Monday, September 07, 2009

Baluchistan, the part of the Taliban war that is being overlooked.

Many observers of the war with the Taliban/AlQaeda in Afghanistan-Pakistan have been focused on the decay of legitimacy of the Afghanistan government and the aggressive activities of the Pakistan military against the Taliban in Swat and the tribal areas.

But developments in Baluchistan have been critical to the war inside of Afghanistan. That is, even though the Pakistani army has gone after the Taliban in the tribal areas it has been indifferent to [even supportive of?] the Taliban in Baluchistan. The reason for the different policy toward to Taliban of Baluchistan is that that group -- led by Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose headquarters has long been known to be in Quetta -- is focused on overturning the government in Kabul.

So these Taliban are useful to Pakistan. We tend to forget that Pakistan sees itself as at war with India. Afghanistan has clearly allied itself with India so that from the point of view of the Pakistani military Afghanistan is with the enemy. The Taliban of Baluchistan are assets to be protected. These are the Taliban who have direct access to the Helmand province, where the largest crops of opium are produced in Afghanistan. Observers have known for years that MM Omar has a strong position in Quetta and the American military knows that the Taliban of Baluchistan have been active in Afghanistan, but the American people have as yet missed the fact that some Taliban are Pakistan's guys -- the guys now attacking inside Afghanistan.

This is to say that the current focus on policies and developments inside Afghanistan, as if that is the theater of the war, misses the most significant feature of the contemporary situation: Pakistan is still nourishing the Taliban who oppose the government in Kabul. So Pakistan is against some of the Taliban (those in the tribal areas) and is for some other Taliban (those in Baluchistan). If we don't find a way to contain Pakistan's support for the Baluchistan Taliban there will be no resolution to the war.

To clarify the situation in Baluchistan, I point to a recent article by MEMRI. [Click on the title above for a link.] RLC

Special Dispatch - No. 2506
August 26, 2009 No. 2506

Senior Pakistani Journalist on Baluchistan Problem: 'Pakistan has Pitted Radical Taliban Against Secular and Democratic Baluchi Forces… Promot[ing] Religious Radicalization'

In an article, senior Pakistani journalist Malik Siraj Akbar analyzed the Baluchi movement for independence from Pakistan, arguing that Pakistan's state institutions are supporting the pro-Taliban groups and eliminating progressive forces in Baluchistan province.

Akbar, who is the Baluchistan bureau chief of Lahore-based Daily Times newspaper, pointed out that in its bid to crush the Baluchi independence movement, Pakistan is not only using American weapons against the Baluchis, but is also supporting non-Baluchi refugees so as to create demographic imbalance in Baluchistan.

Following are some excerpts from the article, entitled "A Home-grown Conflict:" [1]

"Baluchi Youth Have Removed the Pakistani Flag from Schools and Colleges… Punjabi Officers Refuse to Serve in Baluchistan, Fearing They Will Be Targeted" [Click on the title abover for the rest of the article] . . .


Anonymous said...

Another reason the Pakistanis support the Pashtun Taliban in Balochistan is that the Baloch are secular people who are unhappy with the forced occupation by Pakistan in 1948. The Baloch have been fighting for independence ever since. Pakistan wants to neutralize the Baloch.

Bob said...

Yes! Thanks Anonymous. The Pakistani government is not comfortable with the Baloch -- and in fact they have never been comfortable being part of Pakistan. The impression I get is that the Pakistani military has done a pretty good job neutralizing the Baloch. I hear that more of them are in Karachi than in the Baluchistan countryside. While has meant that the Pashtuns have gained ground in the province -- another advantage to the Taliban who have thrived in the Pashtun cultural sea. Thanks for your note.