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The Baluch Question: Part 1

Posted by yourpakistan on July 8, 2012


By Hasan Qureshi | PKKH Exclusive 

The Khan of Kalat, Ahmed Yar Khan, was once asked why he had acceded Kalat, a semi-autonomous state, to Pakistan. He replied that he was hesitant at first, but one night the Prophet of Islam (SAW) came to him in his dream and told him that a nation was being created in the name of Islam and ordered him to join this noble nation. This contradicts directly the propaganda that is spewed nowadays from those who uphold the so called ‘Baluch liberation movement’. In their narrative, the Baluch were forcibly annexed by the state of Pakistan in 1948. This is an outright lie, which, once stripped away, destroys the very foundation of the arguments on which such movements stand. 

 

This is not to say though, that the province of Baluchistan has not had, and does not have its share of problems – issues which have either been ignored or dealt with heavy handedly. Never the less, the mainstream media, both at home and abroad give us a highly inaccurate account of the Baluch question, therefore we must begin with outlining what the core issues are, in the first place.

True Picture of Insurgency

Since the creation of Pakistan there have been four major periods of unrest in Baluchistan.

The First Conflict was during 1958-59 when Nawab Nowroz Khan took up arms in resistance to the One Unit policy, which decreased government representation for some tribal leaders. He and his followers started a guerrilla war against Pakistan, which eventually led to their arrest. The only reason for this uprising was that the tribal leaders and feudal lords like Nawab Nowroz Khan were upset with the federal government for decreasing their powers, which they were misusing by misappropriating funds which had been allocated for the development of the common people of the province. Therefore it was not an uprising of the people, but rather a personal rebellion by a disgruntled feudal lord desperately trying to hold on to his ill-gotten and illegitimate powers. 

The Second Conflict of 1963-69 was more complicated in nature. After the uprising of Nawab Nowroz Khan, the federal government decided to establish law and order in the province by constructing law enforcement outposts. This was done in the best interests of the people of Baluchistan; in order to avoid chaos, to guarantee the safe flow of raw materials from key areas and to protect the people from the yoke of the feudal lord. Unfortunately, bureaucracy brings with it corruption, and what was an honest enterprise was turned into a get-rich-quick scheme by some ministers. Naturally, this angered the feudal lords, especially from the three tribes of Bugti, Marri and Mengel, who were not given their share of the loot from the natural resources of the province. They in turn started a campaign of blowing up gas pipelines and derailing trains – which was in itself counter-productive to development. Notice, that by these actions we can see the true objectives of the feudal lords or ‘Sardars’. They were never interested in the development of the people, whom they purposefully kept in ignorance and abject poverty – their real goal was to gain a share of the revenues to further enlarge their already burgeoning private coffers. This period of unrest ended in 1969 when both sides agreed to a ceasefire and Yahya Khan abolished the One Unit policy, recognizing the aspirations of the princely states of Baluchistan – a mistake, as this only further empowered the Sardars to continue to exploit the common people of the province.

However the Sardars did not keep to the ceasefire and emboldened by the fact that their powers were still intact, they began seeking foreign help in order to gain more of the share of the resource revenue. So much so, that by 1973, egged on by India’s spy agency RAW, some Sardars openly called for secession from Pakistan. The discovery of small arms shipments in the Iraqi Embassy in February 1973, which were destined for Baluch rebels, led the Bhutto regime to declare martial law in the province and a military operation against the traitors. Hostilities were to continue until 1977, after which the honourable martial law administrator General Rahimuddin Khan adopted policies which led to wide scale development in the province and the side-lining of the rebellious Sardars. This Third Conflict left deep scars on the psyche of the Baluch people. Once again this conflict proved that the source of discontent is not ethno-nationalism but greed on the part of the feudal lords.

The Fourth and present conflict is something altogether different. The separatist leaders had been side-lined since the early 1980’s and it was only after the US led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that a number of groups sprung up claiming to fight for the ‘Baluch cause’. For the most part, these are either disgruntled feudal lords or the sons of exiled feudal lords such as Hyrbyar Marri. Many of them have spent their whole lives abroad having gained asylums in western countries. So what explains this sudden upsurge of militancy in the province? It is directly attributable to the presence next door of the coalition forces. The ouster of the Taliban, our key ally, has meant that a vacuum was created in Afghanistan, which was filled by anti-Pakistan elements. This will be explained in detail further on, yet is apt here to talk of the nature of the rebellion as it is now.

The Fourth Conflict 

As mentioned previously the current conflict in Baluchistan is of a different nature than those seen before. The terrorist outfits now have smaller command structures with relatively independent leaders who act like thugs; kidnapping and looting for personal profit. This is because, in the words of a fighter who calls himself ‘Obaid’, they ‘do not want to make the same mistake as the LTTE by having a base of operations and a command structure. This has inevitably meant that there are two dozen or so small groups of bandits roving around the country preying on the weak, without any sense of ideological direction, usually using the excuse of rebellion as a cover for drug running. Hardly a cohesive insurgency.

Furthermore, these, often co-warring factions, are confined to small corridors in the unpopulated regions of the province numbering only around 1500-2000 ill-trained fighters in all. They speak of representing the Baluch people -the same people they kill, rape and loot- but they are themselves not of this region, and are mostly of the Baluch who live in Southern Afghanistan.

Another element of importance here is that most of the inhabitants of Baluchistan are ethnically Pashtun, who have historically remained very loyal to Pakistan, and continue to do so. The Baluch account for less than 40% of the province and even among this, only around 2% of the Sardars are rebellious. Thus, a few hundred elite are holding the whole province to ransom for personal gain. All Sardars send their children to expensive foreign boarding schools whilst their own people are not even allowed to leave their villages lest they see the outside world and approach the light of awareness. They live in palaces built from the proceeds of misappropriated government funds which were allocated to the people, whilst they whom they rob, live in mud huts.

The Baluch issue has always been a problem created by the Sardars of the region -especially from the three main tribes of Bugti., Mengel and Marri – to hold on to their powers/influence/ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the inhabitants of Baluchistan.

This is the first part of the article. Second part will be published on 8th July.

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