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Balochistan Issue

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Balochistan Issue
Historical sequence
1947: At the time of Partition, Balochistan consisted of four princely states, namely Makran, Lasbela, Kharan and Kalat. The first three willingly joined Pakistan in 1947, while Ahmed Yaar Khan, the Khan of Kalat declared independence.
April 1948: Pakistani army invaded Kalat and the Khan surrendered. His brother, Prince Abdul Karim, continued to resist with around 700 guerrillas but was soon crushed.
1954: Anti-One Unit movement in Balochistan turned violent. Nawab Mir Nauroz Khan Zarakzai, chief of Zehri tribe, led a resistance of 1,000 militia against the army.
July 1960: Nauroz’s son was hanged after being convicted of treason.
1962: Nauroz died in Kohlu prison, becoming a symbol of Baloch resistance.
July 1963: Insurgents operating from 22 camps in Marri, Mengal and Bugti areas started to bomb railway tracks and ambushed convoys. The Army retaliated by destroying vast areas of Marri tribe’s land.
1969: Baloch separatists agreed to a ceasefire. Yahya Khan abolished One Unit.
1970: Balochistan was recognised as the fourth province of the then West Pakistan.
1972: The first ever elected government comprising Baloch nationalists was formed with Attaullah Mengal as CM.
1973: President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dismissed the elected Balochistan government; this led to protests and calls for Balochistan’s secession.
April, 1973: Baloch militants began to ambush army convoys. Bhutto ordered sending more troops to the province. The fighting was more widespread than in 1950s and 1960s. Several nationalist leaders were put behind bars.
July, 1974: Baloch militants cut off roads and rail links cutting Balochistan from other provinces.
1974: Hostilities climaxed with drawn-out battles. Military support was provided by Iran against the resistance of some 50,000 Baloch fighters.
1976: Dispersed Baloch warriors formed Balochistan Peoples Liberation Front (BPLF) under the leadership of Mir Hazar Khan Marri.
1977: After the imposition of martial law by Gen. Zia ul Haq, general amnesty was declared by military governor Rahimuddin Khan.
1978: Army action ceased; development and educational policies were restarted. The conflict claimed the lives of 3,300 troops, 5,300 Baloch (militants), and thousands of civilians.
Early 1991: Khair Buksh Marri, leader of BLA, returned to Pakistan.
January 10, 2005: President Pervez Musharraf told the Baloch nationalists: “Don’t push us … it is not the 1970s, and this time you won’t even know what has hit you”.
2005: The government concentrated its attention on Dera Bugti and Akbar Bugti, after he became quite critical of the army’s presence.
Late 2005-early 2006: Pakistan military launched artillery and air strikes and sieged Dera Bugti. Many civilians were killed and 85 per cent of the 25,000-strong population fled. The town of Kohlu also came under siege; military operations occurred throughout the province.
2005: 15-point agenda presented by Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri.
August 2006: Akbar Bugti was killed by Pakistan Army in self-imposed hiding.
April 2009: BNM president Ghulam Mohammed Baloch and two other nationalist leaders Lala Munir and Sher Muhammad were abducted and killed; this led to riots and unrest in Balochistan.
August 2009: Khan of Kalat Mir Suleiman Dawood declared himself ruler of Balochistan and formally announced a Council for Independent Balochistan.
Mid 2010: ‘Killing the killers’ campaign against Baloch insurgents increased.
2011: 107 new cases of enforced disappearances were reported by The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
2003-2012: Nationalists claim about 8,000 people were kidnapped by security forces in Balochistan. The government disputes the claim.

The dynamics of a crisis
The recent decision by the Supreme Court to investigate the state of governance in Balochistan has once again put the spotlight on Pakistan’s longest running insurgency which also continues to be the biggest headache for the country’s security establishment.
Over the years, the insurgents’ ranks have swelled, as increasing numbers of Baloch political leaders have opted from the mainstream politics towards the nationalists’ side. Increasingly, they have little choice as the insurgents say whoever is not with them is against them and that call has been gathering massive public support in the province evoking sentiments that no politician can ignore.
Balochistan’s geographical location has always made it a strategically important pivot for the region. Its coastline runs up to the Iranian border — ending just before the straits of Hormuz through which pass a good 30 per cent of the world’s oil supply. It shares borders with Iran and Afghanistan.
Nato officials have consistently stated that Balochistan is the main centre of Taliban recruitment and training and that the Taliban high council — the fabled Quetta Shura — operate out of the provincial capital. Additionally, Iran also accuses Sunni militants’ group, Jundullah, of carrying out a series of bomb attacks in the neighbouring Sistan-Zahedan province.
Added to that is the growth of sectarian militancy across the province — with the Shia Hazara community of Quetta increasingly being the main target.
The increase in militant groups has also led to an increase in general crimes such as kidnapping for ransom and extortion, as criminal gangs take advantage of the growing lawlessness.
This presents a multidimensional threat to the local population, which increasingly feel to have been left alone as the security forces concentrate on controlling the nationalist insurgents.
The Supreme Court also started an investigation into the excesses committed by the security forces during their ongoing operation against militants in the province. While this heavy-handed approach has definitely exacerbated the problem — the inability of Pakistan’s political elite to come up with a viable alternative has lent strength to the military’s model.
There has been talk of dialogue and political rehabilitation of those who have taken up arms, but little work has been done on the ground to make this possible. At the moment the situation seems to be fixed in a state of bloodletting, with neither side prepared to talk but depending on increasingly brutal tactics to win what now many call Pakistan’s ‘dirty war’.
Both the sides appear unwilling to break this deadlock. The state says external forces (read India and in some cases the US) are using the insurgents to punish Pakistan, while the insurgents — while never denying this allegation — say they have burnt their bridges with Pakistan and the only road for them leads to full independence. In such a situation, there is no easy or quick fix solution to the problem.
Probably the last real effort was made in 2004, when Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain Syed met with Nawab Akbar Bugti in Dera Bugti.
“Nawab Bugti’s murder was a turning point for the movement,” says Maqbool Baloch, a young nationalist from Quetta. “After that there was no turning back for us.” Maqbool is a resident of New Marri Camp — a Baloch settlement just outside Quetta.
Despite being nearly two decades old, it has no running water, gas or electricity — all available across the road.
Another major game changer that has led to this situation was the construction of the Gwadar port. The construction of another port near the Straits was always going to be an international political concern. Added to that is it’s potential to supply energy from Central Asia. But suspicions were raised in western capitals — particularly Washington — with the involvement of China in the port.
In this scenario the government has pressed on with its initiatives; the chief amongst which was the Aghaz-i-Huqooq i-Balochistan package. Although it has achieved general consensus amongst the leading political parties, it has found few takers in Quetta.
The package included a basic three-point agenda, divided as confidence building measures, doables and strategic issues. The government insists that most of the work has been completed but for the common Baloch it is all too irrelevant.
“The question at the moment in Balochistan is of fundamental rights,” says Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director of the international Human Rights Watch organisation. “For there to be any viable solution, first of all both the parties need to stop waging war on each other and come to the negotiating table. Both have committed excesses, and especially all political activists or people arrested due to political reasons need to be produced in court.”
“The situation in Balochistan is a failure of both the administrative and judicial authorities and with the coming elections, the first task would be to convince the nationalists to participate in that process which would be a huge step forward,” he adds.
At the moment the nationalists appear in no mind to take such a step — militant insurgent leaders have already warned of dire consequences for any Baloch who takes part in the political process.
“We regard anyone who talks to Pakistan as an enemy,” says Maqbool and adds, “We are now ideologically of the view that we no longer want to be part of Pakistan and we are prepared to fight till death to achieve this. We will not stop this struggle no matter how many of our people they kill — or whatever incentives they offer us.”

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