By Irfan Baloch
Since the end of Second World War America has been constantly in a state of war. This strategy of endless war justifies the existence of its massive war industry. Nationalistic or religious unrest is fomented in its areas of “interest” followed by moving in as a “savior”, with or without a UN “mandate”. For far too many decades, the American policy has been to think a few steps ahead of its current actions when it selects a region for its focus.
Balochistan is no different.
In the hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs held on February 8, 2012, the American designs on this region were brought into the open. What was before routinely dismissed as a conspiracy theory has now been clarified: “Let’s stick it to the Pakistanis”.
The basis of the American approach
As if Balkanization of Pakistan is not enough, a few American hawks are willing to up the ante by carving out chunks from Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan to make what they call “Greater Balochistan”. This new American ally would ensure that the sea lanes through the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea to the South Pacific remain unchallenged and under its control.
The larger picture is that this would eventually help them in isolating, containing and restraining China.
The current setbacks against Taliban are merely a nuisance for the Americans.
The region is ready for their next move: There is ample unrest. Iran is isolated and crippled under sanctions. It has hostile Sunni Arabs on its western side and an Afghanistan occupied by hostile American forces on its eastern side. Pakistan’s economy and law and order are in shambles, due to inept government and the American War on Terror.
With this single goal in mind, the American policy suffers from severe myopia. For now it doesn’t matter for policy-makers if:
– The Committee leaders holding the hearings and presenting resolutions calling for an independent Balochistan can even pronounce the name properly.
– The Committee Congressmen have enough insight about the people, its politics and geographical makeup; or
-The Baloch diaspora originating from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have enough influence over their Congressmen. (If so, it would be welcome and can be used to legitimize America’s intervention.);
The American approach is wrong
The most obvious fallacy of the Americans is the over-simplification or rather dismissal of the ethnic diversity within the province.
Of the population of 8 million in Balochistan, about 5 million are non-Baloch, including Pashtuns (40%), Brahui (20%) and a mix of Sindhi, Punjabi, Seraiki and Hazara.
The remaining 3 million Baloch are spread into 150 tribes which are further subdivided into clans. Of the 150 tribes, only two tribes are waging war against the state, the Bugtis (approximately 100,000 people) and the Marris (approximately 250,000 people).
Furthermore, not all sub-clans of these tribes are at war. For example, the Kalpar Bugtis who have been targeted for not joining the rebellion, amount to almost 70,000 people of the Bugti tribe.
Their leader Khan Mohammad and his sons were killed on the orders of Akbar Bugti. Another Bugti sardar of the Masuri sub-clan was abducted, kept in prison, and humiliated by shaving his beard, eyebrows and moustache. The Kalpar Bugtis do not have fond memories of Akbar Bugti, and famously recount him as saying: “What’s better than seeing your enemies driven before you (are dead) and then taking their women to bed”?
It is pertinent to note here that the estimated number of ‘active combatants’ and ‘supporters’ is only 2,000-3,000, who are involved in anti-state activities such as running terrorist camps.
The myth of discrimination
The involvement of foreign powers in this chaos is terrible news for the people of the province because no side will give up without a fight. While it is essential that the Pakistani security forces are held accountable for the dead and the missing Baloch activists, the killing of peaceful pro-Pakistani Baloch and other non-Baloch ethnicities at the hands of the BLA should not be justified as a consequence of a reaction to any alleged mistreatment of the BLA.
A reason often given for the unrest and dissent is lack of development in infrastructure and basic civic necessities like schools and hospitals. To say that the Baloch have been discriminated on the basis of ethnicity when it comes to development is far removed from the truth.
Come off the Grand Trunk Road in Punjab and travel 40 miles inside Punjab and you will experience the same development issues faced by the people of Baluchistan. The only difference is that there is, at least, some evidence of some effort, despite the corruption and mismanagement.
In Balochistan the lack of development has much to do with the prevailing feudal mentality of purposefully keeping the people underdeveloped to keep a grip on them. Sardars and Nawabs like Bugtis have been in power in the provincial government from time to time but did not pay much attention to development in their own areas.
During an Al Jazeera documentary university students in Quetta were asked about the lack of development and the contribution of Sardars. One student pertly responded that the development is the responsibility of the Government, not the sardars.
Totally disregarding the Chieftains would be ill advised. However, they need to be taught that if they want to remain relevant, and genuinely want to address the problems of their tribes, then they have to stop complaining and start suggesting solutions.
Being granted a major stake in their local natural resources is a genuine request, but it’s not a one way street as they would have us believe. They receive food and hydroelectric power from rest of Pakistan.
The financial award announced by the government can address this issue if implemented properly.
The peaceful solution
There is a swarm of Baloch analysts, experts and historians that have suddenly spawned. Videos, blogs and articles are appearing on a regular basis with predictions of the demise of Pakistan as we know it, and the formation of Independent Balochistan as a foregone conclusion.
Analysts and anchors are giving prime time coverage to ultra-nationalist Baloch and BLA terrorists that are openly advocating violence and terror against the Pakistani state and its people. The mainstream Nawaz League is thought of as being crude as in its quest to settle personal scores with the Army, it has appointed a Baloch nationalist as the president of its Balochistan Chapter.
The same Sardars who were once in the laps of Khad, RAW and the KGB back in the days of the Cold War have found a mix of some old and new financiers. They are getting ample airtime and receiving high level attention and funding beyond their dreams. So it’s no wonder that their tone is already very confident and they are arrogant about their demands for a separate country.
However, be it the anchors, their guests or even the PMLN, all are at a complete loss of words when questions such as these are brought up: Would the issues plaguing Balochistan today see any resolution if Balochistan becomes an independent country?
For me, the real solution in Balochistan lies in concerted and honest effort by the central government to engage the whole population of Balochistan, including all ethnicities, not just the most vocal ones.
The rest of the solution is more autonomy and socioeconomic development, which can only happen when the security situation stabilizes, and the BLA stops firing rockets at the very infrastructure it complains Balochistan lacks.
The people of Balochistan eagerly wait for a leadership that is not tainted with allegations of corruption and mismanagement, just like the rest of Pakistanis do. The state of Pakistan has a last chance to bring the situation under control, otherwise foreign powers will be deciding the fate of Balochistan.
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