The geographical expansion of Balochistan as a “brooding and melancholy place” rightly captures the essence of its history after 1948 (Weaver 2002, 90). Its history is marked by betrayals and contradictions towards the Pakistani state. It is the largest and most resource-rich of Pakistan’s four provinces, but the most sparsely populated and developed. Although the Baluch The nationalist movement was constantly exposed to brutal repression by the state, has revived more intensely than before and outlasted other resistance movements. While the insurrection began immediately after the Kalat Khan signed the instrument of accession in 1948, it occurred broadly in five different periods. The current and fifth periods began in 2004 and are still active, making it the longest and most violent episode. To this end, the paper tries to analyze and maintain the root causes that led to the uprising. The paper also examines the reasons that led to the weakening of the post-2015 insurrection and its subsequent revival in 2020.
It should be noted here that the reasons for the current period of insurrection are not exclusively history, but merely manifestations of decades of unsolved problems that continue to intensify. To aid the purpose of the paper, it is divided into three large sections. The first section describes the history of Balochistan and its people in order to understand the context of the uprising. The second section focuses on the reasons for the current period of the uprising through the topics of political alienation and marginalization, economic disadvantage and underdevelopment, mega-projects in the province and military response of the state. The penultimate section focuses on the period after 2015, when the uprising weakened due to the rivalry within Baluch and its second revival in 2020.
The country and the people
Before the arrival of the British in the region, Balochistan (formerly the state of Kalat) was under the rule of Khan of Kalat and was divided into four provinces – Kalat, Lasbela, Makran and Kharan (Devasher 2019, 11). The Kalat Khanate extended to what is now Iran and Afghanistan because, as the Kalat Khan (1840-75) told the Afghan and British envoys, “all regions where the Baluch are settled are an integral part of our state are ”(ibid).
After losing the First (1838-42) and Second (1878-79) Afghan Wars, the British began annexing and consolidating large parts of what is now the regions near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Devasher (2019, 12) further points out that “the British demarcated their border with Iran in order to prevent Russian progress towards British India [then Persia] and Afghanistan is giving away large parts of the princely state of Kalat to these two countries “with the motive of appeasing their rulers and acting as a buffer zone to prevent the Russian advance.
The British government stated that it would “respect Kalat’s independence as long as it acted in subordinate coordination” (Mendez 2020, 44). They effectively divided the khanate into two administrative regions, the first was the state of Kalat and the second was directly under British control, including the areas “leased by the British from Kalat and the tribal areas of Marri and Bugti” (Devasher 2019, 14). and also included dominant Pashtun areas. Thus the latter unit was also part of British India while the former was not .
The Marri and Bugti tribes have also assumed a dominant position in Baloch politics. The Marris are numerically the largest tribe in Balochistan and “consider themselves Baluchistan’s master tribe” (Weaver 2002, 116). The two groups are part of a group called the Eastern or Sulaiman Baloch, which also dominates among the seventeen groups into which the Baloch are divided in addition to the 400 subgroups. The other main group is the Western or Makran Baloch, “who were traditionally regarded as the” original core “of the Baloch people” (Devasher 2019, 26).
Furthermore, in the 1901 census, the British made a distinction between Baluch and Brahvis (although they are just another group of Baluch), who are an “ethnic group of Dravidian origin based in central Balochistan,” while the other groups were primarily based in the south and southwest of the state (Devasher 2019, 23). The Brahvis have three divisions: the Brahvi core, the Sarawan, and the Jhalawan Brahvis. The khan of Kalat belongs to a subdivision of the Brahvi core, while “a Jhalawan tribe, the Mengals, have become the most powerful actors in Balochistan’s politics” (Dunne 2006, 16).
Balochistan’s geography and a dispersed population helped build strong tribal identities or barriers that alienated them from within, but also helped ensure isolation from external forces. The advent of British rule certainly changed that. Taj Mohammad Breseeg in his book Baluch Nationalism: Origin and Development (2004, 181) argues that Baluch’s resistance to the British authorities was the result of individual tribal chiefs based on their own claims. The failure to form a national struggle was due to “the lack of communication between the Baloch tribes and contact with the Indian people, a superior enemy in terms of weapons and resources, and the lack of a suitable political organization to mobilize the masses”.
According to Devasher, the foundation is the Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Balochistan (Organization for the unity of Baluch) In 1929 a “secular, non-tribal nationalist movement” emerged (2019, 71). Most of the members and leaders of the group “came from the urban bourgeoisie, large and small, educated youth and nationalist-minded members of the clergy and the tribal aristocracy” (Breseeg 2004, 216). Finally, as also stated by Breseeg (2004, 223), it is appropriate to list the demands made by them:
- Reform in the Khanate.
- Association of the traditional Balutian countries divided between different administrative units (and countries).
- Establishment of a sovereign, independent and unified Balochistan.
Accession to Pakistan and Follow
Like many other problems endemic to South Asia, the situation of Baloch nationalism and insurrection worsened with the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947. When the British withdrawal and partition became apparent, Kalat State decided it would remain independent and not join India or Pakistan. Interestingly, in 1946 it was MA Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and then legal advisor to the Khan of Kalat, who presented a memorandum to the Cabinet Mission in which he argued that “Kalat is geographically not within the territorial limits of India” and “Ethnographically, the people in Kalat and in the areas under his suzerainty no affinity for the people of India “(in Devasher 2019, 5 & 25).
Subsequently, the Kalat government was installed with the establishment of a new parliament and the adoption of a new constitution and flag. Elections were also held in the two parliament buildings at the end of August 1947. While Pakistan initially accepted an independent kalat, “Jinnah had reservations … and now wanted to receive its accession in the form in which it was accepted by other rulers Pakistan” (ibid., 87). When negotiations between the two collapsed, Pakistan invaded Kalat and “the Khan was forced to sign the merger document and Kalat was annexed. This led to the first armed uprising in 1948, led by the Khan’s brother ”(Bansal 2005, 252).
After the first phase of the uprising and before 2004, the Baluchi started an uprising against the state three times in 1958, 1963–69, 1973–77. Devasher rightly notes that each Baluch rebellion “lasted longer than the previous one, each rebellion spanned a larger geographic area than the previous one, and each rebellion affected more Baluch than the previous one” (2019, 90). While the first two periods were relatively small, in 1973 “55,000 insurgents faced 80,000 Pakistani troops supported not only by the Pakistani Air Force but also by the Iranian Air Force. In the uprising, which lasted until 1977, more than 5,000 insurgents and over 3,300 soldiers were killed ”(Bansal, 2005, 252).
Over the years, Pakistan’s ubiquitous and stubborn response has sparked a “psychological alienation from Islamabad” for the Baluch that has led many to demand independence from the state rather than provincial autonomy (Harrison 1981, 4; Grare 2013) . While tension and violence fueled for a number of years, the current conflict period was provoked in 2005 by the rape of a doctor, Shazia Khalid, in the small Balochian town of Sui in the Dera Bugti region, allegedly by the captain and three employees of the Defense Security Guards. The government’s subsequent handling of the incident and its apparent attempt to cover up the crime and protect the culprits sparked massive outrage ”(Wani 2016, 812).
The 1990s had heralded hopes for political reconciliation with the rise of nationalist parties in Baluch such as the Balochistan National Party (BNP), but Pervez Musharraf’s 1999 coup and aggressive stance acted as a catalyst for the uprising. While the state blamed the conflict on the tribal chiefs (Sardarians), the strained relations centered on “grievances related to provincial sovereignty, resource allocation, inter-provincial migrations and the protection of the local language and culture”, which have prevailed for decades (Grare) 2013).
Basic causes of the uprising
One of the main causes of the uprising was the fact that the Baluch and many other ethnic identities were colonized by the dominant Punjabis, who control not only the federal government (central government) but also the entire state apparatus and institutions. The Baluch are completely alienated from the state as they are outnumbered as the population is only about six percent of the total, while the province covers nearly forty-four percent of the state. In addition, the Baluch are underrepresented in all “organs of the Pakistani state”, and even most jobs in the province are carried out by outsiders. As a result, people find it difficult to identify with the government. The government and its organs are therefore perceived as foreigners who are in the Baluch area ”(Bansal 2005, 258).
The problem of underrepresentation in politics is exacerbated by the “conviction that the Baloch governments were not allowed to meet their conditions by the Punjabi establishment” (Devasher 2019, 106). For example, ethnic Baluch-led provincial governments only served three years in total until the 1990s. The first was only released by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after ten months in 1972-73. The second was led by Nawab Akbar Bugti (1988-90) and dissolved with the first government of Benazir Bhutto. After all, the third government lasted only about fifteen months and was led by Akhtar Mengal from 1997-98 (ibid., 106). In addition, “in the first three decades of Pakistan’s existence, only 4 of the 179 people who had joined the Pakistani cabinet at different times were ethnic Baluch” (Bansal 2008, 186). Before the 1970s, Akbar Bugti was the only federal minister, who also led the fifth wave of insurrections before he was killed in 2006. In 2002, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, an ethnic Baluch, was appointed Prime Minister by Pervez Musharraf, but had to resign after nineteen months and became one of the shortest-serving Prime Ministers (Reddy 2004).
Frederic Grare (2013, 10) also points out that the nationalist parties in Baluch at the end of the 1990s were able to gain support and form a government by forming coalitions with mainstream parties or by joining them. In the 2002 elections, “the military manipulated the elections and strengthened its long-standing alliance with the region’s mullahs to help the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) coalition of religious Islamic parties gain power.” In addition, even Pakistan’s electoral commission has worked with the establishment and denied eligibility to certain qualified candidates (including Akbar Bugti) while accepting madrassa diplomas as an attempt to Islamize the largely secular province and movement of Baloch (ibid).
Even when the Baluch leaders were appointed to the government, they had no control over the decision-making process. For example, Mohammad Jam Yusaf was appointed Chief Minister in 2002, but his cabinet was dominated by a conservative Islamist party, Jamaat-Ulema-u-Islam (Grare 2013, 10-11). In addition, Musharraf launched a decentralization plan aimed at establishing local governments “completely dependent on the central government for their survival” and regarding provincial assemblies as insignificant. While it was a “form of decentralization”, all provinces except Punjab perceived the system as an imposition of a centralized form of government and a negation of the autonomy of the provinces – clearly irritating for Baloch nationalists “(ibid.).
The delimitation of constituencies in Balochistan is another fascinating problem. The constituency NA-272 Gwadar-cum-Lasbela stretches over the entire 750-kilometer coast of Balochistan and extends from Karachi to Iran. Similarly, the NA-270 covers the four central districts of Balochistan and covers a total of 94,452 square kilometers. This makes it about half the size of the Punjab Province and larger than the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Province (Mehdi 2018). In fact, the average constituency size in Balochistan is ten times larger, while the national constituency size is 12.8 times larger than in the other three provinces (Devasher 2019, 106-7).
In an aptly titled article – “Veiling Baluchistan” – Tahir Mehdi (2018) argues that “numerical equality of constituencies does not always lead to equal suffrage. If taken too literally, it can actually become a tool for marginalization and exclusion. Interestingly, Mehdi points out that the state “has legally allowed the population in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to be half the national average […] to compensate for the “lack of representation” that arises from not being part of a provincial assembly ”. It is thus evident that in Balochistan neither a political campaign nor the people can exercise their ultimate democratic rights. Not only do they risk losing all political value, but this also strengthens their sense of alienation from the state.
In addition to political underrepresentation, the Baluch occupy a marginal place in the bureaucracy and thus in broader administration and policy-making. Although Zia-ul-Haq promised after the fourth period of the uprising that the Baluch representation in the bureaucracy would be adapted to their proportion of the population (at that time 3.9 percent), this never materialized (Bansal 2008, 186). The problem is exacerbated by the “fake domicile certificate racket” [which] has systematically and deliberately deprived the Baloch population of progress on the economic ladder ”(Talpur 2015). The quotas are also occupied by Pashtuns, the second largest ethnic group in Balochistan, as the reservations are based on provinces rather than ethnic groups. However, the problem also extends beyond the bureaucracy. For example, in 2002, “of the fourteen provincial government secretaries in Quetta, only four were Baluch; Out of a total of 3,200 students at Balochistan University, fewer than five hundred were Baluch. Out of a total of 180 faculty members only thirty were Baluch ”(Bansal 2008, 186).
The former Prime Minister of Balochistan rightly stated that Islamabad behaves “like the East India Company” (Devasher 2019, 110). Even in the army, recruitment historically came from the Punjab region, while in the 1970s it rose from 0.6 percent in the 1970s to only 5 percent since British rule (Bansal 2008, 185). In 1972 the Prime Minister of Balochistan declared: “There are only a few hundred Baluch in the entire Pakistani army. The famous Baluch Regiment has no Baluch ”, while for the Kalat Boy Scouts and Sibi Boy Scouts“ are the officers from Punjab and soldiers from the border ”(ibid., 185). The problem of underrepresentation is highlighted by the fact that “Former Balochistan soldiers counted only 3,753 men between 1995 and 2003, while the figures for Northern Punjab and NWFP were 1,335,339 and 229,856, respectively”. (Dawn 2005). Even if the province has 750 km of coastline, there is no Baluch in the navy (Devasher 2019, 112).
Like the bureaucracy, the quotas in the army are filled with Pashtuns from Balochistan and not with ethnic Baluchers. The Pashtuns now make up nearly thirty-five percent of the population in Balochistan and are mainly concentrated in the northern districts. The Baluch fear that they will be “marginalized in their own province by the increasing influx of Pakhtoon and other Pakistanis” (Bansal 2005, 258). This fear was compounded by the large influx of Afghan refugees from Pashtuns since the Soviet intervention in 1979 and led to “Pashtun claims of equal or even majority populations in Balochistan, which led to Baluch becoming a minority in their homeland” (Devasher 2019 , 119)).
Economic deprivation and underdevelopment
The feeling of political marginalization, inefficient governance and colonization by the state is exacerbated by the fact that Balochistan is the poorest province in Pakistan and continues to be exploited for its rich natural resources. Blessed Harrison rightly remarked in 1981 that “the belief that Balochistan [i.e. Balochistan] contains huge, untapped natural wealth, which is central to the separatist creed ”(Wani 2016, 817). The region’s economic potential is one of the main reasons the province is an integral part of Pakistan, while the lack of indigenous property and advantages are the main reasons behind the uprising.
In a speech to the Kalat State Assembly on December 12, 1947, then Governor Baksh Bizenjo stated: “Pakistani officials say that Balochistan should join Pakistan because it cannot be economically supported. We have minerals, we have oil and ports. The question is, where would Pakistan be without us? “(Siddiqi 2012, 158). While Balochistan contributes almost four percent to Pakistan’s GDP, the province provides almost forty percent of the country’s energy needs from natural gas, coal and electricity (Samad 2014, 304). The province also has large amounts of uranium, coal, platinum, gold, silver, copper and aluminum. Many of these deposits remain to be explored and the government is keen to do more projects and expand previous projects to accommodate the requirements.
On the other hand, “more than five decades after the first discovery of sui-gas, 70% of the population of Balochistan in the province remains deprived of this resource; 78% are without electricity “(Wani 2016, 818). Grare (2006: 5) also points out that Balochistan’s consumption of its own resources was only about seventeen percent, while the remaining eighty-three percent are “sent to the rest of the country. In addition, the central government charges a much lower price for Baloch gas than for gas produced in other provinces, particularly Sind and Punjab. “In addition, the city of Dera Bugti, where the gas fields are located, was not supplied until the mid-1990s after a paramilitary camp was set up in the region. Even by 2014, fifty-nine percent of the urban population had their gas withdrawn, while in Punjab ninety percent had access to it (Devasher 2019, 128).
The federal government has repeatedly failed to invest in the development of the region’s basic infrastructure. The average allocation to development programs under the Public Sector Development Plan (PSDP) “made up less than 6 percent of total federal PSDP allocations and only 0.19 percent of national GDP from 1989-90 to 2015-16. “(Devasher 2019, 125), while the amount actually paid out remains noticeably lower than the allocations.
After the reservation for the Seventh National Finance Commission (NFC) was changed in 2009 to take into account poverty and underdevelopment, and not just the population, the proportion rose for Balochistan, of course, from five to nine percent and for other provinces it apparently decreased slightly (Wani 2016, 819). However, these funds were “largely absorbed by increasing development funds for lawmakers and payments to federal security agencies for the province’s” internal security “obligation” (Devasher 2019, 136).
Of the country’s ninety-one districts, most Balochistan districts are among the worst according to the Human Development Index – with the gas-rich Dera Bugti at the bottom. According to a World Bank report from 2008 (124-5), Balochistan has the “weakest long-term growth, the worst quality of employment and the weakest social development” of any province. The province saw average growth of 2.8 percent, down 4 percent in the 1980s and 1990s, while other provinces ranged from 4.5 to 5.5 in the 2000-11 period. The province also scores “the lowest scores on the 10 key health, water and sanitation and education indicators for 2007–2008” (Aslam 2011, 196–7). According to a 2003 report by the United Nations Development Program, nearly 62 percent of the population did not have access to safe drinking water, while another 2015 report found that “almost 60 to 70 percent of the population is expected to live, directly or indirectly be at risk from droughts in the region ”(Devasher 2019, 134). Although the province’s share of the national total population is only six percent, it accounts for almost twenty percent of the country’s total unemployed, which of course exacerbates or causes other problems.
According to a report published in 2016, “two out of three households in Balochistan cannot afford a proper meal and 83.4 percent of children in the province are severely malnourished” (Ali 2016), leading the provincial health minister to declare a nutritional emergency in 2018 The report draws a strong comparison between Balochistan and Punjab in terms of social indicators such as mortality rates and child mortality, and compares them to war-torn countries such as Somalia and Liberia. According to Ali (2016), Pakistan must therefore:
Invest in serving citizens, especially in the health and education sectors. The unequal distribution of resources and the lack of health facilities in Balochistan and other remote parts of Pakistan have a direct impact on the socio-economic development of these regions […] In addition to the CPEC, Balochistan needs a corridor of health, education and empowerment.
The mega-problems of mega-projects
Another important point of contention for Baluch and the state concerns mega-infrastructure projects such as the international port of Gwadar, the China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), the Saindak copper-gold project and the Reko Diq project. As mentioned in the previous section, the Baluch see these projects as tools of colonization, as they serve the strategic needs of the state, but have no use or benefit for the population of the province.
The province receives only a small financial incentive from the resources produced in the region, as it can continue to receive only 12.4 percent of the license fees for gas supply (Grare 2006, 5). For example, while the province makes an annual contribution of nearly $ 1.4 billion from gas revenues, it receives only $ 116 million in license fees from the government. Similarly, the Chinese-run Saindak Project only accounts for two percent of the total profit for Baluch, while it expropriates eighty percent and gives eighteen percent to the Pakistani federal government (Devasher 2019, 132).
Interestingly, “the federal government is violating the law of Baluch Province (and the constitution of Pakistan) and only Islamabad and Lahore have the authority to make decisions” to make land available to both foreign and domestic actors (Muzaffar et al. 2018, 116 ). Furthermore, the Prime Minister of Balochistan said in 2013: “We have no idea how much gold and other minerals the Chinese company is digging up from the Saindak project” (in Devasher 2019, 132). The situation also reflects the larger problem facing the provincial government as it does not control the land or the provincial resources.
Although “the Baluch are determined to prevent further exploration and development without their consent”, the federal government regularly extends contracts or leases for the extraction of almost “19 trillion cubic feet of gas and 6 trillion barrels of oil reserves in Balochistan” (Grare) 2006, 5) . For example, in recent years almost “six new exploration concessions have been signed with Pakistani and foreign companies, but without submissions from the province” (Devasher 2019, 131).
The main mega-projects at the center of the uprising are the two Chinese projects – Gwadar Port and CPEC – which are inextricably linked as the overall success of one depends on the other. Construction of the port of Gwadar began in 2002 and has since received immense criticism from the people of Balochistan for a number of reasons. The project was conceived with complete exclusion of the Baluch from all aspects and so Gwadar was leased to the Chinese for forty years under the agreement. In addition, Pakistan will receive fifty percent of the profit, while China would take forty-eight percent, leaving only two percent for the province (Aslam 2011, 197).
The project has also resulted in the displacement of many fishermen, who make up nearly eighty percent of the local population and have not received any compensation. According to the former general secretary of Balochistan, the provincial government lost trillions of rupees after “land grabbing became a controversial issue after the Punjabi elites appropriated land belonging to locals who did not have ownership documents” (in Wani 2016, 811). Importantly noted by Aslam (2011, 196):
Most of the technical positions in the port were occupied by Punjabis and other non-Balochi workers […] The central government has made no effort to train the local population […] The Baluch also fear that once the government’s plans for the port are finalized, the population of Gwadar and the surrounding districts is expected to increase from 70,000 to around two million, which is increasingly changing the ethnic makeup of the region as more Punjabis, Sindhis , and other workers will move to the area.
There are also fears that the strategic location of the port means that both Pakistan and China are trying to turn Gwadar into a naval base that would further militarize the area and become a pervasive threat to Baloch. As part of the port and the CPEC, the Chinese plan to relocate nearly 500,000 Chinese, “which will have serious implications for the Baluch’s national, economic, and historical rights.” Angesichts der Tatsache, dass so viele Chinesen nach Belutschistan einreisen werden, befürchten die Belutschen irreversible demografische Veränderungen und eine zunehmende Marginalisierung “(Mendez 2020, 56).
Während der Aufstand fortschritt, gewann das Thema CPEC im Land an Bedeutung. Die Regierung unter der Führung von Nawaz Sharif, einem ethnischen Punjabi, änderte 2013 die ursprüngliche (und kürzeste) Route des Projekts von Belutschistan und KPK nach Sindh und Punjab. Während die Menschen in Belutschistan die ursprüngliche Route und die Aussicht auf Investitionen begrüßten, führte die Verlagerung zu einem weit verbreiteten Protest aller Sektionen. Durch die Verbindung von Gwadar mit Karatschi befürchten die Belutschen, dass „sie trotz der längsten Küste des Landes in eine Binnenprovinz umgewandelt werden“ (Devasher 2019, 165).
2015 erklärte der Präsident der Belutschistan National Party (BNP): „Alles, was sie tun, ist, einen modernen Punjab zu bauen und ihn mit allen Einrichtungen auszustatten und seine Wirtschaft anzukurbeln“ (im Morgengrauen 2015). Ein weiterer Bericht der Föderation der pakistanischen Industrie- und Handelskammern (FPCCI) gipfelte schließlich in den Befürchtungen ganz Belutschs, als er argumentierte, dass „bei der gegenwärtigen Zustromrate chinesischer Staatsangehöriger nach Belutschistan und nach Fertigstellung des China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) wird die einheimische Bevölkerung des Gebiets bis 2048 zahlenmäßig unterlegen sein “(Financial Express 2016).
Die wiederholten Angriffe der belutschischen Aufständischen auf die Chinesen in Pakistan seit 2004 zeigen nun genau ihre extreme Unzufriedenheit mit diesen Projekten und ihre Zukunftsaussichten. Die meisten Angriffe wurden gegen chinesische Arbeiter in Gwadar durchgeführt. Im August 2018 führte die BLA (Belutschistan Liberation Army) einen Selbstmordanschlag durch, der zum ersten Mal von einem Belutschischen Nationalisten in einem Bus durchgeführt wurde, der chinesische Arbeiter und Eskorten vom Frontier Corps beförderte, um „China aufzuwärmen, Belutschistan zu verlassen und seine Ressourcen nicht mehr zu plündern“ ( Pantucci 2018).
Im November versuchten die drei BLA-Angreifer erneut, mit Selbstmordbomben in das chinesische Konsulat in Karatschi einzudringen (Hassan 2018). In der Tat zielt der belutschische Nationalist häufig auf die Energieinfrastruktur ab, hauptsächlich auf transnationale Gaspipelines und andere Verteilungsarten, da sie wie die chinesischen Arbeiter „als Komplizen und Profiteure von Pakistans Kolonialprojekten wahrgenommen werden. Durch die systematische Ausrichtung wirtschaftlicher Anlagen und die häufige Unterbrechung der Energieversorgung erhöhen Belutsch (e) ausnahmslos die Kosten des Konflikts für den pakistanischen Staat “(Wani 2016, 817).
Die Widerstandsfähigkeit des Aufstands in Belutsch ist darauf zurückzuführen, dass es bis heute keine konkrete politische Lösung gegeben hat. Stattdessen war die Interaktion zwischen Belutsch und dem Staat weitgehend gewalttätig und militaristisch. Grare (2013, 5 & 10) argumentiert, dass es “die repressive Reaktion des Staates war, die die meisten Elemente der” nationalistischen “Bewegung radikalisierte”, und die Möglichkeit einer politischen Lösung “verschwand – oder zumindest stark abnahm -, sobald klar wurde, dass dies der Fall ist Das Militärregime strebte die Beseitigung der nationalistischen Führung an. “ Thus, the violent military and the poor state response has been a crucial reason for sustaining the insurgency.
Even before the start of the fifth period, Balochistan comprised of “four existing cantonments at Quetta, Sibi, Loralai and Khuzdar, there are three naval bases, four testing sites, two nuclear development sites and fifty-nine paramilitary facilities” (Devasher 2019, 112-3). The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (2006, 42) reported that there are “35,000 FC, 12,000 Coast Guards, 1,150 Levis, 6,000 Balochistan Reserve police, 2,000 marines and four army brigades deployed in Balochistan”. The military has been increasingly engaged in taking over land forcibly when the locals refuse to sell it. Devasher (2019, 113) argues that:
The cantonments have become a sort of parallel government by themselves where the writ of the provincial government (or sometimes even the federal government) does not run.
After a series of attacks in 2005 targeted security forces, the Inspector General of Frontier Corps as well as President Musharraf, stated that they “rejected any political compromise and turned to Military Intelligence who advised him to crush the opposition” (in Samad 2014, 294). Furthermore, Musharraf saw Nawab Akbar Bugti as the leader of the Baloch and went on television to announce to the Baloch: “Don’t push us. This is not the Seventies. Sie [the Baloch] will not even know what has hit them” (in Siddiqi 2012, 165).
In August 2006, Bugti along with sixty others was killed in their mountain hideout. Bugti’s killing severely intensified the insurgency. Musharraf consolidated the “enmity of not just the Baloch rebels but the wider Baloch population, who may not have believed in taking up arms but were still frustrated with Islamabad for its failure to develop the province” (Devasher 2019, 245). As the conflict spread from six per cent to nearly half of the province by 2006, the Khan of Kalat invited all tribal chiefs for a Grand Jirga in September. The International Crisis Group (2007, 12) offers a solid description of the meeting:
It was attended by 380 leaders, including 85 sardars […] exposing Musharraf’s claim that he enjoyed the support of all except three sardars. Condemning Bugti’s killing, the jirga appealed to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague against the ‘violation of […] territorial integrity, exploitation of Balochistan’s natural resources, denial of the Baloch right to the ownership of their resources and the military operation in the province’ […] Baloch nationalists maintain that the jirga succeeded in its twin objectives: to raise the Baloch cause internationally and to unite Baloch tribes and factions.
Musharraf’s response to Baloch nationalists and militants was to set up more military cantonments and outposts throughout the province. The state launched a full-scale military campaign against the Baloch militants and even used Cobra helicopters and F-16’s to attack civilians in Baluchistan (New York Times 2006). Furthermore, the military, in the Marri Bugti areas, “launched major security operations resulting in 200,000 Internally Displaced Persons of which 20– 30,000 took refuge in Afghanistan” (Samad 2014, 295).
Between 2006 and 2010, more than 1600 casualties occurred in a total of 1,850 incidents; nearly 50 per cent civilians, 23 per cent militants and 22 per cent security forces (Devasher, 2019, 249). The figures also include prominent Baloch leaders like the Balach Marri, leader of BLA, who was killed during an Army operation near the Afghan border. Three popular Baloch nationalist leaders belonging to a middle-class background, in April 2009, “were picked up from their lawyer’s office in broad daylight and their decomposed bodies found in Turbat after being tortured” (Siddiqi 2012, 166).
As a result, the violence has gradually “expanded from attacks and bombings of government installations and pipelines, to attacks against Punjabi settlers and the security agencies” by the militants (Samad 2014, 295). Evidently, ethnic killings against Punjabis and other nationalities became frequent. For instance, “high profile non-Baloch teachers and professors of universities, schools, and colleges have been killed, with many schools becoming non-functional as a result of such attacks (Siddiqi 2012, 166). The excessive violence and repression meted out the by the state, also gave rise to a trans-tribal Baloch nationalism, further explained by Lieven (2017, 181):
Due to the growth in recent decades of an urban Baloch society in Quetta, and especially in the appearance of a trans-tribal Baloch ‘intelligentsia’, semi-educated by Balochistan’s rudimentary higher education system, and unable to find jobs in the province’s backward economy. This class naturally shares to an extreme degree Baloch resentment at domination of the Baloch economy by non-Baloch. This section sees no future for itself in Pakistan and thus plays a monumental role in the nationalist movement.
Nonetheless, the most prominent repressive tactic adopted by the military has been the ‘kill-and-dump’ operations or ‘enforced disappearances’. As early as 2006, the intelligence and security agencies have been engaged in intimidation, arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Baloch–students, doctors, nationalists, lawyers and journalists –all of whom were detained but not tried before any court of law (International Crisis Group 2006, 23). In most cases, people are abducted “only to be added to the ever-expanding list of missing persons. In many cases, their dead bodies are either found in a badly mutilated condition by the roadside or their skeletal remains are discovered in mass graves” (Mir 2020).
The exact number of kidnapped/killed remain to be determined since they are covered in utmost secrecy but for the Musharraf period that ended in August 2008, the “Baloch nationalists claim that the figure runs into the thousands” while the Provincial and federal government argue it ranges between 1000-1100 (Samad 2014, 295). According to Bashir Azeem, a 76-year-old Secretary-General of the Baloch Republican Party (BRA), who was abducted in 2010 was told during his detention that “Even if the president or chief justice tells us to release you, we won’t. We can torture you, or kill you, or keep you for years at our will. It is only the Army chief and the [intelligence] chief that we obey” (HRW 2011). After an enquiry commission was set up by the Supreme Court to investigate the matter, the President of the commission observed that the “government appears to be helpless before the spy agencies” (Ibid).
The Weakening of the Insurgency
As the unabated cycle of violence continued by both sides, several developments occurred that led to a period of stagnation in the insurgency. According to data collected by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the Baloch insurgency reached its peak in 2015 with 96 violent events and 383 reported fatalities, an increase from almost 80 events and 300 fatalities in 2014. However, “from 2017 to 2019, ACLED records 38 events with 110 reported fatalities” (ACLED 2020, 2).
The Pakistani government in 2015 introduced an incentive-based disarmament and rehabilitation program for Baloch militants. The government claims that nearly “2000 Baloch separatists had surrendered to the security forces over the last years (2015-2017). As part of the amnesty scheme, the surrendered separatists were to be given money and government jobs” (Devasher 2019, 255). However, the identity of the surrendered militants remains a subject of speculation which raises doubt about the validity of the claim. Indeed a few major figures like the “Baloch separatist, Abdul Rasool, leader of the Baloch Liberation Army, along with his group surrendered to the security forces” in 2017 (The Nation 2017).
Both the Military and the government have attempted to disrupt the secular, ethnic movement and tribal identity, through Islamization of the province. The Baloch have largely rejected the Islamization process. Along with propping counter-nationalists and bribing rival tribe leaders, the state actively promotes Deobandi madrassas as well as groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-e-Janghvi, a prime recruiter of Baloch youth. This has created new challenges for the Baloch insurgents as they need to tackle the state and its military, as well as extremists supported by the state intelligence agencies.
Nonetheless, the primary reason for the weakening of the insurgency rests with the insurgents. After the insurgents started attacking Baloch politicians in the country as well as non-Baloch settlers (like Punjabi teachers), they “alienated the moderate Baloch political parties opposed to violence by questioning their patriotism and commitment to the ‘national cause’” (Devasher 2019, 254). The attacks also violate ‘Balochmayar’ or the Baloch code of conduct and “alienate supporters of Balochistan who live outside the province and the country” (Ibid).
The latter group along with the political elite “which talks a nationalist talk, but most of the time is closely linked to Pakistan” has also reduced the credibility of the movement (Lieven 2017, 182). For instance, Obaidullah, a surrendered Lashkar-e-Balochistan commander said, “We were trapped by our leaders who said they are fighting for the rights of Baloch, but later we realized that they were enjoying their lavish lives abroad and had pushed us and our families to a war here” (in Khurshid 2015).
Inter-Baloch rivalry and lack of leadership have also been another prominent weakness of the insurgency. According to the ACLED report (2020, 3), the death of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri in 2014, who provided an ideological platform for Baloch armed movements, and was credited by many for inspiring the latest wave of Baloch militancy, created a leadership gap for the insurgency. This led to discontent between his two sons over succession, eventually leading two separate groups. The Balochistan separatist groups are divided into two distinct groups. The first group consists of BLF (Baloch Liberation Front), UBA and BRA, whereas the second group includes BLA and BNLF (Nabeel 2016).
Previously, Baloch organisations were able to consolidate their hold over different territories and coordinate their attacks against the common enemy. However, after 2014 the groups were occupied with attacking each other, even their own members in many cases, leading to a large number of deaths and a constant blame game. The military naturally welcomed this and was able to make headway in those areas of the district which were previously known as ‘no-go areas’. Lastly, factionalism has also prevented the nationalists from preparing a coherent plan or a viable alternative for the future of Balochistan (Devasher 2019, 253).
Lastly, as of 31 July 2020, ACLED (2020, 3) records 30 organized violent events involving Baloch separatists and 95 fatalities this year, with 75 per cent of the fatalities involving security forces. This has been due to the formation of a new alliance called the Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) between the two groups led by the former rivals and two largest militant organisations, BLA and BLF. In July 2020, BRAS collaborated with the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) to attack the Karachi Stock Exchange, later formally announcing an operational alliance with the “Sindh-based militant outfit aiming to establish an independent homeland for Sindhis, the native ethnic group of Sindh province” (Ibid). The Chinese have also been the common target for both groups.
The alliance was also formed in the background of increased repression by the military in Baloch villages and can thus be assumed to be seeking revenge. The group has carried out “26 attacks in the province during the first three months of 2020” with a “degree of technical sophistication in bomb-making and in the availability of human intelligence needed to track security forces communications in the province” (Jamal 2020). As the military launched an operation along the Iran border against the organisations, the Baloch have further raised their voice against an increasing number of enforced disappearances (Al Jazeera 2020).
For nearly 72 years, the Baloch have continued to wage an insurgency against the Pakistani state. While the problems for the Baloch have essentially remained the same, they continue to evolve into something greater. Like the insurgency, it moves from one phase into another. The issue of Balochistan points to the larger problems with the state of Pakistan. The state remains a Punjabi nation dominating other nationalities. The centralizing and authoritarian tendencies of Pakistan have led it to seek a military and violent solution for a problem that is essentially political and economic. This again leads to the problem of excesses committed by the military-intelligence complex against its own people as well as the poor condition of minorities in the country
Finally, through different periods of insurgency, the Baloch prove their resilience and ability to generate a momentum for a grassroots cause that is unlikely to subside even if it cannot win. Pakistan, therefore, needs to rethink its policy towards Balochistan and other provinces, nationalities and minorities. The insurgents should also to the same regarding their own human rights abuses and weaknesses to ensure credibility and widespread support. It is in the interest of the state to reconcile with Balochistan by placing the Baloch people at the centre and not their resources. Even if the military manages to control the insurgents, the Baloch will remain and a sixth period of insurgency does not seem unlikely. The Pakistani state is therefore actively repeating history.
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 For the scope of this paper, the term Baloch refers to ethnic Baloch and includes both the moderates who seek provincial autonomy and separatists who demand a separate state unless otherwise mentioned.
 The Pashtun dominated Quetta division and the Baloch dominated Kalat division were combined to form the modern Balochistan province after the abolition of the One Unit Scheme in 1970.
Written at: Ashoka University
Written for: Professor Gilles Verniers
Date written: November 2020