Whenever Balochistan’s woes are trumpeted publicly by the state, Baloch people expect intensification of repression and atrocities because it relies solely on coercion for the ‘resolution’ of all problems. Civilian governments have always played second fiddle to the army’s agenda and the present surge of interest in Balochistan is unequivocally tilted in favour of strengthening a ‘security state’. On his visit to Quetta, Prime Minister Gilani’s boast of achievements for Balochistan were a lame NFC Award, a crippled Aghaaz-e-Huqooq programme and an ominous opening of the Ormara naval academy. Needless to say, naval academies and cadet colleges are not institutions of learning but are instruments for strengthening the security state and the glut of these in Balochistan is to ensure more militarisation to thwart Baloch demands for rights.
The Inspector General of the Frontier Corps Balochistan, speaking to media representatives claimed, “In the military operation of 2006-07, militant camps had been finished but following the 2008 elections a political government came, army was withdrawn and some cantonments were dismantled that helped militants to reorganize.” On the contrary, the truth is that camps could not be eliminated; moreover, this political government since its inception has helped the army to plan, prosecute and perpetrate the worst forms of atrocities in Balochistan. He believes that military operations are the solution for Balochistan and threatens, “Tit-for-tat action will be taken against those elements which are hell bent on dismembering Pakistan.”
Supposedly, they view their in force ‘abduct and dump’ policy as different from tit-for-tat. Then to justify their systematic abduct and kill policy, he expressed his frustration with the judicial system’s low conviction rate. The state mistakenly hopes what it believes are a few hundred foreign funded insurgents will be wiped out soon if enough systematic brutality is employed against the people.
The IG also said that the fararris, i.e. Baloch insurgents, are maintaining 121 camps in Balochistan and the break up was as follows. The Baloch Liberation Army was running 40 camps, the Baloch Republican Army 26, the Baloch Liberation Front 19, and another 30 camps were in Afghanistan. Elaborating on attacks by insurgents, he said that in 2012 alone, 575 subversive attacks took place in Balochistan. Of these, 258 strikes were claimed by Baloch insurgents and in all 254 people, including 57 FC troops, two army soldiers and 20 policemen were killed.
Without active and widespread support from the people, the guerillas cannot survive and the existence of such a large number of guerilla camps all across Balochistan would simply not be possible; verily, the guerillas are the fish and the people the sea. During the 1973 insurgency, people never let the army get wind of the guerilla camps, hideouts or movements. They generously shared provisions and continue to do now too; frustrated, the army vented its anger on the people then as it does now.
The army and the FC desire and demand a monopoly over the use of force in Balochistan and do not countenance opposition to their right to exclusive use of force as an instrument of their punishment policy. Initially, the Baloch spontaneously challenged this monopoly but now the potent element of systematic and organised opposition combined with political consciousness has entered the equation that has frightened the state out of its wits, and therefore, it has unleashed unrestrained terror against the Baloch.
With a monopoly on force, the state wants to occupy land and destroy, kidnap and eliminate all its perceived foes, unrestrained and with impunity. The state does not tolerate a challenge to its monopoly on the use of force, although it often shares it with its ‘strategic assets’ and favourite urban groups. It is now confronted by the Baloch who have realised that unless this monopoly is shattered, their lives and rights will always be endangered. The dawning of this realisation among the people in general is the reason that the fish can safely survive in the sea of the freedom-loving Baloch.
The security state’s basic philosophy is to retain its monopoly on force and cow people into submission so that the establishment’s agenda of exploitation can be implemented and the elite and its factotums may loot unimpeded. The Baloch challenge to this monopoly on force has jeopardised the establishment’s plan; therefore, the army and FC have gone all out against the Baloch to reassert their monopoly but they have not only been thwarted in their attempts but have also lost ground and have therefore resorted to brutal and inhuman tactics against the Baloch.
The present conflict in Balochistan is essentially a war of attrition and cannot be otherwise because of the vast difference in the power balance between the opposing forces. The Pakistan army is backed by the resources of a state bent upon getting more resources from Balochistan for furthering its ‘security state’ status and playing an important role in the region, which in reality is beyond its means and capacity. On the other side is the Baloch guerilla with a bare minimum of weapons and resources fighting for his people’s rights with the support of the people. The result of this conflict is apparently a foregone conclusion for some because of the enormous difference in today’s strength of the opponents, but a majority of the Baloch believe otherwise.
Afflicted by a paranoid mindset, arrogance and its erroneous assessment of its worth for the world, Pakistan, though apparently strong, is not as strong as it was a decade ago; it is now riven by internal conflicts and self-created external problems. The Baloch today are more united than ever and there is a more widespread support for the fighters not only across the entire spectrum of Baloch society and but also area wise, than ever before. They have learned their lessons from the bitter experience of past numerous military operations and adapted well to changed circumstances. There is a better use of international forums and media by the activists here and abroad. The international support for them is materialising faster than expected, though not via the supposed 20 foreign intelligence agencies the IG mentioned, but by countries worried about human rights abuses in Balochistan and the danger that Pakistan poses for world and regional peace by its support for its strategic assets. The tables are slowly but surely turning in favour of the Baloch.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org