The ground is certainly being laid well for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the United States end of this month. The state department decided to propitiate the distinguished visitor with a ban on the Balochistan Liberation Army. Most Americans would have difficulty in finding Balochistan on a map. The Baloch similarly have little thought for the US, or indeed for anyone else . Their anger is reserved for the Pakistani Army which has killed, hounded and kept them in a state of subservience for more than fifty years.
The Baloch insurgency began virtually with the birth of Pakistan, and has been raging on and off since. The present phase is generally seen to be in the fifth state of insurgency. This stage can be said to have been set off by the killing of the charismatic Nawab Akbar Bugti, all of 79 years old in 2006. He was the one whom Senator Mushadid Hussain found “very reasonable…willing to settle’ who only wanted justice for his people. His death only only worsened the situation.
What followed was a shift into what was truly a people’s insurgency, where unknown young leaders led small groups into sure death, and a continuous needling of the Pakistan behemoth. David and Goliath brought to life. Military operations followed one upon the other, with first the rangers, and then the Pakistan Army itself, descending onto the province, using every weapon in the book, including air operations to hunt down insurgent leaders.
That was still understandable, since militaries are free to use whatever equipment they have. The Indian Army did not do such operations in Kashmir, but that will and has always been seen as a different matter. What was unforgivable, was the relentless kidnapping and killing of youth, which even Shireen Mazhari, the Human Rights Minister normally seen as a hardliner, condemned as undermining the country. The redoubtable lady has since tried to reverse such practises, but to little avail.
The Baloch make up less than four percent of Pakistan’s population. By themselves, they are no threat to anyone. Certainly they are no threat to any country anywhere, unless — like the Chinese — they are seen to be occupiers, taking away the rich resources which belong to the State. Remember, there was a time when the Baloch hoped Chinese investment would benefit them. It didn’t. It just passed them by.
The Chinese proceeded to set up their own operations against the Baloch, now using money, and other times using threats, with the Pakistani forces more than willing to oblige. Inevitably, Baloch groups turned their guns on China. Beijing’s retribution was swift. The BLA leader responsible was killed in a suicide attack days later. The ‘set a thief to catch a thief” was used with stunning effect in an insurgency.
It is this small group belonging to a tiny minority that has been banned by the United States and branded as a terror group.
This is a big win for Islamabad, which has become increasingly frightened at the unity apparent in recent months between Baloch groups and the entirely peaceful Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) that has been protesting the nearly five-decade Afghan operations launched from tribal lands, that has nearly decimated a once flourishing tribal society.
Not that banning the BLA is going to make the slightest difference on the ground. These are not people with funds stashed outside the country or bags of cash to bank. Many may not even be aware of the development. The caves and hovels they hide in can hardly boast of 56-inch TV’s. Those leaders who do hear of this designation will know the truth; that this is yet another effort to appease the Pakistan establishment into ending its support to the Taliban, and let the peace process go into reality mode.
The Baloch should take heart. They are not the only ones who feel that their lives are being negotiated over their heads in a pointless exercise. Ask the Afghans, including many who are part of the Taliban. They know the reality, which is that Islamabad will never give up on an exercise that it has fought for fifty years, and where it sees victory in sight. That ‘victory’ is a mirage, ever receding into the distance. But try telling the Pakistanis that.
Updated Date: Jul 03, 2019 21:18:49 IST