The Balochistan conflict is an ongoing conflict between Baloch nationalists and the government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan over Balochistan, the country’s largest province. Recently, separatists have also clashed with Islamic Republic of Iran over its respective Baloch region, which borders Pakistan. Shortly after Pakistan’s creation in 1947, the Army of the Islamic Republic had to subdue insurgents based in Kalat from attempting to secede in 1948 and 1958. The movement gained momentum during the 1960s, and amid consistent political disorder, the government ordered a military operation into the region in 1973, assisted by Iran, and inflicted heavy casualties on the separatists. The movement was largely quelled after the imposition of martial law in 1977, after which Balochistan witnessed significant development. After insurgency groups again mushroomed in the 1990s and 2000s, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the war in North-West Pakistan exacerbated the conflict, most recently manifested in the killings of non-Baloch settlers in the province by separatists since 2006.
Area of dispute
Historical Balochistan comprised the Balochistan region. Its western region was the southern part of Sistan o Baluchestan province, Iran. In the east was Pakistani Balochistan. In the northwest the Helmand province of Afghanistan. The Gulf of Oman formed its southern border. Although historical Balochistan is the largest (44% of the country’s area) region of Pakistan, it is the least populated (only 5% of the population) and the least developed area.
There are four distinct parties involved and affected by this conflict:
- Central government of Pakistan (since 1948)
- Government of Iran (since 2003)
- People of the Iranian region
- Sardars (Tribal chiefs)of Pakistani region
First conflict 1948 (led by Prince Abdul karim khan)
In April 1948, Baloch nationalists claim that the central government sent the Pakistan army, which allegedly forced Mir Ahmed Yar Khan to give up his state, Kalat. Kalat was a landlocked British protectorate that comprised roughly 22%–23% of Balochistan. Mir Ahmed Yar Khan signed an accession agreement ending Kalat’s de facto independence. His brother, Prince Abdul Karim Khan, was a powerful governor of a section of Kalat, a position that he was removed from after accession. He decided to initiate an insurgency against Pakistan. On the night of May 16, 1948 Prince Abdul Karim Khan initiated a separatist movement against the Pakistani government. He conducted guerrilla warfare based in Afghanistan against the Pakistan army.
The prince invited the leading members of nationalist political parties—the Kalat State National Party, the Baloch League, and the Baloch National Workers Party — to join him in the struggle for the creation of an independent “Greater Balochistan.
Second conflict 1958–59 (led by Nawab Nowroz Khan)
Nawab Nowroz Khan took up arms in resistance to the One Unit policy, which decreased government represenation for tribal leaders. He and his followers started a guerrilla war against Pakistan. Noroz khan & followers were charged with treason and arrested and confined in Hyderabad jail. Five of his family members (sons and nephews) were subsequently hanged under charges of aiding murder of Pakistani troops and treason. Nawab Nowroz Khan later died in captivity.
Third conflict 1963–69 (led by Nawab Khair Baksh marri)
After the second conflict, the Federal government sent the Army to build new military bases in the key conflict areas of Balochistan in order to resist further chaos. Nawab Khair Baksh marri appointed an unknow shero marri to lead like-minded militants in guerrilla warfare by creating their own insurgent bases spread out over 45,000 miles (72,000 km) of land, from the Mengal tribal area in the south to the Marri and Bugti tribal areas in the north. Their goal was to force Pakistan to share revenue generated from the Sui gas fields with the tribal leaders. The insurgents bombed railway tracks and ambushed convoys. The Army retaliated by destroying vast areas of the Marri tribe’s land. This insurgency ended in 1969 and the Baloch separatists agreed to a ceasefire. Yahya Khan abolished the “One Unit” policy. This eventually led to the recognition of Balochistan as the fourth province of West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) in 1970, containing all the Balochistani princely states, the High Commissioners Province and Gwadar, an 800 km2 coastal area purchased by the Pakistani Government from Oman.
Fourth conflict 1973–77 (led by Nawab Khair Baksh Marri)
In 1972, major political parties from a wide spectrum of political ideology united against the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (the then President of Pakistan) and formed the National Awami Party (NAP). They demanded more representation for the ethnic Baloch in the government. This allegedly did not sit well with Bhutto’s approach, as he did not want his party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), to face strong opposition in Balochistan and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
In February 1973, in the presence of news media in Islamabad, the police opened a consignment of Iraqi diplomatic pouches containing arms, ammunition and guerrilla warfare literature. The Pakistani intelligence agencies claimed these arms were en route to the Baloch (Marri) insurgents of Balochistan, contrary to Iraqi claims that the materials were meant for insurgents in Iran. Citing treason, PresidentBhutto dismissed the provincial governments of Balochistan and NWFP and imposed martial law in those provinces. Dismissal of the provincial governments led to armed insurgency. Khair Bakhsh Marri formed the Balochistan People’s Liberation Front (BPLF), which led large numbers of Marri and Mengal tribesmen into guerrilla warfare against the central government. According to some authors, the Pakistani military lost 300 to 400 soldiers during the conflict with the Balochi separatists, while between 7,300 and 9,000 Balochi militants and civilians were killed. Bhutto was deposed by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1977, and the conflict formally ended when new martial law administrator General Rahimuddin Khan declared general amnesty for belligerents willing to give up arms. Shortly thereafter, Rahimuddin oversaw a complete military withdrawal. He ruled Balochistan for a decade, during which Balochistan was the most stable, economically and politically, in all of its history.
Fifth conflict 2004 – to date (led by Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri)
In 2005, the Baluch political leaders Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri presented a 15-point agenda to the Pakistan government. Their stated demands included greater control of the province’s resources and a Moratorium on the construction of military bases.
On 15 December 2005, Inspector-General of Frontier Corps Maj Gen Shujaat Zamir Dar and his deputy Brig Salim Nawaz (the current IGFC) were wounded after shots were fired at their helicopter in Balochistan province. The provincial interior secretary later said that “both of them were wounded in the leg but both are in stable condition.” The two men had been visiting Kohlu, about 220 km (135 miles) south-east of Quetta, when their aircraft came under fire. The helicopter landed safely.
In August 2006, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, 79 years old, was killed in fighting with the Pakistan Army in which at least 60 Pakistani soldiers and 7 officers were killed. He was charged by Pakistan’s government of a series of bomb blasts, killings of the people he professed to protect (the Baloch in a series of bomb blasts and tribal genocide against rivaling Baloch tribes in Bugti territory) and the rocket attack on the President Pervez Musharraf.
In April 2009, Baloch National Movement president Ghulam Mohammed Baloch and two other nationalist leaders (Lala Munir and Sher Muhammad), were seized from a small legal office and were allegedly “handcuffed, blindfolded and hustled into a waiting pickup truck which is in still use of intelligence forces in front of their lawyer and neighboring shopkeepers.”The gunmen were allegedly speaking in Persian (a national language of neighboring Afghanistan and Iran) Five days later on April 8 their bodies, “riddled with bullets” were found in a commercial area.The BLA claims Pakistani forces were behind the killings, though international experts have deemed it odd that the Pakistani forces,, would be careless enough to allow the bodies to be found so easily and ‘light Balochistan on fire’ (Herald) if they were truly responsible. The discovery of the bodies sparked “rioting and weeks of strikes, demonstrations and civil resistance” in cities and towns around Balochistan. (See Turbat killings).
On August 12, 2009, Khan of Kalat Mir Suleiman Dawood declared himself ruler of Balochistan and formally made announcement of a Council for Independent Balochistan. The Council’s claimed domain includes “Baloch of Iran”, as well as Pakistani Balochistan, but does not include Afghani Baloch regions,and the Council contains “all separatist leaders including Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti.” He claims that “the UK had a moral responsibility to raise the issue of Balochistan’s illegal occupation at international level.”
Foreign support for Baluch rebels
Pakistan has repeatedly accused India of supporting the Baluch rebels in order to destabilize the country. India has however categorically denied the allegations on its part, stating that no concrete evidence has been provided. The facts are controversial, but Pakistan still continues to insist. Iran has repeatedly accused America of supporting Jundullah. After his capture, Jundullah leader Abdulmalek Rigi confirmed these allegations. The US has however denied this.
Baluchi rebels in Pakistan are said to receive major support from the Taliban in Afghanistan. In the 1980s the CIA, the Iraqi Intelligence Service, Pakistani Sunni extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and the Mujahedin e-Kalq all supported a Baluchi tribal uprising against Iran.
Selig S. Harrison of the George Soros funded Center for International Policy has been calling for dividing Pakistan and supporting an independent Baluch province as a means to thwart growing relations between Islamabad and Beijing, as Pakistan has given China a base at Gwadar.
The biggest attacks of the terrorist group Jundallah in Iran
- 2007 Zahedan bombings: 18 people were killed.
- 2009 Zahedan bombing: 20 people were killed.
- 2009 Pishin bombing: 43 people were killed.
- July 2010 Zahedan bombings: 27 people were killed.
- 2010 Chabahar suicide bombing: 38 people were killed.
Among the deaths in the Pishin bombings were two Iranian Revolutionary Guards generals: Noor Ali Shooshtari, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ ground forces and Rajab Ali Mhammadzadeh, the Revolutionary Guards’ Sistan and Baluchistan provincial commander.
Steps are being taken for industrialization of the province and industrial zones are planned along the new Gawadar-Karachi highway. This development is envisaged to bring accelerated progress in the future for the Baloch. Steps are also being taken to boost Balochistan’s small agricultural sector and to provide incentives to Balochi farmers.Progress in this sector has been repeatedly restricted by the BLA. On the third of May 2004 Three Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project that would enable irrigation for poor Baloch farmers as part of Pakistani government’s initiatives to develop Baloch agricultural capacity were killed while another 11 injured in a car bomb attack by BLA. China called back her engineers working on the project in Balochistan. The progress in the hydro-power sector has been slow since then. However , the people of the region have been largely forced to maintain a nomadic lifestyle due to extreme poverty, illiteracy and inability to respond to changing modern environment. The indigenous people are continuously threatened by war and other means of oppression which has resulted in loss of thousands of innocent lives for many years. Presently, according to Amnesty International, Baluch activists, politicians and student leaders are among those that are being targeted in forced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrests and cases of torture and other ill-treatment. The resources of the local inhabitants such as natural gas, minerals, oceans and others have been used to fulfill the energy demands for the industrialization of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Due to these circumstances, the local inhabitants of the region remain incapable of supporting infrastructure. Skill is imported from other regions, thus undermining the local inhabitants even further. Previously, Baluch and Sindhi people had been the indigenous people of the city Karachi in Sindh but after the partition of India large number of immigrants were settled in Karachi thus isolating the local inhabitants to ghettos known for its low standard of life while more advanced locations such as Defence are developed for military and religious elite. The locals are often provided madrasahs as a source of education funded by foreigner and Pakistani religious organizations in order to distort the Baluch perspective and encourage fundamental Islamic ideologies for which the Baloch people are completely new and openly reject such values. The land of local inhabitants are reported to have been sold to Arabs to strengthen Pakistan’s relations with its allies. The Karachi city has been playing a key role as a financial hub for Pakistan as a seaport and continuous to be a home for ethnic and sectarian violence while indigenous people were traditionally secular. These events are not reported in the media of their modern geography and rejection is met with harsh Islamic laws and other oppressive tactics. Mir Suleiman Dawood claims that the people in Balochistan remain deeply resentful of Pakistan’s policies in the region and he,apart from other,rather militant,Baloch nationalist organizations have openly called for India’s assistance in Balochistan’s separation from Pakistan. On August 12, 2009, Khan of Kalat Mir Suleiman Dawood declared himself ruler of Balochistan and formally made announcement of a Council for Independent Balochistan. The Council’s claimed domain includes “Baloch of Iran”, apart fron Pakistani Balochistan,but does not include Afghani Baloch regions,and the Council contains “all separatist leaders including Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti.”.
Forced disappearances in Balochistan
There are more than 5,000 cases of ‘forced disappearances’ in Balochistan. The chief Justice of an apex court of Pakistan asked about the situation and said situation was going out of control in Balochistan.
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