Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Baluch Insurgency

The Baluch Insurgency, although an ongoing movement, dates back exactly to the days of Pakistan’s Independence and subsequent accession of Baluchistan, issues range from more autonomy, more royalties and in some case to secession. Recently, Militants have also clashed with the Iran over its respective Baluch Region, which borders Pakistan.

On 12th August, 1947, i.e. a couple of days before Pakistan was Founded, New York Times published the news "An announcement from New Delhi said that Kalat, Muslim State in Baluchistan, had reached an agreement with Pakistan (Should be British India, as Pakistan was not Founded till then) for free flow of communications and commerce, and would negotiate for decisions on defense, external affairs and communications. Under the agreement, Pakistan (Although not Founded till then) recognizes Kalat as an Independent Sovereign State with a status different from that of Indian States."

So was the state of affairs before Pakistan’s Independence, i.e. although rather strangely. However, soon Khan of Kalat Ahmed Yar Khan was asked to formally accede to Pakistan. Khan's initial response was negative, and the Local Tribal Heads and Chieftains unanimously resounded the same sentiment.

Later on, Khan of Kalat Ahmed Yar Khan was pressurized to sign the Instrument of Accession (As Khan noted later in his Autobiography).

However, Khan’s Brother Prince Abdul Karim Khan took to mountains, refusing to accept the decision, and the Pakistan Army had to subdue insurgents based in Kalat. Moreover, since the accession, four more popular Armed Uprisings have occurred in the province, most of them dealt with by Army and consequently crushed.

In 2005, the Baluch Political Leaders Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri presented a fifteen-point agenda to the Pakistan Government. Their stated demands included greater control of the province's resources and a Moratorium on the construction of Military Bases.

In August 2006, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, 79 years old, was killed in fighting with the Pakistan Army. He was charged by Pakistan's Government of a series of bomb blasts, killings of the people he professed to protect and the rocket attack on the President Pervez Musharraf.

On 12th August, 2009, Self Appointed Khan of Kalat Mir Suleiman Dawood, declared himself Ruler of Baluchistan and formally made announcement of a Council for Independent Baluchistan. The Council's claimed domain includes "Baluchistan of Iran", as well as Pakistani Baluchistan, but does not include Afghan Baluch regions, and the Council contains "All Separatist Leaders including Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti".

It is worth noted that the strongholds of Baluch Insurgency, that are Dera Bugti and Kohlu have never been part of any Baluch State of the past. However, Irani Province of Baluchistan & Sistan has historically been part of the Baluch State until 1849 AD.

Apart from the violent dimension, there is also a political dimension of the insurgency. Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest province comprising approximately forth-three (43) per cent of the total land area. It is rich in a number of valuable minerals including vast copper and natural gas deposits. However, the sad fact is that, alike the Potwar Region in Punjab, while the entire country benefits from these resources, the locals themselves are handed a meager Royalty for them and nothing else. Natural Gas deposits were discovered in Baluchistan in 1953. Household and Commercial Gas was supplied to rest of Pakistan from this source since as far back as 1964. But royalties were offered to Quetta only in 1980 (The amount of this paid Royalty has not increased ever since) and it was connected with a gas supply in 1986, just because gas needed to be supplied to Quetta Cantonment. And today, out of Baluchistan’s twenty-six (26) districts, only four (4) are supplied with gas.

It is this Social Inequality that has fiercely triggered the sense of deprivation among Baluchis. Even the Provincial Governments have been severely inhibited in their efforts to improve conditions because of the fact that Islamabad takes direct decisions over Policies Governing the Province.

In the past, a number of Nationalist Leaders have been elected to the Parliament. Nawab Akbar Bugti had served both as the Governor and the Chief Minister of the Province. Ataullah Mengal and Akhtar Mengal also headed the Provincial Government in the Capacity of being Chief Ministers. Nonetheless, all these unromantic partenerships with the center ended abruptly with the center wielding it’s power by disregarding these nationalist office-holders and their reservations. To cite an instance, Nawab Akbar Bugti resigned after his disagreements with the Federal Government at the latter’s decision to launch a Military Operation in Baluchistan.

Moreover, the Army has become an integral part of the Baluchistan equation since the very start. It has gradually moved from a partial, distant control of the region to a more organized control, replacing the Levies Forces and bringing a very large part under it’s reign. In local culture, it has become synonymous with extra-judicial abductions, killings and missing persons.

Naturally, this has resulted in a very hostile reaction from Baluchis who view Army Garrisons as a sign of encroachment on their Nationalism. To them, all Army activities in the region are a version of State Terrorism.

Despite all this, the mainstream Nationalist Leaders are still ready to engage in dialogue only if they’re assured that the terms agreed upon at the occasion of accession shall be honored. These include much more Provincial Autonomy and Provincial Say in regional affairs.

When talking of Terrorism in Baluchistan, Balochistan Liberation Army is not a name to be missed. BLA has been increasingly violent in recent years. And allegedly killing scores of Punjabis or anyone having the slightest to do with Punjab.

Baluchistan today seems to move towards a destiny similar to Bengal (East Pakistan). However, with the fragmented resistance put up by Baluchis, it’s a long way before they can claim power enough for a successful Armed Struggle.

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