Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Balochistan Folly (continued)

It becomes increasingly obvious that the simmering rebellion in Balochistan is just not going to go away - no matter what Musharraf & Co have to say on the subject.

Musharraf’s trip to Balochistan this month was met with a complete shutter-down strike in all the Baloch areas of the troubled province and led to a large spate of pre-emptive arrests of political activists.

A statement that he has ‘no regrets’ about killing Akbar Bugti (made in an interview with India’s NDTV network) hardly helped cool down matters.By making this statement Musharrah completely contradicted his previously stated position that that the Baloch Nawab had been killed unintentionally.

And by then adding that the military had to “crush [Bugti]... as you are doing in India” (in apparent reference to battles being waged by Indian troops against insurgents in the northeast, Kashmir and elsewhere) Musharraf has managed to invite ridicule.

As a political commentator noted Musharraf ‘appears to have forgotten that Pakistan has consistently maintained that India's actions in Jammu and Kashmir constitute "massive human rights violations".’

In Quetta the General, for once, actually acknowledged the Baloch rebellion in a backhanded sort of fashion by offering an amnesty to Baloch fighters.

Somehow I doubt if his belated attempt to start a dialogue in Balochistan will get any response. Ironically, as a knowledgeable journalist once told me, Akbar Bugti was the only Baloch leader amenable to negotiating with the Establishment. After villifying and then killing him, there is no one left in Balochistan willing to talk to Islamabad. All one can say is: You reap what you sow

An addendum on Akbar Bugti:
A former Governor of Balochistan - Lt. Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch (the only Baloch general so far) – apparently disclosed that ‘the Bugti area had the highest literacy rate in Balochistan’. This mocks the official version which states that the slain Bugti chief was totally averse to educating his tribes people.


In the meantime the Balochistan issue seems to be getting some international press coverage. Today The Brooklyn Rail, a monthly magazine from New York, gives a lengthy journalistic plug for Suleiman Daud, the present Khan of Kalat.

Excerpts from: A Call to Resistance: The Khan of Kalat Gathers the Tribes
"Khan of Kalat Suleiman’s country is rich in resources that everyone wants to take and he doesn’t have the power to stop them. “We sit on a mountain of gold,” he says, “and the devil sits on us.” His people, the Baluch Nation, are being indiscriminately bombed, arrested, and kidnapped, and he’s powerless to stop it. Journalist Selig S. Harrison has called it a slow-motion genocide and Human Rights groups have called it an ethnic cleansing. “We have 700 miles of coast and oil and gas and gold,” says Khan Suleiman. “We try to do something to have rights to it, we get spanked. We resist every ten years and get spanked every ten years.” For the past few years, he has been in the middle of an unseen war that few beyond the regional press are reporting.

But then something horrible happened and it radicalized his people. In August 2006 the chief of the Bugti tribe, 79-year-old Newab Akbar Bugti, was murdered by the Pakistan Army. “Bugti was buried with three locks on the coffin,” says Khan Suleiman. “They thought his soul might come back and make trouble. So the army put locks on it. None of his tribe was around to see his body. Still they’ve got a guard on his body.” The Baluch people were outraged by the murder, and Khan Suleiman had found his moment, the catalyst he needed. He called a national jirga, a meeting of the tribes, the first in 130 years. He wanted to find out if his sardars, his chiefs, the heads of tribes that have been, on and off, at war with each other for hundreds of years, could lay down personal disputes and unify for a common cause: an autonomous Baluchistan. Khan Suleiman’s allies would be his former enemies. In the way of tribes, his enemies are also his friends. He put out his call."

"Khan Suleiman’s historic jirga was attended by 1,500, including 85 sardars and 300 tribal elders. The Baluch people have always protested the Punjabi-dominated military regime of Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf that has been made rich off the Baluch province but gives so little back in terms of resources and tax revenues that the entire region still lacks the basic services that most consider human rights. The province is rich in natural gas yet only 6% of the Baluch have gas connections, less than half the children get an education, and only 2% of the population have clean water.

The answer to Khan Suleiman’s call for unification and resistance against this state of affairs was a resounding yes."

"There is a problem with autonomy for Baluchistan. As it was with the Native Americans, there are broken treaties involved. The current troubles in Baluchistan date back to the 1947 agreement between Britain and India that created Pakistan. Six million Baluch were forced to become part of the newly created country. But a 1948 treaty, in which the current Khan of Kalat (Khan Suleiman’s grandfather) acceded to Pakistan, delineates that accession in only four areas: defense, foreign affairs, currency and communications. Resource and autonomy rights were not given up, but there is an ambiguity to the language of the treaty that has been exploited by Islamabad."

"The Baluch Liberation Front and the Baluch Liberation Army, along with the more official Baluch National Party are increasingly made up of not just moderate to extreme tribals or politicians, but intelligentsia, merchants, laborers, out-of-work engineers, lawyers, and the new Baluch middle class. The Baluch Student Organization actively stages demonstrations, roadblocks and rallies."


Anonymous said...

“Bugti was buried with three locks on the coffin”

When I first read this I became convinced that the coffin is filled with rocks and the Pak army failed to retrieve the body.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from UN help sought to save IDPs from starvation: Balochistan instability displaces 84,000 by By Baqir Sajjad Syed.

ISLAMABAD, Dec 21: The government on Thursday sought United Nations intervention to help avert nutrition crisis among 84,000 displaced persons in Balochistan. They were displaced due to instability in the province.

This is the first official acknowledgement of the deteriorating nutritional situation among internally displaced persons IDPs in Balochistan, a senior UN official told Dawn.

In the past, the government had been rejecting the presence of IDPs in the province and had prevented aid groups from helping them. Among the 84,000 IDPs, 26,000 were women and 33,000 were children, according to UN estimates.

A letter received by the UN system in Pakistan from the Balochistan government said: “The UN agencies may carry out nutritional intervention in districts of Naseerabad, Jaffarabad and Quetta."

These districts house majority of the IDPs. The remaining are in Sibi and Bolan districts.

The intervention by the UN has, however, been made conditional. It will be carried out through health facilities in the districts and under the supervision of local authorities.

The United Nations has approved a $1 million humanitarian relief package for six months to address this crisis. The package includes immediate setting up of 57 supplementary feeding centres and three therapeutic feeding centres in the three districts, provision of food, medicine and nutrition for children, blankets, water purification and sanitation equipment and technical assistance.

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Anonymous said...

Excerpts from UNICEF Says Pakistan Military Blocking Food Aid to War-torn Balochistan
by By Gretchen Peters

Christian Science Monitor Reports on a 'Crime Against Humanity' Situation

Why wouldn't Pakistani authorities let relief workers in to help? "The official logic is that they can't guarantee safety for the internationals, or even for local aid groups," says Samina Ahmed, head of the International Crisis Group's (ICG) office in Islamabad.

"The unofficial logic, I suspect, is basically neglect more than anything. This is just not a priority for the government, and they probably hope they will all go back home if everyone ignores them," she says.

Compounding the lack of aid access is the fact that the displaced families have decamped across wide, isolated areas. "These are small groups - some as small as 10 or 50 people," says van Dijk. "And they roam around. They don't have permanent dwellings."

In the isolated districts of Naseerabad and Jafarabad, where the bulk of the displaced villagers have gathered, one eyewitness describes the refugees as "utterly desperate."
"It's very upsetting to see children in this state," says the local resident, who did not want to be named for fear he would be arrested. "They have no shelter, little clothing, and almost no food."

A climate of political oppression, in which more than 150 Baloch activists have been arrested and taken to undisclosed locations, only amplifies the crisis, say human rights workers and opposition politicians.

Some analysts wonder why the UN hasn't pushed Pakistan on the issue more publicly. "It's quite clear that quiet pressure is not working here," says one Pakistani political analyst. "This situation demands a strong, international condemnation."

Ms. Ahmed of the ICG says that, "The UN has a mandate and UN agencies have a responsibility to help people. My concern here is that if agencies don't meet their mandate they lose credibility."

The UN is not alone in being unable to provide aid. Other organizations, such as Oxfam, CARE, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, have also been trying to gain access to the region.

Baloch politicians meanwhile complain that millions of dollars in US military hardware, given to the Pakistan military to fight Islamic insurgents in the tribal belt, have been diverted to Balochistan and used against the rebel tribes.

"Are the American people aware of how their donations are being used?" asks a Baloch politician angrily.

As debate over the issue rages behind the scenes, van Dijk says supplies of medicine and food are sitting in Quetta warehouses, and could be distributed in as little as two weeks.

Last week, an hour after the Christian Science Monitor interviewed van Dijk about the crisis, his office suddenly received a letter from the Pakistani government giving permission to deliver some initial packages.

"This should have happened 10 months ago," he says. "If it would have happened then those children who died would still be alive. I don't know how many more have died by now."

This report appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 21, 2006

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