View Full Version : The government is at war with Baloch people

27 May 06,, 20:28
The government is at war with Baloch people, says Senator Sanaullah

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: Senator Sanaullah Baloch told a conference on “the crisis in Balochistan’ held here on Thursday that the Pakistan government is at war with the Balochi people, while demanding that Pakistan should accord the same freedom to Balochis that it wants for Kashmiris.

He addressed the conference held at the US Institute of Peace through a video connection from Pakistan. He accused the Pakistan government of having pressured the US government into withdrawing the visa granted to him earlier, leading a Pakistani member of the audience to retort during question hour, “One only wishes Pakistan had so much influence in Washington!” The senator from Balochistan caused the audience to gasp in surprise when he declared that Balochistan was wedged as a buffer between two nuclear powers: Pakistan and Iran. The senator’s remarks were often intemperate and his language in his references to Pakistan and its government described by those who heard him as “reckless.” He openly demanded secession from Pakistan, arguing that Balochistan had been annexed by Pakistan at the time of independence since its people had refused to accede to Pakistan. He said Pakistan had repeatedly used force against the Balochi people, starting from 1948.

Baloch also accused the Pakistan government of handing over Gwadar to China. He said the Chinese were happy that the Baloch people were being killed by the Pakistan Army, which had launched full military operations in the province on 17 December 2005. He said China had its eye on Balochistan’s energy resources and its mineral wealth, since Balochistan holds the world’s third largest deposits of copper. He charged that all the gas pumped in his province was going to the Punjab. He also spoke about the Balochi people having been kept deprived of the fruits of their natural resources as the province got no more than a pittance of the revenues it generated. He said the Pakistan government had consulted no Balochi leader when preparing the master plan for Gwadar. He also complained that a network of cantonments was being established in Balochistan to repress the people. He said there are seven airbases in the province, which a serving Pakistan Air Force officer among the audience later described as “absolutely untrue.”

Baloch said all that “Islamabad and Punjab” want is to exploit Balochistan. He stated that there is a ruling “mullah-military alliance” in the province which has no interest in the welfare of the people who live there. He also accused most elder tribal leaders of “collaboration” with the Islamabad. He said hundreds of Balochi youth have disappeared and nobody knows where they are. Torture of those picked up, he added, is widespread. He called the dividing line between Pakistani and Iranian Balochistan “unnatural.”

The conference was also addressed by noted author and former journalist Selig Harrison and Carnegie Endowment scholar Frederic Grare. Harrison noted that the situation in Iranian Balochistan is marked by Tehran bombing and strafing Baloch villages in the Zahedan and Sarawan areas, one reason for which could be that the Baloch in Iran are becoming vocal in objection to discriminatory treatment. Another reason could be that the government in Tehran suspects them of cooperating with the US Special Forces operating in Iran. He said unlike 1974, it is difficult to pin down facts as to what is happening in Balochistan. The military situation is not clear as the Pakistan Army has not announced an operation in the province or admitted that there is one in progress. It has also been able to keep journalists out. He quoted US intelligence to tell the conference that there are six Pakistan army brigades, plus paramilitary forces number some 25,000 men currently battling the Baloch Liberation Army guerrillas in the Kohlu mountains and surrounding areas. There were also 20 US-supplied Cobra helicopter gunships and four squadrons of fighter planes, two of them F16 fighter jets deployed in the action now in hand.

Harrison said the US policy of this being an “internal matter” for Pakistan should be reversed, “not only to stop the carnage but also because the United States has a major strategic stake in a peaceful accommodation between Islamabad and the Baloch leaders.” He suggested that the Bush administration should call on Gen Pervez Musharraf to start negotiations immediately. He said Islamabad can no longer play Baloch tribes against one another as it has done in the past. Secondly, the Baloch have a better armed and more disciplined fighting force than they had during earlier showdowns. He said, “Pakistan is likely to become increasingly ungovernable in the absence of a political settlement with the Baloch. A continued military confrontation in Balochistan could well intensify long-festering ethnic unrest in neighbouring Sindh and embolden a variety of anti-Musharraf forces throughout Pakistan.” He proposed that future US military and economic aid to Islamabad should be withheld until Gen Musharraf “stops his military repression in Balochistan” and enters into “serious” negotiations with the Baloch leaders. Once the present crisis is defused, the US should promote a transition to democratisation that includes autonomy for the Baloch, the Sindhis and the Pashtuns in accordance with the 1973 constitution. “Stability will be impossible in Pakistan until military rule comes to an end,” he added.

Frederic Grare was of the view that the stability of Pakistan depends on a stable Balochistan. He was fearful that if that does not come about, it will be difficult to say where such a movement will take things. He ruled out independent Balochistan as a viable option. He said an unstable Balochistan will keep the region in turmoil. He also spoke about the falling birth rate in the province, adding that it is one thing Islamabad is not responsible for. Turning to Gwadar, he pointed out that so far it had not been declared a free trade area. He added that the local people had not been associated with the development of the port and the surrounding area. While there were no roads linking Balochi villages to a coastal highway from Karachi to Gwadar had been built. There were no schools in the Baloch areas and no training institutes. While the resources of the province were going out to benefit others, the province itself remains neglected. He also stressed that today incidents of violence are taking place all over Balochistan, not in just a few areas. He also pointed out that sophisticated weapons are flowing into the province, being smuggled both ways. There is no evidence, he added, that it is India that is supplying those weapons. However, he conceded that the Indian consulates set up in Afghanistan are “more than consulates.” He warned that if the situation in Balochistan is not repaired, it would lead to further deterioration in Pak-Afghan relations. He said “Baloch nationalism is a reality that Islamabad cannot pretend to ignore forever or co-opt by making promised of development that are rarely kept ... It is ultimately Islamabad that must decide whether Balochistan will become its Achilles’ heel,” said the French academic who spent more than two years in Pakistan.