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Balochistan Insurgency - Fifth conflict 2004-to date

lead by Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri

Two political groups, the leftist Baluchistan Liberation Front and the more centrist Baluchistan Protection Council, claim to be active in the province. Officially over 4000 had been arrested by 2007, while unofficially over 8000 were reported to have been arrested. Thousands of Baloch have died, and more the 6,000 were behind bars for voicing their concerns for Balochistan.

By 2004 Baluchistan was up in arms against the federal government, with the Baluchistan Liberation Army, Baluchistan Liberation Front, and People's Liberation Army conducting operations. Rocket attacks and bomb blasts have been a regular feature in the provincial capital, particularly its cantonment areas, Kohlu and Sui town, since 2000, and had claimed over 25 lives by mid-2004.

Deployments of the Pakistani Army to Karachi, ostensibly to dampen unrest in the wake of a suicide attack that killed three Sunni Muslim clerics, was seen to be a move against the large Baluchi population there, fueling Baluchi separatist feelings. The first Baloch came to Karachi before the 14th century, and for over four centuries, the Baloch have been settled in Karachi. The first came from Kalmat, a small village in between the coastal belt of Ormarah and Pasni in Baluchistan). The Kalmaties are basically a sub-tribe of the Hoat Baluch, who came from Iranian Balochistan. The graveyard known famously as the "Baloch Tombs" is the richest of all graveyard sites situated around Karachi. A large migration came from Iranian balochistan after 1928, when the Shah Reza Pahlevi of Iran captured the western Baluchistan and started oppression and tyranny against the Baloch. By once account, there are more Baloch in Karachi than in the entire province of Balochistan. By another account, the majority of the Baluch people reside in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan.

Islamabad "has treated Baluchistan like a colony," complained Imran Khan, a member of the Pakistani parliament. Baluchi nationalist Humayun Baluch charges that Punajbis are being introduced as settlers, traders, and miners. "[Our] provincial resources are being exploited and looted," he says. "People's rights are being compromised and everything is being done for the benefit of the Punjabis. Army troops, army weaponry, helicopters, jets, and F-16s are being used in Baluchistan. The population is being forced out and primarily living in Sindh [in Karachi]. Houses have been burned and looted."

Extremist groups harassed and physically assaulted journalists. For example, on 24 February 2004, a bomb exploded without causing personal injuries at the Quetta office of the daily Urdu-language newspaper Jang. The separatist Baluchistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility. In November 2005, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was detonated outside the PIDC building in Saddar Town, killing three individuals. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), a separatist movement comprised of various elements within the Baluchistan Province. This was the first instance of an attack claimed by the BLA within Karachi.

The construction of the Gwadar port and the influx of Chinese engineers who oversee the project irritated Baluchi national anxieties. The Gwadar Port project employed close to 500 Chinese nationals by 2004. The nationalists have strong reservations about the construction of a new deep-sea port in Gwadar. They fear that the mega project, which is being developed with the help of China, would lead to a massive influx of outside workers and turn the local population into a minority. Baluchi nationalists believe that Beijing is in league with Islamabad to develop and export the province's natural gas resources. Pakistan's leading natural gas company, Sui, is located in Baluchistan but provides products for the entire country.

On 03 May 2004, the BLA killed three Chinese engineers working on the Port. Gwadar airport was attacked by rockets at midnight on 21 May 2004. On 09 October 2004, two Chinese engineers were kidnapped in South Waziristan in the northwest of Pakistan, one of whom was killed later on 14 October 2004 in a botched rescue operation. In July 2007, a bus full of Chinese engineers was bombed in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. None of the Chinese was killed (although a number of policemen on detail to protect the Chinese were).

Pakistan blamed India and Iran for fanning insurgency in Baluchistan. Violence reached a crescendo in March of 2005 when the Pakistani government attempting to target Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the seventy year old Sardar (tribal leader) who had fought against the government for decades, shelled the town of Dera Bugti. The fighting that erupted between the tribal militia and government soldiers resulted in the deaths of 67 people.

In January 2005 Bugti tribesmen fired several hundred rockets on gas installations, following the alleged gang rape of a Pakistan Petroleum Limited doctor, Shazia Khalid, by a captain of the Defence Security Guards (DSG). With tensions mounting in Dera Bugti, the government deployed troops in his native area. The turning point came on March 17, 2005, when a clash between troops and Bugti tribesmen resulted in the death of 77 civilians, mostly Hindus. Since then, Bugti tribesmen engaged in a guerrilla war with the security forces.

Since 17 December 2005, the Pakistan military has launched full-fledged operations in Kohlu and Dera Bugti. The military has reportedly been using jet fighters and helicopter gunships in its operations to attack the suspected hideouts of combatant Marri and Bugti tribesmen in Kolhu and Dera Bugti respectively.

Dr. Wahid Baloch, an activist of the Baloch Society of North America based in Washington, said in February 2006 there was no right for the Pakistani army to be in the province as they were committing atrocities on the residents. "There is no reason for the Pakistani army to stay there, if they consider the Pakistani citizens why they have built these armies, Baluchistan border does not need this, its not enemy country, no animosities with Pakistan. It is next to Iran and the Persian Gulf, so what is the Pakistan army doing in Baluchistan? Genocide against ... and the Baluchistan peoples rights?" asked Baloch.

Pakistan is concerned not just about maintaining good relations with Washington, but also fending off the encircling efforts of India. Most recently, these activities included the stationing of Indian intelligence officers at Zahedan, Iran close to Baluchistan rebel activities in Pakistan. Pakistan charges India with complicity (via Afghanistan) in the ethnic crises in the two states of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan: Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier Province. Pakistan complains that the Indian consulates in the border cities of Jalalabad and Kandahar are involved in fomenting insurgency in its Baluchistan province. Amidst increased fighting in January 2006, Musharraf accused India of arming and financing the militants fighting in Baluchistan. New Delhi categorically rejected the allegations. Islamabad banned the separatist Baluchistan Liberation Army as a terrorist organization in April 2006.

Groups of Baloch patriots from around the world established The Government of Balochistan (GOB) in Exile on April 18, 2006, and nominated His Highness Mir Suleman Dawood Khan, Khan of Kalat, as the King of Balochistan. Balochistan was invaded and annexed by Pakistan in 1948 from his grandfather, His Highness Mir Ahmad Yar Khan Baloch.

Although tensions remained high, there were attempts within the Pakistani government to ameliorate the situation through more peaceful means. Chaudhry Shujuat Hussain, leader of President Musharaf’s Pakistani Muslim League issued a set of 32 recommendations on how to address Baluchistan’s rebel grievances. The three main recommendations were that first, the province inhabitants be given a greater share of the gas profits (the region contains 40% of Pakistan’s natural gas reserves) and more jobs in the exploitation of gas resources. Second, pay the Baluchistan province arrears of $100 million. Third, give the province a bigger part in the construction of a new deep water port on the province’s coastline. However, as of July, 2006 none of these initiatives had been employed and the violence sparked by the bombardment of Dera Bugti had continued without abatement.

 



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