by Lt-Gen Kamal Davar (retd),
Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it, as a famous truism goes. That Pakistan displays a proclivity in not discarding its myopic, self-destructive strategies while following consistently the policy of adhering to terrorism as an extension of its state policy externally or indulging in persecution internally of some of its own people is no surprise. Pakistan forgets that it was primarily the unleashing of genocide on its then own citizens in erstwhile East Pakistan that led to the severing of its eastern limb in 1971. An uncanny similarity marks the political and security environment in hapless Balochistan today.
Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan's four provinces covering 44 per cent of its landmass with just 4.5 per cent of its population. Though it has gas deposits and is mineral-rich, it has received an abysmally small share of Pakistani revenue since 1947. It straddles both Afghanistan and Iran which also have a fair number of restive Baloch tribes. The local Baloch constitute many tribes and sub-tribes with the Marris, Bugtis and Mengals being the major ones. In keeping with the overly Punjabi orientation of the Pakistani state, the Baloch have a mere 1.3 per cent representation in Pakistan's armed forces.
Balochistan's unique geographical location, providing connectivity through Afghanistan to the Central Asian Republics or, on its own, to the Karakoram Highway (KKH) and then to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea, gives it immense strategic importance. It is thus not surprising that the strategically minded Chinese have invested heavily in developing the deep-sea port of Gwadar on Balochistan's coastline not only to ensure alternative oil supply routes to the Chinese mainland via the KKH but also dominate the Arabian Sea and the Gulf with its navy once Gwadar is fully operationalised.
It is pertinent to recall that at the time of independence in 1947, the Khan of Kalat had refused to merge Balochistan with Pakistan and only a massive intervention by the army in Balochistan ensured its annexation by Pakistan. Since then Balochistan has been gripped by civil wars in 1958, 1963 and again in 1973.
Gen Pervez Musharraf, in particular, during his rule, had unleashed not only his army in great strength in Balochistan but also armed helicopters and even jet fighters against Balochi insurgents, including killing the widely respected Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and his son. General Musharraf, who is perhaps the most hated Pakistani leader in this province, also established many cantonments in Balochistan. A serious insurgency continues till now.
Baloch grievances against Pakistan are rooted in the denial since 1947 of their political rights, the fear of being swamped by Punjabi machinations, exploitation of the province's natural resources and local land being leased to foreigners. A large number of Balochi tribal leaders have escaped to the US and the UK and are vociferous in their demands of seeking Baloch independence from Pakistan. Only recently in Islamabad, Baloch leader Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo stated that Pakistan's infamous ISI was running Balochistan for the last 15 years and untold genocide had been unleashed on the impoverished people there. The ISI has been notorious for its “kill and dump” policy for years. According to reliable estimates, 231 bullet-ridden bodies were found along roadsides in Balochistan last year. Recently in the fashionable area of Clifton in Karachi, the ISI engineered the murder of Nawab Bugti's granddaughter and his 13-year-old great-granddaughter with a nearby police picket looking the other way.
The world community, so far oblivious of the repression of the Balochi people, appears to be waking up to continuing Pakistani barbarism in Balochistan. In February this year, Amnesty International testified before a US Congressional Committee on the grave human rights abuses in Balochistan. Importantly, a Republican senator has moved a House concurrent resolution in the US Congress seeking the right of self-determination for Balochistan. This step has evoked much protest in Pakistan with the latter complaining of interference in its internal affairs by some US Congressmen and further vitiating the already deteriorating relations between the erstwhile allies.
India, consistent with its policy of non-interference, has studiously avoided meddling in Balochistan despite regular unsubstantiated Pakistani allegations to the contrary. Baloch nationalist leaders are naturally miffed at India's laid-back attitude towards their yearnings for freedom and always remind the Indians of Balochi secular credentials and their respect for Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Not many in India are aware that at the time of Independence, no Hindu or Sikh families were driven away from Balochistan unlike from Punjab, the NWFP and Sindh. In addition, after the unfortunate destruction of Babri Masjid in India, no old Hindu shrines were demolished by the Baloch.
Overall, India has to be prudent as regards its Balochistan policy but must, at the same time, firmly tell Pakistan to abandon its policy of interference in Jammu and Kashmir as a quid pro quo. As India must keep its options open on happenings in the neighbourhood, Pakistan is in a bind, anyway, as far as Balochistan is concerned for the restive province's future is currently anyone's guess!
Source: The Telegraph, 19 March 2012