Sunday, January 30, 2005

PAKISTAN: Will Army Invade Balochistan as per the NIC-CIA Plan?

+ Balochi militants want to convey to General Musharraf that they are
not "Bingos" (Bengali Muslims) who had no traditions of taking up
arms or knew using them as compared to them when their child learns
to wield the gun much before he gets his teeth. It may be recalled
that just three weeks ago Pakistan's overconfident President General
Musharraf had warned them much in the similar jingoistic language
that General Yahya had used when declaring war against the Bengali
population in East Pakistan. +


Will Pakistan Army Invade Balochistan as per the NIC-CIA Plan?

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

LONDON, January 29: It seems that our rulers, having learnt no
lesson, stand condemned to repeat the same criminal blunders that
converted Pakistan's most populated province into an independent
state following the surrender of the Pakistani generals to the Indian
army. That was December 1971.

Now 34 years later Pakistan has drifted into a similar situation in
its biggest province. We had then, as now, a power drunk general
heading an equally obdurate military coterie that would not listen to
voices of reason, pleadings of political and saner elements for a
democratic settlement according to the electoral verdict of the
majority. Rest is history.

Balochistan today is facing a similar military operation as of
erstwhile East Pakistan. President General Musharraf has cast the
die. Not only a full-fledged military operation with all its fire and
fury has been launched though denied by his media minions, the most
deplorable rape of a doctor allegedly by army personnel, seems to
have plunged a proud people into an irreparable and irreversible
grief and a struggle that would be bloody with horrendous

Just when I sat down to write this piece I had before me four
disturbing but relevant news items. The first one was the blasting of
gas pipelines taking natural gas from Sui to the city of Lahore and
many more around it. It was the second major blow to the
infrastructure after the bombing of the plant in Balochistan.

The second item was regarding bombing of a rail track by terrorists
near the Mushkaf Railway Station, about 85 kilometers from Quetta on
Thursday, delaying all trains to and from Quetta. The latest attack
came a day after the military authorities announced a plan to set up
a cantonment in the area to protect gas installations.

Earlier, the railway authorities had stopped all train movements at
night in the Balochistan after a railway bridge was blown up. An
explosion on Saturday had hit the same track. According to the
official version, some terrorists had initially opened indiscriminate
firing to create panic and harassment in the area and then exploded
the bomb. Now the authorities have also deployed armed personnel at
all important bridges and tunnels to protect train tracks and to
ensure a safe train travel in the province.

In a related development, a rocket landed near an electrical grid
station in Sibi, about 150 kilometers from Quetta late Wednesday, but
there was no damage. However, independent sources claimed that they
had heard three blasts.

The third news item relates to the statement of the Chief of the
Jamhoori Watan Party Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. He has ruled out any
possibility of talks on the Sui crisis unless the issue of assault on
a lady doctor is sorted out since, according to him, the atmosphere
is not conducive for talks at that hour. Nawab Bugti told newsmen:
"Such incidents do not take place in our land. It has become a matter
of deep concern for the Baloch people."

Bugti also accused the authorities of making attempts at various
levels to hush up the rape probe while not registering the FIR
against those involved. He pointed out that it was only after the
ugly incident, which angered the local people, that the Sui gas field
was attacked.

In return, Nawab Bugti alleged, the government bombed the area,
killing five people including women and children and leaving 32
wounded. Bugti does not hope much of truth to come out of the
government inquiry. Bugti disclosed that he and his people were in "a
semi-war like situation imposed on us by the center".

When asked if other local tribes would side with the Bugtis in case
hostilities broke out, the Baloch leader said: "Only time will tell".
As regards government's move to set up a military cantonment in the
Sui area, Nawab Bugti believes that the people would resist such an
'occupation' of their land. He said that like the people of Kashmir
and Palestine, the Baloch people were seeking their legitimate

The fourth news items, in the same context, is the statement of the
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani. He has
demanded convening of a joint session of the Parliament to discuss
what he said the 'grim and volatile situation' in Balochistan. In his
statement Mian Raza Rabbani asked the ruler to heed the writing on
the wall and not take the situation in Balochistan lightly. The
regime must find a political solution through dialogue rather than
hurling threats and warnings like it is not 70's. "Brute force has
never solved complex political issues. Hurling threats will only
exacerbate an already volatile situation."

Besides demanding a debate before the Joint Session of the Parliament
both the major political parties, the PPP and PML-N, have conveyed
their refusal to attend the so-called all parties conference convened
by the MQM. They believe that it is a veiled attempt by a government
coalition party to subvert independent movement to save Balochistan
from becoming yet another victim of the oppressive military rulers.

The writing on the wall is crystal clear. It spells doom and disaster
especially when the military establishment is hell-bent on creating a
law and order situation to enable it to establish army cantonments in
a province that is being described by it as the last of terrorist

The Pakistani generals religiously believe that by setting up new
cantonments they can get a foothold for their operations in a
particular territory. Besides that, they get an excuse to acquire
local expensive lands to establish the cantonments that include
housing complexes for the generals and officers doled out to them at
throw away prices.

Setting up new cantonments obviously is the part of military
establishment's brainchild of converting Pakistan into a garrison
state. Recent developments including increasing acts of sabotage
owned by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has confirmed military
plans to build one of three new bases in Balochistan at the massive
Sui gas fields. This decision has added fuel to the already simmering
fire of discontent in the province and its tribal leaders and
militant nationalists are reacting angrily.

They have been forewarning that the inferno that is being ignited by
the military will spread and become a bigger conflagration. The
bombing of railway tracks and other growing acts of subversion in
which the insurgents have been using rockets and heavy gunfire,
targeting the Pakistan Army and strategic installations, are attempts
at disrupting infrastructures in the area and to warn Islamabad of
their capacity to indulge in more serious violence.

Besides that, Balochi militants want to convey to General Musharraf
that they are not "Bingos" (Bengali Muslims) who had no traditions of
taking up arms or knew using them as compared to them when their
child learns to wield the gun much before he gets his teeth. It may
be recalled that just three weeks ago Pakistan's overconfident
President General Musharraf had warned them much in the similar
jingoistic language that General Yahya had used when declaring war
against the Bengali population in East Pakistan.

Musharraf had warned the Baloch militants they would not know "what
hit them" unless they stopped fighting. This warning has seen a chain
reaction starting with the ferocious mortar attack on the security
forces at the Sui Gas fields/installations. These clashes lasted
several days and led to massive disruption of supplies to industries
and homes. Many areas in Pakistan still have rationed supply of Sui
gas despite the fact that the army was immediately moved in to secure
supplies and protect installations.

Some political elements in the Musharraf government are seized of the
gravity of the situation and they have tried to hold sort of talks
with the recognized Baloch leadership, of course without success. The
Baloch leaders do not like the way Islamabad wants to militarily
handle the situation. They would like to sit across the table and
hold dialogue with the government but not at the cost of their own
interests or pride.

They are absolutely justified in demanding that the military posing
as an occupation force should withdraw from their area, cancel and
cease building the planned cantonments. Only then, tribal leaders
say, can both sides discuss the Balochi nationalists' demands for
more autonomy, a greater share of the wealth from the province's rich
mineral reserves and more investment in development and employment.

As a student of history what is disturbing me is the adoption of that
diction for discussing Balochistan by the columnists and media
commentators in Pakistan that is used mostly in dealing issues such
Kashmir and Palestine. I find the term "confidence building measures"
now being excessively used to urge for a dialogue between Islamabad
and Balochi leaders, conceding by implication, that the two parties
represent two independent states.

I used to get some feedback on the war in 1971 from a friend working
in a senior position in Rawalpindi's Inter Services Public Relations
Department. His answer to my "how is the situation" question used to
be "Don't worry, everything is going according to plan". When it was
over, I realised that everything had happened "according to the

The Generals had planned it that way and so it happened. It is
another story that my friend in the ISPR who was definitely more
honorable than others, could not take the humiliation. He died soon
after Dhaka's fall.

This brings out of me the apprehension: are our military rulers
working on an a similar agenda or something that has been laid out
for them in the various assessment reports over the years by the
National Intelligence Council (NIC) in joint collaboration with CIA.
It was poor Miraj Khalid who as interim prime minister in early 1997
had dared to confide to the Pakistanis that CIA had forecast
Pakistan's denouement by the year 2015.

In the previous edition of its Global Futures assessment the NIC
report cast a dark shadow on Pakistan's future five years ago. It
said that by the year 2015 Pakistan would be a failed state, ripe
with civil war, bloodshed, inter-provincial rivalries and a struggle
for control of its nuclear weapons and its complete Talibanization.
It had predicted, "Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of
political and economic mismanagement, divisive policies, lawlessness,
corruption and ethnic friction.

Nascent democratic reforms will produce little change in the face of
opposition from an entrenched political elite and radical Islamic
parties. Further domestic decline would benefit Islamic political
activists, who may significantly increase their role in national
politics and alter the makeup and cohesion of the military, once
Pakistan's most capable institution.

In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the central government's
control probably will be reduced to the Punjabi heartland and the
economic hub of Karachi."

Indeed, General Musharraf's "good governance", his "democracy", his
"achievements", his war against Islamic terrorists, his handling of
Kashmir issue, his voluntary surrender of the UN granted right of
self-determination and his packing off Dr AQ Khan and Pakistan's
nuclear program for which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto preferred martyrdom,
his support to Mullas to become a formidable parliamentary force, are
feats performed by him in his line of duty as blueprinted in above
quotation from NIC Report.

Never before in the history of Pakistan did we have so much of
sectarian violence as during the last five years. Inter-provincial
rivalries are bursting at their seams on the water issue. There is
widespread discontent in Sindh. Now Balochistan is asking for its
fair share in the revenues from its natural gas and the Praetorian
establishment is about to launch a genocidal operation to teach the
proud Balochs a lesson.

The NIC has released its new report recently. It devotes to the
global threat posed by terrorism and the dangers associated with
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It, perhaps, has a role
for Osama Bin Laden since in one of its future scenarios it seriously
discusses the possibilities of the re-establishment of the Islamic
Khilafah Hizb Tehrir-style.

It has forecast the possibility of the next Indo-Pakistan war and
probable use of nuclear weapons in that conflict from boom to doom.
It has made interesting observations about the future growth of both
India and China and their global role.

In the context of Balochistan, one would like to refer back to the
2015 NIC report. It forecast a Yugoslavia-like fate for Pakistan. The
military operation that has been put in motion would further distance
Baloch people from rest of the country. That perhaps is the plan.
This brings me to an interesting observation in a book by Abul Maali
Syed "The Twin Era of Pakistan-Democracy and Dictatorship" (1992).
The caption of his First Chapter is 2006 and its opening para is as
follows: "Who would have believed that Balochistan, once the
least-populated and poorest province of Pakistan, would become
independent and the third richest oil-producing country after Saudi
Arabia and Kuwait".

One cannot but appreciate and acknowledge the insight of AM Syed and
his premonitory observation. The entire chapter is devoted to what he
describes as an independent state of Balochistan. In the light of his
detached view (Syed was in Canada at the time of writing his book and
I believe his book is banned in Pakistan) and the events that have
taken place in the country since 1992 and what is being unleashed on
Balochistan by the military, one can only pray, with no disrespect to
Syed, that his academic premonition does not come true.

Although there are many observers who look confident in predicting
Pakistan's future as a foregone conclusion but being a proverbial
optimist I believe that though late the situation can still be
retrieved. The ongoing crisis of identity confounded by the Mullah
interpretations, need to be buried deep down by reverting back to
Quaid's dream of a secular, democratic and federal

The Praetorian establishment shall have to be told enough is enough,
its concept of unity of command can be good for the military ranks
but not for the working of a democratic society with complete freedom
for dissent and socio-economic justice for all.

The Balochistan issue must be debated in a joint session of the
Parliament. There is the utmost urgency to sort it out through
negotiations and dialogue and at no stage should the military be
used. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could resolve the tricky issue of the
quantum of provincial autonomy in 1973 and give the country a
consensus constitution, why cannot it be done again?

That being the least, relations with Iran heating up and with
Pakistani military likely to get a substantive role in Bush's future
anti-Iran operations, General Musharraf needs to be advised to seek
broad based national consensus with genuine political leaders like
Benazir Bhutto to collectively steer the country minimally scathed
from a situation where even angels shall fear to
tread. To meet outside challenges, we have to forge internal unity.

The writer is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK