How Pakistan is unleashing a genocide in Balochistan

Instead of looking within for the bloody mess, the army, ISI and military intelligence are blaming "foreign states, intelligence agencies".

 |  6-minute read |   16-04-2015
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Latest news reports from Pakistan say the country's omnipotent army is planning to extend the so-called Operation Zarb-i-Azb to Balochistan. The country's most powerful man army chief General Raheel Sharif, whose official bio pompously says he hails from a "racial stock" - though this term was used by Great Britain for Raj royalists who fought against their own people -- was in Quetta, capital of Balochistan to finalise  the details. The army chief also had a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who just has to say yes to his whims and wishes if he wants to remain glued to a largely ceremonial official position for another three years. In pictures of the two Sharifs together, it is clear the general is the main Sharif as he keeps a solemn look while premier Sharif is seen smiling, just like any subordinate has to put up a smiling face before a serious boss.

Spokesperson for the army, Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa, announced on Twitter (@AsimBajwaISPR) that army chief met with the two other generals in uniform, commander of the Southern Command Lieutenant General Nasir Khan Janjua - General Shareef's fellow Muslim Rajput and hence also of "martial stock"-- and the inspector general of the Frontier Corps Major General Sher Afgan. The real power has traditionally lied in military cantonments of Balochistan and countless torture chambers run under the supervision of the generals, rather than any civilian office or even the elected assembly. The present provincial assembly is the most controversial ever as there was an extremely low turnout of voters in elections two years ago amid militant calls for poll boycott. In a town named Awaran, for instance barely 1.18 per cent of the total votes were cast; the winner got 544 votes, while the runner-up got 95 votes out of the 57,666 votes. In most other Baloch constituencies, the voter turnout ranged to about five per cent.

Instead of looking within for the bloody mess, the army, ISI and military intelligence has created in Balochistan, like always the jawans appear to be in self-denial and were looking outside Pakistan borders. Without naming any country specifically, Bajwa's tweet said General Sharif warned "foreign states, intelligence agencies" against trying to destabilise  Pakistan by supporting terrorists in Balochistan. Since the army chief mentioned foreign states and intelligence agencies, it was clear Pakistan believes multiple foreign intelligence services are involved in bloodshed in Balochistan. In addition to India, Pakistan intelligence and security analysts have blamed countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, United States and Israel. Privately, they suspect UAE and Oman of backing the Baloch freedom or sarmachar groups. They even accused the most docile country on earth, Norway, of having moles in Balochistan. UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash warned Pakistan that it will have to pay a "heavy price" for refusing to openly help the Saudi coalition in Yemen after Pakistan's parliament opted for neutrality in the Sunni-Shia conflict there. In a rare rebuke, Gargash statement was condemned by the politician closest to the generals, home minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali. More than 1,000 of Pakistan for-rent-troops are already in Saudi Arabia, but the Gulf Arabs wanted more help in the offensive against shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. On nudging from China, Pakistan's key military ally, against any such Pakistan involvement and because of the imminent fear of a Shia-Sunni civil war inside Pakistan, Islamabad said no to the Gulf Arab request for all out participation in the war.

Another significant development, ten days ago was the killing of at least eight Iranian border security guards inside Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan near the border area with Gwadar and Kech districts of Balochistan. The outlawed, Pakistan-based Jaish-ul Adl organisation claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Dawn. Iran too blamed "foreign intelligence services" and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif visited Pakistan and met General Sharif.

In Balochistan, Baloch freedom parties refuted Pakistan security services' claim Monday that they killed 13 Baloch Liberation Front militants in a pitched battle in Gebun. Pakistan security sources said the 13 were responsible for killing 20 workers of the army-run Frontier Works Organisation in Gogdhan, 15 miles from Turbat, on Saturday, April 11. The FWO construction workers were said to be working on a strategic bridge. The BLF of Dr Allah Nazar owned responsibility for the attack on the FWO workers. The BLF chief himself called the 20 killed as combatants on the army's payroll. The BLF insists the network of roads and bridges is aimed at facilitating the army movement in Balochistan and hence Baloch militants have the right to attack those working on such project, though international human rights practitioners may consider such killings as a violation of the Laws of War.

A timeline of the events in Balochistan shows on Sunday, a day after the BLF attack on FWO workers, Pakistan announced launch of a "grand operation" in Mekran, after a meeting chaired by Balochistan chief minister Abdul Malik in Quetta. According to Baloch sources, 8,500 more Pakistan troops and ten US supplied gunship helicopters will be used in the Mekran operation. Pakistan still uses US supplied weapons in Balochistan, even though the US is not allowed to open a consulate in Quetta. The following day Monday, Pakistan security forces raided Gebun, 50 miles from Turbat, harassed women and children, and looted household stuffs, before burning down the homes, pro-independence sources said.

Pakistan media, controlled mostly by "patriotic" pro-army publishers and journalists, reported that Frontier Corps killed at least 13 terrorists including a commander of the Baloch Liberation Front, named Hayat Bewas. "A heavy exchange of fire continued for several hours and 13 militants were killed and many others injured," Dawn newspaper reported.

However, pro-independence Baloch parties rejected Pakistan's official version of the events. They said personnel of Pakistani armed forces barged into the home of Aslam Shahsawar, a BLF commander in Gebun, who was killed along with three of his comrades during an army operation last year. The soldiers dragged out his physically disabled brother Hayat Bewas in his wheel chair and shot him dead pointblank, execution style, according to Kachkol Ali, leader of the Baloch National Movement in Oslo, Norway. Geneva-based Sher Mohammed Bugti, spokesperson for the Baloch Republican Party, said, "Everybody in the area knew that Bewas was handicapped and was living with support of a wheelchair."

Pakistan newspaper Dawn confirmed Bewas was in a wheel chair. It reported, "It is learnt that Hayat (Bewas) was injured in a clash with security forces last year and has since been relying on a wheelchair. His brother Aslam Shahsawar, a local commander of the BLF, was killed in the clash (last year)."

The other four victim bodies brought to Turbat hospital were victims of enforced disappearances and their names were listed in the file maintained by the premier Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) in capital Quetta. They were identified as two teachers, Rasool Jan and Deen Mohammad Bugti, Yahya Baloch and Asghar Baloch.

BRP's Bugti said Pakistani forces laid a siege around the Parom town of Panjgur and torched dozens of houses of innocent Baloch civilians. Kachkol Ali, who is from Panjgur, said, "In Parom, the army operation has been going on for some time now, and many innocent people have been disappeared."

"Pakistan is conducting a Baloch genocide for making safe havens and passage for the Chinese and consider the Baloch patriotic forces a major hurdle before them," Hyrbyair Marri said in a statement. "China must understand that its expansionist and exploitative designs will never be acceptable to the Baloch people," Baloch Liberation Army chief Hyrbyair Marri said.


Ahmar Mustikhan Ahmar Mustikhan @mustikhan

Ahmar Mustikhan is a senior Balochistan journalist based in Washington DC area.

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