Thursday, March 26, 2009

Muddling Balochistan by Zaresh Khan

Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan just 100 kms from the Afghan frontier, has been a magnet for the Afghans fleeing fighting and drought for over two decades. After 9/11, the city has once again become the center of the Taliban activities (as alleged). Mullah Omar, supreme leader of the Talibans and Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in May 2007, were regular visitors to the city. But President Musharraf earlier and President Zardari Presently rejected all these reports saying that Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders publicly deny any government ties to militant groups. The President had claimed that American CIA and ISI jointly operated in Quetta and during their presence; it is not possible for the Talibans to make the city their safe heaven. Later the American officials agreed that there is no concrete proof of presence of Mullah Omar or the Talibans in Quetta. They further said that it is unlikely that top officials in Islamabad are coordinating the clandestine efforts. However, Chinese activities in Gwadar have made some discomfort in Washington. Geo-strategically and economically speaking, Balochistan is a very important province of Pakistan. It commands vast natural resources in its soil and its surrounding areas, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries are also rich in natural resources. But many of these countries are landlocked and Balochistan is their route to the sea and the world. Now keeping in mind the economic and strategic significance of Balochistan, the proposed drone attacks on Quetta will be a threat to the strategic interests of not only Pakistan but also of other players particularly the United States of America.

America is interested in the Balochistan’s oil and gas reserves and wants to establish its influence in the province just to take benefits when the resources would come into utilization and these resources will help America fight the economic set back, which it is experiencing presently. In addition, America has concerns about Iranian influence over the Baloch tribes. America wants to reduce this influence because in case of any action against Iran, it does not face hard resistance from Balochistan. According to some in house moles, in order to reduce the Iranian influence in Balochistan, America is funding anti-Shia groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Balochistan. This is true that by creating unrest in Balochistan, America will be able to counter Chinese presence in Gwadar as it does not want China to be anywhere near its military bases in the Gulf area but the point to ponder here is that even if somehow America succeeds in achieving the above-mentioned aims by creating unrest in Balochistan i.e. by carrying out drone attacks, the repercussions will be so severe that it won’t be possible for America to handle them. For instance, people of Balochistan are already very enthusiastic that they will not care for the bloodshed but will fight the American intrusion with fidelity and courage. This means that as soon as America launches the Drone Attacks inside Balochistan, the anti-US sentiments will flare up and many reactionary groups will emerge. These reactionary groups will cause severe damage not only to the American war on terrorism but will also create civil war like problems for the government of Pakistan. The War on Terrorism will cross the boundaries of Afghanistan and America will soon loose its frontline state in the WOT i.e. Pakistan. And the major problem, which America will face, is that NATO supply trucks reach Afghanistan through Pakistan’s province of Balochistan. After the Drone attacks, the NATO supply line will not be safe and just like the economy of America, the WOT will face a ruthless blow. And this blow will be so rough that it might bring an end to the American super power and hegemony. Thus America needs to reconsider its choice of Drone attacks in Balochistan.
What the Americans can do is that they can provide Pakistan with concrete evidence about the whereabouts and activities of Talibans inside Balochistan. Pakistan is a responsible nation and is the frontline state in the war against terrorism. Islamabad once provided with evidence will act responsibly and will come up with affirmative results. This is a more constructive way of countering the terrorism threat rather than the destructive Drone attacks proposal. Moreover in the very beginning Pakistan proposed that the Turkhum-Shorawak border be fenced to control the Taliban infiltration inside Balochistan but at that time, Washington and Kabul both gave strong resistance. America needs to reconsider this option. Further, the system of Rahadari (permit) should be enforced, which means that any person who wants to cross the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has to seek permission from both sides. This will help in keeping check on the people crossing the border. Last but not the least another important player in Balochistan-Afghanistan dilemma is India. In Feb. 2009, the American official, John Solecki, the head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Quetta, was abducted about 8 a.m. as he and his driver, Syed Hashim were on their way to the United Nations’ local offices in Quetta. No one claimed the responsibility of this Hideous act but according to sources and investigations, this act was committed by BLA. It is a known truth that terrorist organizations like BLA is funded and trained by RAW. The recent course reveals that the innocent abducted UN official is being kept as a hostage in Afghanistan. So instead of bulldozing Pakistan government and maligning the name of Law Enforcing Agencies, the international community, specifically United States of America should nip the evil in the bud. Instead of launching Drone attacks on Quetta, America should compel India to give up its notorious desires in the region, only then the menace of terrorism can be eliminated.

There are many multiple problems in the social, economic and administrative setup of Balochistan. Balochistan has a history of conflicts and insurgencies with the stakes of the external players. The United States should not repeat the same mistakes that have led to billions of dollars being squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tactful approach is required to fight the menace of Terrorism rather than opting for abrupt moves.

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