Balochistan Update

Balochistan is a sort of “tribal confederation” with its attendant internal pulls and pushes, competition and conflict. Baloch nationalism draws its inspiration from a refusal of the Khan of Kalat at the time of Partition to accede to the new nation-state of Pakistan in more or less the same manner in which the “princely” states of India acceded to the new nation-state of India, but with one critical difference. In India, the Congress leaders in Delhi negotiated the terms of accession patiently with the Hindu rulers of the Princely States – except in those states with Muslim rulers and Hindu majorities where the civilian carrot was backed by the military stick – whereas in the new Pakistan the Muslim League leaders tried to whip a fellow Muslim, the Khan of Kalat, into accession without due process and regard to the state’s rights.
Image above: Bugti tribal militiamen gather in Dera Bugti in Pakistani province of Balochistan. Many of these tribals are up at arms against the central government , saying that the centre takes their rich natural gas resource but gives little in return. The authorities refer these militiamen as ‘miscreants’.




by Najam Sethi


In the following post Najam Sethi updates us on what is happening in Balochistan, what’s lacking and what needs to be done in that troubled land of Balochistan.  My friend Peter Chamberlin who has posted it on his blog, has also added a note which almost forms a part of this highly analytical narrative on the subject. [Nayyar]

Peter writes: The following article may seem like it was written by me, but it was not.  It was written by a Pakistani, a Baloch, who knows much more than I ever could from this great distance.  He comes to the same conclusions which have long seemed obvious to me–namely, that the great “dog fight” in Pakistan’s Tribal Region cannot let-up until the “big dogs,” India and the US, stop putting the “little dogs” into the fight.

The secret war in Pakistan is on the verge of blowing-up into a very obvious hot war, unless the powers who are driving the process back off. All of the wildest conspiracy claims about the situation in Balochistan are true–Yes, India and Afghanistan (meaning the US) are sponsoring the terrorism of the Baloch nationalists, who train in Afghanistan; Yes, the Pak Army is running death squads to silence the Baloch nationalists.

The only way to de-escalate the situation in Balochistan is for all of the various mob bosses to call-off the “hits.”


Is Balochistan already another country? Are the Baloch nationalists fighting for secession or autonomy? Are they terrorists or freedom fighters? Where are all the “missing persons” of Balochistan? Who is carrying out ethnic cleansing of settler-Punjabis? Who is target-killing the leaders of the nationalist movement? What is the role of the “agencies” of Pakistan and India? What are the grievances of the Baloch? Is there a “solution” in sight?

Cut the propaganda. Here’s a reality check.

Balochistan is a sort of “tribal confederation” with its attendant internal pulls and pushes, competition and conflict. Baloch nationalism draws its inspiration from a refusal of the Khan of Kalat at the time of Partition to accede to the new nation-state of Pakistan in more or less the same manner in which the “princely” states of India acceded to the new nation-state of India, but with one critical difference. In India, the Congress leaders in Delhi negotiated the terms of accession patiently with the Hindu rulers of the Princely States – except in those states with Muslim rulers and Hindu majorities where the civilian carrot was backed by the military stick – whereas in the new Pakistan the Muslim League leaders tried to whip a fellow Muslim, the Khan of Kalat, into accession without due process and regard to the state’s rights.

The hurt and wound of the original sin has progressively become a rallying nationalist cause only because Balochistan’s enforced accession did not lead to a fulsome integration into the new nation-state of Pakistan that was dominated by Karachi, Lahore and then Islamabad. Indeed, in time the nationalist narrative has transcended the original agitation-politics of non-integration (how many Baloch have been recruited in the bureaucracy, army and public sector?) and sought to renew itself on the basis of the militant politics of exploitation (Sui gas royalties are inadequate, Gwadar Port is not in Baloch hands, Baloch lands are being bought up by Punjabis, Balochistan’s minerals are being extracted by foreigners for a song, etc.).

The case of East Pakistan’s slide into separatism and secession based on the progression of the politics of non-integration (rapid economic development in West Pakistan versus stagnation in East Pakistan during the “Decade of Development” under General Ayub Khan) into the politics of exploitation (foreign exchange earnings from Bengali jute went to line the pockets of importing Punjabi industrialists and licence-selling bureaucrats) comes to mind straightaway.

A comparison between Balochistan and East Pakistan is instructive for many reasons. A “confederation of tribes” with the big ones at loggerheads with one another was not as conducive to the growth of unified Baloch nationalism like the political and cultural homogeneity of the Bengalis was for their nationalism. Therefore Islamabad was better able to divide and rule the Baloch than it was able to subdue the Bengalis. This was reflected in the split between the nationalist tribal Sardars of the Marri and Bugti tribes in the resistance movement of the 1960s and 1970s when the former picked up the gun against Islamabad and the latter sulked on the sidelines or actually embraced it. The 1980s and 1990s were critical: the Marris , Mengals and Bugtis tried to work with Islamabad to obtain a sincere measure of political and economic autonomy, but their efforts came to naught.

Pakistan’s “democratic” politicians were busy making and breaking governments without any consideration for the imperative of economic development and national integration through a process of trade and commerce. The military government of General Pervez Musharraf which followed in the 2000s concentrated on economic development (of sorts) but negated its benevolent effect by depriving the Sardars and middle classes of Balochistan of its largesse (Gwadar was tied securely to anchors in Islamabad and the Bugti tribe was threatened with military reprisals for agitating about royalties from Sui and contracts from Pakistan Petroleum). Worse, in the 2002 elections, the military regime propped up the mullahs and religious ideologues of Balochistan (and NWFP) at the expense of the militant tribal Sardars and mainstream middle-class politicians and effectively deprived them of power, privilege and spoil sharing. This culminated in alienating the Marri Sardars and forcing them into exile while antagonizing the Bugti Sardars and compelling them to resist by force. The premeditated “elimination” of Nawab Akbar Bugti via a military operation became the catalyst for an unprecedented unified stand by the Marris, Mengals and Bugtis against Islamabad.

This was a turning point for Baloch nationalism. It came of age on the basis of a tribal and middle-class unity that had long eluded it. Here was the necessary condition for revolt and rebellion. The sufficient condition was provided by a new twist in regional politics.

The American intervention in Afghanistan brought an anti-Pakistan regime to power in Kabul. This regime saw profitable leverage against Pakistan in hosting Baloch insurgents and fanning Baloch separatism. On the other border with India, it was also payback time for Pakistan’s jihadi incursions and provocations in Kashmir throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Thus the Marri-Bugti leaders in exile readily clutched at the new foreign facilitators and providers of arms and funds from across Pakistan’s eastern and western borders and launched their armed resistance against Islamabad.

The undemocratic “deep state” of Pakistan has responded in the only way taught to it as the “sole guardian of national security”: Repression. That is why Baloch nationalists are target-killed by invisible agencies whose calling card is “Pakistan Zindabad”, or they “disappear” in the dungeons of military field intelligence units where the writ of the soft state (judiciary and civilian administration) is absent. And that is why the Baloch nationalist movement is viewed as an Indian-Afghan sponsored “conspiracy against the integrity and solidarity of Pakistan” (which also explains some of the bombs that go off in Quetta).

The other side of the coin reflects a definite Baloch resistance strategy of which ethnic cleansing, especially of Punjabis, is an essential element. Since the deep state is dominated and led by Punjabis, the settler Punjabis in Balochistan are viewed by the insurgents as potential allies of the enemy, therefore they are being eliminated or pushed out of Balochistan. Their fate can be laid at the door of insurgent Baloch nationalism whose “freedom fighters” are “terrorists” for the deep state of Pakistan. Is there a way out of this quagmire?

Theoretically, secession and the creation of an independent Balochistan could provide a resolution for one side but not for the other. The modern nation-state guards its territorial sovereignty and integrity fiercely. India next door provides a good example where half the country’s army has wiped out an entire generation of Kashmiri freedom fighters without relinquishing an inch of territory. Therefore insurgency will lead to more repression in Balochistan, not secession, as in Kashmir. Indeed, the agencies may increasingly resort to physical elimination of “troublesome separatists” if the pressure on them from the Supreme Court of Pakistan increases to produce the “missing persons”.

This means that only a foreign intervention and war could create conditions for Pakistan’s further disintegration and Balochistan’s secession as an independent state as it did in 1971 for Bangladesh. But nuclear equations tend to deter war with India. So if secession can be ruled out, will the promise of political autonomy and economic development and representation in the organs of the civil-military bureaucracy persuade the insurgents to abandon armed struggle and accept rehabilitation in Quetta?

Time hangs lazily over New Kayhan, a small village of about 4,000 people on the western outskirts of Quetta city, in south-western Pakistan. The village is believed to be a base of Baloch insurgents

No. The secessionists will cease insurgency only when the external forces that feed and prop them up back off and their safe havens in Afghanistan dry up. That is when they will consider returning to the mainstream on the basis of credible and positive inducements for it. Therefore what is now a sufficient condition for insurgency (foreign support) must become (when it ends) the necessary condition for true autonomy and integration of Balochistan into Pakistan.

But foreign support and safe havens for Baloch nationalists will not end until there are mutually related settlements of outstanding disputes between Islamabad and New Delhi and Islamabad and Kabul so that their proxy wars can come to an end. This, in turn, implies a stable, representative and peaceful regime in Afghanistan that is not hostile to Islamabad or dependent on American military might to sustain itself. It also implies a solid conflict resolution process between India and Pakistan in which Pakistan is no longer distrusted as a terror-exporting threat to India and India is not seen as an existential threat to Pakistan.

Is that a tall order? Yes, it is, in the short run at least. In the longer term, however, there is no alternative for the three states in the region. Each must respect the territorial integrity of the other two in the interest of peace, stability, integration and economic development in the region and insurgencies and proxy wars must come to an end. Indeed, an end-game in Afghanistan should presage an end-game between India and Pakistan as well.

Internal conflict has destroyed the Afghan state. It is eroding the Pakistani state and fraying the edges of the Indian state. External conflict will change the map of the region with disastrous consequences.

Source, Title image
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think Obama needs to tell the truth about the real (strategic) reasons for the US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The American public has a right to the truth about Pentagon/CIA support for the secession of energy and mineral rich Balochistan from Pakistan to become a US client state – just like energy and mineral rich Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the other former Soviet republics. They need to know about CIA support for the Baloch separatist movement and their efforts to disrupt operations at the Chinese-built Gwadar Port (and the energy transit route for Iranian oil and natural gas destined for China). Including the fact that the CIA is training young Baloch separatists in bomb-making and other terrorist activities.

    I blog about this at

  2. What money they have paid to Pakistan ,they are there to get it back in the form of their cooperation in the war against terrorism . What is wrong in it .

  3. A very interesting article on emerging ~ intefada in the Arab world by Adrew appeared on Opinion Maker blog deserves due consideration to defuse this Bio – Bomb in the communities where the religious factors has contributed significantaly besides the others genuin reasons .The bomb has now exploded .No one now can check the seismic wave it will generate but with the help of S&T and wisdom of the managers of world’s affaires , its shocks can be encircled to get it confined blow the tropic of cancer . USA should sit silently and watch this natural change closely from Afghanistan as well as from Pentagon ,…. It is time to remain vigilent .

  4. An another article by Devidson on Opinion Maker appears to declare Mohmood Abbaas as Jews . Let the events roll on its own , .but be vigilent .

  5. […] Galileo satnav system called ‘stupid idea’: US cable The head of a German firm working on Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system called it a “stupid idea” being pushed by France for military reasons, a leaked US diplomatic cable showed Thursday. Read more on PhysOrg Also you can check out this related blog post: Related to this you can read: […]

  6. I feel for the Balochs. The only law is the law of the jungle. Its just quite frustrating to see our own being hurt, our own being deprived, our own being killed.

    Despite of launching mega projects like: The Gwadar Port, Makran Coastal Highway, Saindak Copper Project all exist – the first two are complete, while the Saindak project is well on its way, the Government has much to answer for in Baluchistan, the tribal leaders have made sure that no progress takes place in Baluchistan. The Bugti tribe extracts a massive amount from the government for the Sui Gas Field, and not one rupee have they spent on their own people.

  7. […] Balochistan Update 3.  Who Is Selling This Gold Mine? 4.  21st century ‘Great Game’: Reko Diq and Beyond 5.  […]

  8. I love balochistan and i want to die for balochistan

    • Brother Shahid, We already have many dead heroes, who have made us a laughing stock in the eyes of broader masses in Balochistan and elsewhere. Let me tell you my story: I was also born and raised in Khusdar, got my education from Quetta, Karachi ad Lahore. Worked in the textile industry in Faisalabad and achieved what ever my goals were in life. The reason for telling you this is, that my father motivated us to get education and become self sufficient. As a Baloch I would say loudly that our Sardars have kept us behind. In the village we used to live, there was a govt. boys high school and a girls school but one day our Sardar sent some people to shut down these schools. Then my father left the village and got settled in Quetta for the sake of our education, so we could have better life. When I remember that incident of closing down the school, I blame the Sardari system for the Sardars don’t want us to be educated. They do not cooperate with the government, just to keep a tight hold on the poor people of Balochistan. These Sardars do not want any development in the rural areas. Brother, you will not see any Sardar poor and uneducated. They send their children to study abroad, waste their wealth on them, but they never spread education among general public, because they are afraid that if poor people of Balochistan got educated they will go out of their control. My brother! my sincere advice to you is to live for Pakistan, make it strong and prosperous. Brother I say this to every Pakistani to help Pakistan make it a model nation in the world, and stop blaming for poor govt. of Pakistan for every thing. We all have to live for Pakistan and keep it united (Unity is Strength). The Great American Leader said, “Don’t say what your country has done for you, think what you have done for your country.”

      Thank you very much.

      My Allah give you and all of us guidance. Aamin

  9. […] More from Najam Sethi on Wonders of Pakistan: 1.  Balochistan Update […]

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