Balochistan Militancy - An Insider's View by Rafi A. Pervaiz Bhatti [DAILY DAWN AND CHOWK]
The impression one gathers from the media reports about a crackdown of law enforcing agencies on tribesmen in Kohlu area is that there exists a popular resistance movement in Balochistan and that it is being crushed with brutal force. The facts are contrary to this impression.
It all began with a rocket fired at the public meeting addressed by President Pervez Musharraf in Kohlu. A few days later, there was an attack on a helicopter in which the inspector-general of the Frontier Corps was travelling. Earlier, there was a rocket attack on the residence of the chief minister. The question arises: What message were the attackers sending across?
Even if one ignores these incidents, how can the killings of innocent citizens in terrorist activities in the province since 1999 be ignored? An explosion at the busy Mezan Chowk in Quetta on December 10, 2004 killed 11 persons. Earlier on July 22, 2000, seven persons were killed in a bomb blast in Jinnah Market. Two persons were killed in an explosion in a moving public bus in Quetta on October 28, 2001. Police officers, and even judges who dare to challenge the terrorist network, are threatened with death. Justice Nawaz Marri, a judge of the Balochistan High Court who resisted the tribal sway of the sardars, was gunned down in the vicinity of the high court.
Investigations have revealed that a certain sardar and his sons were involved in the planning and execution of these terrorist acts. The uniforms, badges and propaganda material of the so-called Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) were also recovered in good quantity in police raids.
But things have not remained confined to Balochistan alone. On November 15, 2005, multiple blasts shook the high security zone around PIDC house in Karachi. The BLA claimed responsibility for the explosion. Inquiries show that a blast in Icchra, Lahore, a few months earlier was also the work of this group. In a way, terrorism was being exported to other parts of the country.
Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal, Former Chief Minister Balochistan [During Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Regime 1972 - 1977]
The current wave of lawlessness in Balochistan was originally started by tribal elements in 1999 but lacks any credible rationale and is not based on popular discontentment. In stark contrast to this,, the insurgency in 1970s was backed by strong political causes. One may note that only five years ago the nationalist political parties were themselves in power in Balochistan when Sardar Akhtar Mengal (son of Sardar Attaullah Mengal) was chief minister. Mir Humayun Marri was also in that government. They had every opportunity at the time to solve the problems of the people of Balochistan, if they so desired.
Since then no new development generally affecting the people of Balochistan has taken place. On the other hand, the funding of Balochistan’s special projects of Gwadar and Saindak has been increased. Gwadar project, which has been highlighted in the media as a source of discontentment, too was initiated while the nationalists were in power in Balochistan. If Gwadar was the reason, the nationalists should have been popular in that area and won at least one assembly seat from there on that basis. But ironically they have never secured a single seat of national or provincial assemblies from there, even in the 1997 polls which gave them the chief ministership of Balochistan.
Sardar Khair Bux Marri
The nationalist political parties were rejected by the electorate in the 2002 elections. These parties, all put together, could win only 12 out of the 65 Balochistan Assembly seats, which reduced their representation in the house to a mere 18 per cent. Sardar Attaullah Mengal’s Balochistan National Party (BNP), which in the 1997 elections had emerged as the single largest party, could bag only two seats. The Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) of Nawab Akbar Bugti could secure only three seats. Nawab Khair Bux Marri’s Haq Tawar won only one seat.
Compared to that, Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA), which rejects nationalism, emerged as the single largest political party winning 14 seats, while the PML-Q and its allies bagged 28 seats. The election results gave a clear message. Nationalist politics had exhausted its limits and was now reaching a dead-end.
The insurgency in Quetta started on May 27, 1999, with planting of explosives below the electricity generator of the Governor’s House. This device was detected and defused. Since then the province has been reeling from one wave of terrorism to the next. In the year 2000 there were 16 bomb explosions and eight rocket attacks in Quetta in which 12 persons were killed. There were 239 rocket attacks in 2003, 626 in 2004 and 663 in 2005 (during the first four weeks only) in Balochistan. Similarly, there were 37 bomb blasts in 2003 and 122 in 2004.
Balochistan is ethnically divided into two distinct regions — the Baloch belt and the Pashtoon belt. The Pashtoon belt is spread over the districts of Quetta, Ziarat, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifulah, Sibi and Loralai (excluding Barkhan area). About 40 per cent of Balochistan’s population is Pashtun, which is indifferent to Baloch nationalists’ activities.
In the Baloch belt itself, the PML-Q and its moderate allies represent Balochs more effectively than the nationalists do. The chief minister of Balochistan, Jam Mohammad Yousaf, is also the Jam Sahib of Lasbela. Because of his family’s political hold in the region, Lasbela district is clearly outside the pale of Baloch nationalism. The people of Gwadar have traditionally remained away from militant Baloch nationalism.
The areas consisting of Barkhan, Jafferabad, Nasirabad, Kharan and Kachi District had never been attracted to nationalist politics and were quiet during the 1973 insurgency. In the current political scenario the main political strength of the PML-Q, (some leading figures being Mrs Nasreen Khetran, Mir Zafarullah Jamali, Mir Zulfiqar Magsi, Asim Kurd Gailoo, Sardar Yar Mohd Rind and Sardar Shoaib Nosherwani) is drawn from these areas.
In the remaining Baloch belt itself, Baloch nationalism has silently but inevitably changed its direction from militancy to political activism. The Baloch Nationalist Movement (BNM) is the single largest party in the 12-member opposition in Balochistan Assembly. Its leaders Kackol Ali, Dr Abdul Hayee Baloch and Hasil Bizenjo, all coming from the middle class have never supported militancy.
They represent the younger generation of Baloch leadership, which does not bank on tribal loyalties but political organizations for popular support. The veteran tribal leaders Nawab Marri, Nawab Bugti and Sardar Mengal may have been out of step with the forces of transition but the younger Baloch leadership pays great respect to them and is not prepared to abandon them in the political field.
Militant nationalism today revolves around the trio of Mengal, Bugti and Marri tribal chiefs. But the area of influence of these veterans, and also the support base of militant nationalism, is confined to Dera Bugti, Kohlu and Wadh. Sardar Ataullah Mengal, who dominates the Wadh area, has, however, not been as much active in the current wave of militancy as he had been in the past ones. The main theatres of activity, therefore, happen to be Dera Bugti and Kohlu.
NOTE: This article was published by Daily Dawn Pakistan on January 07,2006.
PICTURES AND NOTES WITH PICTURES ARE NOT IN ORIGINAL ARTICLE. THESE ARE INSERTED BY ME. Muhammad Aamir Mughal.