At Quetta conference, politicos sing generals hymn of RAW

At Quetta conference, politicos sing generals hymn of RAW
Ahmar Mustikhan

RAW – this was the word on the lips of Pakistan officials who attended an All Parties Conference in Quetta that was convened by the army’s handpicked chief minister Abdul Malik on Monday. Pakistan army chief, General Raheel Sharif, who reportedly engineered a soft coup denuding Premier Nawaz Sharif of most of his executive powers, was in attendance. Also in attendance was ISI chief Lt General Rizwan Akhtar.

The APC was convened after the United Baloch Army owned responsibility for the killing of 22 Pashtun bus passengers traveling from Pishin to Karachi Friday. Pakistan accuses the new chief of the Marri tribe, Mehran Marri, of being the UBA chief and named him in a first information report. However, Mr Marri condemned the incident. “Vile Pakistanis say I’m behind #MastungAttack on Pushtuns. U shd know my mom is Pushtun 4m Pishin, home of the victims killed by ISI goons,” he tweeted.

In an interview with BBC, former chief minister Sardar Ataullah Mengal rubbished the stance of the Deep State and said he could not say for sure if RAW was involved or not but asked the Pakistani security services to own responsibility for what they have themselves been doing in Balochistan for all these years. He also sarcastically tweeted on the APC. The message of his tweet was Balochistan’s land area is 347,190 square kilometers, which forms 43 percent of Pakistan’s land mass; Baloch faced five military operations five military operations and 68 years of torment and the rulers in Islamabad and their toadies in Quetta hold one-and-half hour APC to resolve the issues. “What generosity,” his tweet reads.

The tragicomedy today on the world stage called Pakistan is largely because of Pakistan generals own making – their blunders, greed, and lust for power. These army generals, who have pushed their nation to the brink of becoming a failed state, have created a bigger bloody mess in Balochistan, the strategically located resources and mineral powerhouse, than anywhere else in the country. The generals have kept an iron grip on Balochistan politics-- a territory that never wanted to become part of the Pakistani federation-- even during periods they made space for civilians to rule the other three provinces for nearly seven decades now.

At the same time, the Deep State – a conglomeration of the top generals, intelligence services and security related officials-- continues to blame foreign nations for fomenting unrest in Balochistan. In an unusual move, early May, the army top brass collectively blamed India for the mess they themselves have created in Balochistan. A press release of the Inter-Services Public Relations following the Corps Commanders met at the Rawalpindi GHQ said “The conference also took serious notice of RAW’s involvement in whipping up terrorism in Pakistan.”

Pakistan defense minister Khawaja Asif went a step further and alleged that Baloch leaders travel internationally on Indian passports, according to a report in Daily Intekhab.

Balochistan seems to be giving the top Pakistan army brass and the old boys network in dominant Punjab province an adrenalin rush but their actions to crush the aspirations for independence have so far backfired . The army strategy in Balochistan is to use ruthless and barbaric measures. To crush the local demands for independence, the security forces have turned Balochistan into a no-go area for both domestic and foreign media, have promote loyalist death squads like it did in the erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and have strengthened wahabi Islamic extremist organizations to counter the liberation movement.

Earlier during a visit to Quetta April 15, army chief General Raheel Sharif had used a more generic term when he “warned foreign states, intelligence agencies against trying to destabilize Pakistan by supporting terrorists in Balochistan.” General Sharif visited Quetta just four days after the Balochistan Liberation Front, led by gold medal-winning gynecologist Dr Allah Nazar, killed 20 workers working on a strategic bridge that forms the part of the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The CPEC is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Maritime Silk Road plan to connect Balochistan port of Gwadar with Kashgar in China, both as a commercial and strategic project.

The CPEC project appears to be highly unrealistic and the Baloch demanding freedom say Gwadar port becoming operational under Pakistani control will wipe them out of the face of earth.

 The Baloch resolution not to allow the CPEC is likely to create more nightmares for the army, and more accusations of Indian involvement, especially since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to Beijing last month expressed his displeasure on the CPEC. The NATO powers, specially the US, also will not appreciate China’s control of the Straits of Hormuz by their presence at the Gwadar naval base. Pakistan suspects even the Gulf countries such as Oman and UAE are not happy over what is happening at Gwadar.

It is not only Chinese, Baloch freedom fighters or Sarmachars say they will not let any foreign investors loot their land in the name of development. Many powers, including Russia, want to step into Balochistan. Last month an important tribal chieftain was killed for assisting with oil and gas explorations in Kalat. The Baloch Liberation Army owned responsibility for killing the chief of the Shahwani tribe Sardar Ghulam Murtaza Shahwani, who was member of the Kalat district council, according to Daily Sangar newspaper.  

“On instructions from the state (of Pakistan) Sardar Shahwani was assisting companies involved in oil and gas exploration by taking undue advantage of his high tribal status,” Meerak Baloch, BLA spokesperson said on satellite phone. “He was warned not to engage in such activities. But he did not pay any heed so our Sarmachars removed him.” 

Military might and crushing dissent in Balochistan go hand in hand. The first martial law in the country announced by Iskandar Mirza on October 7, 1958, followed by military tke over of the reins of the country 20 days later by General Ayub Khan, came in the wake of reports that the Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmadyar Khan was ready to announce divorce of Balochistan from Pakistan. Despite the presence of their heavy boots in Balochistan, like any colonial power the army generals know very little about Balochistan; they call the natives “Balochi” instead of “Baloch,” a recent tweet by army spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa showed. Balochi is actually the language but the people after whom Balochistan is named are called Baloch.

A main problem in Balochistan is the chief minister, Abdul Malik, who has no standing in the freedom camp now.  Malik Siraj Akbar, Edward Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, writes in the Huffington Post: “Dr. Abdul Malik, Sharif’s handpicked chief executive in Balochistan, mislead Islamabad in order to become the chief minister after the general elections of 2013. He took advantage of Sharif’s ignorance about the dynamics and the key players of the conflict in Balochistan and told Sharif that he was so connected in Balochistan that he could bring all the insurgents to the negotiation table.” Akbar says Sharif selected a man who over promised to him and the army that he would end the insurgency.

Senior journalist Zahid Hussain echoed what Mengal said. Hussain writes in Dawn, “It is surely convenient for the government and the security agencies to put the entire blame for the insurgency on Indian and other foreign intelligence agencies. It may be true that insurgents receive support and funding from outside. But Baloch discontent is rooted in years of deprivation of political and economic rights.”

The flawed thinking of the army generals was reflected by senior TV commentator Dr Shahid Masood who said Baloch lawmakers are genetically RAW and eight bullets should be pumped in the heads of Baloch separatists. Mengal and journalist Hussain views matched with what  Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval said last month. Doval tweeted, “#Balochistan Insurgency , Should Have Been Settled Politically. But Has Become Complicated , Due To UnDue Use Of Force By #Pakistan.” So are Mengal and Hussain RAW agents as well?

Journalist who has worked as copy editor, reporter, opinion writer, news analyst in newsrooms in Pakistan, the UAE and the US. Focus of writings on Balochistan, Islamic extremism, environment, and persecution of Hindus and Christians in Pakistan. Oddly, I have had three nationalities: Burmese, Pakistani and American. Firmly believe I should also have a fourth one called Balochistan and am writing for it everyday, even Sundays.
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