August started with a huge Military Operation in Kolwah, a region in Balochishan, where gunship helicopters and ground forces burnt 13 villages and abducted eight persons including a 12 years old student and a 70 years old Farmer, while FC, a Paramilitary Force in charge of law & order in Balochishan claims in a statement that it has arrested eight “suspected terrorists” during Kolwah Military operation. However, neither any one of the eight “arrested ones” has yet been produced in any court of law nor the details are made public.
On August 8, 2016, a horrific suicide attack took place in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s province Balochistan. More than 70 were killed and 100 injured. Even a hospital was not spared and there was gunfire too. Increasingly, Baluchistan is coming under international focus and its tense relationship with the government of Pakistan. More and more protests are taking place as the Balochi have started protesting all over the world.
Even before the summer of 2016 can hit the peak, Pakistan is sweating because of rising turbulence in Balochistan province. Its fear is evident in the flip-flops on the peace process with India and refusal to allow the National Investigating Agency (NIA) to visit Pakistan to probe the Pathankot attack.
Pakistan Army’s genocidal operations in Balochistan
Little known is the fact that Pakistan Army’s genocidal operations in Balochistan predated Pakistan Army’s ethnic genocide in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) having shaken of the Pakistani yoke in December 1971. In a manner of speech the Pakistan Army has been bleeding Balochistan ever since 1948 with a ‘thousand cuts’. Ironically, Jinnah the founder of Pakistan, who was earlier the Legal Adviser of the Kalat State, as Balochistan was then known, ordered the invasion of the Kalat State in March 1948 which had strongly opposed opting for accession to Pakistan.
From Jinnah to Bhutto and thereafter under General Zia and General Musharraf, all of them reacted with unleashing Pakistan Army’s vicious onslaughts on the Balochi freedom struggle led at different stages by the three main tribal groups of Marri, Mengal and the Bugtis, of course with the remainder of Balochistan.
Heartening and reinforcing Indian Prime Minister Modi’s references of support to the Baloch nation were the news that Bangladesh, having been a victim of Pakistan Army’s ethnic genocide itself has come out with condemnation of Pakistan Army’s atrocities against the Baloch people.
Reminiscent of Bangladesh atrocities by the Pakistan Army, in Balochistan too, the Pakistan Army has gone-in for selective and targeted killings of political leaders, lawyers, the educated and educated sections within Balochistan. The recent killing of over fifty lawyers in one go at the Quetta Hospital smelt of such targeted killings by the Pakistan Army, the ISI, Islamic Jihadist groups affiliated to Pakistan Army and civilian terror gangs operating under government control. It was as if the Pakistan Army wished to decimate the entire potential leadership of the ongoing Baloch freedom struggle.
Balochistan civilisationally has been a distinct entity with no political, economic or cultural affinities with the Punjab core of Pakistan. Balochistan has no dependency on Pakistan.
Political, economic and geopolitical importance of Balochistan
Balochistan as a nation independent of Pakistan would be politically, economically and geopolitically self-sustainable with its vast energy and mineral deposits. Significantly, Balochistan comprises virtually the entire coastline of Pakistan totalling 470 miles. Pakistan’s only deep-water port of Gwadur lies within Balochistan. Balochistan comprises 43% of Pakistan’s total territory. It is no wonder that Pakistan is obsessively fixated on keeping possession of Balochistan at any cost, including ethnic genocide.
Balochistan has been deliberately been kept under-developed by Pakistan resulting in a virtual absence of education facilities and health care setup. The only things that Baluchistan stands out distinctively is the profusion of Pakistan Army garrisons, sale of Baluchi lands especially around Gwadur to Punjabi colonisers and retired Pakistan Army senior officers. Also in tandem is Pakistan’s deliberate strategy of changing the demographic profile of Balochistan by influx of Punjabis. This is reminiscent of Pakistan’s strategic patron China’s policy in China Occupied Tibet.
Recently, Balochistan has shot into prominence because of China’s strategic and economic interest manifested in taking over the Gwadur Port on long lease from Pakistan and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor which runs for most of its southern end in Balochistan. Gwadur Port is intended to emerge as a Chinese Navy base. China has also been sucked into Balochistan because of its geopolitical significance and addedly facilitated by Pakistan, and primarily the Pakistan Army.
The present Pakistan Army Chief has personally committed the Pakistan Army to successful completion of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor at any cost or despite any opposition. Implicit in this commitment of the Pakistan Army Chief is the reality that the whole of Balochistan being opposed to Pakistan-China joint colonisation of Balochistan, might now be inflicted with greater measure of suppression and ethnic genocide. This would be a worrying development for regional stability and the global strategic calculus.
Balochistan freedom struggle
Balochistan and its brave Baloch people therefore deserve global and regional support in their freedom struggle groaning under Pakistan Army suppression and unremitting ethnic genocide against the six million people of Balochistan.
How is the Pakistan Army is getting away with its repeat of the East Pakistan genocide against its Bengali co-religionists? Geopolitical and geostrategic factors come into play in favour of the Pakistan Army. The United States which has the biggest stake in Balochistan’s strategic significance shies away from adopting a strong stand against the brutal suppression of Balochistan. Recently a State Department spokesperson has asserted that the United States does not support Baluchistan’s independence. There seems to be a marked cleavage between the US Administration and its Senators and Congressmen.
China with its deep and well entrenched strategic stakes in Balochistan will never ever support demands of the Baloch peoples surge towards independence. China can be expected to be complicit with the Pakistan Army in its brutal hold over Balochistan.
But then the Baloch people should not be disheartened by the stands of the United States and China. Both USA and China were opposed to Bangladesh’s struggle for independence and ending Pakistan Army’s ethnic genocide. Could the United States and China stop the emergence of an independent Bangladesh?
Like Bangladesh, the Baloch people need to keep alive their torch for freedom as they have done for the last six decades. More than 300,000 Balochis have lost their lives and another 25,000 are missing. It is a terrible price to pay for independence by the six million people of Balochistan. That is the only way of redeeming the sacrifices of its martyrs by an incessant freedom struggle.
Against the above backdrop, Indian Prime Minister Modi assertion from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 2016 required boldness and courage of conviction. India as the largest democracy in the world and as a regional power and a global power in the making cannot ignore regional flashpoint in the making.
Concluding, one fervently hopes and prays that the emotive pitch for Baloch freedom finds resonance in world capitals, if for nothing else, on humanitarian grounds and in defence of human rights. The Pakistan Army should not be allowed to get away with a repeat of its East Pakistan genocide.
Sources: Human Rights Council of Balochistan, South Asia Analysis Group, Council on Foreign Relations.