Sindh, Pakhtunistan: New edge to Baloch issue
by Sandhya Jain on 04 Oct 2016 19 Comments

Addressing the people of Pakistan from Kozhikode, Kerala, on September 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sharpened his diplomatic offensive by highlighting its internal vulnerabilities and urging citizens to ponder the events of the past seven decades: “Your rulers are misleading you by singing songs on Kashmir and reading out scripts written by terrorists on Kashmir. You should ask your leaders … why they were not able to handle East Pakistan and why they cannot handle PoK, Gilgit, Sindh, Balochistan and Pakhunistan…”


While Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are part of the undivided kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir that acceded to India on 26 October 1947, the references to Sindh and Pakhunistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), where people have long chaffed over the domination of Pakistan’s Punjabi elite, is a hint at the possible implosion of the neighbouring country, due to its internal contradictions. Although India intervened in the East Pakistan genocide on humanitarian grounds, its breakaway was inevitable given the treatment meted out to the East Bengali majority from 1947 itself.


For the first time ever, an Indian leader has publicly identified Pakistan’s natal fault-lines. But this aspect of the Prime Minister’s speech was largely overlooked in India as the nation was engrossed in deciphering whether or not the Government would retaliate against the attack on the Uri base camp on the intervening night of September 18-19, in which 18 young soldiers died. Since then, the issue has been lost in the sense of satisfaction over the surgical strike on terror camps in POK on the intervening night of September 28-29.


But the meaning was not lost on Baloch nationalists whose quest for New Delhi’s support for their cause soared after Modi publicly spoke of Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan during his Independence Day address, after mentioning it at an all-party meeting on August 13. This immediately impacted the region’s politics, with Bangladesh and Afghanistan supporting the restoration of Balochistan’s stolen independence.


But even before the Kozhikode speech, the Khan of Kalat, Amir Suleman Daud, referring to the Uri attack, declared, “Pakistan is a rogue terrorist state and it must be taken to task for its actions”. The State of Kalat is the heartland of Balochistan; the Marri and Bugti territories of ‘British Balochistan’ wanted to unite with Kalat when the British carved out Pakistan from India. Daud said, “the sooner Pakistan disintegrates into its component national parts, the better it will be for the people who today live under the tyranny of Pakistan Mullah-Military Mafia”.


India has also raised Pakistan’s atrocities on the Baloch people at the UN Human Rights Council on September 15. The Baloch movement, too, has declared its intention to take Islamabad to the International Court of Justice for genocide and crimes against humanity, with the help of Bangladesh, Afghanistan & India.


For the present, however, Pakistan remains undaunted and has intensified its operations inside Balochistan after Modi’s statement; over 100 persons, including women and children, have gone missing, mainly in Dera Bugti and Turbat. And as the Baloch press for asylum for their leaders to set up a government-in-exile in India, Islamabad has begun to attack their sacred sites. State-sponsored criminal gangs burned down several ‘Zikr Khana’ (worship places) of the Zikri Baloch in Gichk, Panjgur district, in broad daylight on September 21, after which they drove into a Pakistani army camp in Sargwaz area of Gichk. The desecrated sites include Sayad Essa Peer and Sayad Yousuf Peer in Askani Chib, Sayad Haji Peer in Drakop and Peer Sayad Kmalan in Damli. This iconoclasm is a brazen cultural assault on the Baloch, at par with the destruction of Shia places of reverence in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State.


The same day, Baloch Republic Party president Brahumdagh Bugti discussed asylum with Indian diplomats in Geneva, to help him overcome restrictions on travelling outside Switzerland to garner international support for the “free Balochistan” movement. Bugti fled to Afghanistan after the murder of his grandfather, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in 2006, but shifted to Switzerland in 2010 after repeated attempts on his life.


For the Baloch, the stakes today are higher than they have ever been. Strategically located at the crossroads of Afghanistan, Iran and the Gulf, at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, through which the bulk of Asia’s supply of oil passes, Balochistan is the victim of its geography. Control over the Strait of Hormuz, via the port of Gwadar, is the reason why the dominant Western powers (read Britain and America) encouraged Mohammad Ali Jinnah to annex the country in March 1948, as soon as India was fooled into taking the invasion of Jammu & Kashmir to the United Nations, that too under the wrong clause, at the advice of Lord Louis Mountbatten and other fellow travellers.


It is important that Indians note that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Himalayan blunder gave Jinnah the freedom to annex Balochistan. Worse, after rebuffing Baloch appeals for help, India was criminally negligent in not raising the annexation in international forums. If nothing else, we could have been spared years of Western sanctimoniousness, not to mention the machinations of Josef Korbel and Owen Dixon to somehow wrest the Kashmir Valley for Pakistan.


Currently, the danger comes from Beijing, who’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), announced in April 2015, ends in the port of Gwadar. The port is already operated by a Chinese company, and is to be developed into a major commercial centre once the Corridor is completed. For India, one of the routes is dangerously close to the States of Punjab and Rajasthan. For the Baloch, all hopes of regaining freedom will be lost if the CPEC is constructed, as Pakistan will overwhelm the tiny Baloch population (barely 10 million people) by settling Punjabi Sunnis in their land, changing the demography (as in POK) and reducing them to a minority in their traditional homelands.


As is well-known, Balochistan is extremely rich in natural resources (copper, gold, lithium and other rare minerals, not to mention untapped hydrocarbon and coastal resources) whose exploitation will bring no benefits to the local population. Islamabad already drains its natural gas reserves without payment of royalty and development of the region. Hence, the Baluch Liberation Front, one of the main guerilla groups, daily attacks the CPEC project – roads, security personnel, and construction crews – to somehow thwart its completion and prevent it from looting the region’s resources. But with Islamabad devoting nearly 15,000 soldiers to protect the CPEC projects, the violence in the region is set to escalate sharply.   

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