Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Stupidity Continues

Pakistani generals seem to have a predilection for short-term solutions without thinking through their long term effects; disastrous examples proliferate the landscape: 1965 war, East Pakistan 1970, Balochistan 1974, Afghanistan 1980’s, Kargil 1999 et al.

Some would think that Kakul teaches its students to act like belligerent GI Joes at the expense of their brains – and years later when they get stars on their epaulettes Pakistan quite often ends up paying the price for their mindless brawn. And if you call it like you see it then you are accused of being anti-Pakistan – all very convenient!

History is often cruel, and almost as if to remind me of this a Baloch friend recently informed me: ‘Fifty years from now Musharraf will just be a minor footnote in history like Ghulam Muhammad, Iskander Mirza, etc’. And then he pointedly added: ‘Now and for years to follow Akbar Bugti will continue to be a legend in the hearts of all the Baloch’.

Was he talking nonsense? I think not. Why? Well it would appear that the traditional Baloch culture venerates valour above all else, and the idea of an 80 year-old man living in caves (these days during 50 C plus temperatures – can our AC and Mercedes-accustomed generals do that?) and then brazenly defying the might of our pampered army hits the Baloch cultural heartbeats.

Other Pakistanis may hate Akbar Bugti but for the Baloch race he is fast becoming – if he already isn’t – a racial and cultural idol.

A Lahori could colourfully chide Musharraf by saying: 'Hor Chuppo Gunnay'

Anyhow this is how
CNN (via Associasted Press) covered the simmering issue:

Pakistan's forgotten war
Baluchistan struggles for independence from Islamabad

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) -- In the remote desert of Baluchistan, a war for independence is distracting Pakistan as it struggles to contain Taliban and al Qaeda militants along the Afghan border.

It is up against an array of Baluch fighters who accuse it of plundering the hidden riches of the arid southwestern province: natural gas.

It's Pakistan's "other" war, a sideshow to its battle in troubled Waziristan some 250 miles (400 kilometers) to the north, where pro-Taliban fighters have gained stature and Osama bin Laden is still suspected to be hiding.

But the conflict in Baluchistan is also a costly one, feeding off the deprivation in what is Pakistan's largest and poorest province despite sitting on the nation's principal gas reserves.

The army put down another tribal rebellion here in 1974, reportedly leaving about 3,000 dead.

"It's not just a few tribal chiefs against the government. There's a genuine movement of Baluch nationalists. There are people enlisting every day and picking up arms," said Asma Jehangir, chairwoman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Violence escalated sharply after rockets landed about 300 meters from President Gen. Pervez Musharraf while he was visiting the town of Kohlu in December.

The Pakistanis then launched an offensive against the Bugti and Marri tribes, whose leaders control swaths of Baluchistan like feudal lords with militias numbering thousands.

People in Baluchistan feel shortchanged. The royalties on their gas have barely changed since 1952. Only 25 percent of villages are electrified, and only 20 percent have safe drinking water.

The shadowy and recently outlawed Baluchistan Liberation Army is blamed for near-daily attacks on gas pipelines and electricity pylons that have disrupted the province's power supply. It claimed responsibility for bombings at a police training school at the provincial capital Quetta on May 11 that killed seven people.

'Indiscriminate bombing'

Musharraf says he wants to develop Baluchistan. He is building a deep sea port at its coast and encouraging foreign investment. But new military garrisons intended to secure the restive region have bred suspicion and hardened resistance.

"The government wants to take complete control of the gas fields for future digging and drilling. Their policy is to exterminate the Baluch," said Nawab Akbar Bugti, 79, the silver-bearded Bugti chief, speaking to The Associated Press by satellite phone from his mountain hideout.

He said thousands of soldiers and paramilitaries had been deployed, using helicopter gunships, bombs and artillery. He claimed hundreds of civilians had been killed and tens of thousands displaced from around Dera Bugti, some 300 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Quetta.

In a report on two recent fact-finding missions to Baluchistan, the rights commission accused the military of "indiscriminate bombing" and listed more than 60 dead in December and January, many of them women and children. It also voiced "grave concern" over militants mining roads.

The government denies killing civilians and presents the problem as one of law and order.

Raziq Bugti, a spokesman for the elected Baluchistan provincial government, said that if militias disbanded, gave up heavy weapons and stopped challenging Pakistan's sovereignty, negotiations would be possible.

If not, "force will be used. It's very clear," he said.

Punjabis targeted

The Baluch make up about half of the province's 6.5 million people. They have coexisted with ethnic Pashtuns, Sindhis and Punjabis but long-brewing tensions are increasingly coming to the surface.

"Punjabis should leave," said Asif Baluch of the Baluch Students' Organization, which advocates independence for the Baluch. "We're not against them as human beings, but as a dominant class."

He accused intelligence agencies of holding Baluch activists for months, sometimes years, without trial.

Baluch separatists have started targeting ethnic Punjabis who dominate Pakistan's bureaucracy and security services.

On March 18, at a mountain picnic spot southeast of Quetta, masked men shot dead two junior government officials they believed to be Punjabis. A third survived his gunshot wounds by playing dead.

Faruq Shah, a Pashtun, was spared after the attackers twice checked his ID. "It feels like I escaped from the jaws of death," he said.


Anonymous said...

So what is the prognosis for Baluchistan? Another Bangladesh - unlikely given India's role in the creation of the latter and its inability/unwillingness to play a similarly active role.

Military rulers never learn lessons from history - they just rewrite it.

Anonymous said...

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