WASHINGTON DC, Feb 5, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Balochistan: Musharraf's Diagnosis, Treatment Destined to Kill the Patient

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

LONDON, February 5: Events in Balochistan are a manifestation of unfolding changes in the region in and around west of Pakistan. Pakistani rulers have been repeatedly urged to wake up from their deep slumber and sickening apathy towards a situation that was advertently developing into rendering our beloved homeland into a failed state on the verge of becoming yet another Yugoslavia.

All the saner warnings, appeals and protestations seem to have fallen on the stony ground and Pakistan under military heels is sliding towards a tragic denouement, especially when General Pervez Musharraf instead of curing the disease wants to kill the patient.

As the head of the institution that should have learnt a lesson from the tragedy of former East Pakistan on the basis of once bitten twice shy, he seems to be more power drunk than General Yahya Khan when he warned Pakistani Baloch compatriots that they would not know "what hit them" in offering solutions to their piled up grievances that include military cantonmentisation of the province and a sense of deprivation emanating from continued step-motherly treatment by
Islamabad.

Any student of history should be able to tell the Pakistani rulers that when a country ceases to manage itself, its borders also cease to exist. Islamabad's supposedly all-wise and all-knowing military establishment has rendered Pakistan into the "sick man" of the region, its waters are perpetually troubled and offer open invitation to all who want to catch the fish or claim their pound of flesh.

We being one of the most strategic pieces of the 21st century jigsaw of the great game as being packaged in the new gift wrap of Pax Americana, we are naturally getting embroiled in ominous circumstances that tempt many other powers in the region to seek some piece of territorial share that an ultimate Balkanization in our region would offer them as well.

Our independence has been rendered into a myth once again much in the same manner as it was done in the days of Ayub Khan allowing the United States to have bases in northern Pakistan that were used to fly its spy planes over the erstwhile Soviet Union or for that matter Pakistan under Zia when he sold the country for American "peanuts" to become Washington's frontline state in its Jihad against the Russians.

Now we are a frontline state for American jihad against those very jihadis who were waging Jihad for them in the eighties. In the process our own writ has ceased to exist, American agents man country's entry and exit points, our land has become a big base for their American military operations. Pakistani troops directly help US military fire at suspected terrorists hideouts inside Pakistan - a fact loudly appreciated and acknowledged in Washington by Colonel Cardon B. Crawford, the Director of Operations for the US military command in Afghanistan.

Pakistan letting its troops help American fire has been described as "a huge step forward" in the fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan border. While Washington has minced no bones about this "huge step-forward", Pakistan's Interior Minister has maintained Pakistan would only share information with the US relating to terror targets in tribal areas of the country but the US forces deployed in Afghanistan would never be allowed to hunt terrorists inside Pakistan.

Talking to reporters recently, the minister said as a leading partner of international alliance against terrorism, Pakistan had to share all information with the US-led peace force to destroy terrorist network in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas.

In the worsening situation when one does not know whether one is coming or going and in the light of various observations made by Pakistani and foreign geo-strategic experts about the lengthening shadow on Pakistan's future, one had expected that our military rulers who have been a parasite to the country, would realize sooner than later, that if something God forbid happens to Pakistan, they would lose the body on which they gloatingly feed themselves.

Being best attuned to the commando-instinct of survival as they are, they should grasp the gravity of the lethal Balochistan situation and get down to serious business of resolving it before it gets beyond them. They must know that they can buy some time for themselves by being pawn in the new great game but once their utility is over, they would be deposed to the dustbin of history as General Ziaul Haq was. For the time being they are much needed since Iran has to be sorted out, Afghanistan has a long way to go to stabilize, Iraq and Middle East continue to be on the boil.

Islamabad's failure to handle Balochistan as a domestic problem emanating from its sense of deprivation and exploitation has converted it into a bigger bone of multi-nation contention. Leading Pakistani analyst Dr Jaffer Hussain believes that the United States is latently opposed to "significant Chinese presence" in Balochistan and in future if an operation is conducted by the United States against Iran, (inevitable in the recent observation of Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker January 24, 2005), it would have a safe haven back line in Balochistan.

In the other view Pakistani scholar Zia Haider currently at the Stimson Center in Washington, believes that both Iran and India look at the Gwadar Port with disfavor and suspicion. They see it as a rival to Iran's Chahbahar Port that was built with Indian assistance and was meant to serve as Central Asia's conduit to warm waters. Gwadar would be a gateway to making Pakistan a new Center of trading activity among the energy-rich Gulf, Central Asia, Afghanistan and China, as well as provide the Pakistan Navy with strategic depth along its coastline.

It will also enable China to diversify its crude oil import routes and extend its presence in the Indian Ocean. Besides that, Haider believes Gwadar port fuels bitter discontent among local Baloch nationalists who believe that the benefits of the project will bypass them and who maintain longstanding grievances against Pakistan's federal government.

The port also presents a potentially irresistible target to Al Qaeda as payback for Pakistan's cooperation in the US-led war on terror. While Pakistan and China believe that the port will deliver significant economic and military gains, India, Iran, and the local Baloch view it as a potential threat to their economic interests and security, and Al Qaeda presumably rejects it as Pakistan's steppingstone to becoming a stronger, more prosperous state.

This reminds me of the days of late Shah of Iran when Iran-Pakistan enjoyed extra-ordinary relations since the inception of the country. They got consolidated during General Ayub's time to the extent that Iran served as Pakistan's strategic depth in those days. It is said that Pakistan Air Force's F-104s had found bases in Iran as a safe haven during 1965 war with India. We also received lot of spare for our planes from Teheran when Washington had imposed an embargo on supplies.

However, Shah was believed to be wary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's ambitions to make Pakistan self-sufficient in oil and other resources. He did not like Bhutto signing oil exploration deals with the Soviet Union to explore oil and gas reservoirs in Balochistan. Besides, he did not support Bhutto's idea of stronger OIC and ZAB's historic advice to the Oil producing Arab states to use oil as a weapon.

This led to the absence of the American policeman in the region at the famous historic Islamic Summit held in Lahore in 1974. Later his support to General Ziaul Haq following Bhutto's overthrow showed how annoyed he had been with ZAB. This fitted in the overall conspiracy against Bhutto who had staked his life to make Pakistan nuclear powerful and self-sufficient in oil etc.

Obviously a province as strategically placed as Balochistan with abundance in untapped natural resources, Islamabad's attitude towards it should not have been colonial and imperialistic. There is a consensus among commentators on the affairs in Balochistan that its alienation has entirely
been to the fact that it was not only treated as step-motherly but also kept out of the decision making process.

Indeed, no other province has been subjected to so many ruthless military inventions as Balochistan. The Balochs have reasons and past as a proof, to believe that they are being exploited, that they are being denied full economic benefits of their explored resources and that they are kept backward by design and policy.

In the Senate debate even Treasury Senator Munim Khan Baloch reiterated that harmony between the Center and provinces had never existed as Islamabad had always been imposing its decisions on the federating units. Such policies, he recalled, had resulted in the dismemberment of East Pakistan.

Time and again voices were raised to implore Islamabad to do something that could heal the Baloch wounds before it was too late. The fire was simmering over the years and now it has exploded into an inferno that threatens not only Balochistan but also the entire country.

It is in the grip of an armed insurgency. Pakistani newspapers are full of headlines every day of the bomb blasts, attacks on trains, military and other vital installations. Pakistan military is also out there to prove the warning of General Musharraf-hitting the people hard with its firepower. The Baloch rag tag self-styled Balochistan Liberation Army, so far treated as a big joke by the Pakistani military, is gaining in sinews of war and firepower.

Analysts commenting on their successful acts of subversion apprehend that they must be having some support from somewhere to make them stronger and more effective by the day. Dr Shirin Mazari believes that their "acts of sabotage are clearly not random but have careful planning behind them -- as well as a certain level of technical sophistication. And of course there is the very important financial aspect. All these indicators prove the strong external linkages to what is happening in Balochistan." Her views can also be taken as the views prevailing in Islamabad's corridor of power.

National consensus is bitterly opposed to military action; dialogue and reconciliation are supported as the best exit routes. This was also the considered view expressed in the Senate when a debate was initiated on Balochistan on Thursday (Feb. 3). No doubt the Opposition senators lashed out at Islamabad's handling of the Balochistan crisis, they also showed the way out through political dialogue for conceding greater provincial autonomy and handing over of all
provincial resources to the government of the province.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the parliamentary committee for reconciliation and solution of the Balochistan crisis, the main hurdle seems to be lack of trust and confidence between General Musharraf's government and the Baloch representatives. Latter have reservations. They charge that while there is little progress towards dialogue, every move is being countered by more emphasis for seeking a military solution.

If the General was sincere, he should stop blowing hot and stop accumulating troops in Balochistan. The consensus view among the Senators is that the claims made by the President, the prime minister or the military spokesperson that no military operation had been launched in Balochistan are false. In fact, Balochistan is being subjected to a full-scale military operation.

Obduracy needs to be buried deep down. Balochs are our brothers and they should not be treated step-motherly. In their prosperity lies greater national prosperity. They are too few in number and their needs can be satisfied fully with honesty of purpose. And it can be said with confidence that whatever is in excess of their needs can be used for the good of the rest of the country. In conclusion, if something untowardly happens to Balochistan, it would be a fatal blow to Pakistan. Let the people understand that by saving Balochistan they are actually saving Pakistan.

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