Balochistan, PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan: Enemy of your enemy is your friend

Balochistan, PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan: Enemy of your enemy is your friend

By Gautam Mukherjee | 21 August, 2016
Policies of divide and rule are also the legacy story of the various provinces of Pakistan held together only through ruthless repression, bombing and routine abduction of its own people.

The cunning imperial power followed its vicious, if covert, policies of divide and rule to the last, seeking, at a minimumto leave a blood-feuding mess that might blow up in the faces of all those who had had the temerity to demand their independence.hile the historical record shows that the dominant and unfettered influence on map-making, and the consequent fates of the populace in 1947-48, was still with the departing British, it is a wonder that no acceptance of resulting ground realities has sunk in even after 70 years.

This is, in fact, the legacy story not only of grievously vitiated India-Pakistan relations, but also those of the various provinces of Pakistan, holding together only through ruthless repression including the bombing and routine abduction of its own people.

It is of some pyrrhic comfort, therefore, post Brexit, to witness what Britain did to so many others around the globe, playing out on its home turf, as Scotland and Northern Ireland contemplate leaving the British union too.

With regard to the abjectly failed current state of Pakistan, ironically riven by Islamic religious discord, it is perhaps a pity that the NWFP isn’t on the list of regions across the border that India is ready to befriend now after its recent policy shift on Pakistan. After all, the echoes of “Frontier Gandhi”, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s memory have not died out entirely, either in India or in the NWFP.

The NWFP Pakhtoon is a target of Punjabi Pakistan’s bullying too, as is the Afghan, across the border. Afghanistan is closely allied to India today after a prolonged period of darkness, even at noon, and quite fed up of the regular Pakistani Taliban attacks on its soil.

The Punjabi Sunni majority that runs Pakistan and its terrorist cohorts, have been ruthlessly targeting Kabul and Peshawar alike, mainly to kill and scatter its remaining Shias. They think nothing of killing/blowing up congregations as they come out of their mosques after Friday prayers. And they didn’t hesitate to kill scores of school children at their school desks in Peshawar either. And now they’ve done it to an assembly of lawyers in Quetta, Balochistan, composed of Sunni and Shia alike.

The scenario is similar in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan’s only Shia majority area, where state oppression is routine but goes largely unreported. But recently it hit the news when 500 locals were arrested for once again protesting the arrest of local leader Baba Jan in 2011, his conviction as a terrorist and sentencing to 40 years in jail. The 500 were also protesting development of the vaunted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Gilgit-Baltistan, which the locals say will only benefit the Chinese and Punjabi Pakistanis and not them.

In natural resource rich but underdeveloped and poor Balochistan, now attracting the attention of China with the proposed CPEC, the Pakistani government intimidates the locals by abducting not only the men, but their wives and daughters—as many as 25,000 at a time, as per a recent cry for help.

The bullying tactics and routine atrocities/human-rights violations of the Pakistani Punjabis is oppressive to all of its three remaining other provinces, after the loss of East Pakistan in 1971. This includes Sindh, from where the once powerful Bhuttos hail from the village of Larkana.

But oblivious of the vulnerabilities in their own increasingly chaotic backyard, official and “non-state” Pakistan working in cahoots continues on its reckless export of terrorists to India, Afghanistan and further afield. Almost every terrorist attack and atrocity on European or American soil has a Pakistani imprint on it too.

With regard to India, the strategy of “a thousand cuts” has not worked substantially, even after decades since President Zia Ul Haq first put it in place. But lost for an alternative and unwilling to sue for peace, the ISI, the Pak Army, its government, other elements, including the Mumbai underworld in exile that make up the Pakistani establishment plough on regardless. They probably still hope against hope to some-day radicalise most of India’s 200 million odd Muslims to rise up in a civil war bloodbath against the Hindu majority.

Pakistan is clearly determined to be obdurate, perfidious and single-minded in its lust to capture the Kashmir valley and has even said so plainly dedicating its own 70th independence day to the liberation of the valley. But how does it propose to do so, when its backdrop and support-base have changed so radically?

America does not need it anymore as a strategic ally. The oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE are much too diminished in their circumstances to help like before or promote radical Wahhabism to the same extent. They need, in fact, to find a post-oil economy livelihood, by collaborating with growth engines like India. These Gulf countries no longer want to use Pakistani terrorism as leverage around the globe either and are busy distancing themselves from it.

Today, Pakistan is reduced to banking solely on Chinese support. It could, of course, start another Kargil-like war with India, resorting, this time, to its much publicised “tactical nuclear weapons”. However, India, prior-warned, seems to have taken this possibility on board. It looks as if it has made up its mind to call Pakistan out on its regular nuclear war threats, with a few counter measures of its own. And while Pakistan is banking on Chinese involvement if it goes to war with India, recent events and postures may have changed its position, isolating it within the world community. China may therefore be very reluctant to weigh in on the side of its embarrassing “all-weather friend”.

Given the present geopolitical realities, the rest of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Britain, France, the US and Russia will not support aggression against India. Any solo Pakistani adventurism vis-a-vis India will also tend to put paid to Chinese plans to build the CPEC, estimated to cost $46 billion, from its Muslim majority Xinkiang province, all the way to Gwadar in Balochistan. This is, in fact, an extension of the existing Karakoram Highway through Gilgit-Baltistan built by China in the 1960s. It already connects Islamabad to Gilgit and on to Kashgar in Xinkiang via the most high Khunjareb pass. But if freedom movements now intensify in two of the provinces on the CPEC route, China is likely to stay as far away as possible.

India has now made public its intent to encourage Balochi nationalism. It may be also in position to help it from its bases in Central Asia and Chabahar in coastal Iran, where it is developing facilities, just 48 km away from Gwadar.

It is also good to remember that the ethnic Balochi people reside in contiguous areas of Iran (Sistan) and southern Afghanistan (Nimruz) as well. They too could well help in the liberation of their Pakistani brothers, if their central governments decide to back the move.

Revolts in Balochistan have already occurred in 1948, 1958, 1962 and 1973-77, again in 2003 and once again, along sectarian Shia/Sunni lines as of 2012. The embers of the Balochi bid for independence have never died out, ever since the British let it be occupied by Pakistan in 1948. Matters were not helped by the murder of prominent Balochi leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in 2006, in a crackdown ordered by President Pervez Musharraf. His surviving grandson, Brahumdagh Bugti, current head of the Baloch Republican Party, in exile at Geneva, Switzerland, was duly surprised but quick to hail Modi’s support.

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