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Posts from — March 2009

Anguished Cry Of A Balochi

a-protest-by-balochi-child-against-pak-brutalities

Popular nationalist movements do not succeed merely because of their own efforts, but their success or failure is largely dependent on the nature of counter-efforts to meet them. For the Pakistan State countering Balochi insurgency, patience has clearly been in short supply. There is only one answer to genuine demands from the Balochi side: meet them with disproportionate force. Pakistani history shows that unrepentant coercion has come out a cropper every time the military has been sent to tackle Balochi rebellion. The state has tried to replicate this every time Balochistan has been on fire.

A Pattern

There is a pattern in the way the state and its leadership have handled the Baloch issue. Pakistan does not have a singular locus of power. There is a perennial competition between the civilian and military apparatus to prevail over each other. The military has persisted as the more dominant element. The civilian and military leaderships have accused each other of insensitivity towards the Baloch issue. If Ayub ordered the killings of Balochis in 1958-59, Z.A. Bhutto came out with his offer of autonomy. But soon he went against his own promises and ordered killings of Balochi leaders in the 1970s. Zia-ul-Haq succeeded him and declared general amnesty and soothed the Baloch nerves. This time round, after the excessive use of military might by Musharraf’s military government, Zardari government in power, has promised to apply the balms. The method of winning back the sympathy of the Baloch Sardars was through ensuring state support for their dominant feudal hold over Baloch society. They were heavily compensated and effectively silenced.

Change in the air

Thus, in previous instances the Baloch people were duly duped by their leaders who were heavily bribed by the Pakistani leadership. However, this time round the leadership of the movement has passed on to the hands of the upcoming younger generation who are dedicated to the cause of nationalist struggle, unafraid of the Pakistani state and immune to appeasement. This young generation of Baloch nationalists have compelled the old veteran Sardars to follow them. The Sardars starting from K B Marri to Akbar Bugti saw the writing on the wall and had to stop hobnobbing with the state. The state under Musharraf misconstrued the problem.

Musharraf thought getting rid of the Sardars will amount to getting rid of the problem of Balochistan. It used excessive force to eliminate Nawab Akbar Bugti. The Baloch resistance has shown no sign of coming down in spite of it. Little does the Pakistani state realise that the ordinary Baloch has now a genuine cause to live and die for. But Pakistani state with its expertise in raising insurgencies has no patience to understand the inner dynamics of the Baloch struggle. It is on the wrong side of history on this occasion.

Pakistani State in a Hurry

Bugti was killed in 2006. This led to a state of shock. There was an immediate dip in the Baloch assertion. However, it picked up again next year. There were 72 different incidents of bombing in 2007 only around Quetta. In 2008 the number increased to 81. In 2008, there was even a case of suicide attack against the Frontier Corps personnel. The Baloch National Army has the support of the people this time.

The moderate political leadership in Balochistan had hailed the return of democracy as a possible way out of the Baloch crisis. Even the Baloch rebels had called for a ceasefire. However, very soon the people have realised that this PPP-led coalition government headed by Zardari, despite its expression of good intent, is a lame duck one. There is a firm belief that army is still controlling the shots from behind and would not allow the government to devolve power to Balochistan and other provinces.

Nothing short of Independence

A Balochi Protest in Washington

A Balochi Protest in Washington

Baloch nationalists would argue that they would not stop at autonomy. Pakistani state with its Punjabi majority bias would never yield them fiscal and cultural autonomy. According their account, Punjabi businessmen and technocrats have already colonised the state. They have reduced Gwadar to a mini-Punjab and have conspired with the Pakhtun population in the state to reduce the Balochis to a minority within their own homeland. The largest, poorest, most suppressed and least populated nation of Balochis have also vanished from the public gaze.

The media in Pakistan has adopted a lackadaisical approach to the Baloch issue. During Musharraf’s reign, the media did pick on Bugti-assassination as a major stick to beat his administration with. However, it did not argue out forcefully the need for decentralisation or devolution of power. A Punjabi majoritarian state has its own existential biases towards minority communities. The media also reflects this Punjabi majoritarian bias.

No manipulation by external forces

There have been flippant accusations that we the Balochis have been manipulated by the Russians, Afghans, Indians and even Americans. Truly speaking, any of these countries would like to fish in troubled waters. But so far none of these countries have been allowed by the Balochis to step into the Baloch ‘freedom struggle’. The Balochis are determined to fight their own battle. They want only moral support from the larger international community which includes all these countries. But we have studiedly avoided any truck with any particular country in this regard.

The Balochis have learnt their lessons from the Kashmiris and would avoid the risks of overdependence on external sources. They would never like to be swayed by external instigations and keep fighting till the end. No brute power on the earth can shake their self-confidence and their unwavering faith in their own inherent strength and capacity to work doggedly till they achieve their aim.

The moderate Baloch leadership at the provincial level have tried to steal the thunder from the militants by echoing the nationalist concerns earlier raised by the Baloch militants. They have sought to re-negotiate the status of Balochistan with the powers in Islamabad hoping against hope that a Sindhi leader at the helm of affairs would deliver them autonomy on a platter. They do not realise that the real power is in the hands of the Paunjabi dominated civil-military bureaucracy, which would not like to sacrifice the advantages accruing to them from the present configuration of power. They may devolve nominal power which is unacceptable to most of us today.

A Critical Turn

The Baloch struggle stands at a critical turn today. There are quite a few who would like to convince the Pakistani state that it is in their interests to shed power and accommodate Baloch concerns. They would like the state apparatus to confess that they had been brutal and repressive in the past and expect the state to transform itself. But majority of Balochis today do not want to beg Pakistani state for mercy. Freedom is much more valuable than small concessions being offered to the Baloch nation.

Pakistan will have to pay a heavy price for the rapes of Baloch women, incarceration and disappearance of Baloch youth and killings of hundreds of innocents in Balochistan. The world outside is watching Pakistani generals perpetrating horror and state terrorism in the name of protecting the integrity of the Pakistani state. On the contrary, the Pakistanis have labelled the tag of terrorists on the innocent Balochis who have the right to protect their lives against indiscriminate attacks by the Pakistani military forces.

Moreover it is the Pakistani state and the military which have allowed Taliban to capture northern Balochistan and intimidate and demoralise the Baloch freedom movement. Balochis have raised their voice against such unthinking Talibanisation of Balochistan in recent times. Unable to take Balochistan through military means they would now like to win Balochis through Islamist hate campaigns against the US and the West. The Balochis have kept their ears and eyes open. They will not join this hate wagon.

Pakistan has never been a unified nation. It is at best a union of nations. Balochis may not be as numerous but they hail from a resource rich corner of Pakistan and are the rightful owners of its resources under international law. The inhuman and unjust way in which Balochis are being handled, and being dispossessed of their wealth, cannot continue for ever.

The Balochis have woken up. They have taken a resolve to fight for their freedom till the last Baloch is dead.

It is clearly a struggle between a self-respecting nation and a self-aggrandising one. The Balochis would urge the world to take note of the brutalities of the Pakistani state which is all out to liquidate an entire nation of Balochis. The state of Pakistan should be made to explain its position in the comity of nations. Long Live Baloch nation. Long Live Balochistan.

March 3, 2009   No Comments

Pakistani Deceit At Its Worst

As the Obama administration began consultations with top Pak Generals in Washington last week on the measures to be taken to bring order in Af-Pak (phrase coined by new President) region, the Pakistani Army intensified its lobbying with various institutions of US administration and launched an internet media campaign to put up a ‘benign’ face of victim, which deserve fresh infusion of new funds.

Addressing the Congress on February 24, President Obama has conveyed his administration’s resolve to forge a new comprehensive policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan to curb violent extremism in the region. “…I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.” Pakistani Chief of Army General Kayani, the ISI Chief and head of the military operations and their Afghan counterparts were summoned to Washington on February 23 and the three-day talks seemed to have some no-nonsense exchange of views.

Thomas Ricks, author of a new book on Iraq entitled The Gamble, told Newsweek in an interview it was wrong in thinking of Afghanistan as “Obama’s Vietnam” because that honour rests with Pakistan. Ricks argues that “We could lose Afghanistan, and it would be bad but it would not present an existential threat to this country. If you ‘lose Pakistan’ — and by that I mean if Pakistan collapses or is taken over by Islamic extremists — you face the prospect of Islamic extremists having nuclear weapons. That’s Al Qaeda’s dream. It’s our nightmare. That’s why Pakistan is Obama’s potential Vietnam. There’s no clear solution there.”

Sensing this thinking in the Administration, the Pakistani team and their informal lobbyists apparently made it out that the US has hardly any choice but to go by the advice of Islamabad. It appeared that the easily gullible American experts are no match for their Pakistani interlocutors who have perfected the art of ‘deception’ having lived in the company of their Chinese masters for long. Not surprisingly, General Kayani was conferred the Legend of Merit (Degree of Commander) Award to keep the Pakistani strong man in good humour.

Pak Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani with Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff

Pak Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani with Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff

On the other plane, ex-Generals of Pakistan Army had put out their own an informal analysis to American authorities and think tanks to soften the ground to fleece the US treasury. They painted a picture of how their country was coping with an extraordinary situation since the year 2001 and how impossible for any country to continue in such a situation for long. Recalling that it was the US-sponsored jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which heralded Taliban/Al-Qaeda, they pointed out that Pakistan was dragged into the war and is now bearing the brunt of its repercussions.

Added to this was the problem of massive number of Afghan refugees who could not return to their land due to unabated instability in the region. The ex-Generals also claimed that while the US military casualties are only 500, Pakistan Army lost nearly 1500 of its soldiers. While trying to reassure Islamabad’s continued determination to remain a key American ally and strategic partner in the global war on terror, they argued that to effectively deliver this role, the need the US military and non-military aid so as to stabilize internal situation and launch a campaign to bring order on its western border.
In defence of the recently signed peace agreement with Sufi Mohammad to implement Sharia law in Malakand region of the NWFP, the ex-Pak Generals deceptively tried to make out that there was really nothing to alarm about it as the provision already exists in the Pakistan Constitution. It is also argued that there is a Sharia law in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The deception has no bounds as even a school boy knows that the ‘Sharia’ law in Saudi Arabia is administered by the government. If the UAE is applying ‘Sharia’ law, no one really felt it so as it is indistinguishable from any modern administration.

In contrast, the ‘Sharia’ law in Malakand is to be administered by the Taliban and the Pakistani government is totally out of it. The world has already seen the Taliban justice system in Afghanistan and memories are still fresh.

Another strange argument being put forward by these ex-Generals was that the talk of additional 30,000 American troops reaching Afghanistan has only created more complications, provoking Taliban/Al-Qaeda to intensify their attacks.

The massive media campaign of putting out a benign face of Pakistan, being a victim of the situation, appeared to be meant to ward off any tough talk from the new American administration and persuade them to quickly infuse much needed funds into Pakistani economy suggesting that it is in their own interest.

The Atlantic Council, an American think tank lobbying for Pakistan, released its report on February 25 timing at well for the trilateral consultations on Af-Pak. It projected that Pakistan is on a rapid trajectory to failure as a stable, democratic state and needs a boost of $ 4 billion in aid and loans each year to begin it turning around. A democratic Senator John Kerry and the Republican Senator Richard Lugar are to introduce a bill for immediate American aid. Kerry and Republican former Senator Chuck Hager are the Atlantic Council Honorary Chairmen. Hager having left the Senate is now the Council’s Chairman. While Pakistan is in dire need of urgent economic aid, any unconditional funding could end up in military purchases from China and other countries to target its eastern neighbour.

The claims of the Pakistani Generals that they are a reliable and strategic partner in the war against terrorism need to be taken with a ‘pinch of salt’. American ambassadors and commanders in Afghanistan have been repeatedly complaining of Pakistan’s double games and its facilitation of movements of Taliban/Al-Qaeda elements criss-crossing the border to launch attacks against NATO forces. American and British intelligence have also had such experience of giving information to Pakistan agencies on the locations of Taliban/Al-Qaeda leaders but only to be found later that they have escaped from these locations. This is precisely the reason that Americans decided to launch drone attacks and even ground operations to eliminate these terrorist elements without involving Pakistani Army or intelligence.

Following the truce agreement with Taliban in Malakand, reports have come out indicating that the Pakistani government paid US $ 6 million to the Taliban for ceasefire in the area. Soon, the drama unfolded with the top 3 Taliban factions in South Waziristan got united under the instructions of Mullah Omar, who instructed them to desist from attacking Pakistani soldiers. The Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir has stated that the Taliban alliance is meant only to fight against the US together because they are concerned over the surge in American troops in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Generals have also been saying similar statements that the surge in American forces could provoke dangerous attacks from Taliban/Al-Qaeda forces. Is it a coincidence or a deliberate coordinated policy that both the Pakistani Generals and Taliban leaders are talking in similar language? The secret of the peace accord is to buy peace from the Taliban from being attacked, while leaving them free to target the Americans.

It is only hoped that the American administration and their experts involved in planning the strategies for AfPak region are alert and attentive to Pakistani Machiavellian tactics to teach them an unforgettable lesson.

March 3, 2009   No Comments