A Resolution for Baluchistan

Anadi Naik

Dana Rohrbacher, a Congressman from California has introduced a resolution in the United States Congress in support of the self-rule of the people of Baluchistan. The resolution is nonbinding and also cosponsored by Congressmen Louie Gohmer and Steve King. The people of Baluchistan should be happy to learn that their aspiration is finally getting attention. Areawise, Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan. It has plenty of natural resources that help keep Pakistan’s economy afloat. The local people have a long standing complaint that very little of the profits from the resources from their area filters back into their region. Over the years there have been many uprisings in Baluchistan. In the past, both civilian and military governments of Pakistan have suppressed various Baluchi movements with an iron fist.

In recent years Baluchistan has gained prominence because of its terrains and rough landscape- a perfect hiding place for terrorists. Its capital city Quetta is also the headquarters and hideout of the Taliban forces. Mullah Omar and his followers are believed to be in the area. Pakistan’s armed forces are reluctant to operate in many areas of Baluchistan because they know they do not have the support from the local people. The army shows a ruling class mentality which the local people resent. Baluchistan’s numerous ravines and terrains with resentment toward the Center provide an interesting mix and create a situation far beyond the control of the local people.

The Taliban groups from both sides of the Pakistan- Afghanistan border have been running back and forth between the two countries. Afghan and American military forces have been fighting them. The insurgents find a haven in Baluchistan. As a result American bombs have been hitting villages where the insurgents tend to hide. They hide in the midst of the civilian population and they drag some with them when they die. The governments of Afghanistan and the US have been trying to solve the Afghan problem. In recent months they have been trying to persuade Afghanistan’s Taliban elements to come to a discussion table and help find a solution. The Quetta Sura plays a strong role in it. However, the Sura members are beholden to Pakistan’s military. Even if the civilian government of President Zardari gives its consent to an American plan, nothing can be carried out without the green light given by the country’s military. And the military sees the Taliban forces fighting their government as a good thing.

The Obama Administration seems determined to get out of Afghanistan by 2014. However, keeping Afghanistan secured in the face of attacks by insurgent groups supported by the Pakistani military is a problem. So it is trying to bring all Parties of Afghanistan together to build a consensus. A stable Afghanistan under a civilian rule poses a threat to the Pakistani military as it fears being encircled. A civilian government in Afghanistan is more likely to follow India, an entrenched democracy rather than Pakistan whose democracy is often usurped and weak. Therefore, Pakistan’s military leaders on the surface agree to cooperate with the American effort but keep egging on the Afghan Taliban to fight their Government. The situation is so bad that many in the administration feel that without rooting out the insurgent bases within Pakistan a peace in Afghanistan is not possible. The Pakistani military protects the insurgents; it says one thing to the Obama Administration but does its own thing. In a way, the United States needs the help from Pakistan’s military to strengthen democracy in Afghanistan. The logic is oxymoronic but true.

The Quetta Sura based in Baluchistan is the biggest Taliban outfit which is protected by the Pakistani military. On the other hand there is a strong antigovernment sentiment in Baluchistan and the Bugti tribe, a dominant force in the region, has been opposed to a Pakistani rule from the beginning. In recent years the Baluchi people have brought their grievances of violence and atrocities by their government to the attention of the world at large. Many lawmakers in the United States have been moved by their stories. Pakistan’s military, to its surprise, is facing a tit for tat situation: While it helps instigate instability in Afghanistan it faces an ever strengthening separatist movement in Baluchistan. America’s support for the Baluchi people in their struggle for independence appears to be a constructive byproduct of its effort to strengthen democracy in general and in Afghanistan in particular. In recent months, the United States has made a” strategic bet” on India. It sees India as a powerhouse that would help keep peace and security in South Asia. To that end, a democratic Baluchistan and a much reduced Pakistan makes sense.

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