be nationalist parties were ambiguous at the time we founded the BSO. Most of them were demanding provincial autonomy and asking the people to vote [for them] in order [to] achieve their ideals. But what they actually did was to enjoy the luxuries of life in the Pakistani parliament. Plus, their ideals were not clear at all. They couldn’t say what exactly they wanted. This ambiguity had turned the students as well as the general public into a frustrated lot. We wanted to give the people a clear direction, and today I feel we succeeded in doing that.

    Q: You were arrested shortly after founding this student political organisation, but released following a hunger strike on the part of your supporters. Who arrested you and what were you arrested for?

    A: I was the chairman of the BSO and was arrested by the police in Quetta for protesting against unjustly sacking some employees from the Bolan Medical College on the grounds that they were Baloch.

    Q: In March 2005 you were re-arrested with six friends. Who arrested you and what for?

    A: We were arrested by the personnel of the Pakistani intelligence agencies in Karachi and kept in illegal detention for about four months. They thought I was one of the top leaders of the armed movement and getting rid of me would weaken the Baloch armed struggle. They picked us — I use the word ‘pick’ because they didn’t show us any document or a FIR nor did they [acknowledge] we were in their custody in the following days — to eliminate us. But later they had to reject the idea, perhaps because they thought they were making a hero out of me as the Baloch people had protested against our unlawful detention.

    Q: Why were you tortured this time? What information were the authorities looking for?

    A: We were subjected to brutal mental and physical torture and put in inhuman conditions all the time. They abused us, didn’t let us sleep for days, beat us with iron rods, cut parts of our body with blades, etc. I can’t narrate all the details of torture I had to endure as time and space will not allow me to do that, but I say this: the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) and MI (Military Intelligence) have absolutely no respect for basic human rights, they have no dignity.

    A: Among many other questions, they kept asking us who led the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), who funded the Baloch armed movement and on which country’s behalf we were waging a war. They would torture me after each question they asked.

    Q: Why were you released?

    A: It is something those who released me could better answer. I had refused to fight a case in the court, as I don’t believe in the Pakistani justice system — which becomes a supporter of the intelligence agencies when it comes to dealing with the Baloch. I think they thought I was going to die anyway, as my health had deteriorated by then, and they didn’t want to be blamed for my death.

    Q: Following your release, where did you go?

    A: From Quetta I went to my hometown Mashkay, stayed at home for 17 days and on the 18th day went on the mountain. In the Baloch national struggle, ‘taking to the mountain’ is a euphemism for joining the ranks of the freedom fighters, who mostly hide in mountains.

    Q: There is a photo from August 21, 2005, that has become one of the iconic images of the Baloch resistance. In it you are gaunt and shackled. Men are transferring you to an ambulance. Who are these men?

    A: The people putting me into the ambulance are, apart from the ambulance staff, officials of the Pakistani intelligence agencies, police and anti-terrorist court.

    Q: Where are they taking you?

    A: To a detention centre of the Anti-Terrorist Force in a Quetta cantonment. After being kidnapped by the ISI and MI officials from Karachi, I had remained in their illegal custody for more than four months, first in Karachi and then Quetta. After experiencing months of beating and humiliation at the Quetta’s Quli Camp — an illegal cell of the Pakistani intelligence agencies where Baloch political activists are subjected to mental and physical torture — I was thrown into a police station and was later brought to the ATF [Anti Terrorist Force] detention centre. The suffering had done my health lots of damage and that’s why they had to take me to a doctor. This is where this photo was taken.

    Q: In the past, going to prison was almost a rite of passage for Baloch political leaders, but generally families knew where their loved ones were held and could visit. In the last decade that has evolved. First there were the abductions and enforced disappearances. The recent development is for agencies to dump tortured and bullet-riddled bodies at the roadside. Often in groups of two or three. Why this change?

    A: After failing to break the political activists in torture cells — and knowing that their brutality can’t make them stop speaking about the Baloch cause — the army is now killing them to spread terror. The marks of severe torture on the bodies of the martyrs are a proof of that. It’s state terrorism at its ‘best.’

    Q: Are persons at the top of the military-intelligence complex giving orders to abduct, kill and dump Baloch citizens?

    A: All the state terrorism being carried out in Balochistan has been ordered by the higher authorities. Interior Minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik recently told the intelligence agencies to wage a ‘guerrilla war’ against Baloch political activists. An organisation has been made by the name of Sipah-e-Shauhda whose job is to eliminate the politically conscious Baloch. Both Chief Minister and Governor of Balochistan have called for and supported military’s operations against the freedom fighters.

    Q: Today there are Baloch who would still prefer to stay within Pakistan, but to enjoy more autonomy. Is that still a possible option? Do any of the rebel groups desire this outcome?

    A: It’s an old trick of colonial powers to support certain groups to weaken revolutions. The Baloch today accept nothing less than complete freedom. There may be Pakistani establishment-supported groups in Balochistan that speak of provincial autonomy but they have no support among the public. They are small groups. The Baloch today know who the real custodians of their land are and are supporting the freedom fighters.

    Q: How does current American foreign policy affect Baloch youth?

    A: It’s no secret that the Americans have an interest in this region. But in my opinion it’s the Baloch youth that could affect the American policies rather than the other way around. We are fighting for something we deserve, and we won’t agree on less than an independent country. The policy makers of the West must know that we are a peace-loving and secular people, and a free Balochistan is in the best interest of all those countries that love, and fight to maintain, peace — not only in the region but in the whole world.

    Q: Is radicalisation a threat? If so, how are youth being radicalised?

    A: It is becoming a threat as the ISI and MI are running a systematic campaign to radicalise the Baloch society. The Taliban are supported, patronised, given shelters and encouraged to spread religious intolerance in Balochistan by the intelligence agencies.

    Meanwhile, let me tell you something interesting here. The officials of the Pakistani intelligence agencies attack NATO’s supply trawlers — a large number of them have been set ablaze in the recent past in parts of Balochistan like Khuzdar — and then put the blame on the Taliban or some other religious organisation that is never heard of previously. Why? Because they want to give the world the impression there is radicalisation in Balochistan and that the Baloch too believe in fighting in the name of religion.

    Our national struggle has kept the threat of religious radicalisation at bay so far, as we don’t believe at all in violence in the name of religion. We are Muslims but we respect other people’s religions as much as we do ours.

    Q: In the February 1 issue of The National Interest, Selig Harrison titles his article ‘Free Balochistan.’ His argument for granting Balochistan independence is a dramatic departure for an American scholar. What is the rationale for granting Balochistan independence?

    A: An independent Balochistan will be a responsible and stable state that will respect the international law and live in harmony with the neighbouring countries. As I said earlier, the Baloch are a peace-loving and secular people. We will not at all be burden on the world as we have vast resources — be it our long coast, livestock, agriculture or mineral resources. Besides, we have a separate history, language, culture and traditions. We have our own geographical boundaries, and it’s our right to live as a free nation on the land our forefathers chose to inhabit centuries ago. The world should accept our right to freedom.

    Q: Is there any attempt on the part of Baloch political groups to reach out to non-Baloch residing in Balochistan?

    A: Yes. Through pamphlets and news statements we have time and again addressed them that if they share the pain we are suffering and stand with us through thick and thin, they will be respected and considered equal citizens of the country we’re fighting to achieve. But I’m sad to say that their role towards our national struggle has so far been awfully negative. Most of them collaborate with the ISI and MI in the killing of Baloch students and political activists.

    Q: Do the fighting groups in Balochistan coordinate actions at all?

    A: Yes. The coordination is very strong and we provide all kinds of support to each other, be it men, weapons, shelter — anything.

    Q: What would a successful and independent Balochistan look like?

    A: A free Balochistan will be a non-nuclear and democratic, secular country. It will be the safeguard of human rights and equality. Every one will enjoy the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to practice their respective religions. There will not be any kind of discrimination, be it ethnic, gender or class. The common people will be the real custodians of the state’s resources. There will be jobs and education and health care facilities. Art and culture will be promoted, and the state will do all it can to preserve the environment.

    Q: What would a Balochi bill of rights include?

    A: The Baloch bill of rights will be synonymous with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The citizens will enjoy their rights to freedom of speech and information, freedom of assembly, freedom of making trade unions, political parties. Facilities of education and health will be for every community and group without any discrimination. The Baloch traditions will be made a part of the bill, excluding the ones that are outdated. All the ethnic groups and religions will be respected and given equal opportunities to practice their way of life.

    Q: How would Balochistan’s vast resources be managed? Would the resources be shared?

    A: The resources will put to use by the government keeping in mind above everything else the needs and welfare of the general public. Besides, we will hire experts from the developed world to give suggestions to the government on how best to utilise those resources. In the meanwhile, the Baloch youth will be given professional training as it’s they who will eventually assist the government in managing the vast resources.

    Q: Would resources be controlled by respective tribes and/or regions?

    A: Tribalism is a forgotten concept now. It’s the commoners who are doing the fighting and they are the ones who will be the real custodians of the state’s resources. Those who shed blood for the cause will lead the government just like they are leading the national movement today. Moreover, there will be a proper system and the state institutions, including an independent judiciary, will make sure that the resources are not exploited by a particular group or organisation.

    Q: Scholar Juan Cole wrote that America supports dictators because they feel it enhances their security. What do you think about this logic?

    A: Dictators have always been the guardians of the interests of superpowers. But I think in the modern world a dictator cannot survive only because he is supported by a certain powerful country. Today the people of a particular country decide the fate of a dictator. You saw what happened to Hosni Mubarak?

    Q: Americans say that the Taliban retreat to and regroup in Balochistan from Afghanistan and that its leaders are holed up in Quetta.

    A: Yes, but not in the Baloch areas. The Taliban are sheltered in the Pashtun areas of Balochistan, and all this is being done under the patronage of the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Let me say here that if the peace-loving nations of the world do not fully support the Baloch national struggle, the Taliban and terrorism will prevail in the region.

    Q: When did you become active in politics?

    A: In 1988 when I joined the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO) while I was a student of Intermediate at Degree College in Turbat. Back then, there were two blocks by the names of Capitalist Block and Communists Block at the international level and this situation influenced the local politics too. Young Baloch politicians of the time were more attracted towards the Communist Block as they spoke of supporting a nation’s right to self-determination. But it didn’t mean the Baloch were Communists. We have always been nationalists first. What mattered for us was our right to independence as a people.

    Q: Was there a particular event or person that motivated or inspired you to become politically active?

    A: Slavery. The society. The suffering of the Baloch. Besides, as a young man I would listen to elders sharing with each other bitter memories of [former President and Military Chief of Pakistan] General Ayub’s military operation in Balochistan. My people have a strong memory. They never forget what you do to them, good or bad.

    Q: Please tell us about your parents and what kind of influence they had on you, if any?

    A: My parents taught me to become a Baloch, which among other things means to never surrender before the tyrant no matter how unsuitable the circumstances are for you. They made me learn that you are never poor if you have dignity and the motherland together.

    Q: In your recent interview with Naimat Haider you said you would prefer using a book over a gun to achieve your ideals. In closing, why don’t you share a couple of book titles with us?

    A: ‘Glimpses of World History’ by Jawaharlal Nehru and ‘Kurd Gal Namak’ by Akhund Salih Muhammad.

  9. 9 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Express: Confusion, pain and longing, after they vanished
    ISLAMABAD:

    It was a painful night for his family when Frontier Corps officials along with security agency personnel entered her house and abducted Sameer.

    “My brother was screaming, ‘Baba, help me’ and suddenly his voice vanished,” said Sumiya Abdul Kareem, a resident of Turbat and sister of Sameer Abdul Kareem.

    For the past six months, Sameer’s family has been struggling to know where he is. “We do not have a clue. No one is helping us, we are helpless,” she said

    At the time of her brother’s abduction, Sumiya was a student of third year, but had to quit her studies due to the sudden change of circumstances.

    In another incident of mysterious abduction, Mehlab Baloch, eight, from Balochistan said, “My father was reading books in his office when some people came and took him away. We do not know where he is. I badly miss him.”

    While Baloch’s 14-year-old brother had to quit his studies and work as a farmer to earn a livelihood for the family, the void of their missing father haunts them day and night.

    Highlighting such tales of agony, a press conference was held on Wednesday by the relatives and family members of Baloch activists who went missing. These people had camped for the last 10 days outside the National Press Club to register their protest and make their voices heard.

    Farzana Bibi, sister of a kidnapped Baloch student organisation leader Zakir Majeed said, “The pretense of law and justice being provided to the citizens should be put to rest forever if the Supreme Court does not have the power to demand the immediate recovery of all missing persons.”

    The briefing coincided with the SC hearing of the missing person’s case which took place the same day. “All the alleged defenders of the law should be put on trail as it is the security agencies that are abducting thousands of innocents with impunity,” she said.

    A representative of Voice for Baloch Missing Person (VBMP) said, “The ball is now in the court of those who claim to be defenders of democracy, to ensure a resolution for the thousands of families who have been suffering incessantly for many years.”

    Speaking on the occasion Nasrullah Baloch,VBMP chairperson, said, “This is the second time we have set up a protest camp to project the plight of thousands of Baloch who have been abducted over the past few years.”

    “Last year Justice Javed Iqbal gave us assurances that things would improve but instead the situation in Balochistan has deteriorated further,” he said.

    He said not only have the kidnappings continued, a new reign of terror had spread throughout the province after mutilated bodies of abducted youth were being recovered on almost a daily basis.

    Speaking on the occasion Qadeer Baloch, vice chairman VBMP, said the families of the young men who have been abducted want to know the crimes committed by their loved ones. “They should be charged openly in the court of law and if found guilty, the government has the right to punish them,” he said. “The state is breeding enormous resentment within ordinary Baloch people and creating a fertile ground for separatist movements,” he added.

    Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2011.

  10. 10 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:42 am

    The News: Looking for sympathisers in a ‘city of aliens’
    Mumtaz Alvi
    Thursday, April 14, 2011
    Islamabad

    Family members of 23 missing persons arrived in Islamabad from Quetta 10 days back with the hope of a breakthrough on recovery of their loved ones and that the president and prime minister may also express their solidarity with them by at least issuing a statement.

    However, to their utter dismay, neither President Asif Ali Zardari nor Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani issued a statement upon their arrival in the federal capital or to even acknowledge their peaceful struggle to find a clue of their near and dear ones’ whereabouts.

    Several of missing persons’ relatives, half of them females, during a chat with ‘The News’, had one major request: their spouses, brothers and sons, if had done anything wrong, they must be proceeded against according to the law of the land.

    They requested the prime minister’s spouse to play her role in ending their compounding ordeal for she as a mother could better understand their distress. They were grateful to Supreme Court Chief Justice Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who sent his representative to their camp on Monday, who held out some assurances to them.

    Most of the missing persons, according to their family members have a political background: they wondered as having political affiliation or to push for their rights a crime.

    They complained no cabinet minister, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Minister for Human Rights Mian Raza Rabbani or the chairman National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights Riaz Husain Fatiana could spare time to visit their camp outside the National Press Club for a word of sympathy.

    Prime Minister Gilani’s reception in honour of Pakistan cricket team did not go well with these worried souls and they lamented an elected premier had time for sportsmen but he could not spare some moments for them or utter some words in their support.

    Asked why not they had sought an audience with Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani, they alleged he was like a government servant, having no real powers to protect dignity and honour of the people of the province.

    “The civilian rulers can at least speak for us and try soothing our injured souls and hearts, as they claim to be the elected representatives of people,” quipped an aged man, who had braved agonising travel from Quetta to Islamabad.

    According to vice-president of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, Qadeer Baloch, who is looking for his son Jalil Reki, central information secretary of Balochistan Republican Party: the youth was allegedly taken away by sleuths of a secret agency three years back. He said the NGO does not take funds from any government department or private firm and their campaign for the recovery of missing persons is being run by mutual contributions. They had set up a camp for eight months in Quetta and for nearly three months in Karachi.

    Qadeer Baloch wondered what happened to Prime Minister Gilani’s promise to the people of Balochistan last year before Eidul Fitr that their loved ones would be among them to mark the auspicious occasion.

    “If our loved ones are guilty, punish them or set them free immediately. We have faith in our courts. Let’s go by the land of the law,” emphasised the desperate-looking man in his early 60s.

    “It appears, as if we are in a city of aliens of a foreign country. The treatment being meted out to us has no place in the Constitution, as the national document calls for equal treatment to all citizens of Pakistan,” said a veiled sister of one missing person.

    Sisters of several missing persons, including Sameer Rindh, Sanaa Baloch, Sangat Sanaa, Zakir Majeed, Zafar Baloch, Abid Shah, Sattar Baloch, Master Safeer, Sami Mengal, Muhammad Yousaf and Zarina Marri are here while wife of (missing) Dr. Din Muhammad along with her eight-year-old daughter Mehlab have also made their way to the federal capital.

    All of them spend night in a hotel, where they have hired three rooms and some of them have been sheltered in their relatives’ residences, already working in Islamabad.

    Our correspondent

    Islamabad

    The relatives and well wishers of at least 15 disappeared Baloch activists held a press briefing at the National Press Club on Wednesday under the auspices of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons at the conclusion of their 10 day protest camp in the federal capital.

    The briefing was also held to coincide with the latest Supreme Court hearing in the missing persons case, which took place on Wednesday morning.

    Speaking at the briefing, VBMP Chairperson Nasrullah Baloch said: “This is the second time we have set-up a protest camp to call attention to the plight of thousands of Baloch, who have gone missing over the past few years.”

    He said that exactly a year ago a delegation of the VBMP spent two weeks in Islamabad and also attended a hearing at the Supreme Court. “Justice Javed Iqbal gave us assurances at the time that things would improve and our loved ones would be recovered, but instead over the next 12 months the situation in Balochistan has deteriorated further.”

    Nasrullah Baloch said that not only have abductions continued, but in fact a new reign of terror has spread throughout the province as mutilated bodies of abducted youth are being found on almost a daily basis.

    VBMP Vice Chairman Qadeer Baloch said that it appears as if the majority of the Baloch people who want peace and stability are being deliberately radicalised by the actions of the security agencies. He said that the families of the young men who have been abducted only want to know where their loved ones are and for them to be charged openly in a court of law if they are accused of committing any crime.

    He said that these are very basic demands yet by not only ignoring the plight of the families but in fact rubbing salt in their wounds by committing brutal acts of violence against innocent abductees, the state is breeding enormous resentment within ordinary Baloch people and creating fertile ground for separatist movements. A number of women — sisters and mothers of abducted youth — are part of the delegation and narrated their sordid tales to the press on the occasion.

    Farzana Bibi, sister of kidnapped Baloch Students Organisation leader Zakir Majeed, said that all of the purported defenders of the law should be put on trial as it is the security agencies that claim to be defenders of the people that are abducting thousands of innocents with impunity.

    She said that the only law in Pakistan is the law of the jungle and the pretence of law and justice should be put to rest forever if the Supreme Court does not have the power to demand the immediate recovery of all missing persons.

    The VBMP representatives said that their struggle would continue until each and every missing Baloch student and political activist was recovered. They said that no amount of intimidation and harassment would deter them from their mission and said that the ball is now in the court of those who claim to be defenders of democracy and the rule of law to ensure resolution for thousands of families who have been suffering incessantly for many years and are increasingly losing faith in the ability and willingness of the state to dispense justice.

  11. 11 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Daily Times: VIEW: Please don’t lose the opportunity —Azizullah Khan
    If the relatives of missing persons went back to Balochistan without getting their demands fulfilled, imagine what message would go to the Baloch as a nation. The neutral Baloch people will become disillusioned and will be more attracted to the agenda of the insurgents

    The situation in Balochistan is moving from bad to worse and there is no positive response from the government’s side. Everyday bullet riddled bodies (claimed to be of missing persons) are found, peoples are kidnapped, power transformers and electricity pylons are blown up and state machinery is targeted. Uncertainty and insecurity is reigning over the people of Balochistan. People over there are fearful of law enforcement agencies, which have no respect for them.

    It seems that strategic policy makers in Islamabad are persistently trying to resolve the issue through ‘kidnapping’ and ‘targeted killing’. Some pseudo-patriots expect that this policy would pay dividends but it is quite obvious that it will backfire. Given the fact that the female relatives of the missing persons came out of their homes in protest against illegal and shameful kidnapping of their loved ones, it can be easily deciphered that their male relatives will be inclined to join insurgent groups. So how kidnapping and targeted killing can help us solve the issue? Is not this policy strengthening the hands of the insurgents?

    Stories of kidnappings of the missing persons are full of horror, brutality and cruelty. The sister of one the missing persons told the BBC, “One dark night a few people jumped into our home, threatened us, overpowered my brother, severely beat him and then whisked him away.” She held the intelligence agencies responsible for the kidnapping of her brother. Heartrending stories of other missing persons, which are believed to be in hundreds if not thousands, are not much different from this story.

    Relatives of these missing persons are protesting for a very long time, using their democratic right of peaceful protests but their cries fall on deaf ear. They are staging protests in Islamabad under the platform of ‘Voice for the Baloch Missing Persons’, but, unfortunately, they have not received any positive response so far. In fact, Interior Minister Rehman Malik rubbed salt into their wounds by saying that “criminals” are behind the kidnappings in the province, though he did not provide any evidence in support of his claim. Senate Chairman Farooq H Naek announced that a parliamentary committee would be set up to look into the issue. But we know, in Pakistan, when any matter is passed on to committees one can be sure that it has been thrown into a dust bin, so it is a non-starter. The relatives are asking the government to announce the arrest of missing persons and file charges against them in courts. Some of us are quick to argue, “Why don’t the Baloch resort to democratic means to raise their concerns?” I ask: how will they believe in democratic principles if their democratic struggle of almost three long years for the recovery of their loved ones has not shown any results?

    Protestors are not demanding release of their relatives: they are demanding their appearance; bring them before the courts if there are valid charges against them and let the independent courts to decide. They are ready to fight their cases in courts. That security agencies are not bringing them before the courts is due to two reasons: either they do not think that courts are independent, i.e. they fear that the courts will favour the missing persons or they, just like other non-state actors, consider themselves above the law. Both the scenarios are dangerous.

    It is shameful that the protestors were whisked away and interrogated by intelligence agencies after their arrival at Rawalpindi’s railway station and our eagle-eyed media did not cover it. What more can we expect from the media which failed to cover an event related to Balochistan in Islamabad?

    It is extremely unfortunate that our security agencies are held responsible for the missing persons. It not only undermines the credibility of our most stable institutions both at home and abroad but also attracts world attention towards their human rights violations. The matter has become public; it is now debated everywhere with stark references to security agencies. We want the concerned authorities to put an end to the issue as we do not want our stable institutions to remain in spotlight and publicly criticised for such wrong deeds.

    If the relatives of missing persons went back to the Balochistan without getting their demands fulfilled, imagine what message would go to the Baloch as a nation. The neutral Baloch people will become disillusioned and will be more attracted to the agenda of the insurgents. If the demands of the protestors are addressed, they will carry home a message of brotherhood, peace and integrity to Balochistan. The middle class of Baloch will celebrate it, which will be a great blow to the agenda of separatists. The Baloch people’s hate against security forces will recede, which will greatly help in refurnishing their faith in the political system of Pakistan.

    It is hoped that the security agencies extend their sincere assistance to the Supreme Court, which is hearing the missing persons’ case and a major breakthrough is achieved. If concerns of the protesters are addressed and they are sent back with smiles on their faces, it will deal a blow to separatist demands. So let us take it as an opportunity, not as something embarrassing.

    The suppression of the Baloch is suppression for the sake suppression; neither is it a policy nor wisdom. It is sheer insanity to attach expectations with suppression. To dishearten peaceful protestors who are protesting on such a sensitive issue at such a crucial time is disastrous. So, please, do not dishearten them, address their demands and send a message of brotherhood, kindness and sympathy to the Baloch people. It is a time for you to soften your image and correct your record.

    The writer is a graduate of Government College University, Lahore, and can be reached at khetran@ymail.com

  12. 13 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Clueless in Quetta
    By Haider Nizamani

    “Enough is enough. Now the government will use force…because (in Balochistan) they (terrorists) do not understand the language of love,” so says Mr Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s not-so-savvy interior minister. For him, “use of force (is) only option to restore order in Balochistan”. This was his opening salvo while talking to the media in Quetta on September 7, 2010.

    Only a day before Mr Malik’s arrival in Quetta, the mutilated body of Zaman Khan Marri was found in Mastung. Zaman Marri was a lawyer allegedly kidnapped by some government agency in August 2010. Political kidnappings have become a norm in Balochistan that creates no ripple in the mainstream media.

    According to the mission statement of Rehman Malik’s ministry, it aims “to make Pakistan a country where rule of law reigns supreme; where every Pakistani feels secure to lead a life in conformity with his religious beliefs, culture, heritage and customs; where a Pakistani from any group, sect or province respects the culture, tradition and faith of the other.”

    His appraisal of the Baloch nationalist movement and the manner in which he proposes to tackle it are fraught with faulty assumptions and contravene the mission statement of the Interior Ministry. He claimed that Baloch nationalist leaders Hairbyiar Marri and Brahmdagh Bugti “had not responded positively to the government’s offer for talks”. Therefore, the government is planning a Swat- and Malakand-like crackdown in Balochistan to crush elements involved in target killings and bomb blasts.

    Mr Malik needs to be reminded that use of coercive force to crush the Baloch nationalist movement is widespread and has a long history in the province. If he has come up with the idea of ‘use of force as the only option’ to restore order in the province, then he is woefully divorced from reality. That is if we choose to be charitable to Rehman Malik. What is more likely is that Pakistan’s interior minister is not consulted in any meaningful way when it comes to carrying on with crushing the Baloch nationalist movement militarily, of which extra-judicial killings, fake encounters, and forced disappearances are staple methods.

    During his Quetta sojourn, Malik also informed us that “those talking of independent Balochistan are teenagers and can be counted on fingertips”. He must have countless fingers and rather unique arithmetic to classify veteran Baloch leaders like Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and Akbar Bugti as teenagers. The irresponsible utterances of Rehman Malik show gross disrespect for Baloch leaders who command significant respect amongst ordinary Baloch.

    Rehman Malik may not know his limits and could possibly be living in Shangri La, but most Baloch nationalists know very well that when it comes to the ill-fated province, it is the top brass of the civil and military establishment and their intelligence agencies that calls the shots in Balochistan. If Rehman Malik and his bosses are sincere and serious in restoring order in Balochistan, he needs to change the mindset in Islamabad and Rawalpindi that deems every dissenting and dissatisfied Baloch as an external agent and enemy of progress.

    Instead of following up concretely on the promises made by the present government to the people of Balochistan, Mr Malik is hell-bent on giving sweeping powers to the Frontier Constabulary (FC) — a much-maligned force in the province. So misplaced were Mr Rehman’s prescriptions that the provincial government totally distanced itself from them.

    The official narrative about Balochistan and how it relates to Baloch nationalist forces is ridden with contradictions. Two steps of Islamabad under the present government are good examples. President Asif Zardari apologised to the Baloch people for wrongs done to them by successive governments in Islamabad. The apology is an admission of the litany of errors. To correct some of the past wrongs, parliament passed what was termed the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan (Beginning of the rights of Balochistan) Package in 2009.

    Instead of controlling the damage his statements caused upon arrival in Quetta, the interior minister in his delirium slapped a ban on five organisations in Balochistan and has asked the State Bank of Pakistan to freeze accounts and assets of these organisations. This fantastic move defies even rudimentary logic. One is certain that none of the banned organisations has functioning bank accounts that are subject to public audits. Banning non-existent accounts as a means to quell militancy in Balochistan only reinforces the belief among the Baloch that the Centre is not keen to deal with the nationalists as a genuine political force. Such perfunctory measures, instead of weakening the militants, will only provide them with the political capital to market their message in the province.

    I wish Mr Malik had heard about Carl Sagan’s statement: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The knee-jerk attitude of reducing the Baloch nationalists to pawns in foreign hands has eerie similarity to what India does in the Kashmir Valley. Rehman Malik’s extraordinary claims lack extraordinary evidence. Most Baloch youth feel alienated in the state of Pakistan. Malik’s statements will only augment that alienation. Prime Minister Gilani issued a statement saying there will be no military operation in Balochistan. What is ironic is that neither Rehman Malik’s war mongering scares the Baloch nationalists nor Prime Minister Gilani’s comforting words can convince them of the sincerity of Islamabad in engaging the Baloch in the federation. (Courtesy: Daily Times, Lahore)

    The writer teaches political science at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and can be reached at hnizamani@hotmail.com

  13. 14 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:48 am

    The following shows were on this subject:

    News Beat – 8 September 2010
    http://pkpolitics.com/2010/09/08/news-beat-8-september-2010/

    Dunya Meray Aagay – 9 September 2010
    http://pkpolitics.com/2010/09/09/dunya-meray-aagay-9-september-2010/

  14. 16 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Aljazeera Documentary on Baluchistan:

    Baloch and Balochistan – the true story (50 minute – 16 august 2009):

    Baloch and Balochistan – The True Story – 2 (Aljazeera tv report):

  15. 17 nota April 19, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Guardian: Pakistan’s secret dirty war
    In Balochistan, mutilated corpses bearing the signs of torture keep turning up, among them lawyers, students and farm workers. Why is no one investigating and what have they got to do with the bloody battle for Pakistan’s largest province?
    Declan Walsh
    guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 29 March 2011 23.00 BST

    Lala Bibi with her father and son Saeed Ahmed – and photographs of her murdered son Najibullah and his cousin, who was also abducted. Photograph: Declan Walsh for the Guardian

    The bodies surface quietly, like corks bobbing up in the dark. They come in twos and threes, a few times a week, dumped on desolate mountains or empty city roads, bearing the scars of great cruelty. Arms and legs are snapped; faces are bruised and swollen. Flesh is sliced with knives or punctured with drills; genitals are singed with electric prods. In some cases the bodies are unrecognisable, sprinkled with lime or chewed by wild animals. All have a gunshot wound in the head.

    This gruesome parade of corpses has been surfacing in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, since last July. Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accounted for more than 100 bodies – lawyers, students, taxi drivers, farm workers. Most have been tortured. The last three were discovered on Sunday.

    If you have not heard of this epic killing spree, though, don’t worry: neither have most Pakistanis. Newspaper reports from Balochistan are buried quietly on the inside pages, cloaked in euphemisms or, quite often, not published at all.

    The forces of law and order also seem to be curiously indifferent to the plight of the dead men. Not a single person has been arrested or prosecuted; in fact, police investigators openly admit they are not even looking for anyone. The stunning lack of interest in Pakistan’s greatest murder mystery in decades becomes more understandable, however, when it emerges that the prime suspect is not some shady gang of sadistic serial killers, but the country’s powerful military and its unaccountable intelligence men.

    This is Pakistan’s dirty little war. While foreign attention is focused on the Taliban, a deadly secondary conflict is bubbling in Balochistan, a sprawling, mineral-rich province along the western borders with Afghanistan and Iran. On one side is a scrappy coalition of guerrillas fighting for independence from Pakistan; on the other is a powerful army that seeks to quash their insurgency with maximum prejudice. The revolt, which has been rumbling for more than six years, is spiced by foreign interests and intrigues – US spy bases, Chinese business, vast underground reserves of copper, oil and gold.

    And in recent months it has grown dramatically worse. At the airport in Quetta, the provincial capital, a brusque man in a cheap suit marches up to my taxi with a rattle of questions. “Who is this? What’s he doing here? Where is he staying?” he asks the driver, jerking a thumb towards me. Scribbling the answers, he waves us on. “Intelligence,” says the driver.

    The city itself is tense, ringed by jagged, snow-dusted hills and crowded with military checkposts manned by the Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary force in charge of security. Schools have recently raised their walls; sand-filled Hesco barricades, like the ones used in Kabul and Baghdad, surround the FC headquarters. In a restaurant the waiter apologises: tandoori meat is off the menu because the nationalists blew up the city’s gas pipeline a day earlier. The gas company had plugged the hole that morning, he explains, but then the rebels blew it up again.

    The home secretary, Akbar Hussain Durrani, a neatly suited, well-spoken man, sits in a dark and chilly office. Pens, staplers and telephones are neatly laid on the wide desk before him, but his computer is blank. The rebels have blown up a main pylon, he explains, so the power is off. Still, he insists, things are fine. “The government agencies are operating in concert, everyone is acting in the best public interest,” he says. “This is just a . . . political problem.” As we speak, a smiling young man walks in and starts to take my photo; I later learn he works for the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency.

    We cut across the city, twisting through the backstreets, my guide glancing nervously out the rear window. The car halts before a tall gate that snaps shut behind us. Inside, a 55-year-old woman named Lal Bibi is waiting, wrapped in a shawl that betrays only her eyes, trembling as she holds forth a picture of her dead son Najibullah. The 20-year-old, who ran a shop selling motorbike parts, went missing last April after being arrested at an FC checkpost, she says. His body turned up three months later, dumped in a public park on the edge of Quetta, badly tortured. “He had just two teeth in his mouth,” she says in a voice crackling with pain. She turns to her father, a turbaned old man sitting beside her, and leans into his shoulder. He grimaces.


    Suspected members of the Baloch Liberation Army are paraded by Pakistani police. Photograph: Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

    Bibi says her family was probably targeted for its nationalist ties – Najibullah’s older brother, now dead, had joined the “men in the mountains” years earlier, she says. Now a nephew, 28-year-old Maqbool, is missing. She prays for him, regularly calling the hospitals for any sign of him and, occasionally, the city morgues.

    Over a week of interviews in Karachi and Quetta, I meet the relatives of seven dead men and nine “disappeared” – men presumed to have been abducted by the security forces. One man produces a mobile phone picture of the body of his 22-year-old cousin, Mumtaz Ali Kurd, his eyes black with swelling and his shirt drenched in blood. A relative of Zaman Khan, one of three lawyers killed in the past nine months, produces court papers. A third trembles as he describes finding his brother’s body in an orchard near Quetta.

    Patterns emerge. The victims were generally men between 20 and 40 years old – nationalist politicians, students, shopkeepers, labourers. In many cases they were abducted in broad daylight – dragged off buses, marched out of shops, detained at FC checkposts – by a combination of uniformed soldiers and plain-clothes intelligence men. Others just vanished. They re-emerge, dead, with an eerie tempo – approximately 15 bodies every month, although the average was disturbed last Saturday when eight bodies were found in three locations across Balochistan.

    Activists have little doubt who is behind the atrocities. Human Rights Watch says “indisputable” evidence points to the hand of the FC, the ISI and its sister agency, Military Intelligence. A local group, Voice for Missing Persons, says the body count has surpassed 110. “This is becoming a state of terror,” says its chairman, Naseerullah Baloch.

    The army denies the charges, saying its good name is being blemished by impersonators. “Militants are using FC uniforms to kidnap people and malign our good name,” says Major General Obaid Ullah Khan Niazi, commander of the 46,000 FC troops stationed in Balochistan. “Our job is to enforce the law, not to break it.”

    Despairing relatives feel cornered. Abdul Rahim, a farmer wearing a jewelled skullcap, is from Khuzdar, a hotbed of insurgent violence. He produces court papers detailing the abduction of his son Saadullah in 2009. First he went to the courts but then his lawyer was shot dead. Then he went to the media but the local press club president was killed. Now, Rahim says, “nobody will help in case they are targeted too. We are hopeless.”

    Balochistan has long been an edgy place. Its vast, empty deserts and long borders are a magnet for provocateurs of every stripe. Taliban fighters slip back and forth along the 800-mile Afghan border; Iranian dissidents hide inside the 570-mile frontier with Iran. Drug criminals cross the border from Helmand, the world’s largest source of heroin, on their way to Iran or lonely beaches on the Arabian Sea. Wealthy Arab sheikhs fly into remote airstrips on hunting expeditions for the houbara bustard, a bird they believe improves their lovemaking. At Shamsi, a secretive airbase in a remote valley in the centre of the province, CIA operatives launch drones that attack Islamists in the tribal belt.

    The US spies appreciate the lack of neighbours – Balochistan covers 44% of Pakistan yet has half the population of Karachi. The province’s other big draw is its natural wealth. At Reko Diq, 70 miles from the Afghan border, a Canadian-Chilean mining consortium has struck gold, big-time. The Tethyan company has discovered 4bn tonnes of mineable ore that will produce an estimated 200,000 tonnes of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold per year, making it one of the largest such mines in the world. The project is currently stalled by a tangled legal dispute, but offers a tantalising taste of Balochistan’s vast mineral riches, which also includes oil, gas, platinum and coal. So far it is largely untapped, though, and what mining exists is scrappy and dangerous. On 21 March, 50 coal workers perished in horrific circumstances when methane gas flooded their mine near Quetta, then catastrophically exploded.

    Two conflicts are rocking the province. North of Quetta, in a belt of land adjoining the Afghan border, is the ethnic Pashtun belt. Here, Afghan Taliban insurgents shelter in hardline madrasas and lawless refugee camps, taking rest in between bouts of battle with western soldiers in Afghanistan. It is home to the infamous “Quetta shura”, the Taliban war council, and western officials say the ISI is assisting them. Some locals agree. “It’s an open secret,” an elder from Kuchlak tells me. “The ISI gave a fleet of motorbikes to local elders, who distributed them to the fighters crossing the border. Nobody can stop them.”

    The other conflict is unfolding south of Quetta, in a vast sweep that stretches from the Quetta suburbs to the Arabian Sea, in the ethnic Baloch and Brahui area, whose people have always been reluctant Pakistanis. The first Baloch revolt erupted in 1948, barely six months after Pakistan was born; this is the fifth. The rebels are splintered into several factions, the largest of which is the Balochistan Liberation Army. They use classic guerrilla tactics – ambushing military convoys, bombing gas pipelines, occasionally lobbing rockets into Quetta city. Casualties are relatively low: 152 FC soldiers died between 2007 and 2010, according to official figures, compared with more than 8,000 soldiers and rebels in the 1970s conflagration.

    But this insurgency seems to have spread deeper into Baloch society than ever before. Anti-Pakistani fervour has gripped the province. Baloch schoolchildren refuse to sing the national anthem or fly its flag; women, traditionally secluded, have joined the struggle. Universities have become hotbeds of nationalist sentiment. “This is not just the usual suspects,” says Rashed Rahman, editor of the Daily Times, one of few papers that regularly covers the conflict.

    At a Quetta safehouse I meet Asad Baloch, a wiry, talkative 22-year-old activist with the Baloch Students’ Organisation (Azad). “We provide moral and political support to the fighters,” he says. “We are making people aware. When they are aware, they act.” It is a risky business: about one-third of all “kill and dump” victims were members of the BSO.

    Baloch anger is rooted in poverty. Despite its vast natural wealth, Balochistan is desperately poor – barely 25% of the population is literate (the national average is 47%), around 30% are unemployed and just 7% have access to tap water. And while Balochistan provides one-third of Pakistan’s natural gas, only a handful of towns are hooked up to the supply grid.

    The insurgents are demanding immediate control of the natural resources and, ultimately, independence. “We are not part of Pakistan,” says Baloch.


    Well-armed Baloch insurgents in the contested region south of the capital Quetta. Photograph: Banaras Khan/AFP

    His phone rings. News comes through that another two bodies have been discovered near the coast. One, Abdul Qayuum, was a BSO activist. Days later, videos posted on YouTube show an angry crowd carrying his bloodied corpse into a mortuary. He had been shot in the head.

    The FC commander, Maj Gen Niazi, wearing a sharp, dark suit and with neatly combed hair (he has just come from a conference) says he has little time for the rebel demand. “The Baloch are being manipulated by their leaders,” he says, noting that the scions of the main nationalist groups live in exile abroad – Hyrbyair Marri in London; Brahamdagh Bugti in Geneva. “They are enjoying the life in Europe while their people suffer in the mountains,” he says with a sigh.

    Worse again, he adds, they were supported by India. The Punjabi general offers no proof for his claim, but US and British intelligence broadly agree, according to the recent WikiLeaks cables. India sees Balochistan as payback for Pakistani meddling in Kashmir – which explains why Pakistani generals despise the nationalists so much. “Paid killers,” says Niazi. He vehemently denies involvement in human rights violations. “To us, each and every citizen of Balochistan is equally dear,” he says.

    Civilian officials in the province, however, have another story. Last November, the provincial chief minister, Aslam Raisani, told the BBC that the security forces were “definitely” guilty of some killings; earlier this month, the province’s top lawyer, Salahuddin Mengal, told the supreme court the FC was “lifting people at will”. He resigned a week later.

    However, gross human rights abuses are not limited to the army. As the conflict drags on, the insurgents have become increasingly brutal and ruthless. In the past two years, militants have kidnapped aid workers, killed at least four journalists and, most disturbingly, started to target “settlers” – unarmed civilians, mostly from neighbouring Punjab, many of whom have lived in Balochistan for decades. Some 113 settlers were killed in cold blood last year, according to government figures – civil servants, shopkeepers, miners. On 21 March, militants riding motorbikes sprayed gunfire into a camp of construction workers near Gwadar, killing 11; the Baloch Liberation Front claimed responsibility. Most grotesque, perhaps, are the attacks on education: 22 school teachers, university lecturers and education officials have been assassinated since January 2008, causing another 200 to flee their jobs.

    As attitudes harden, the middle ground is being swept away in tide of bloodshed. “Our politicians have been silenced,” says Habib Tahir, a human rights lawyer in Quetta. “They are afraid of the young.” I ask a student in Quetta to defend the killing of teachers. “They are not teachers, they work for the intelligence agencies,” one student tells me. “They are like thieves coming into our homes. They must go.”

    The Islamabad government seems helpless to halt Balochistan’s slide into chaos. Two years ago, President Asif Ali Zardari announced a sweeping package of measures intended to assuage Baloch grievances, including thousands of jobs, a ban on new military garrisons and payment of $1.4bn (£800m) in overdue natural gas royalties. But violence has hijacked politics, the plan is largely untouched, and anaemic press coverage means there is little outside pressure for action.

    Pakistan’s foreign allies, obsessed with hunting Islamists, have ignored the problem. “We are the most secular people in the region, and still we are being ignored,” says Noordin Mengal, who represents Balochistan on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    In this information vacuum, the powerful do as they please. Lawyer Kachkol Ali witnessed security forces drag three men from his office in April 2009. Their bodies turned up five days later, dead and decomposed. After telling his story to the press, Ali was harassed by military intelligence, who warned him his life was in danger. He fled the country. “In Pakistan, there is only rule of the jungle,” he says by phone from Lørenskog, a small Norwegian town where he won asylum last summer. “Our security agencies pick people up and treat them like war criminals,” he says. “They don’t even respect the dead.”

    Balochistan’s dirty little war pales beside Pakistan’s larger problems – the Taliban, al-Qaida, political upheaval. But it highlights a very fundamental danger – the ability of Pakistanis to live together in a country that, under its Islamic cloak, is a patchwork of ethnicities and cultures. “Balochistan is a warning of the real battle for Pakistan, which is about power and resources,” says Haris Gazdar, a Karachi-based researcher. “And if we don’t get it right, we’re headed for a major conflict.”

    Before leaving Quetta I meet Faiza Mir, a 36-year-old lecturer in international relations at Quetta’s Balochistan University. Militants have murdered four of her colleagues in the past three years, all because they were “Punjabi”. Driving on to the campus, she points out the spots where they were killed, knowing she could be next.

    “I can’t leave,” says Mir, a sparky woman with an irrepressible smile. “This is my home too.” And so she engages in debate with students, sympathising with their concerns. “I try to make them understand that talk is better than war,” she says.

    But some compromises are impossible. Earlier on, students had asked Mir to remove a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, from her office wall. Mir politely refused, and Jinnah – an austere lawyer in a Savile Row suit – still stares down from her wall.

    But how long will he stay there? “That’s difficult to say,” she answers.

  16. 19 nota April 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    My comment elsewhere:
    “I am glad to see ch iftikhaar taking notice”
    Oh that is bvllsh!t! Kvttay ka bacha Chaudhry Iftikhar is pulling a fast one. He knows everything there is to know (remember he is from Balochistan) and yet he has done zilch though he had years. SC under him has done ZILCH as reported AGAIN yesterday:

    No arrests made over Balochistan target killings: Justice Javed

    Most telling was this observation by Justice Javed:

    One of the safe houses of the agencies is near the judges’ enclosure, Justice Javed Iqbal said, adding that intelligence agencies’ safe houses are guest houses and not torture chambers.

    And these guys are going to provide justice???????

    BTW Here is the previous thread:

    And here is an editorial from a local paper from a few days back:

    EDITORIAL: Balochistan cannot suffer anymore

    Trouble has hit a new high in Balochistan. On Wednesday, the capital city of Quetta received three rockets in different parts of the city from a nearby mountain range resulting in the death of some four people and injuries to another 18. The first target was a traffic-heavy area where a roundabout, Saryab Pathakh, is located. Two other rockets were fired and hit two houses but, thankfully, no injuries were reported. In addition to these attacks, the bodies of two missing Baloch men were found in the Lasbela district. These men had gone missing some five months ago from Gwadar and Vindar respectively; they have now been found in much the same way many missing Baloch are recovered: mutilated and decomposed bodies. On the same day, the Quetta Express was bombed. Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi said that he did not see any progress in talks with the “angry Baloch” who were engaged in a struggle to attain their human, social, economic and political rights. He also said that some headway could only be made after the next general elections with a new leadership making the effort necessary to resolve the abysmal situation.

    Meanwhile, as Balochistan keeps discovering and burying its sons and daughters, Prime Minister Gilani does not deviate from his usual rhetoric. Addressing a delegation led by Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani on Tuesday, he once again assured that all efforts would be taken to improve the security situation in the province with closer coordination between the federal and provincial governments — words we have heard all too many times before. Citing the Balochistan Package, he ‘reassured’ that all possible directives for the start of different development projects would be issued. This gives rise to the question: it has been over a year since the package was introduced as a solution to all Baloch woes; why on earth is it still on the planning room floor?

    Balochistan is not a playground for “foreign elements”, as much as the PM would like to have us believe. Governance in the province has been hijacked by a reportedly brutal Frontier Corps that has claimed the area as its exclusive preserve. Innocent Baloch who may be able to contribute to the betterment of their society, political workers, educationists, doctors, engineers, etc, are being picked up and whisked away, reportedly by paramilitary forces and the government seems unable — and unwilling — to stop them. Resources located in Balochistan are hungrily swooped up by the centre without allocating a sufficient share for the Baloch people. They have no faith in the government and the army and hence separatist sentiment runs deep. Economic, industrial and resource development has not taken place, resulting in an increasingly poor population without access to rights and fair play. Is it the fault of the people or those who rule them for the mass frustration that is now taking a violent turn?

    Every dead body that ‘mysteriously’ turns up in Balochistan after ‘mysteriously’ going missing — the last count was 13,000 dead — is another nail in the coffin of any peace and stability in the province. It will not be long before we will be burying the soul of the largest province in this country. Short-sighted hated policies, cruel treatment, what comes close to an illegal occupying force in uniform and the consequent hate-fuelled sentiments of the Baloch people have turned one more part of Pakistan against the centre. Enough with the rhetoric and the cosmetic promises; Balochistan needs a determined political solution, otherwise we can, literally, kiss it goodbye.

  17. 20 nota April 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Balochistan’s Burden of Slavery
    Baloch Human Rights Council Statement
    There cannot be a darker period in the life of a nation than the day it loses its freedom and the free will to govern itself. There is only one thing worse than slavery – the total absence of will to be free. March 27, 1948 is a day in the life of every Baloch that changed the collective consciousness of a people to a new dimension with global ramifications. The national liberation movement in Balochistan today is a struggle not only to free the nation from the yolk of colonialism but also to liberate the whole region from the forces of darkness, religious extremism, nuclear catastrophe, and terrorism.

    The British occupation of Balochistan in 1839 set in motion the course of history that led to its conclusive end of enforced annexation of a sovereign nation into Pakistan. The British imperial control of Balochistan in the 19th century established the foundation of modern day military cantonment in Quetta, railway line for transporting foreign troops to the Afghan border, and setting up of telegraph lines for command and control of military incursions in Balochistan and the region. Col. Sir Robert Sandeman (1835–1892) enhanced the socio-political aspect of foreign rule over Balochistan by introducing the Sardari system also known as the Sandeman system. Sardari system transformed the social dynamics of the traditional Baloch tribal society and weakened the resistance to colonial rule in Balochistan.

    Construction of military cantonments and the Sardari system were the two pillars that enabled the British to rule over Balochistan for more than a century. The Sardari system provided the social base to fragment Baloch national unity and the military setup became the tool to repress the patriotic resistance. The Pakistani civil-military establishment inherited, promoted, and augmented the twin pillars of military and socio-political structures (Sardari system) of British colonial methods of control in Balochistan. Furthermore, the factor of economic exploitation of natural resources in Balochistan was added to enhance their power over the occupied colony.

    The political landscape of the present day Balochistan is a creation and continuation of the British colonial policies and powers transferred to the new masters in Islamabad. The additional dimensions of control now include Islamic state ideology, religious extremism in the form of Talibanization, and cultural genocide to eliminate all traces of national identity of the Baloch nation. The most violent forms of state terrorism are being inducted to repress the anti-colonial liberation movement in Balochistan today.

    Similar to all wars of national liberation in the colonial and post-colonial era, Baloch nation’s struggle for independence is going through a period of political transformation with a constantly changing need to adjust to new realities in terms of national unity, politics, and armed struggle. Since the first uprising in 1948 to the present ongoing war of independence, the movement has evolved in terms of national consciousness, the role of leadership, political front, and tactics in militancy. Changes on the international scene such as the end of Soviet era, and the post-911 global order have had its impact in the development of patterns of resistance to the state.

    Nevertheless, Baloch nation today is still confronted with the old enemies from the British colonial days – an alien occupation army and the social constrains of the decadent Sandeman Sardari system, sowing discord and political disunity in the movement. In addition, a section of the emerging nascent middle class; an outgrowth of student activism, has been lured away by the establishment, and accommodated in civil services and corrupt political structures of Pakistan.

    Despite difficulties of various natures, the Baloch patriotic elite and political cadres from cross-sections of society have succeeded in launching the fifth wave of independence movement against the state of Pakistan. The popular support for the movement amongst the youth is enormous because of the deep felt sense of injustice, state repression of national identity, and loss of empowerment over land and natural resources. The role of leadership has broadened and has become more inclusive of the middle strata, and so has the level of participation, stretching to areas such as Makran and the coastal Balochistan.

    Of course, with the success of a peoples’ movement come the brutal atrocities committed against civilians. Between the years 2003 and 2011 more than 10,000 civilians including tribesmen, students, journalists, lawyers, political and human rights activists, and doctors have fallen victim to enforced disappearances, torture, extra judicial and in-custody executions, and targeted killings in the street. The gross human rights violations by the Pakistani security forces have deepened the sense of injustice and despair among the masses. The new state policy of ‘kill and dump’ of recently disappeared activists has resulted in the recovery of 130 mutilated bodies in the last six months alone. This new wave of state terrorism is aimed at creating fear in the Baloch populace and induces a condition of lawlessness/chaos, facilitating military operations and deeming it unsafe for media personnel.

    The presence of 150,000 to 200,000 military and paramilitary troops in Balochistan and the construction of new cantonments have raised the fear of mass executions and full-blown genocide of the Baloch nation. This volatile situation calls for a Baloch national unity on a broad scale and on various levels to empower the nation with the means to resist state repression and gain support from the international community. We have observed in the recent weeks how mass political uprisings in the Arab world have changed the political face of the Middle East in a short period, forcing the western democracies to engage actively. Balochistan needs a powerful political voice in order to be heard in the world, especially by the West. And such a voice can only be resonated through political unity on a grand scale with the complete blessings and support of a nation behind it.

    Inside Balochistan, the apparent lack of national unity is hurting the movement and making it easier for the state apparatus to prey on the unarmed political cadre who are crucial in maintaining the link between the freedom fighters in the mountains and the Baloch populace. The state has devised a policy to disconnect the armed struggle from the political work in the masses. Once the political front of the liberation struggle is disunited and weakened, it will become easier for the state to eliminate it or turn it into a confused group of individuals without a clear objective. The state machinery is already engaged in a powerful propaganda campaign of disinformation and lies with the objective to create disunity, confusion, and distrust amongst the cadres. It becomes even more dangerous for the organization when the dissemination is designed from within the ranks to produce the desired affects of trust deficit.

    On this day, that marks the beginning of decades of subjugation of the Baloch nation by Pakistan, one can only hope for a political tsunami of mass uprising, as one nation, to break free from the yolk of slavery. This day invites us to contemplate on the suffering of our nation’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters who have lost their loved ones to the cause of freedom. The arms of the parents are now tired of picking up young mutilated bodies of the nation’s heroic sons. The families of the disappeared youths can only imagine what may have happened to their dear ones as they witness the mutilated broken bodies found in the fields.

    The leader of the Algerian freedom struggle was once asked, “How does it feel to be a free nation,” he responded by opening the window of his room and pointed at a cemetery with seemingly endless rows of graves, and said, “That is freedom.”

    Today the Baloch youths, political activists, and the freedom fighters understand the price of liberty and are willing to pay it with their blood. The suffering masses of Balochistan are embracing for the worst atrocities at the hands of the Pakistani army and all their hopes are pinned on the leaders who have claim over Baloch nationalism and independence. Baloch human rights groups in Balochistan, as well as in Europe and North America are struggling in the courts and international forums to put forward the cases of Baloch missing persons and submit reports on torture, extra judicial killings, and in-custody executions of activists. The limited role of human rights bodies is not going to bring any immediate change on the ground in Balochistan. In the immediate future, the western democracies and governments are the only powers that can force Pakistan and its military to stop the atrocities against the Baloch civilian population. The West, particularly U.S. has the economic and the political advantage to assert pressure on Pakistan. The world powers will listen to the Baloch political leaders if they develop some level of understanding to address the immediate humanitarian crisis in Balochistan in a unified way. This can be achieved through a dialogue between the Baloch leadership for the sole purpose of saving Baloch lives without compromising their long-term political goals. If we expect the world to pay attention to the sufferings of our nation, then it becomes our national duty to take the first step. If our leaders do not act now on a humanitarian level then the future mass genocide of our nation is inevitable and it will be too late to stop the process.

    Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC) believes in national unity and strives for political understanding among the various Baloch political organizations without antagonizing anyone. We respect the democratic principle of ‘agreeing to disagree’ when it comes to resolving political problems within the Baloch national movement. There can always be understanding on short-term goals of urgent political or humanitarian nature. If civilized nations of the world have the sense to sit on the table for a dialogue regarding their national interests then why cannot we at the time of a national crisis. BHRC is not affiliated to any political party or group for the sake of human rights work and its commitment to national unity. As a responsible Baloch human rights body, we are willing to offer our efforts to facilitate a dialogue between the various Baloch political organizations to negotiate an agenda on the single point of confronting the gross human rights violations in Balochistan including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, in-custody executions, and the state policy of ‘killing and dumping’ of Baloch political activists.

    Let this day be a reminder that if we fail to unite as a nation, we are doomed to remain disunited as slaves.

    Zaffar Baloch
    President,
    Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada)
    March 27, 2011

  18. 21 nota April 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Balochistan: Convenient silence

    New Delhi, Apr. 11: In recent months, our media, that usually follows the western media when it comes to covering world events, has been concentrating on Egypt and Libya as if our world and existence was dependent solely on the outcomes there. There wasn’t much original coverage either as it was either agency reports, or articles by western journalists. In this massive deluge, Afghanistan, which had been forgotten long ago, receded further and even Pakistan receded for want of space.

    We also feared, one imagines, that if we wrote about Balochistan or talked about the atrocities, we would be accused of interference, never mind that Mirwaiz Omar Farooq (he is an Indian, isn’t he?) met the Pak High Commissioner a few days ago. We don’t mind separatists meeting the chief envoy of the country that encourages separatism and that too on our soil.

    Reverting to Balochistan and Pakistan, there are several issues that should interest any Indian. One is the issue of ethnic Baloch nationalism pitted against Punjabi chauvinism and Islamabad’s attempts to control ruthless suppression. The second issue is the geo-strategic interests of China in the strategically located port of Gwadar and the minerals in Balochistan.

    The latter which includes billions of dollar worth of copper and gold reserves have been of immense interest to western companies prospecting there; this is in addition to the estimated US three trillion dollars mineral reserves recently discovered in Afghanistan which makes the entire region extremely precious for all these reasons. aloch nationalism

    Although Balochistan is kept hermitically sealed from the outside world, there are some intrepid reporters and writers who manage to publish reports about what has been happening there. Disappearances of the young men especially those suspected or actually involved with Baloch nationalism are common place. The pattern is familiar where these young men are picked up and after a few days their bodies are found in some roadside ditch mutilated and with obvious marks of torture.

    The message is horrific and intended to deter the young. Apparently this does not work and the disappearances and torture continue. It is a reflection of the state of affairs in Balochistan that none of the 65 members of the provincial assembly thought it fit to raise this issue in the assembly. Either helpless, unwilling, complicit or just frightened, this is hardly an edifying reflection of the state of affairs in that province.

    The Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, asserts that Balochistan had the highest number of militant, insurgent and sectarian attacks of any province in 2010, 43 percent more than in 2009. Apart from Baloch separatist organisations demanding secession and attacking the state, there were sectarian attacks on Shias by Sunni extremist groups, ethnic attacks on Punjabis settled in the province, the growing Pushtun (Talibanised)-Baloch tensions, and crime, including kidnapping for ransom.

    Teachers and administrators in education have been targeted by nationalists because they are seen as a part of the state while religious extremists accuse them of imparting secular education. Journalists in Pakistan find Quetta more dangerous than Peshawar and some agencies in the tribal areas even though these areas have Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Haqqani network, foreign militants, and other local insurgent groups located there.

    There are various estimates of the number of enforced disappearances of Baloch activists, who have been abducted by Pakistani security forces in the last decade. In their March 2010 report, the Asian Human Rights Commission estimated the number to be about 4000 individuals. Most Baloch human rights sources and political organisations however believe there were between 8000 to 12000 victims.

    Amnesty International in its report of October 26, 2010 and later, the Asian Human Rights Commission in its November 2010 confirmed that Pakistan security forces had abducted and killed a number of Baloch political and human rights activists. Despite coercive actions by the security forces Baloch students and activists participated in 713 demonstrations both inside and outside of Balochistan against Pakistan’s atrocities. There were a total of 225 days of hunger strikes, 47 days’ shut downs and 95 rallies in different parts of the province.

    The Iran-Pakistan-China (IPC) pipeline is planned to be taken through the Khunjerab pass to Xinjiang. This would reduce travel time from six weeks to 48 hours, technically speaking once the routes and pipelines are laid. Both the Chinese and the private western companies and their governments are equally interested in a pacified Balochistan. Pakistan, and in particular Balochistan, is China’s physical link to its sizable investments in Iranian gas, Afghan hydropower and Gulf oil.

    Chinese companies have poured at least 15 billion dollars into Baloch projects: an oil refinery, copper and zinc mines and a deepwater port at Gwadar, close to the Straits of Hormuz. The idea is to transform Gwadar into another Dubai to control transit trade into landlocked Afghanistan and to encourage trans-shipment trade from the Persian Gulf to East Africa.

    A highway from Gwadar to Quetta, travelling north will ultimately connect with Pakistan’s national highway network and from there on to the Karakoram Highway and into Xinjiang. China is also working on a new airport at Gwadar, due to open in 2013. Aware that there is a nationalist movement in the smaller towns of Balochistan, yet the Chinese are confident that the Pakistan army will take care of their security concerns.

    Lobbyists of western gold mining companies have had been keenly interested in acquiring one of the world’s biggest gold and copper treasures at Reko Diq, Chagai estimated to be worth over 260 billion dollars. These mines could be a bonanza for Pakistan provided that the deals worked out are equitable for Pakistan. There are some claims that, if Pakistan gets its fair share from the gold and copper mines, Balochistan would provide more riches than any of the present oil producing Gulf countries, many times over.

    The Reko Diq area is part of the same geological belt discovered in Afghanistan, which the Pentagon estimated was worth one trillion dollars, though President Hamid Karzai claimed it was worth more than 3 trillion dollars. Pakistan, it is estimated in mining circles, has more deposits than Afghanistan, so the enormity of the prospective private riches is enormous. Many suspect that back door deals have already been made.

    This desire to prospect and control may be one of the reasons why silence about the troubles and repression in Balochistan is convenient. Western commercial interests along with the well known US/NATO interests in Balochistan because of the Afghan war and Chinese geo-strategic interests provide the strongest coalition of interests.

    Alongside is the Iranian worry that the centrifugal ethnic forces in Balochistan and the Wahabbised Taliban movement based in Quetta, could affect stability in Iran. Meanwhile, Balochistan will continue to bleed as the West rescues Libya in the name of democracy and does deals with the Taliban in Afghanistan also in the name of democracy.

    It is a remarkable arrangement under which Pakistan continues to be delinquent and takes rewards for this from the west, then offers its territory to the west and China for mineral exploitation and strategic use. In return buys their silence while it suppresses movements in Balochistan.

    Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com

  19. 22 nota April 19, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    How many more have to die before we can stop weeping?
    by Khalid Hayat Jamaldini

    For how long will our mothers and sisters have to weep for the mutilated corpses of our brothers “gifted” to us by Pakistani forces? They are punished with death because they were fighting for the rights of Balochs in their own state land.

    Declan Walsh, the Guardian’s foreign correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, in his recent article ‘Pakistan’s Secret Dirty War’ illustrated very well how the Balochs are treated:

    The bodies surface quietly, like corks bobbing up in the dark. They come in twos and threes, a few times a week, dumped on desolate mountains or empty city roads, bearing the scars of great cruelty. Arms and legs are snapped; faces are bruised and swollen. Flesh is sliced with knives or punctured with drills; genitals are singed with electric prods. In some cases the bodies are unrecognizable, sprinkled with lime or chewed by wild animals. All have a gunshot wound in the head”.

    Pakistan has being doing this since it occupied Balochistan in 1948. It has exterminated the Balochs in several civil wars (1958-59, 63-69, 73-77) and in 2004 it reignited its forces. Whenever we ask for autonomy, they suppress our voices by using different tactics. They kill our political leaders, workers, activists, educated youth, intellectuals, lawyers and poets.

    Who is doing it? Asma Jehangir, Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar President, has the answer: “Use of police powers by the Frontier Corps is illegal and the FC should be stopped from using these powers.” She stated that everyone knew about the ‘safe houses’ (illegal places of detention and torture), that it is public knowledge security personnel are operating those ‘safe houses,’ and that they must be closed down permanently (DailyTimes, March 10, 2011).

    But again the question comes to mind, what has the Pakistani judiciary has done to solve the discriminative policies toward the Balochs? So far it has not taken any audacious step to protect the rights of the Baloch according to the constitution of Pakistan, nor has it abided by any guidelines under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. No one has been arrested for the killing of Balochs nor are cases accepted by the law enforcement agencies. Those Balochs who take the initiative to fight for these cases end up “paying for it”. Baloch lawyers have been killed because they were found guilty of fighting the cases of Baloch victims. Journalists and writers have been murdered for investigating and reporting about the realities of the situation, while human rights activists have been gunned down for raising their voices against human rights violations. Students have been killed and dumped for creating political awareness.

    The hands of the Pakistani media are tight when it comes to reporting the killing of the Balochs. Pakistan Human Rights Watch representative Ali Dayan Hassan, in response to the question ‘Is there sufficient international and domestic focus on human rights situation in Balochistan?’ answered in an interview with THE NEWS “Unfortunately there is not. The Pakistani media does not report on the brutal realities of Balochistan in any meaningful manner. Despite the fact that the province is of great strategic interest to the world, its people suffer from persistent, systemic and widespread human rights abuse both by state authorities and at the hands of non-state actors. It is time Pakistanis and the world paid attention.”

    In my opinion, the recent comment by the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding the formation of laws for secret agencies and the brutal policies toward the Baloch community are a clear sign that Pakistan is “Militant”, where the military is the ruler. They can do whatever they want to. They can kill or kidnap whomever they want to, and no one dare question their wrongdoings.

    Consider the FC commander in Balochistan, Major General Naizi’s comments about Baloch nationalist leaders: “The Baloch are being manipulated by their leaders.” He was referring to several main nationalist groups living in exile abroad, for example, Hyrbyair Marri in London and Brahamdagh Bugti in Geneva. “They are enjoying the life in Europe while their people suffer in the mountains,” Niazi had said.

    It has become a fashion for Pakistani leaders to pass such comments about the Baloch nationalists. As Balochistan’s ‘ruler’ for 63 years, never once have they asked themselves the reasons behind the sufferings of the Balochs in the mountains and their willingness to sacrifice their lives while fighting against a country that is a nuclear power. Why don’t they ask themselves what they have offered this nation in terms of education and development. Despite being the richest province in natural resources, Balochistan is the poorest. For more than a decade China has been digging gold from Sandak, in Chagai district, but it has not paved roads for the people.

    The truth is, Pakistanis are not interested in answers because they only desire the ‘istan’ in Balochistan, not the “Baloch”. This is why they have behaved as such for the last sixty three years.

    The Chief Minister of Balochistan, Nawab Mohammad Aslam Khan Raisani, says that “elements involved in target killing of teachers were committing atrocity on new generation of their nationality by depriving them of education. (The Baloch Hal, March 30, 2011).”

    I agree with him. Teachers play an important role in building a society by fostering education. But I would like to ask Mr. Raisani, why doesn’t he have the courage to ask why they are killing the educated youths of Balochistan? As Baloch tribal chief and Chief Minister of Balochistan, why doesn’t he roar at those who are involved in these killings? He could help prevent further weeping of Baloch mothers and sisters and gain the respect of the Balochs.

    We owe those mothers and sisters who have lost their loved ones for the good of the nation. We can only stop their weeping by being united and fulfilling the dream of their deceased loved ones for their people. I agree with Dr Juma Khan Marri, if we want to regain our independence, fight and beat the enemy, we have to be united. (The Baloch Hal, March 29, 2011). If we fail to unite, the numbers of mutilated corpses, widows and orphans will continue to increase. Discrimination will prosper instead and our future generation will not forgive us.

    ***

    “OH THE ABORIGINAL OF BALOCHISTAN”

    by Khalid Hayat Jamaldini

    OH the aboriginal of Balochistan
    Let us unite to save our land
    Let’s unite to free our land
    Let’s unite to defend our enemy
    Let’s unite to protect our resources
    Let’s unite to protect our nation
    Let’s unite to turn the dreams of our martyr in to reality
    Let’s unite to fight for freedom
    Let’s unite to protect the mountains of Chagai and Muree
    Let’s unite to protect the sea of Gwader
    Let us unite to protect the land of Sui
    OH the aboriginal of Balochistan
    OH the aboriginal of Balochistan
    We won’t get freedom by begging
    We won’t get freedom by asking
    We won’t get freedom by requesting
    We won’t get freedom by cheating each other
    We will have to unite to get our freedom
    We will have to unite to fight together against the enemy to get our freedom
    We will have to unite to bend the enemy on her knee to get our freedom
    OH the aboriginal of Balochistan
    OH the aboriginal of Balochistan
    Let us unite
    Let us unite

    ***

    The writer belongs to Balochistan and writes on the issue of Balochistan for international and national websites and papers. He can be reached at khalidhayat77@yahoo.com

  20. 23 nota April 20, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Three by I.A. Rehman (from Dawn)
    June 11, 2009: Balochistan: no short cuts
    The prime minister`s step-by-step approach to the task of delivering justice to Balochistan is backed by good sense but it is doubtful if his government is fully aware of the urgency of its undertaking or the need for a radical approach.

    More than a month ago Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani asked for the drafting of a constitutional package to meet Balochistan`s needs and demands, and for the formulation of autonomy proposals by the provincial assembly. This was believed to be in preparation for an all-parties conference.

    Then Senator Raza Rabbani was charged with producing a composite study based on his own 15-point package that he had presented some time ago, the Mushahid Hussain committee proposals, the Benazir Bhutto committee report and the Balochistan Assembly resolution. This report is believed to have been examined at a meeting of the PPP high command with party leaders in Balochistan on Friday last.

    Newspaper reports obviously penned by friendly scribes have mentioned the prime minister`s desire to personally comprehend Balochistan`s complex issues before the APC takes place, which is now scheduled for later this month.

    While the structure of the exercise is sound it would have received greater commendation if the substance of the various reports cited above had been revealed. The reports of the committees set up to tackle Balochistan`s grievances have not been adequately publicised. The public has not been taken into confidence about the Balochistan Assembly`s latest resolution on autonomy, if one has at all been adopted. However, Mr Raza Rabbani`s 15 points are now in the public domain. These are

    1. initiation of political dialogue with all stakeholders;

    2. release of political persons against whom cases are not pending;

    3. expediting the recovery of missing persons;

    4. a judicial inquiry into the recent murder of three Baloch leaders;5. rationalisation of the royalty formula and adoption of a uniform rate for all provinces;

    6. rationalisation of the prerogative of the federal government to increases excise duty and placing it in the divisible pool;

    7. restructuring of laws and roles related to the civil armed forces in the province;

    8. halting the construction of new cantonments in the province until the fears of the local population are addressed;

    9. announcement of the NFC Award in which population is not the prime criterion and in which size, revenue generation and backwardness should also be taken into consideration;

    10. removal of checkpoints in the light of the provincial assembly resolution;

    11. implementation of the resolutions of the provincial assembly;

    12. withdrawal of forces from Sui;

    13. defining the quantum of provincial autonomy the government is willing to concede;

    14. levies to be brought in place of police, and;

    15. mega projects to be initiated with the cooperation of the people of the province and their due share assured.

    Some more proposals might have been added to the list but even these 15 points can help start a positive discourse, their author`s cautiousness and his apparent desire to avoid spelling out concrete measures notwithstanding. The need to restructure laws related to civil armed forces and define their role is pointed out but the substance of reform is not described. The federal government is advised to define the quantum of provincial autonomy it is willing to concede whereas today it is necessary to present in detail the quantum of provincial autonomy the federation must concede.

    It should not be difficult to realise that con

    cessions within the existing federal framework that could have possibly satisfied Balochistan`s aspirations a few decades ago cannot bear fruit today. As Senator Hasil Bizenjo put it recently, two forces are operating in Balochistan one of these is prepared to accept a significant advance towards autonomy within the constitution, while the other one does not accept the constitution itself. If Islamabad wishes to defeat the latter force it must obviously win over the former with a package considerably more radical than any proposals advanced so far.

    As it is the federal government`s success in attracting all political forces to its APC cannot be taken for granted. Even the nationalists who could be persuaded to join have called for the fulfilment of two conditions one, an end to military operations and rehabilitation of affected people and, two, recovery of missing persons (thousands of people including 124 women, according to Mr Akhtar Mengal).

    These demands have been before the government for more than a year. Official spokesmen say nothing about the former issue and as regards the latter they have started parroting Gen Musharraf`s excuses that the missing persons have joined the jihadis. This amounts to adding insult to injury.

    It is time Islamabad realised that the only way to satisfy the Baloch people on the issue of disappearances is to set up a high-level commission with powers to investigate cases of disappearance, examine witnesses and summon any state functionary who has had anything to do with these matters. Mere statements by government representatives, unverifiable and uncorroborated by independently gathered evidence, cannot assuage Balochistan`s pain and anger.

    Further, Islamabad should have a strategy to meet the situation in case the APC idea does not work. Obviously it will be expected to reveal its own plans for winning the hearts and minds of the Baloch. A necessary condition for the success of these plans will be a substantial revision of the federal arrangement.

    Fortunately, there is no dearth of ideas in this area. The many proposals debated over the past few years include removal or at least a drastic revision of the concurrent list, increase in the powers of the Senate, effective provincial control over natural resources, revision of the NFC award basis, end to land-grabbing under any guise, power to raise security forces, freedom to organise foreign trade, and due provincial say in an active council of common interest, et al.

    Even bold constitutional reforms may not work if the trust deficit is not addressed. Balochistan has been bullied, humiliated and cheated so often that it cannot be blamed for a total lack of confidence in Islamabad. Strong affirmative action by the centre to demonstrate that Balochistan has the same status and privileges as any other federating unit could perhaps help it grow out of its persecution syndrome. That will take time and there are no short cuts. Stories of foreign intervention, which may not be entirely untrue, will not help.

    Writing to Ms Benazir Bhutto from his death cell, Mr Bhutto had cited the spilling of blood as the obstacle to the revival of Balochistan`s confidence in the centre. Instead of removing this obstacle, successive governments have extracted from Balochistan more sacrifices in blood and tears — the senseless liquidation of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the mysterious killing of Balach Marri, the brutal murder of three Baloch leaders, and torture of illegally detained students, to mention just a few prominent cases. Only an unbroken record of goodwill over a considerable period will convince the people of Balochistan that such incidents will not recur.

    December 3, 2009: The Balochistan package
    The announcement of the Balochistan package has revealed one of those unusual situations when both sides to an issue are right and wrong at the same time.

    Balochistan`s nationalist politicians are right in criticising the package for absence of decisions on their immediate concerns. They are perhaps wrong in entertaining an inflated view of the Raza Rabbani committee`s mandate and in assuming the government to be more powerful than it really is.

    The government is right in claiming credit for a detailed mapping of the areas where reform is urgently needed. It is wrong in assuming that it is possible to palm the alienated and restive people of Balochistan off with a mere listing of pious intentions.

    The inescapable conclusion is that the federal establishment has once again tripped. Instead of taking and announcing decisions on the parliamentary committee`s proposals it stumbled into the error of relying overly on these recommendations and treating them as policy decisions.

    The authors of the package have done well to frame issues and indicate the direction of reform. The matters covered by them include determination of the quantum of provincial autonomy, restructuring of the NFC awards, release of political prisoners, dialogue with all major stakeholders, involuntary disappearances, construction of cantonments, role of federal (read intelligence) agencies, royalty formulas, mega projects, share in ownership of oil and gas companies, probe into the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti and some other Baloch leaders, quota in HEC scholarships and additional jobs for the people of Balochistan.

    This roster of issues of governance roughly corresponds to the almost entire range of the Baloch leaders` grievances. However, the package committee has been unduly cautious in suggesting the substance of reform. For instance, it has glossed over the all-important question of constitutional reform by referring to the provisions of the constitution that are being examined by the parliamentary committee on constitutional reforms.

    The provisions under review include the legislative lists and Articles 153 to 159 of the constitution (Council of Common Interest, complaints relating to interference with water supplies, the National Economic Council, matters related to generation and supply of electricity, taxes on and tariff for its distribution, and broadcasting and telecasting).

    The committee`s reticence in making more specific recommendations on issues that are on the agenda of another body is understandable. The risk of proposing something contrary to the constitutional reform committee`s findings cannot be ignored.

    However, since matters covered by the provisions listed here constitute the crux of the Balochistan crisis, people not only in Balochistan but also in all other parts of the country were waiting for a definite work plan. Efforts should have been made to have the constitutional reform committee`s report ready before the package was finalised. Of course the Raza Rabbani committee could not do this, the responsibility lay with the government.

    However, it is not possible to agree with all the proposals included in the package. For instance, the composition of the commission to be constituted to deal with the question of missing persons will find few supporters.

    It has been suggested that the commission should be headed by a judge from Balochistan and its other members should be the federal defence and interior ministers and the provincial home minister. At best such a commission will be a one-sided affair. The ministers mentioned here are part of the problem and their capacity to come up with fair solutions is extremely doubtful. The task of doing justice to the missing persons demands a probe body free of the executive`s influence. A parliamentary commission should be a healthier proposition although those suspected of being responsible for the disappearances are not known to be amenable to any institution`s advice.

    The main responsibility for an inauspicious start of the Aghaz-i-Huqooq exercise lies with the federal government. It should have been aware of the Balochistan people`s distrust of reform proposals that began with the dismissal of the report of the reform committee of 1949. They are completely fed up with reform proposals because of a long history of failure to implement them.

    The government could have earned the goodwill it sorely needs by announcing implementation of at least some of the reform ideas. For instance, it could have implemented the proposal that `the federal government, in collaboration with the provincial government, should immediately release all political workers, except those charged with heinous crimes`.

    The plea for the release of all persons against whom no charges have been made could have been conceded before parliament met in a joint session. The commission to probe the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti could have been set up straight away.

    Unfortunately, the episode of the package has again exposed Islamabad`s inability to grasp the seriousness of the Balochistan crisis. It does not seem to realise that vague proposals for removing Balochistan`s grievances accumulated over six long decades can make no impression on its Young Turks nor can they attract elements that are prepared to entrust their future to the Pakistan federation. The latter need to have something tangible in their hands with which to negotiate with the angry young people of Balochistan. Besides, it is doubtful if the federal government can have a fruitful dialogue with the estranged Baloch leaders some of whom have chosen to stay abroad. A better bet should be the creation of a climate in which it may be possible to promote an intra-Balochistan dialogue, that is, a dialogue between the province`s political parties and ministers/parliamentarians on one side and the radicalised sections of the province`s population on the other.

    Pakistan`s rulers have made so great a mess with their arbitrary actions against the people of Balochistan that they do not believe the complex issues confronting them cannot be instantly resolved. The federal government increases its problems by refusing to admit that it does not have the power needed to recover and release all the missing persons or to limit the activities of `federal agencies` or to give an unambiguous pledge on the construction of new cantonments.

    Islamabad`s strategists must not ignore the fact that Balochistan is divided into two camps — those who have set their sights on independence and those who are as yet prepared to find accommodation within the federation of Pakistan. The former are unlikely to be won over by any reform package. That leaves the government with only one option — to enable the latter group to engage the general public and convince it that suppression of the Balochistan people is history.

    One hopes the government can still save the package from becoming a non-starter by commencing action on some of its key recommendations.

    [What that “Balochistan Package” has turned out to be, you can guess from his latest piece:]

    March 31, 2011: The Height of Barbarity


    THE Pakistani establishment’s love of the grotesque is apparently incurable. Instead of talking to the people of Balochistan about their raw wounds it is raising the matter with the Indian security people. Meanwhile, the dirge from the luckless province is getting more and more bitter.

    Take, for instance, this SMS received a few days ago.

    ‘Zulm ki inteha. Do din qabl Quetta say agencies k hathon aghwa honay walay BSO Azad k sabiq rehnuma Hameed Shaheen ko kal shaheed kar dia gaya aur us k kidney, dil aur seenay per drill k nishan. Kis Islam nay asay zulm ki ijazat di hay? Shaid asay zulm Kashmir aur Palestine may be na hoon. Wah Islami mamlikat.’

    (It’s the limit of tyranny. The former BSO Azad leader, Hameed Shaheen, who had been abducted by the agencies from Quetta two days ago, was martyred yesterday. His kidney, heart and chest bore marks of drilling. Which Islam has sanctioned such barbarity? Such deeds are perhaps unheard of (even) in Kashmir or Palestine. Bravo Islamic state!)

    The effect of the message on the people, particularly those belonging to Balochistan, can easily be imagined. The author of this message might have been carried away by his feelings of shock and anger, but instead of taking exception to his language or with the reproduction of his protest in these columns, it will be better to comprehend the intensity of the pain caused to him.

    The facts mentioned by him cannot be disputed. Hameed Shaheen was indeed a Pakistan national, holding a genuine CNIC, and had formerly held the office of chairman of the Baloch Students Organisation (Azad). On March 20 last, he boarded a bus for Karachi where he was going for a medical check-up. The bus was stopped and he was abducted by persons allegedly belonging to government agencies. His bullet-riddled body was found two days later.

    This story should not surprise anyone who has been watching the appearance of bodies of tortured men in Balochistan and the recent spurt in such incidents. Since this trend has developed after months of limelight on cases of involuntary
    disappearances in Balochistan and in many cases the victims had earlier been declared as missing, the people cannot be blamed for concluding that extra-legal killing is being adopted as a means to avoid accounting for illegally detained persons.

    The most distressing part of the matter is the fact that all this is happening about 10 weeks after the judicial commission on disappearances submitted its report to the government and the Supreme Court. The commission closed the possibility of speculation on the key aspects of the matter and made concrete proposals to deal with incidents of disappearance and compensate the victims. The salient features of the commission’s report were:

    i) The incidence of involuntary disappearance continued during the eight months (in 2010) the commission carried out its mission; about 25 new cases were reported every month. These fresh incidents exceeded the number of cases the commission had been asked to probe.

    ii) The intelligence agencies were censured for their role in the disappearance and illegal detention of quite a few missing persons and also for their lack of interest in and appreciation of the commission’s work.

    iii) The government was asked to pay compensation to more than 100 victims and a fair scale of payments was presented.

    A few sentences from the commission’s report as published in the press especially deserve consideration:

    “In order to put an end to the issue of enforced disappearances/missing persons, the intelligence agencies should be restrained from arbitrarily arresting and detaining anyone without due process of law. Generally, it would be appropriate if the government evolves a mechanism for intelligence agencies to share information and leave it to the police to make arrest and proceed under relevant law…..

    “Appropriate legislation needs to be made to provide specific powers of arrest & detention to the army and law-enforcement agencies for a limited period under special circumstances in order to curb anti-state activities. Only such legal provisions can put an end to new cases of enforced disappearance.

    “In order to continue the pace of recovery/tracing of missing persons and to implement the recommendations of this commission, a person not less than the rank of a sitting/retired high court judge may be appointed as Commissioner for Missing Persons”.

    It is not necessary to elaborate on the extent of the accommodation the commission offered the security establishment.

    The persistently battered people of Balochistan have every right to ask as to what steps have been taken in the light of this commission’s report. A report on Jan 17 last said the federal government had set up a committee, headed by the attorney general, to draft the legislation required to assuage the Balochistan people’s outrage. Has anything been done in this regard?

    From now on the intelligence agencies alone will not be charged with abduction, arbitrary detention and wanton killing; the state as a whole will be in the dock and the entire nation will bear the consequences.

    It is time all organs of the state realised that nothing will be gained by the government agencies’ persistence in the state of denial. The possibility that some of the cases of abduction/disappearance/killing could be the work of non-state actors cannot be denied but this can no longer be said about all incidents. Even in cases in which the state employees cannot be blamed the government’s duty to track down the culprits and bring them to justice cannot be disregarded.

    Although involuntary disappearances is only one of the many symptoms of the malaise that is consuming the people of Balochistan, a sincere and meaningful effort to get this problem out of the way will contribute to the creation of a climate conducive to discussion on other issues, such as denial of the people’s right to be masters of their resources and their destiny.


  1. 1 Aftermath of “Agaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan” « F*ck Politics Trackback on April 20, 2011 at 10:36 am
  2. 2 Aftermath of “Agaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan” | :: Express Yourself :: Trackback on April 27, 2011 at 2:44 am

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