Balochistan

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Balochistan has been menaced by the overspill of the war in Afghanistan since 2001 which has brought the Afghan Taliban to the Pathan areas of Balochistan; the Pathans who make up as much as 40% of Balochistan’s population, are a majority in Quetta itself. According to US intelligence, much of the Taliban leadership regrouped itself in the so-called “Quetta Shura”, and was still based in Balochistan in late 2009. So far, this hasn’t been bad for Balochistan. On the contrary, the Afghan Taliban seem to have struck a deal with Pakistani security forces whereby they will not stir up militancy among the Pathans of Balochistan in return for being left alone.

Given Pakistan’s problems with Baloch militancy, Islamabad considers it especially important to keep the Pathans of Balochistan loyal. This is an additional reason for the shelter that Pakistan gives to parts of the Afghan Taliban leadership in Balochistan. Until early 2007, local journalists told me, the presence of these leaders was so open that it was very easy for Pakistanis (not Westerners) to gain interviews with them. Since then, however, US pressure has made Pakistan more careful and the “Quetta Shura” has been moved out of Quetta to more discreet locations in the Pathan areas in the north of the province.

The Afghan Taliban’s presence risks provoking the US into launching the kind of cross-border attacks that have been going on for years in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)* to the north; and there is also the risk that US and British military actions in southern Afghanistan will lead to a major influx of Taliban fighters into Pakistani Balochistan. This could well be disastrous for the province.

*amalgamated into Pakhtunkhwa province [former Northwest Frontier Province with capital at Peshawar].

If the Pathans of the province are stirred up against the Pakistani state, their latent tensions with the Baloch would also be awakened, above all concerning who should rule Quetta itself. Baloch nationalists who say that an independent Balochistan would be prepared to let the Pathan areas break away to joins new Balochistan, fall very silent when you ask them what then would happen to Quetta. With Pathans against Pakistan and Baloch (and other Pathans), and Baloch against Pathans, Pakistan and Iran (and other Baloch), and Hazaras and others caught in the middle, that would have all the makings of a really unspeakable mess.

Disputed history and population

Balochistan is closely linked to Sindh and many Sindhis and southern Punjabis are in fact from Baloch tribes which retain their tribal loyalties and much of their tribal way of life. Like the Sindhis, the Baloch tribes worship saints and shrines, and most have been impervious to the appeals of modern radical Islamist thought. Neither the Islamist political parties nor the Taliban have made any serious inroads among the ethnic Baloch. There does however seem to be some Baloch support for the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba movement, which has carried out savage terrorist attacks on the Shia Hazara community in Quetta.

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan in size with 134,000 square miles and some 43 % of Pakistan’s land area, but with a small population of only 9-11 million people, being about 7% of Pakistan’s population.

Until 2010, the Pakistani central state allocated its support to provincial budgets according to population, resulting in a very small share for Balochistan. By the new Financial Commission Award of that year, however, the allocation was rebalanced to take account of poverty and revenue generation. This meant that Balochistan’s share went up from 7% to 9.09%, around 50% above Balochistan’s share of Pakistan’s population. This was not nearly enough to satisfy more radical Baloch nationalists, but increased Pakistan’s appeal to more moderate Baloch.

The contrast between territory and population largely shapes Balochistan’s particular situation and problems. Balochistan’s huge territory is home to the greater part of Pakistan’s mineral and energy resources (with the colossal exception of the Thar coalfields of Sindh). Its tiny population means that it has little to say in Pakistani national politics and little control over how its huge resources are developed.

The British put together the territories of what is now the Pakistani province of Baluchistan for geographical, administrative and security reasons, but from historically and ethnically disparate elements; in fact, the province is almost as much an artificial creation as Pakistan itself. Moreover, just as was the case with the Pathans and Afghanistan to the north, the British drew a frontier with a neighbouring state which cut the ethnic Baloch lands in two, dividing them between the British empire of India and the Persian empire  to the west (with a small number in the deserts of Afghanistan to the north).

Baloch nationalists today claim a large chunk of Iran as part of the ‘Greater Balochistan” that they hope to create – thereby guaranteeing the undying hostility of the Iranian as well as the Pakistani state. The Jundullah movement for the independence of Iranian Balochistan is active in the western parts of Pakistani Balochistan on the Iranian border in alliance with Baloch tribal gangs who smuggle heroin from Afghanistan to Iran and the Gulf states through Pakistani territory. Pakistani and Iranian officials both firmly believe (though with little real evidence) that the US and British intelligence services are supporting Jundullah so as to put pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme. In October 2009, Jundullah killed several senior Iranian officers in a suicide bombing in Iranian Balochistan. The Iranian government accused US, British and Pakistani agents of being behind the attack. Pakistan hit back by arresting what it said were several Iranian intelligence agents operating in Balochistan.

However, in a sign of hellish complexity of this part of the world, Jundullah and the Baloch smugglers are also responsible for smuggling weapons and recruits to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Thirteen suspected international Islamist volunteers, including three from Russia (apparently Tatars), were intercepted by the Pakistani army during my stay in Balochistan. One was a doctor, seemingly on the way to boost the Taliban’s primitive medical services. I do not know what happened to them.

To the Kalat territories and those of the independent tribes, the British added Pathan territories to the north. These were taken from the nominal sovereignty of Afghanistan and, like the tribes of FATA, the tribes of northern Balochistan were split in two by the Durand Line drawn by the British to divide their sphere of influence from Afghanistan. They retain close tribal links to southern Afghanistan, and strong sympathies for the Afghan Taliban.

Some of the leading Pathan tribal families of northern Balochistan originated in what is now Afghanistan, and fled to British territory to escape from the ruthless state-building of Emir Abdur Rahman towards the end of the nineteenth century. After 1977, Pathan numbers in Balochistan swelled greatly by a new wave of Pathan Afghan refugees, this time from the wars which erupted after the Communist takeover and the Soviet and Western occupations of Afghanistan.

Balochistan‘s third major ethnicity, the Hazara, also fled from Afghanistan to escape from Abdur Rahman. They are Shia of Mongolian origin from the central highlands of Afghanistan, and between 200,000 and 300,000 of them now live in Quetta and a few other towns.  Like the Mohajirs of Sindh, their uprooting from their ancestral territory in Afghanistan has helped turn the Hazaras of Quetta into a remarkably well-educated and dynamic community (possibly also with the help of aid from Iran, though they deny this fervently). They have by far the best hospitals and schools outside the cantonment, and their cemetery breathes a sort of Victorian municipal pride in their community’s heroes. They are especially proud of their prominence in the Pakistani military, and of the fact that a Hazara woman has become the first female fighter pilot in the Pakistani Air Force. Tragically, though, their cemetery also bears witness to the many Hazaras killed in recent years in anti-Shia terrorist attacks by the Sunni sectarian extremists.

Finally, there are the Punjabi and Mohajir “settlers” (as they are known by the Baloch), who moved to the region under British and Pakistani rule. Put all these other ethnicities together, and the ethnic Baloch (i.e. the Baloch-and Brahui-speakers) are at best a small majority in Balochistan. In Quetta itself, Baloch may be as little as a quarter of the population, with Pathans the majority. But nobody really knows for sure.

In 1901 British officials conducted a census which recorded down to the last child the population of all but the most remote tribes in Balochistan. More than a century later, in 2009, the Commissioner Quetta Division could not tell me within half a million people the population even of Quetta itself. This, however, was not mostly his fault. Apart from the general weakness of the Pakistani bureaucracy when it comes to gathering information, the main parties among the Pathans successfully urged their Pathan followers to boycott the last census in 1998, in the hope that this would help the Pathan Afghan refugees to merge with the local Pathan population, become Pakistani citizens, and boost Pathan political weight in Balochistan.

This boycott means that the official figure of 6.5 million people for that year (4.9% of Pakistan’s population) was almost certainly a serious underestimate. According to the 1998 census, ethnic Baloch formed 54.7% and Pathans 29.6%, with the rest divided between Punjabis, Hazaras and others. But the Pathans claim to be 35-40% of the population, and they may well be right. Almost as many ethnic Baloch live outside Balochistan as within it, though the figures are very hard to determine because many no longer speak Baloch but, while retaining Baloch tribal customs, consider themselves Sindhis or Punjabis.

Fear of ethnic swamping has been one factor in repeated Baloch revolts in both Iran and Pakistan, and the development of Gwadar has only increased these fears. In Pakistan, until the Islamists revolts after 2001, the Baloch were the most persistently troublesome of all the ethnic groups. There was armed resistance in 1948-49, after Kalat’s  accession (under considerable duress) to Pakistan; unrest again in the late 1950s after Balochistan was merged into the “one unit” of West Pakistan and the promises of full autonomy to Kalat state were broken; and a serious revolt between 1973 and 1977, after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto dismissed the moderate nationalist government of Balochistan as part of his moves to centralise power in his own hands, and arrested its leading members.

In all of these cases, however, most of the unrest was concentrated chiefly in one tribal group, and only parts of that group -in the late 1940s and 1950s, parts of the Mengal and other tribes of the old Kalat state and, in the 1970s, parts of the Marri tribe with certain allies. This allowed the Pakistani state to play on the deep traditional rivalries between the tribes and between sub tribes of the same tribe, and eventually through a mixture of force and concessions to the Sardars of the rebel tribes, to bring these revolts to an end. It was also never entirely clear if the rebellions concerned were themselves really aiming at full independence, at greater autonomy within Pakistan, or at benefits and redress of grievances for the particular tribes concerned.

By courtesy

T.E. Lawrence on his role with the Arabs

In these pages the history is not of the Arab movement, but of me in it. It is a narrative of daily life, mean happenings, little people. Here are no lessons for the world, no disclosures to shock people. It is filled with trivial things, partly that no one mistake for history the bones from which some day a man may make history, and partly for the pleasure it gave me to recall the fellowship of the revolt. We were fond together, because of the sweep of the open places, the taste of wide winds, the sunlight, and the hopes in which we worked. The morning freshness of the world-to-be intoxicated us. We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for. We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and it was pitiably weak against age. We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find that it was a vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did. I meant to make a new nation, to restore a lost influence, to give twenty million of Semites the foundations on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts. So high an aim called out the inherent nobility of their minds, and made them play a generous part in events: but when we won it, it was charged against me that the British petrol royalties in Mesopotamia were become dubious, and French Colonial policy ruined in the Levant.

I am afraid that I hope so. We pay for these things too much in honour and in innocent lives. I went up the Tigris with one hundred Devon Territorials, young clean, delightful fellows, full of the power of happiness and of making women children and glad. By them one saw vividly how great it was to be their kin, and English. And we were casting them by thousands into the fire to the worst of deaths, not to win the war but that corn and rice and oil of Mesopotamia might be ours. The only need was to defeat our enemies (Turkey among them), and this was at last done in the wisdom of Allenby with less than four hundred killed, by turning to our uses the hands of the oppressed in Turkey. I am proudest of my thirty fights in that I did not have any of our own blood shed. All our subject provinces to me were not worth one dead Englishman.

For my work on the Arab front I had determined to accept nothing. The Cabinet raised the Arabs to fight for us by definite promises of self-government afterwards. Arabs believe in persons, not in institutions. They saw in me a free agent of the British Government, and demanded from me an endorsement of its written promises. So I had to join the conspiracy, and, for what my word was worth, assured the men of their reward. In our two years’ partnership under fire they grew accustomed to believing me and to think my Government, like myself, sincere. In this hope they performed some fine things but, of course, instead of being proud of what we did together, I was continually and bitterly ashamed.

It was evident from the beginning that if we won the war these promises would be dead paper, and had I been an honest adviser of the Arabs, I would have advised them to go home and not risk their lives fighting for such stuff: but I solved myself with the hope that, by leading these Arabs madly in the final victory, I would establish them, with arms in their hands, in a position assured (if not dominant) that expediency would counsel to the Great Powers a fair settlement of their claims. In other words, I presumed (seeing no other leader with the will and power) that I would survive the campaigns, and be able to defeat not merely the Turks on the battlefield, but my own country and its allies in the council-chamber. It was an immodest presumption: it is not yet clear if I succeeded: but it is clear that I had no shadow of leave to engage the Arabs, unknowing, in such hazard. I risked the fraud, on my conviction that Arab help was necessary to our cheap and speedy victory in the East, and that better we win and break our word than lose.

The dismal of Sir Henry McMahon confirmed my belief in our essential insincerity: but I could not so explain myself to General Wingate while the war lasted, since I was nominally under his orders, and he did not seem sensible of how false his own standing was. The only thing remaining was to refuse rewards for being a successful trickster and, to prevent this unpleasantness arising, I began in my reports to conceal the true stories of things, and to persuade the few Arabs, who knew to an equal reticence. In this book also, for the last time, I mean to be my own judge of what to say.

By courtesy

War Inquiry Commission 1971

Hamood-ur-Rahman Commission Report

After the fall of Dhaka, eight days later, on Dec 24, 1971, the President of Pakistan Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto set up the War Inquiry Commission, commonly known as the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission. It examined 213 witnesses, mostly Pakistani army officers, hundreds of classified documents and army signals between East and West Pakistan. The final report was submitted in November 1974, detailing how political, administrative, military, and moral failings were responsible for the surrender in East Pakistan.

The Findings

The report said:

  1. The process of moral degeneration among the senior ranks of the armed forces was set in motion by their involvement in martial law duties in 1958; that these tendencies reappeared and were in fact intensified when martial law was imposed once again in March 1969 by General Yahya Khan.
  2. Due to corruption arising out of the performance of martial law duties, lust for wine and woman, and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior army officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had not only lost the will to fight but also the professional competence necessary for taking the vital and critical decisions demanded of them for the successful prosecution of war, the Commission observed.
  3. According to the Commission, these perversions led to the army brass willfully subverting public life in Pakistan. In furtherance of their common purpose they did actually try to influence political parties by threats, inducements and even bribes to support their designs, both for bringing some of the political parties and the elected members of National Assembly to refuse to attend the session of the National Assembly scheduled to be held at Dhaka on March 3, 1971.
  4. A fully civil government could not be formed in East Pakistan as had been announced by the ex-President namely Dr. Malik- an old politician who had a weak personality. He could not annoy the Martial Law Administrator (Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi) because of the unsettled conditions obtaining in the Eastern Wing. Gen. Niazi, on the other hand cherished and liked power, but did not have the breadth of vision or ability to understand political implications. He did not display much respect for the civilian Governor; the Army virtually continued to control civil administration. The Commission discovered.
  5. The installation of a civilian governor in September 1971 was merely to hoodwink public opinion at home and abroad. Poor Dr. Malik and his ministers were figureheads only, the Commission observed.
  6. Real decisions in all important matters still lay with the army. In the first picture of the new Cabinet, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali was prominently visible sitting on the right side of the Governor, although he was not a member of the Cabinet.
  7. The rot began at the very top from the East Pakistan army’s commander, Lt-General A.A.K.Niazi, who the commission said acquired a notorious reputation for sexual immorality and indulgence in the smuggling of paan (betel leaf) from East to West Pakistan. The inevitable consequence was that he failed to inspire respect and confidence in the minds of his subordinates with absolute absence of leadership qualities and determination; he also encouraged laxity in discipline and moral standards among the officers and men under his command, the Commission determined.

The Recommendations

The Commission recommended public trial of the following officers:

  1. General Yahya Khan, former Commander-in-Chief
  2. General Abdul Hamid Khan, ex-Chief of Staff to the President
  3. Lt. Gen. S.G.M.M. Pirzada, ex-Personal Staff Officer to the President
  4. Lt. Gen. Gul Hasan ex Chief of General Staff
  5. Maj. Gen. Ghulam Umar ex Second-in -Command of NSC
  6. Maj Gen A. O. Mitha ex Deputy Corps Commander
  7. Lt. Gen. Irshad Ahmad Khan, ex-Commander 1 Corps
  8. Maj Gen Abid Zahid, ex-GOC 15 Div.
  9. Maj. Gen B.M. Mustafa, ex-GOC 18 Div.

The Commission recommended court martial of the following officers:

  1. Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, ex Commander, Eastern Command
  2. Maj Gen. Mohammad Jamshed, ex-GOC 36 (ad-hoc) Division,
  3. Maj Gen. M. Rahim Khan, ex-GOC 39 (ad-hoc) Division.
  4. Brig. G.M. Baqir Siddiqui, ex COS, Eastern Command, Dhaka
  5. Brig. Mohammad Hayat, ex Commander. 107 Brigade. (9 Div.)
  6. Brig. Mohammad Aslam Niazi, ex Commander 53 Brigade (39 Ad-hoc Div.)

The Commission recommended departmental action against the following officers:

  1. Brig. S.A. Ansari, ex-Commander, 23 Brigade
  2. Brig. Manzoor Ahmad, ex-Commander 57 Brigade, 9 Div.
  3. Brig. Abdul Qadir Khan, ex-Commander, 93 Brigade, 36 Div.

The Commission observed that the suitability of the following officers for continued retention in military service would not be justified:

  1. Maj. Gen. M.H. Ansari, GOC 9 Div.
  2. Maj. Gen. Qazi Abdul Majid, GOC 14 Div.
  3. Maj Gen Nazar Hussain Shah, GOC 16 Div.
  4. Maj. Gen. Rao Farman Ali, ex Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan.
  5. Plus 19 Brigadiers.

The Commission further recommended that armed services should devise ways and means to ensure:

  1. That moral values are not allowed to be compromised by disgraceful behaviour particularly at higher levels;
  2. That moral rectitude is given due weightage along with professional qualities in the matter of promotion to higher ranks;
  3. That syllabi of academic studies at the military academies and other service institutions should include courses designed to inculcate in the young minds respect for religious, democratic and political institutions;
  4. That use of alcoholic drinks should be banned in military messes and functions;
  5. That serious notice should be taken of notorious sexual behaviour and other corrupt practices.

The Action:

  1. Nothing ever happened. The army’s role in dismembering Pakistan after its greatest military debacle was largely ignored by successive Pakistani governments and many of those indicted by the Commission were instead rewarded with military and political sinecures.
  2. Bhutto, reportedly, as Prime Minister personally ordered that each and every copy of The Report be burnt.
  3. A copy of the Final Report was however saved, which was leaked and published in Indian magazine India Today in August 2000. The following day, Pakistani newspaper Dawn also carried the report.
  4. General Pervez Musharraf stated in October 2000 that the incidents in 1971 were a political as well as a military debacle, and that calls for generals to be tried were not fair.

The Aftermath

Had action been initiated against the accused, as recommended by the Commission, the nation could have averted the coup d’état of Zia-ul-Haq whose 11-year rule of infamy completely devastated the political as well as the socio-economic fabric of the state and society. Besides many irreversibles, it led to radicalization of the society, which is now clearly visible. The policies of that era invited foreign intervention which is so deep rooted now. And the role of intelligence agencies from media management to missing persons is so pervasive. We could have also averted the illegitimate takeover of Pervez Musharraf and whatever followed thereafter.

Fast Forward to 2018:

  1. The security establishment plays the most important overt and covert role in ruling this country. It also defines the contours of national interest.
  2. The security establishment is in full control of our economic, defence and foreign policy. The political government is in no position to make organic changes in policy formulation.
  3. Actual annual defence budget exceeding rupees 1100 billion (some estimates exceed rupees 2000 billion) is allocated on direction from the military and there is no parliamentary oversight.
  4. According to human rights groups, more than 5000 persons are missing in Pakistan and nobody has any access to them.
  5. Wiki leaks reports that in March 2009 the Chief of the Army Staff considered removing the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and replacing him with the leader of ANP.

The elected Prime Minister and his daughter are in jail after a trial which has lost its credibility after the statement of a judge of the High Court that the army and the ISI manipulated the trial and influenced the courts. Drastic censorship, harassment and intimidation is the order of the day, may it be media, civil society or political leadership. The entire world media including China have termed the 2018 elections as a farce. The country is split on pro and anti-establishment camps which is most stark in the province of Punjab. Terrorist organizations have been allowed to contest elections and sectarian outfits are running political campaigns. Terrorists, whose backbone was claimed to have been broken are back in business and scores have been killed in recent terrorist attacks. First time in the history of Punjab, anti-army slogans have been raised on roads.

How long can this country survive in its present form is the million-dollar question?

Courtesy of:

The Aftermath by Waseem Altaf