A rebellion brews in Balochistan

Planners of gas-pipelines through the region need to put democracy and provincial reconciliation high on their checklists

A group calling itself the Balochistan Liberation Army attacked Pakistani security forces in Khuzdar, Balochistan’s second city, yesterday, killing 5 soldiers.

The paramilitary Frontier Constabulary has launched a major low-profile operation in Balochistan to suppress the Baloch tribesmen and nationalist opposed to General Musharraf. Popular sentiment in the restive province sees Balochistan as getting a raw deal from the Pakistani federation, and attacks on gas pipelines and in the Gwadar region are commonplace. But in what looks like the beginning of a repeat of its brutal suppression of a Baloch rebellion in the 1970s, the Pakistani army launched its operation without the approval of federal or provincial legislatures.

While Musharraf is likely to portray the operation as targeting al Qaeda interests, the Baloch groups that attacked the Pakistani security forces have identified themselves as Balochi nationalists rather than Islamic extremists. Balochistan borders Iran and Afghanistan, and al Qaeda is likely to exploit the Baloch disaffection to further its own interests – but the root-cause, to use Musharraf’s own choice phrase, is the democratic deficit. Pakistan lacks the democratic safety-valves that are necessary to manage ethnic and regional diversity. Instead of providing the security that oil & gas companies need, Musharraf’s planned military cantonments and helicopter gunships will only deepen existing rifts.

Update: Balochistan’s chief minister survives assassination attempt.

10 thoughts on “A rebellion brews in Balochistan”

  1. Shikhar,

    Pakistan is already suffering from the consequences of its own internal contradictions. It may not be a good idea for India to intervene in its domestic troubles.

    The greatest prospect for peace in the subcontinent lies in reconciliation. For Pakistan to stop pushing its anti-status quo, unfinished business agenda. India has too many things to worry about – economic development for example – without needing to create mischief in Pakistan.

    This does not mean India turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s internal matters. What India must do is to drive towards Pakistanis getting rid of the parasitic hold of their army. True democracy for Pakistan is in India’s interests.

  2. Shikhar,

    In no way did I imply that India should ‘give’ Kashmir away. Quite the contrary, India should not succumb to Pakistani blackmail over a territorial dispute that Pakistan created and fuelled over the years. India did not have to end up defending itself more than four times in hot war (and for decades in low intensity proxy war) just to give it all away in a fit of lofty-softy magnanimity.

    Consider this – if Pakistan were to implode or break up into several parts, the ensuing chaos will be a major security threat to India – the thought of two unstable nuclear neighbours (in the place of one), each flirting with Islamic fundamentalism, tribal warlordism and ethnic nationalism is rather scary.

    It is my firm belief that a total lack of democracy and representative government has led to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others becoming the sinister players that they are. The regimes in these countries do not allow any legitimate way in which their people can have a say in their governance. That leaves the Islamic fundamentalists to exploit the political space. In a perverse way (maybe, even in a direct way) the autocratic rulers and Islamic fundamentalists derive power from each other.

  3. U know Shikhar I used to think like u a decade or so back when I was teenager. Now I feel so stupid to have thought like that…. 🙂

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