Pakistan’s army wages “secret war” against Baluchistan

Pakistan’s security forces have been waging a “secret war” in the Baluchistan region since the death of tribal leader Mir Balaach Marri in combat last month. Peter Tatchell writes in The Guardian, Dec. 21: “The often indiscriminate attacks on civilian settlements are taking place mostly in the Kahan and Dera Bugti regions, and involve the deployment of heavy artillery, fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. Pakistan’s attacks have reportedly, so far, resulted in deaths of at least 100 men, women and children. More than 200 houses and other buildings, including schools and clinics, have been bombed and burned to the ground. Many farm animals were also killed in the attacks, depriving already poor people of their livelihood.”

Mir Balaach Marri, purported head of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), was killed on Afghanistan’s territory Pakistani intelligence sources told the BBC. The second son of one of Balochistan’s premier tribal chiefs, Sardar Khair Bux Marri, Mir Balach Marri resigned from the provincial parliament in 2003, demanding greater autonomy for Baluchistan. (BBC, Nov. 21)

On the Iranian side of the border, four militants are reported dead in a clash between security forces and the Jundallah Brigades in Sistan-Baluchistan province. In February, Iran hanged a member of the Jundallah Brigades, convicted of a bombing that same month that killed 11 members of the Revolutionary Guards in Zahedan, the provincial capital. Twelve people were reported killed in a shootout between militants and security forces earlier this month in Sistan-Baluchistan. (AP, Dec. 20)

See our last posts on Pakistan, Iran and Baluchistan.

  1. Get Real
    Peter Thatchell is a moron. His hyperbole begins where real world ends. He claims there is more oil in Baluchistan than Saudi Arabia. He claims Pakistani underground Nuke testing has poisoned the flora and fauna overland more than Chernobyl. So those who quote him should expect to be lampooned as well- er Bill?
    Moreover significantly….Afghanistan is now home to Pakistani terrorists….Shoe is on the other foot Mr Karzai?

    1. War in Baluchistan is not “real”?

      Thatchell makes no such claims about Baluchistan being the next Saudi Arabia in this piece, although there certainly is a lot of natural gas there. Should The Guardian be "lampooned"? Do you have reason to suspect that there is no counterinsurgency war in Baluchistan? Forgive me for erring on the side of airing atrocity reports rather than hushing them up. Perhaps you will consider International Crisis Group a more credible source. Note that this report is from Oct. 22—before Thatchell claims the violence was escalated with the slaying of Mir Balaach Marri.

      Pakistan: The Forgotten Conflict in Balochistan Violence continues unabated in Pakistan's strategically important and resource-rich province of Balochistan, where the military government is fighting Baloch militants demanding political and economic autonomy. President Pervez Musharraf's government insists the insurgency is an attempt to seize power by a handful of tribal chiefs bent on resisting economic development. Baloch nationalists maintain it is fuelled by the military's attempts to subdue dissent by force and the alienation caused by the absence of real democracy. Whether or not free and fair national and provincial elections are held later this year or in early 2008 will determine whether the conflict worsens. Instead of redressing Baloch political and economic grievances, the military is determined to impose state control through force. The killing of the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti by the army in August 2006 was followed by the incarceration of another, Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, who has been held on terrorism-related charges without due process since December. Law enforcement agencies have detained thousands of Baloch nationalists or those believed to be sympathetic to the cause; many have simply disappeared. With the nationalist parties under siege, many young activists are losing faith in the political process and now see armed resistance as the only viable way to secure their rights. Relying also on divide-and-rule policies, the military still supports Pashtun Islamist parties such as Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Deobandi Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) in a bid to counter secular Baloch and moderate Pashtun forces. The JUI-F is the dominant member of the six-party Islamist alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Musharraf's coalition partner in the provincial government since October 2002. It is also a key patron of the Afghan Taliban. Using Balochistan as a base of operation and sanctuary and recruiting from JUI-F's extensive madrasa network, the Taliban and its Pakistani allies are undermining the state-building effort in Afghanistan. At the same time, U.S. and other Western support for Musharraf is alienating the Baloch, who otherwise could be natural partners in countering extremism in Pakistan. Although the military has retained control through force, it is fast losing the campaign to win hearts and minds. The insurgency now crosses regional, ethnic, tribal and class lines. Musharraf appears oblivious to the need to change course if the insurgency is to be contained and political stability restored. Islamabad has yet to implement any of the recommendations on Balochistan's political and economic autonomy made by a Senate (upper house) committee in November 2005. The federal government has also disregarded the Balochistan provincial assembly's unanimous resolutions against unpopular federal development plans. The government’s inadequate response to the cyclone and floods that devastated the area in June and July 2007 has further worsened alienation. Although the crisis in Balochistan is assuming threatening dimensions, it is not irremediable provided the national and provincial elections are free and fair. The restoration of participatory representative institutions would reduce tensions between the centre and the province, empower moderate forces and marginalise extremists. In the absence of a transition to meaningful democracy, however, the military's strong-arm tactics are bound to further fuel the insurgency, at great cost to the Baloch people and Pakistan's enfeebled federal framework.

      1. War in Balochistan is indeed real
        Today Pakistan and Iran are breeding grounds for fundamentalism. They are a menace of Militarization (only to suppress and terrorize the weak nations). Against these antagonism and contradictions there is a Baloch liberalism and heterogeneity, which had always been in the history a symbol of peace and adjustment, would never be adjustable to Pakistani arrangements. Moreover, as seen by Paul Kennedy and Dr. Briezinski, the world of 21st century requires implementation of U.N. decisions.

        Do we believe that Pakistani State is in a position to implement U.N. decisions? Both the experts believed that in 21st century only national states would be able to implement UN decisions. Baloch nation hood and heterogeneity are beyond any doubt. Peace and prosperity in the region lies in determining Baloch identity and aspirations.

        1. Terrorism
          This debate that people are holding about pakistan will not be needed as the pakistani people have voted in the central democratic forces and b ooting out Busharraf and and his mullah cronies.