The Baloch insurgency is no bluff

By Rahimullah Yusufzai, The News, November 03, 2009
 
Shafiq Ahmed Khan described himself as a Balochistani, spoke about the rights of the Baloch people and publicly mourned and condemned the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti at the hands of Gen Pervez Musharraf. Even then he was killed by those who insist they are fighting for the Baloch cause.

On Oct 25, Balochistan education minister Shafiq Ahmed Khan was shot dead by gunmen waiting in ambush near his house in Quetta. The killers escaped on a motorbike, but the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) made sure that there was no confusion about the identity of the attackers by immediately claiming responsibility for the assassination. BLUF spokesman Shahiq Baloch said the minister was killed due to his anti-Baloch policies, and to avenge the state-sponsored murders of Baloch nationalist leaders Ghulam Muhammad, Sher Muhammad and Lala Munir in Turbat in Balochistan sometime ago.

Shafiq Ahmed was the second Balochistan minister to be killed in the last few months. In July, the minister for excise and taxation, Sardarzada Rustam Khan Jamali, was gunned down in Karachi, a city with a significant Baloch population. The motives for his murder aren’t sufficiently clear, though it shocked and unnerved his colleagues in the large and unwieldy PPP-led coalition government ruling Balochistan. Subsequently, the house of Balochistan information minister Younis Mullazai in Quetta came under a grenade attack. There have been other targeted killings in the province, along with frequent acts of sabotage against government installations, infrastructure and utility services. A new trend in this campaign is the blowing up of properties of pro-government tribal elders. Frontier Corps soldiers and policemen are attacked and the settlers, the ones whose parents and grandparents came from other provinces to settle in Balochistan, are now a major target of Baloch separatists.

Shafiq was also considered a settler, even though he was born in Quetta in 1954. He studied in schools and colleges in Quetta before getting admission and qualifying from Balochistan University. He thrice won elections as councillor of the Quetta Municipal Corporation. Twice, in 2002 and 2008, he was elected member of the Balochistan Assembly on the ticket of the Pakistan People’s Party.

Senator Mir Lashkari Raisani, the PPP’s Balochistan president and brother of chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, unwisely and carelessly referred to Shafiq Ahmed’s family origins being from the NWFP, wondering aloud whether this could be a reason for his assassination. This was something farfetched as BLUF had publicly declared that he was killed for pursuing anti-Baloch policies. Shafiq Ahmed’s assassination had no link with the ongoing Taliban-inspired militancy in the NWFP and its tribal areas. Lashkari Raisani should have refrained from categorising Shafiq Ahmed as a settler.

Lashkari Raisani also highlighted two other intriguing points. One was his belief that Shafiq Ahmed was killed for raising his voice against Indian involvement in Balochistan’s affairs. This meant that the minister was eliminated for accusing India of supporting acts of terrorism in Balochistan. The other point that Lashkari Raisani made was the campaign of targeted killings of teachers in Balochistan and its culmination in the assassination of Education Minister Shafiq Ahmed. All this in his view was part of a conspiracy to deprive students of education and keep Balochistan underdeveloped. Lacking focus, Lashkari Raisani’s statement tended to create confusion about the motive behind the assassination.

In comparison, Chief Minister Aslam Raisani’s condolence message was sensible. He described Shafiq Ahmed as a Baloch leader. He termed his assassination as a violation of Baloch and Islamic traditions and asked the insurgents not to shed the blood of their own people for external forces seeking to destabilise Balochistan and Pakistan.

Shafiq Ahmed’s family had migrated to Quetta several decades ago from the village of Maloga near Oghi town in Mansehra district. His uncle, Ali Bahadur Khan, was a judicial commissioner in Balochistan and his father, Sher Bahadur, did business in Quetta. The family belongs to the Hindko-speaking Tanoli tribe living in parts of Mansehra and Abbottabad districts. Shafiq Ahmed and his family did maintain links with relatives in Mansehra and the rest of Hazara, but it was for all practical purposes now a Balochistani family. Asked in a recent event sponsored by the BBC Urdu service in Quetta whether he was a Pakhtun or Baloch, Shafiq Ahmed remarked that he was a Balochistani.

Apart from the sizeable number of families from the NWFP’s Hazara region who settled in Quetta long ago, there are also substantial groups of settlers from Punjab, Sindh and Afghanistan who call Balochistan their home. Like every urban centre, Quetta has been attracting outsiders, particularly those with some skills, and its population has been growing. Urdu-speaking families and members of minority groups such as Parsi, Hindu and Christian also have been living and working in Quetta and some other cities and towns in Balochistan. Many families decided to settle in Quetta when it was being rebuilt after the devastating 1935 earthquake.

But it seems most settlers are now unwelcome because the Baloch separatists want to settle scores with the federal government, the military and the Punjab-dominated Pakistani establishment. The victims are scapegoats in a battle in which the increasingly violent Baloch separatist groups are pitted against Pakistan’s security forces, law-enforcement agencies and pro-federation political forces.

Denial of Baloch rights and the five military operations since independence have taken its toll on the population of Balochistan, but it seems no lessons have been learnt as force is still being used to resolve a conflict that is essentially political in nature and primarily concerns the socio-economic rights of the people of the province.

The BLUF appears more aggressive and violent than the Baloch Liberation Army and Baloch Liberation Front, the two armed separatist groups that have been active for some years now in Balochistan. In February the BLUF kidnapped American John Solecki who headed the UNHCR mission in Balochistan, and freed him unharmed after much efforts, and probably a deal. The kidnapping signalled the arrival of the BLUF as the most radical of the three Baloch separatist groups even though it isn’t clear if these are separate or overlapping factions operating under different names. One lesson from the proliferation of splinter factions, which are far more radical militants and led by younger and emotional men, is that one must try and do business with the older and original groups headed by mature people because the leadership is passing to commanders who are mostly inflexible. This holds true for all militant groups, whether secular, nationalist or Islamic.

Young Baloch separatists forming part of the diaspora and living in Kabul, Kandahar, Dubai, London, Brussels and Geneva are now often calling the shots in Balochistan and setting the agenda. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Daud, and Herbeyar Marri are in London, Brahmadagh Bugti could be in Afghanistan. They largely control the radical separatist groups and it isn’t going to be easy doing business with them. They are presently demanding an independent Balochistan, but there are strong indications they are willing to remain part of Pakistan after grant of provincial autonomy under a deal guaranteed by international organisations and world powers. The trust deficit between them and the Pakistani establishment — which is wary of the external, primarily Indian influence on the Baloch separatists — is the main hurdle in making them talk to each other for a possible deal on managing Balochistan’s affairs.

Though an overwhelming majority of elected representatives in Balochistan are pro-Islamabad and the pro-federation political forces outnumber the ones demanding independence, it would be wrong to dismiss the Baloch nationalists and separatists as insignificant. They have the capability to keep Balochistan unstable through political means and armed struggle. Acts of sabotage and targeted killings, like that of Shafiq Ahmed Khan, aim at keeping up the pressure on Islamabad to accede to the separatists’ demands.

And this is not the only challenge confronting Balochistan. There is the issue of the Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban, which the US, without providing any evidence, is insisting operates out of the Balochistan capital to attack NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. And, last but not least, is the issue of Jundullah, the Baloch Sunni militant group responsible for terrorist attacks in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province and based according to Tehran in Pakistani Balochistan. Sadly enough, the secret hand of the US also seems to be behind Jundullah.

21 Comments

Filed under baluchistan

21 responses to “The Baloch insurgency is no bluff

  1. Jalal Ahmad

    The inattention of our government to problems in urgent need of our attention is appalling. After all NRO is more important than Balochistan. The truth of the matter is that it is the continuation of decades of oppression and not giving the due rights that we are in this mess.
    My suggestion is to give all the provinces and particularly Balochistan control over it’s natural resources, provincial autonomy and pardon to all the militants who are ready to lay their arms. The central government can keep the foreign, internal affairs, health, communication, trade and finance. I believe we have to go down this line some day then why not today. Giving the provinces the autonomy in line with constitution of Pakistan is the only solution to our problems. The provinces can be made responsible to raise the taxes as well. This will give the federal government much needed time to focus on more important problems.

  2. rexminor

    we are witnessing the disintegration of pakistan provinces which quite frankly should have started after separation of bengal.that after that debacle people of pakistan quietly accepted a dehli born individual as a military head and later as the country president is a puzzle for an anlyst like me.the man has an ego- when i happen to watch him on western tv networks- expressing his political views.i am amazed about the level of his intelligence.he does not seem to be aware that his rule of eight years has put the country almost half a century back.one would need several bhuttos to reverse the disintegration process.is mr zardari and his rag tag outfit able to reverse course.i doubt it though some of them like the foreign minister have a big mouth.the late bhuttos spoke loudly as well but delivered.i believe that after the pakistan military intrusion into waziri territory, the world will witness the dawn of a new pushtoon civilization which would spread across the whole of subcontinent.a nation which has never been overpowered by any can no longer continue to stay in their fortresses.my calculated guess is that the push will come from mr karzai or his successor for rearrangements of the current durand line,at present not recognised by afghanistan.the whole process in my view would be spread over a period of one century.

  3. Hayyer

    “we are witnessing the disintegration of pakistan provinces which quite frankly should have started after separation of bengal.that after that debacle people of pakistan quietly accepted a dehli born individual as a military head and later as the country president is a puzzle for an anlyst like me.”
    Are Delhi born to be anathemized? Or do you mean Indian born? If the latter then Pakistan got off to a bad start and was doomed anyway.
    Also the Afghan century has come and gone once or twice I think. A third coming-under Karzai? Isn’t that fantastic. Surely you mean under the Taliban-if that? Would you care to amplify your cryptic forecast? It is just possible that we have the making of a competitor to Zaid Hamid.

  4. PMA

    rexminor (November 10, 2009 at 4:49 pm):

    As my friend Yasser would say: “What are you smoking man?”

  5. Milind Kher

    A competitor to Zaid Hamid would really have to compete hard. That man is a scream.

    You get stitches in your stomach laughing, listening to the guy🙂

  6. Hayyer

    anathematized not anathemized. Sorry.

  7. rexminor

    @hayyer, sorry, i meant a foreigner. do you find it normal to implant a foreign born first in army and later as a president.what did the people expect from this experiment?in terms of ability his own mother’s preference was for his elder brother.after the soviets defeat the talaban pin was used by the students movement to eliminate the tribal rivalry and to restore a central govt.they overplayed their hand and vanished.mr karzai has been on the us payroll and will depart as soon as the us govt. stops paying his salary or undertake military operations without his concent. in recent months there were some minor differences with regard to the fringe benefits but i guess mr obama has now some sort of understanding of the afghan tradition.
    the pushtoons in total are roughly more than 50 million settled as tribes in three fourth of the current afghan state, most of the so called nwfp starting from dir down to waziristan and beyond encompassing an estimated area of around 250,000 sq. miles. to become one they certainly need a leader certainly no less than arminius who brought the germanic tribes together and defeated the roman army.
    no afghan govt. has ever been able to stay in kabul unless it was tolerated by the pushtoon tribes.mr karzai is a pushtoon and he is working very hard to obtain some sort of acceptance from the pushtoons.my guess is that after pakistan army intrusion into the tribal territory no civilian govt.in pakistan as well would be able to stay in power without the concurrence of pushtoon tribes.please feel free to have a laugh over my views.we are all witnessing the events in this globalised worlds and we all have our own opinions-freedom of expression.it is not new for people to make the same mistake over and over again hoping like a looser in the poker game that his luck will change.one last comment the pushtoons do not respect any agreement which does not provide benefits.have a nice evening.

  8. Gorki

    rexminor:

    “to become one they certainly need a leader
    certainly no less than arminius who brought the germanic tribes together and defeated the roman army”

    Why Arminius? What happened to Rex Major Ahmed Shah Durrani?😉
    and
    “do you find it normal to implant a foreign born first in army and later as a president…”

    I don’t know, ask the Romans, since you seem to know them better, they did it first with Trajan, Marcus Aurelius..etc. or the French and their favorite little Corsican.

    Regards.

  9. Majumdar

    Rex minor,

    the world will witness the dawn of a new pushtoon civilization which would spread across the whole of subcontinent

    Hopefully this new civilisation wud spread only as far East as Wagah, not thereafter. However, if it does do let me know in advance (I stay in Delhi not that far east of Wagah)- I will stock up on some Vaseline/KY jelly which wud help me “enjoy” this new civilisation better.

    Regards

  10. vajra

    @rexminor

    Since this whole business of imperial hegemonists imposing their rule on free-born freedom loving peoples is evidently a big factor in your weltanschauung, you might as well set an example by referring to Hermann, not to Arminius. Don’t want to give those hegemonists of the ancient world unnecessary air-time, do we?

  11. Milind Kher

    As I understand it, Baluchistan is 42% of Pakistan’s geographical spread, but in terms of population only 4.5% of the population.

    Therefore, a full scale Baloch insurgency should, to all intents and purposes affect a disproportionate area vis a vis the population.

    However, whether the populace is as indoctrinated and motivated as the Taliban remains to be seen.

  12. rexminor

    mr mujamdar, you have a very good sense of humour-no offence-of all the people you should have the least problem with the pushtoons simply because of your past history in the pushtoon domain.

  13. Vajra

    @rexminor

    I am not sure of what you meant, because of your economical use of punctuation, but it would seem that Majumdar’s stocking up on KY Jelly is a direct response to his historical memory of the good times – the past history – in the pushtoon domain. From the first Khaljis onwards.

  14. Bloody Civilian

    vajra

    by khaljis you probably mean the pashtuns amongst their soldiers, or the very few pahstoons amongst the courtiers?? as for one, malik kafur, the kambakht of khambhat, majumdar’s supplies would not have saved him from what allaudin khilji had done to him. kafur did much ‘conquering’ of the south – the ‘pashtun domain’ – on the khiljis’ behalf.

    rexminor, otoh, thinks that ‘not respecting any agreements not to their benefit’ is some unique pashtun rather than a general human trait. but he thought it was a truth profound enough to repeat, having stated it already on another thread.

  15. Vajra

    @Bloody Civilian

    Me Mum warnt me agin’ a-writin’ wit’ you clivver edjicated uns but Oy baint stippin’ back fer yer.

    Now that you Pushtun are ganging up on the rest of us (where’s D_a_n? He didn’t hear the whistle, eh?), some clarifications.

    I actually meant Bakhtiyar Khalji and his thirteen (was it seventeen? i forget, it’s so easy to forget these particularly embarrassing stories) troopers riding into the capital of the last Sena king as horse-traders, and then mounting a wild raid on the palace. The last Sena king left by the back door, straight into a boat moored on the river, and practically out of history. Look it up; for some reason, every Pathan laughed himself into hiccups over the incident.

    I’ve already explained that we need some protection against the Malik Kafurs and the Kalapahars, meaning their equivalents in contemporary times, and all you could contribute was a totally fanciful image of the opposite happening on some far-fetched occasion.😦

  16. rexminor

    i note that many of you are suddenly so excited. i said pushtoons(not pathans as some call them) civilisation and i meant it.i was not referring to past intruders into india, nor had any intention to glorify them whether they came on horses back or in ships.like the old saying things are as they are. today there is a very large proportion of muslims in the sub-continent most of whom were previously buddhists or hindus…!no one should glorify on human misery, but can we learn something useful from history? i am sure we can.i choose arminius or hermann, simply because the germanic tribes under his leadership gave a decisive defeat to the roman legion and braught an end to roman legions campaign in the germanic territory.the pushtoons living in that little more than roughly 250,000 sq.miles area is the largest tribe in the world.their military strategy is still not understood by various conventional armies .they have defeated invaders in the past and will do so in the future.however, the would be intruders do’nt get it and keep coming.in recent times they have defeated the soviets, the americans and the nato armies.all of them are using helicopters and aeroplanes and are allowed a limited space against regular payments to the tribal chiefs. the french have found out and mr obama knows it.and now we witness that pa is embarked on a suicide mission with a view to obtain some cash perhaps? are they all smoking or have gone loco?what about the ex isi general’s commentry! is any one listening to him? waziri pushtoons are no thugs as someone has commented.they are simply cool!i would advise you to meet at least one of the clan if you get the opportunity.

  17. Bloody Civilian

    rexminor

    waziri pushtoons are no thugs as someone has commented

    who mentioned waziris? where?

    Vajra

    all i meant to say was that khiljis are not pashtun. they were originally turkic, but today many khiljis consider/call themselves tajik. it’s enough to ensure that they’re not mistaken as pashtun. it seems to be important to them that they are not.

    i don’t know of the (ethnic) origins of the person behind the legend of kalapahar. malik kafur, it is claimed was a native of khambhat. even a non-muslim native. while others claim that he was a child slave of allaudin’s uncle and predecessor – jalaluddin – and castrated by him rather than alaudin, whom allaudin ‘inherited’ upon murdering his uncle. some doubt whether he was a eunuch, beloved turned lieutinent or just a lieutinent of alaudin’s. the histroy i read many years ago showed that alaudin was a particularly cruel king who believed that if you kept your subjects in extreme poverty and misery, they will not be capable of rebellion.

  18. Vajra

    @Bloody Civilian

    Whoops!

    What an awful blunder!! And that after pages after pages on everyone and his maiden aunt on the subject of the origins of the Khalji – but by way of extenuating circumstances, may I plead 40 years and current rapid descent into senescence.

    Actually, on second thoughts, I repudiate my entire post of 10:44 pm; it wasn’t I, something/somebody possessed me. Possibly the ghost of Alauddin Khilji.

    I am really mortified at having written such weak and inaccurate stuff, and shall take much greater care in future. It is all the more mortifying because I can hear a sardonic laugh of derision from he-who-must-not-be-named, as he looks up from flaying Joe Lieberman alive.

  19. rexminor

    some of you are interested to know the ethnic origin of the pushtoons or afghans(one and the same). this question has attracted a very large number of scholars, famous historians and researchers and despite the vast amount of literature on them the opinions of researchers differ and has created more confusion.each of the tribes claim different origin and a different background which has baffled the researchers but earned them some respect and recognition.they certainly have a variety of background including,arabs,aryans,caucasians,greeks,iranians, to mention few.for convenience they are classified into two main categories.the pushto speaking are recognised as pushtoons and the persian speaking people as afghans. this is not to say that pushtoons are not afghans, but afghans are not automatically pushtoons. some pushtoon tribes in the waziristan area speak older pushto language which sounds similar to tajik-hence the rediculas claim of some that there are foreigners living in waziristan. the fact that they live as tribes with no go areas, meaning that no one from one tribe has an automatic access to another tribal area.this code has protected them against foreigners but kept them in isolation and with a very slow exposure to civilisation and development.their integration into the main stream in sorrounding countries has been very slow and i believe that this is no fault of theirs.

  20. Hayyer

    About the origins of the Pashtun/Pakhtun/Pathan, it would interest you to know that according to one set of researchers belonging to Hoshiarpur Sanskrit origins are to be ascribed to the tribes. Thus Madhumant for Mohmand.
    And you forgot those who suggest a Jewish descent.
    But to revert to my original question. Musharraf was foreign born, so were Jinnah and Liaqat and sundry others of the initial years.

  21. rexminor

    @hayyer, I did not forget ,they wo’nt accept it but some researchers do mention about the jewish tribes who came from arabia prior to the birth of islam.They are also of the opinion that a member of this tribe later visited arabia and learnt about the arrival of prophet mohammad(pbuh) and was able to convert the entire community to islam. I also do not forget that almost all historians in the world have not always stated facts but instead coloured the events happened during their time reflecting their own views and opinions. Unfortunately the students of history are not taught this reality and most of them treat written history as facts. This can be sometimes very misleading. You are right several muslim league leaders from india came to pakistan in early years. One can only guess that these leaders were probably hoping for a larger area for pakistan including Delhi and other cities where they would have preferred to stay, nor were they expecting the communal rights and voluntry or forced migration of people. One would imagine that after a lapse of half a century and more the Pakistan constitution would not have allowed a foreign born head of state.