Balochistan : The Weak Heart of Pakistan By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)

Yesterday’s attack by Baloch rebels in which three Chinese academics  were killed by a suicide bombing  near the Confucius Institute in Karachi University will trigger many reactions in Pakistan. As per Dawn a new wave of terrorism has been unleashed in the country. Whilst there is widespread condemnation of the incident, its inevitability should not be lost. We should be clear that this might not be the only attack by the Baloch people on the Chinese. It will also not be the only violent activity they will carry out. There have been attacks on security personnel, their camps and other government installations in the area. This will continue. Pakistan will slowly but surely start pointing its finger external forces and eventually at India. However, Pakistan has to look within. Balochistan has a history of grievances and neglect as old as Pakistan itself.  There have been protests and demonstrations against many issues – missing persons, targeted killings, CPEC, exploitation and much more. In 2014,  BBC published a story titled Balochistan: The untold story of Pakistan’s other war. It termed the problem in Balochistan as the longest civil war in Pakistan’s history. In 2018, I had termed Balochistan as the weak heart of CPEC. When one looks deeper, the problem is one of extreme alienation and exploitation of the Baloch people. However, any analysis by an outsider will not explain the situation easily. Hence I have put together extracts of a set of articles on Balochistan by Pakistanis themselves. It is better to know who stole the horse from the horse thief…is it not?


Headline : Reconciliation in Balochistan? @

Excerpts : The grievances of Baloch citizens are economic and political, and they are as old as Pakistan itself. High-handed policies in Balochistan including an emphasis on military solutions have aggravated the feeling of alienation among the Baloch. The issue of missing persons is a central point in Balochistan-centre ties; the resolution of this issue is the Baloch nationalist leadership’s primary demand.


Headline : Balochistan’s youth in focus@

Excerpts : If we want to feel the pulse of Balochistan, we need to listen to the Baloch youth. Nothing else can tell us more about the political, ideological and social transformation in the province. The tribal chieftains, or sardars and nawabs, are not as relevant as the state, that continues to rely on them, believes. Neither are the bureaucracy and security institutions capable of an objective and accurate assessment of the situation. And the youth are not happy with what is happening in the province, or the country for that matter….Very few people have had the courage to bring the issue of missing persons into the discourse; mostly external forces are blamed for fuelling the insurgency in the province. After the Afghan Taliban takeover, it has become difficult to blame Kabul for allowing miscreants to use its soil against Pakistan. 


Headline : Balochistan: the foreign hand? @

Excerpts : With the present uptick of attacks on security forces, we are back to a familiar routine. Between when a terrorist incident occurs and blame is assigned, the separation is no more than a few minutes. The investigation-free and evidence-free conclusion never changes; whatever happened is the work of foreign forces. Domestic political opponents — even if perfectly peaceful and totally unconnected with the incident — can conveniently be labelled as foreign agents and stomped upon hard. It is hoped that fear will leave them paralysed and speechless….Pakistan’s external enemies are claimed to be behind its problems of national integration. But those who play secret games under the guise of national security bear far greater responsibility. It is they who made our country suffer so grievously from terrorism between 2001 and 2014. Although inimical foreign powers have undoubtedly sought to inflict hurt, Pakistan’s wounds during that terrible period were largely self-inflicted….Throughout the Baloch community of students in Islamabad, anger and fear run deep. The flagrant violation of Baloch constitutional rights is weakening the national spirit and harming the federation. Before the self-appointed guardians of Pakistan’s security cause further damage to our country through their illegal actions, they must be brought to task. 


Headline : Whispers from Balochistan @

Excerpts : Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman’s rights movement for Gwadar (Gwadar ko haq do) and the banned Balochistan Liberation Army’s attacks on security forces in Nushki, Panjgur and Kech districts have made the local population more vocal. Recent interactions with Balochistan’s residents, mainly in Makran, revealed they have lost trust in the ruling political parties, the opposition and the media. …CPEC has securitised the region and caused damage. First, it has aggravated the residents’ anger. Second, the lack of interaction between Chinese workers and the local population have not only triggered conspiracy theories about CPEC but have also made the Chinese a target of insurgents. ‘Respect’ was a major demand made by the maulana during the protests along with calls for stopping illegal trawlers which render local fishermen jobless, and reopening informal trade with Iran….Meanwhile, administrations in the Makran region, especially in Gwadar, have been tasked with expediting the development projects committed under CPEC and the prime minister’s southern Balochistan package. These projects include changing water supply pipelines, coal power to address Gwadar’s energy needs, and technical education institutions across the region as well as an industrial estate in Turbat. However, the citizens doubt these projects will be completed soon given the government’s past record. The biggest worry is that a mafia of contractors consisting of influential people in the government, bureaucracy and establishment want the contracts to execute these projects. If they get these, it could inflict huge damage on national treasure and CPEC’s reputation and will increase the trust deficit between the state and Balochistan’s citizens…For power elites, development is a major strategy for addressing local grievances, but this model has not produced results because of corruption and lack of parliamentary and citizenry oversight. The demand of the people is genuine political participation.


Headline:  An insurgency restructured @

Excerpts : Acts of terrorism by Baloch insurgent groups have increased. A new wave of high-impact terrorist attacks in Balochistan started on Jan 26 with the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) assault on an FC checkpost in the Dasht area of Kech district. Ten soldiers were martyred…Since January this year, different Baloch groups have carried out at least 17 attacks, including 10 against security forces. The attacks took 51 lives and injured 97 people. That has put security forces in the province on high alert, prompting them to increase surveillance…. The emergence of different factions and alliances reflects a major shift in the insurgency. First, traditionally the Baloch nationalist struggle, both political and militant, was led by the tribal elite or elders, but the BLF, BRAS and now the BNA are largely led by middle-class educated Baloch youth. Second, this phenomenon could also be a reflection of growing dissatisfaction among the insurgent leaders on the ground regarding the Baloch leaders living abroad in self-exile…The new ranks of Baloch insurgents are educated and politically radical, and are transforming the insurgency into guerrilla warfare. Contrary to their previous leadership, which was not averse to reconciling with the government whenever it sought to secure tribal and family interests, the new leadership has few compulsions on this score… countering the nationalist insurgency through the use of religion and religiously motivated groups will once again prove counterproductive. It will not only aggravate anger among Baloch youth, it will also create a conducive environment for militant operations by the TTP, the IS-K and sectarian groups. The Afghan Taliban are a major source of inspiration for all these groups. What Balochistan needs is a long-term political strategy, as well as a gradual reduction in muscular demonstrations.


Headline : Resolve Balochistan’s problems @

Excerpts : Firstly, political reconciliation and peace-building must be the foremost priority. No major economic development initiative in the province can succeed without first devising a strategy for peaceful management of the ongoing ethnic conflict… tackling religiously inspired and sectarian militancy requires a fundamental shift in our national security policy and foreign policy. Our security thinkers need to appreciate that durable peace in Balochistan and KP cannot be established without peace in Afghanistan. Our current Afghan policy is more likely to turn Afghanistan into a battleground for yet another regional proxy war… The key takeaway from the nearly 17-year-long insurgency is that repressive measures and cosmetic development packages have both failed to bring the disaffected Baloch into the political mainstream. Also, the resurgence of violent conflict proves that a security-centric approach alone cannot deliver peace…. Secondly, Baloch concerns regarding control over their natural and coastal resources must be addressed…. Thirdly, measures are needed to alleviate poverty and mitigate the adverse impact of fencing the border on livelihoods… As far as CPEC is concerned, Islamabad must shift to a more inclusive development approach prioritising the basic rights, dignity and development needs of the local people, respecting the marine ecosystem and promoting local livelihoods.


Very clearly, the Balochistan problem is an internal creation of Pakistan, its elites, its military and its weak ineffectual governments. In all analysis of the problem, the foreign hand is the least mentioned. The finger is unerringly pointed at the state machinery by Pakistanis themselves. Pakistan needs to look within itself for answers…and it does not have any.The essential problem is that Pakistan does not have a solution for itself…how can it have one for Balochistan? In 2018, I had mentioned Balochistan as the Weak Heart of CPEC. Today it is the Weak Heart of Pakistan. 


Oh BTW…this not all.. there is more enroute via Afghanistan click on the link …The frontiers of conflict..


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