Imposing the writ of government, selectively

Helicopter gunships for Balochistan, kid gloves for madrassas

At least thirty thousand army personnel, twelve helicopter gunships, four fighter jets, several spy planes of different sizes, heavy artillery and missiles are now waging a bloody war in Balochistan. The reason they are there is because Gen Musharraf is determined to restore the ‘writ of government’ where challenged. Reporters are not being allowed to cover the conflict, so no one really knows the exact number of casualties. But scores of people have been killed since December 2005. The writ of government is being restored with all the bloody-mindedness the Pakistani Army can manage. And it can manage quite a bit of bloody-mindedness.

Musharraf also promised to act against the terrorist-generating madrassas at least three times. To the United States after 9/11, to India after the Dec 2001 attacks on parliament and again after accepting Vajpayee’s hand of piece, and to Britain after last year’s attacks on the London underground. Each promise was followed by a high-profile announcement of bold action against madrassas, then by a less high-profile modification, qualification and finally by a extremely low-profile resignation. Not even a whiff of the bloody-mindedness with which the Pakistani Army’s bloody-minded determination to impose the writ of government was there to be seen. But Gen Musharraf gets to keep all the goodies that come with the FATWAT badge. Surprisingly, the countries on the other end of Musharraf’s promise (the receiving end) don’t really seem to bother whether he keeps them or not.

Related Links: Balochistan Online and the Balochistan Forum blog (linkthanks Swami Iyer)

15 thoughts on “Imposing the writ of government, selectively”

  1. Man, look at the some of the images posted in the BBC Urdu site. As I said in Secular-Right, there is a shocking absence of coverage in international media. I guess the US is not interested in the Baloch massacre as long as Gen. Musharraf delivers another fictional Al-Queda No. 3 or a Top 9 terrorist. Just like when they sent the 6th fleet to deter India from stopping the Pakistani army’s genocide in Bangladesh.

    That kinda explains why is BBC not putting it in its English site. And the Indian media, what are they doing?

  2. Cynical Nerd,

    I’ve seen those pictures and even worse ones that Swami Iyer sent to me. I think they are too gruesome to be linked off this blog.

  3. Nitin: In the absence of traditional media coverage, should’nt it be us bloggers who should’nt afraid of telling the truth to the world gruesome as it is? I know this the time of bonhomie due to Indo-Pak cricket series. But I think we should go ahead and link it with appropriate warning messages? What do you say?

  4. There is one news article in WSJ on international page about this topic today.

  5. Suspected Rebels Blast
    Gas Pipeline in Pakistan
    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    January 6, 2006; Page A8

    QUETTA, Pakistan – Suspected separatists have blown up a natural-gas pipeline in southwestern Pakistan, disrupting supply to a U.S.-Anglo power plant and providing the latest sign that a regional insurgency against President Pervez Musharraf’s government is gathering intensity.

    The simmering conflict between Pakistani security forces and suspected separatists in Balochistan province flared up Wednesday evening near Pakistan’s biggest natural-gas plant in the Sui fields, Pakistan’s main source of gas. Four separatists died in the fighting. A spokesman for the Balochistan Liberation Army, a militant group, claimed responsibility for the two pipeline explosions, some 220 kilometers from the provincial capital Quetta.
    [Pervez Musharraf]

    The pipeline blasts came as the Pakistani military has cracked down on Balochistan nationalists following a rocket attack on Dec. 15 during a visit to the province by Gen. Musharraf. With the support of air force jets and helicopter gunships, government security forces have killed some 200 people, Baloch leaders claim. The government hasn’t commented on casualties.

    Insurgents have been striking back, focusing their attacks on key economic and government installations and railway tracks. The Baloch nationalists, who are discreet from the Islamic militant movement within Pakistan, are seeking greater autonomy for Balochistan and control over its natural resources. They have frequently targeted natural-gas facilities in the region.

    For Gen. Musharraf, who has struggled to stem the support of Islamic radicals following a devastating earthquake in October, the insurgency provides another test to his government. The president, who has remained chief of army staff during his six-year rule, warned that the military would take all necessary action to put down the rebellion.

    Samina Ahmed, director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, noted that conflicts in the region have continued to simmer long after cease-fires have been announced. “No army action has ever succeeded in Balochistan,” she said.

    The sparsely populated province — which borders Afghanistan and Iran — is rich in mineral resources and fulfills around 50% of Pakistan’s natural-gas requirement. But continual fighting has impeded economic development. Since 1948, Baloch nationalists have fought four insurgencies for more political autonomy. Each rebellion has been suppressed.

    But this time, the uprising appears to have united battle-hardened Balochistan tribesmen with educated Baloch people. Both are seeking more political autonomy and a bigger slice of the region’s natural wealth. Nationalists want to review a contract for natural-gas royalties that has been in place since 1952. The nationalists also have strong reservations about the nearby Gwadar deep-sea port, which is being developed with China. The Baloch people fear that an influx of outside workers would further marginalize locals.

    “People feel that they won’t get their rights through democratic and legal means,” said Abdul Haye, a former member of parliament and a leader of Balochistan National Party.

    The fighting has stirred worries outside of Pakistan. The U.S. has conveyed its concern to the Pakistani government, according to a U.S. diplomat in Islamabad. Analysts fear the Pakistani army operation could deepen violence and may affect the campaign against Islamic militants. “The military has overstretched itself,” said one Western diplomat in Islamabad.

    The power plant, which continued operating on diesel fuel, is owned by Britain’s International Power PLC and U.S. companies Tenaska Inc. and GE Capital Corp., according to Tariq Jamali, spokesman for the plant. GE Capital is a unit of General Electric Co. Mr. Jamali said a section of the pipeline needed to be repaired or replaced. A government official said the supply of natural gas wouldn’t be restored before Friday at the earliest.

    A recent statement by the Indian government criticizing the Pakistani army operation in Balochistan has soured relations between the two countries. Pakistani military officials allege that the insurgents receive financial help and weapons from India, a neighbor with which it has fought three wars.
    URL for this article:

  6. Cynical Nerd,

    Putting a warning message is the best way to get people to click on the link 🙂

    While I do think images can compelling (remember Abu Ghraib) and help focus minds, I think publicising pictures of mutilated dead bodies and their grieving relatives violate what I believe is an intensely personal and private moment. Therefore my reluctance. We were appalled by the manner in which TV channels and newspapers splashed images of tsunami and earthquake victims last year. I’m not sure further insulting (the dead) is a price we should pay to highlight Musharraf’s brutalities.

  7. nukh: Thanks for article. We need more coverage. In this case an Anglo-American plant got it and hence the coverage.

    Interesting to note that WSJ blindly prints the accusations of Paki government (last para). After all the brave Baloch people are fighting a indigenous liberating struggle against the Pakjab army. At this point, we are not even giving the moral and diplomatic support.

    Nitin: You make a compelling case against linking the pics and I agree with it (it is hard not to accept when some one makes a reasoned arguement using polite sentences !). Nevertheless, it is already out in an article by Rajeev Srinivasan.

  8. nitin,
    while i respect your views on not providing the link to the pictures.
    do consider for a moment, given the lack of coverage by the craven media – wouldn’t the balochis, who are enduring such suffering want the pictures of their ignominy to be publicised?

  9. Hi,

    The arty attacks are being used in hope that it deters any move by the Balochis to take out the Sui complex. It was for this reason that a sizable mechanized formation was moved to Kalpars near Sui from the Panno Aqil cantonment and artillery pieces were also part of that formation.

    The PA logic appears to be that ultimately any move to split Balochistan from Pakistan will have to carry the political accord of all Balochi tribes. In the event that such an accord cannot be reached – a move to get Balochistan to split will fail due to internal divisions. There are severe internal conflicts between Baloch tribes, most notably the schism between the Kalpars Bugtis and the Dera Bugti Nawab. Similar fissures exist between the Marris and the Bugtis and between the Baloch speaking and the Seraiki speaking parts. The key port towns of the region are populated by a reasonable number of Iranians from Sistan-Balochistan and their loyalty is largely to their own community – though in the past these groups have been associated with narcotics smuggling cartels in Pakistan like the “Quetta Alliance”. It is impossible to say where their loyalties will shift but these groups apparently still control the main heroin trafficing routes to Iran through Makran.
    There are also attempts by the PA to alienate the Nawab from the Baloch middle class. The repeated attempts to portray the Nawab’s “private jails” as being HR violations are psyops aimed at the non-resident Bugti and rich non-Bugti Baloch living abroad.

    In sum, there is no cohesive Baloch leadership calling for an independent Balochistan and should one emerge the PA will move with decisive force to eliminate it.

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