Balochistan becomes independent

Balochistan: conflict apart from the media

The Pakistani province of Balochistan has been a trouble spot for decades

In fact, the so-called Balochistan conflict has existed since the emergence of the Pakistani state. At that time, the colonial borders that were once drawn with violence and arbitrariness and that separated entire peoples from one another were strengthened.

The so-called Durand Line, named after Mortimer Durand, a British diplomat, plays a special role here. In 1893 the British drew this ominous border to separate their colonial territory from the dominion of the then Afghan emir, Abdur Rahman Khan. Since the emir came to power with the help of the British - he overthrew his cousin in Kabul - he willingly signed the border treaty in return. The consequences of this signing can still be felt today.

The border problem that still persists includes not only the Pashtun but also the Baluch territories. Although the Durand Treaty is only valid for 100 years and therefore expired in 1993, the Pakistani government does not want to hear about it. Their reasoning: At the time, there was no Pakistan at all. Accordingly, the contract is also invalid. However, the limits set at that time are all the more strictly secured.

Thousands of people have disappeared without a trace

In the past few decades there have been several major uprisings in Balochistan, all of which have been brutally crushed by the government in Islamabad. Although the region is rich in natural resources, the population is one of the poorest in Pakistan. There is hardly any stable infrastructure, just as there is no electricity supply and clean drinking water. Eighty-eight percent of the Baluch live below the poverty line. While the natural resources are being exploited, there is hardly any investment elsewhere. Only the security sector is booming.

In recent years, military garrisons have sprung up in the region, as have numerous police stations, which in 2009 alone had increased by sixty-two percent in the province. Apart from this, there are paramilitary groups that act in the interests of Islamabad and hunt down Baloch activists and politicians. A total of 21,000 people are reported to be missing.

And the corpses of some of the disappeared keep appearing, mostly littered with cruel traces of torture. Although Islamabad has condemned the murder of Sabeen Mehmud and has announced an investigation, observers assume that their murder was also carried out by groups that are close to the government or the Pakistani secret service - in short, the so-called establishment.

This climate of fear and permanent oppression created a vacuum for militant groups. More and more young Baluch are now taking up arms. They consider peaceful and democratic means to have failed. In recent years, separatist groups such as the "Balochistan Liberation Army" (BLA) or the "Baloch Liberation Front" (BLF) have drawn attention to themselves with bomb attacks and brutal series of attacks. Numerous civilians were also killed. Attacks have also increased over the past few days and weeks.

In contrast to other militant groups in Pakistan, such as the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), the BLF, the BLA and other Baluch groups are not religious, but nationalist and secular, sometimes also Marxist. Perhaps that's one of the reasons they don't make headlines in the Western media.

Influence of regional actors and geopolitical significance

Regional actors, for whom Pakistan is a thorn in the side, have long tried to profit from the conflict and to influence it. In the 1980s, the Baluch were promoted by the USSR due to the American-Pakistani cooperation in the course of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

India, Pakistan's eternal archenemy, is currently one of the greatest patrons of Baloch independence. The Pakistani secret service ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) has been accusing the Indian government for some time of actively supporting the militant Baluch groups and training them in training camps.

The same accusation is made against Afghanistan by the ISI. Ex-President Hamid Karzai in particular is said to have been friendly towards the Baluch. Apart from that, it is no secret that Baluch leaders have repeatedly found safe refuge in Kabul over the past few decades. The historical ties of Afghanistan, which the Durand line still does not recognize and which still regards Balochistan as an illegally occupied country, certainly plays a major role in this regard. Apart from that, both India and Afghanistan blame Pakistan for most of the grievances in the country - particularly terrorism - and have a strong interest in destabilizing the neighboring country.

China plays an extremely important role in Balochistan. The Chinese government has targeted the provincial resources, such as gold and copper, and secured numerous exploitation rights. Furthermore, the port city of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea is of enormous strategic importance and should play an important role in China's energy supply in the future. Beijing has invested around $ 200 million in the construction of the port alone.

Further investments in the billions have already been agreed. Furthermore, the construction of a Chinese naval base is to be planned. Baloch politicians and activists are now talking of Chinese colonization, from which Beijing and the Pakistani establishment will benefit, not the bitterly poor province. Due to the increasing influence, Chinese companies have repeatedly been the target of attacks in Balochistan.

The Baluch's struggle for independence is also raging elsewhere. A similar situation prevails in Iran, where around 1.5 million Baluchi live. Militant groups have also organized in the local Baluch Province (Sistan and Baluchistan) to fight the government in Tehran. In addition, there is the fact that the conflict in Iran is also sectarian. The Baluch are not only seen as an ethnic minority, but also as part of the Sunni minority who must submit to Shiite rule.

CIA, Mossad and IS

The conflict is also being exploited geopolitically in Iran. However, completely different actors play a role here. Some time ago it became known that "Jundallah", a militant Salafist group that pretends to represent all Sunnis in Iran and operates mainly from Iranian Balochistan, not only from Saudi Arabia, but also from the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad and from the CIA was supported. At the same time, the group is cited by the USA as a terrorist organization that is said to have ties to Al-Qaeda.

This realization caused a sensation a few months ago. However, this was mainly due to the fact that some journalists confused "Jundallah" with a Pakistani group of the same name, which is said to have sworn allegiance to IS. Nevertheless, it is still said that some split-off Jundullah cells from Iran have now joined IS.

The role of Pakistan shows once again how paradoxical geopolitics can be. While joint action was taken against the Baluch in Pakistan and Iran during the time of the Shah regime, accusations have grown louder in recent months that Pakistan supported "Jundallah" to a certain extent in order to cause problems for Tehran.

In this respect, it is likely to be precarious for the West, that is, for the USA and Israel. After all, it looks anything but good when you now fight those you once supported. Exactly this would be the case if Jundullah splits were actually to be found on the side of IS. However, this practice would not be new, as the last few decades have shown.

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