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Balochistan Insurgency

First Conflict1948Mir Ahmad Yar Khan
Second Conflict1958-59Nawab Nowroz Khan
Third Conflict1963-69Sher Mohammad Bijarani Marri
Fourth Conflict1973-77Nawab Khair Baksh Marri
Fifth Conflict2004-to dateNawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri

Southern Pakistan's Baluchistan region is one of the most rugged and remote lands in the world. Pashtunistan and Baluchistan have long complicated Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan. Controversies involving these areas date back to the establishment of the Durand Line in 1893 dividing Pashtun and Baluch tribes living in Afghanistan from those living in what later became Pakistan. Afghanistan vigorously protested the inclusion of Pashtun and Baluch areas within Pakistan without providing the inhabitants with an opportunity for self-determination.

In 1897 the wave of unrest which passed down the frontier, made itself felt in Baluchistan. A movement among the Sarawan chiefs, which might have had serious consequences, was averted by the arrest and imprisonment of two of the ringleaders. In the same year an outbreak occurred in Makran, and British troops engaged the Makran rebels at Gokprosh in January 1898 and the ringleader with many of his followers were slain. Another outbreak occurred in Makran in 1901, which was also put down by British troops by the capture of Nodiz fort.

Since 1947, this problem has led to incidents along the border, with extensive disruption of normal trade patterns. The most serious crisis lasted from September 1961 to June 1963, when diplomatic, trade, transit, and consular relations between the countries were suspended.

Divided in the nineteenth century among Iran, Afghanistan, and British India, the Baloch found their aspirations and traditional nomadic life frustrated by the presence of national boundaries and the extension of central administration over their lands. Moreover, many of the most militant Baloch nationalists were also vaguely Marxist-Leninist and willing to risk Soviet protection for an autonomous Balochistan.

Inspired in part by the Sardars [tribal chiefs] who fear loss of power if the province develops economically, the movement has at times threatened the integrity of the Pakistani state. Grievances harbored by the Baluch stem from their economic deprivations. Baluchistan has economic resources which the successive federal governments have exploited without either due acknowledgement of Baluchistan's contribution to the national economy or recompense in monetary or financial measures. Natural gas deposits were found in the Sui area in 1953 and in Pirkoh in 1982. The natural gas deposits of Baluchistan cater in a very large measure to the running of industries, factories, businesses and domestic usage in all of the provinces of Pakistan. The Baluch nationalists claim that the royalties received from these projects are next to negligible.

Baloch nationalists demanding greater political rights, autonomy and control over their natural resources, have led four insurgencies - in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-77 - which have been brutally suppressed by the army. Now a fifth is underway and this time the insurgents have gone a step further and are striving for seccession. Violence in Baluchistan historically has been the product of several factors: a fiercely independent Baluch people that eschew outside interference; the lasting legacy of British policy; mismanagement by ruling Pakistani regimes; and historical grievances that have allowed Baluch leaders to mobilize support for their nationalist cause. The most recent surge of violence in Baluchistan is a result of a change in the relationship between the central government and Baluchistan brought about by the province's growing strategic significance.

The province of Baluchistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan, remains notorious for cross-border smuggling and has more recently been infiltrated by former members of the Taliban and Al Qaida operatives. Armed battles between clans are frequent. Because the provincial police presence is limited, travelers wishing to visit the interior of Baluchistan should consult with the province's Home Secretary. Advance permission from provincial authorities is required for travel into some areas. Local authorities have detained travelers who lack permission.

Quetta, the provincial capital, has experienced serious ethnic violence that has led to gun battles in the streets and the imposition of curfews. The North West Frontier and Baluchistan remain feudal holdouts. President Pervez Musharraf had to undertake delicate balancing to carry out operations against al-Qaeda in these areas. There was talk of rising secessionist feelings in Baluchistan.


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