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Competitors of the state


By Imtiaz Gul

Friday Times , July 05, 2013


Dr Malik Baloch took charge as the chief minister of Balochistan on June 9. He was greeted with four dead bodies, apparently tortured, killed and dumped on the roadside. Then on 14th June, heavily armed militants bombed a bus carrying female students of Sardar Bahadur Khan University, leaving 14 girls dead and 19 others wounded. About 90 minutes later, militants attacked the hospital treating the survivors from the bus bombing, killing 11 more people and injuring 17. The invisible enemy then struck again on June 30th with another deadly suicide bombing in Hazara town, killing about 30 innocent people, including 10 women and children. The same day, six civilians and two policemen fell to the bullets of unknown assailants in the Khuzdar and Kuchlak regions.

This brought the death toll in Quetta alone during the month of June to roughly 56 (and an almost equal number of casualties elsewhere in the province). Amid this relentless violence against the Shia community, politicians and security forces are wrangling over ministries. Dr Baloch faces a political, security and administrative nightmare.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is reportedly working on a National Security Policy which he believes will help take on the myriad of daunting challenges with both external and internal dynamics.

At the center of the Baloch nationalist insurgency are following major separatist Groups:

● Baloch Liberation Front (BLF, led by Dr Allah Nazar)

● Baloch Liberation Army (BLA, led by Hyrbyair Marri).

● Baloch Republican Army (BRA, led by Brahamdagh Bugti, grandson of Nawab Akbar Bugti)

● Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LB, led by Jawaid Mengal, son of Sardar Attaullah Mengal)

Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF)

By destroying the Ziarat Residency, where the founder of Pakistan had breathed his last in September 1948, one of these groups sent a loud and clear message of their view on Pakistan. They want nothing less than an independent Balochistan. Some of the most frequent complaints by Baloch nationalists, the separatists groups and the common Baloch are:

The Punjabi-dominated center is deliberately pushing Balochistan towards violence and backwardness. Why are there no suicide bombings in Punjab if the Punjabi-led establishment wants peace and progress in the province?

● Some Baloch tribes - such as the Jams, Raisanis, Jamalis, Rinds, and Zehris - and religious leaders associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam serve as the extensions of the civil-military establishment.

● The civilian-military ruling elite in the center does not want development and prosperity in Balochistan and that is why they have raised counter-insurgent groups to crush Baloch nationalists.(One of such groups is headed by Shafiq Mengal.)

● The military establishment wants to keep Balochistan subjugated. The "official" protection of the private influential counter-insurgent groups has contributed to the breakdown of law and order. It is a conscious attempt to keep the Baloch people divided.

● The civil-military establishment is backing religio-political groups to counter Baloch nationalists. (People point to Lashkar-e-Taiba and Tableeghi Jamaat activism)

● Intelligence agencies are eliminating Baloch nationalists through clandestine abduct, kill and dump operations. That is why almost all political/sectarian murders are blamed on intelligence agencies, or projected as acts of suppression. Baloch nationalists talk of about 500 activists having been executed in this way.

● Intelligence agencies use businessmen, smugglers and gang leaders for "social support" but many of these people reportedly indulge in criminal activities like kidnapping for ransom, extortion, and smuggling.

Police officials in Quetta say at least 70 criminal gangs and a dozen insurgent groups are operating in the province. Both types of actors have political supporters. The collusion between criminal gangs and politicians is so deep that National Party Balochistan vice president Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo and ex-PPP senator Lashkari Raisani used to accuse former provincial ministers of patronizing criminal gangs.

Interviews with businessmen and transporters also support the view of the Supreme Court which in its judgment in October 2012 said rampant corruption, omnipresence of criminal gangs, abductions for ransom, and looting of freight-laden trucks were a clear proof of the fact that law and order in the province had broken down. The routes running through Baloch areas such as Khuzdar, Wadh, Awaran, Pajgur, Hub, and Taftan, as well as those that pass through the Pashtun belt - Killa Saifullah, Zhob, Muslim Bagh, Lorelei, Chaman, Killa Abdullah (particularly from Killa Abdullah to Chaman Wali Cross and Haji Muhammad Ali Bavri) - are not secure any more, and cargo trucks and passenger buses are ambushed by armed robbers or sectarian killers almost every day. Sibi, Dera Murad Jamali, Chaman, and even the Sariab area of Quetta are vulnerable to crime and killings.

A report by the Balochistan Home Department (in March 2012) had listed 1,493 innocent citizens killed in 1,718 incidents, mostly in target killings and sectarian attacks between 2007 and February 15, 2012. The report blames all violent activities on the aforementioned groups, which it claims have developed a nexus with criminal gangs.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and other outfits such as Iran-focused Sunni outfit Jundullah represent the additional headache for the security establishment.

The report pointed out that banned militant sectarian outfits are also colluding with the insurgents and criminal gangs to enhance their outreach in the area. The first case of kidnapping by Baloch insurgents surfaced in 2009, when the unknown Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) abducted an American United Nations official John Solecki for two months. "Baloch nationalists are also suspects in the case of a British Red Cross doctor mysteriously kidnapped from Quetta in January" this year.

Proving links between Baloch insurgents and criminal syndicates is difficult, but there is plenty of verbal evidence on various proponents of violence and crime - the Taliban and Baloch insurgents and tribal chiefs - moving in tandem to mobilize funding from smuggling, extortions, car-hijacking, abductions for ransom, and illegal weapon trade, which involves heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades showcased in places like Gulistan in Pishin. 

This has turned Balochistan into an extremely dangerous powder keg. And this brings us to the possible confluence of internal and external factors, and also reminds us of what transpired at an India Today panel of about a dozen retired Indian military, intelligence and civilian official stalwarts (reported on www.indiatoday.in, November 9, 2009) on how to deal with Pakistan.

Some of the recommendations that the Board of Experts on Security and Terror (BEST) made then were:

● There are lessons that India should learn from the 1971 conflict that was a result of careful strategy and planning. What the current situation calls for is a similar massive effort with a clear end goal in sight. If the 1971 objective was to dismember Pakistan, then the 2009 game plan should be to neutralize Pakistan so that it can no longer pose a threat to India.

● We have our leverage in Balochistan and in some other parts of Pakistan. What we really need to convey to Pakistan is that if they commit a blatant anti-India act on the ground, a military act or otherwise, it will have to bear the repercussions. -Ved Marwah, former governor Jharkhand

● Covert and over actions need to be essential ingredients of India's policy. India must exploit faultlines within Pakistan. - G Parthasarthi, ex High commissioner to Pakistan

The BEST group also mentioned time and again the existence of, and action against the India-focused, "terror infrastructure". Although it was a private panel discussion among security experts, the strategy they recommended for the Indian security establishment made sense: pursue, pressure, prick and pillory Pakistan wherever possible. We should not, therefore, be surprised if - based on those recommendations - the Indian establishment is doing what Pakistan did in eastern Punjab and Indian Kashmir. The Afghan establishment is not a friend of Pakistan either. Nor is the anti-Iran Jundullah any fictional entity.

That is why any security strategy for internal correction will also have to factor in the external dynamics - geo-political extra-territorial power games.

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk