By Aamir Khakwani
WASHINGTON: The United States has made it clear that it does not support the idea of an independent Balochistan and respects Pakistan’s territorial integrity.
The question of the alleged US involvement was raised at the State Department briefing on Tuesday afternoon where spokesperson Jen Psaki said she had seen media reports suggesting that “we had been engaged with Balochistan” and promised to release an official statement on the issue.
On Wednesday, the State Department issued a statement, making it clear that “the United States respects the territorial integrity of Pakistan. It is not the policy of the administration to support independence for Balochistan.”
The question raised at the briefing also referred to a recent statement by a Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, suggesting that the United States should help Balochistan become a separate state.
“We are aware of Representative Gohmert’s comments. Members of Congress express a wide range of views. Such comments do not in any way imply US government endorsement,” said the State Department while distancing itself from Mr Gohmert’s position on the issue.
In a recent interview, Mr Gohmert suggested that to resolve the Afghanistan crisis, it’s better to have a separate Balochistan carved out of Pakistan.
Mr Gohmert’s statement followed President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last month, emphasising the need for US disengagement from Afghanistan.
The Republican Congressman interpreted the speech as an admission of defeat in Afghanistan and proposed a two-point formula for turning this possible defeat into victory: supply more arms to the Northern Alliance and a new state within the borders of Pakistan.
Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik has refuted the perception that he is a chief executive only in the name and that the actual powers are in the hands of the provincial civil bureaucracy, headed by the chief secretary.
“It is absolutely incorrect to suggest that the chief secretary is the decision-making authority in the province and I am a powerless chief minister,” CM Malik said in an annoyed tone.
“I have all powers and authority prescribed for the provincial chief executive in the Constitution and the chief secretary is discharging his duties in accordance with the rules and procedure,” Malik said in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune on Tuesday in Islamabad.
Recently, Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, acting president of the Balochistan’s ruling National Party (NP), had told the media that the provincial cabinet was a toothless body without any authority.
“We have been given the right to rule the province but we are denied decisions-making powers,” Bizenjo had said.
Dr Malik – who had also served as the president of the ruling NP till his election as the provincial chief minister in June – said that his party’s leader had been quoted by the media out of context.
An official in Quetta said the provincial chief secretary – who has been sent from Punjab – was exercising all the administrative powers and there was little role of the chief minister and his cabinet members in decision-making.
Malik defended the chief secretary against the allegations and said the chief secretary and the inspector-general of police, who was also from Punjab, were serving Balochistan with exemplary commitment and remarkable integrity.
The chief minister admitted that ‘some’ of the newly elected councilors of local bodies from Makran division had resigned their offices after they received life threats by Baloch militants.
“No doubt the newly elected councilors are still being abducted in Makran division by militants,” the CM said.
He claimed that 10 to 12 newly elected councilors resigned their offices after they were abducted by insurgents. All of them had been elected from the chief minister’s own constituency in Makran division which is also his home town.
About the improving law and order situation in the province, Malik said the December 7 elections for over 7,000 local bodies’ seats were held in a better security environment as compared to the May 11 general elections. “Over 6,500 councilors have been elected for the local governments,” he added.
by Ali Ahsan
In recent years, we have seen Balochistan become engulfed in a multi-layered conflict in Pakistan’s increasingly complex Post-9/11 predicament.
From separatist militancy (or the struggle for freedom, using the Baloch nationalist discourse), history of military operations, FC (Frontier Corps of Pakistan army) heavy handedness, human rights abuses, deliberate purging of ‘settlers’ (mostly of Punjabi, Saraiki, Sindhi and Urdu-speaking backgrounds), we have also seen an increasingly dangerous aspect of an apparent Shia genocide that has plagued the rest of Pakistan too.
One can easily say that amid violence and chaos in Balochistan, there is even more chaos and intrigue that goes far below the surface too.
One aspect is the role of the anti-Shia terror of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) as well as its “allies” or “mentors” in the rebranded Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (formerly Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) in Balochistan.
Initially when the reports of target killings of Shias including Hazara and non-Hazara Shias, began in the last decade in Quetta, the usual suspects, thanks to mainstream stereotypes, were the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and their LeJ-ASWJ-SSP allies whose presence in Pashtun parts of Quetta and Pashtun districts of north-east Balochistan became the talk of town.
However, the increasing intensity of the Shia genocide in Balochistan has taken a disturbing twist: a careful analysis of available information (news reports, videos, demographics) would reveal that while some acts of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terror acts in Balochistan are caused by radicalized Pashtuns or Punjabis, most are done by local radicalized Baloch. While the masterminds may be based in Jhang or Rawalpindi, the actual footsoldiers happen to be the newly emerging sectarian breed of Balochs.
This author spoke briefly with various senior journalists from Quetta (whose name he would prefer not to disclose) many months back, and he was surprised when almost all the journalists and reporters revealed that majority of LeJ operations and planning is taking place in Baloch-concentration areas.
It was also revealed that whenever local police attempted to do search operations in wake of Shia killings in Quetta, their information almost always led them to raid the Baloch areas of Sariyab Road each and every time – and some of the killings of Shias have also taken place in that very area.
Now it is also apparent that areas like Sariyab Road are considered a hub of Baloch nationalist-separatist activity, but the LeJ dimension of Sariyab Road adds another twist in the tale.
I know that this blog (LUBP) sympathises and supports Baloch struggle for separation/freedom, however, it should also consider that anti-Shia sectarian militancy is also making inroads in Baloch nation.
A viral video has made rounds online where a Quetta bus carrying Shia pilgrims was stopped by masked terrorists in Mastung (September 2011), and where all Shias (including Hazara and non-Hazara Shias) in the bus were rounded up and shot dead in cold blood. Upon closer inspection of that video, it turns out that the killers of those Shia pilgrims were not speaking Pashtu or Punjabi – as the common stereotype is – but Brahvi mixed with some Balochi. Brahvi speaking people are an integral part of the Baloch nation.
In recent times the Baloch city of Mastung – an traditional stronghold of Baloch politics – has become a hotbead of anti-Shia killings and many deadly acts of terror have been carried out against Shias in and around Mastung where the local language is both Brahvi and Balochi.
This surprising new dimension made the author approach some local Bangulzai people of Mastung (names withheld), and even they confirmed that yes, LeJ terror acts are carried out by local radicalized Baloch militants. They even said that the Mastung streets are now littered with anti-Shia wall chalkings in many localities.
The recent bold show of Muhammad Malick on Dunya with Amir Mateen talking about Shia Genocide in Balochistan also revealed that LeJ was taking hold in otherwise secular Baloch nation; he also the names of the LeJ activists roaming free and carrying out their dirty deeds – all of the names were Baloch (e.g., Saifullah Kurd and Shafeeq Rind who escaped high security anti terrorist jail in Quetta cantonment with the alleged connivance of the security agencies).
Listen to Amir Mateen in the above video at 04:30 “All of the sectarian terrorists nabbed in Balochistan are 100% Baloch. Religious extremism is being spread in the otherwise tolerant Baloch nation.”
Such revelations from diverse sources, mixed with careful examination of news reports of Shia Genocide in Balochistan, and a bit of independent research makes the Baloch-dimension of the killings become a real shocking and disturbing aspect of the country-wide Shia genocide taking place in Pakistan, right from Quetta to Gilgit and from Karachi to Parachinar.
As earlier stated, Mastung is a Baloch city and that is a LeJ-ASWJ-SSP stronghold now. Of course, several of such radicalized anti-Shia Balochs are working as mercenaries in Saudi-Bahrain suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain. Some of them are also aligned with Jundullah, have racist tendencies against entire Iranian nation (instead of Iranian ruling elites) and mourn when Jundullah terrorists were nabbed by Iran. Baloch Nationalist Front (BNF) and others officially declared mourning for the execution of Abdul Malik Rigi, who was Iranian version of Pakistan’s Malik Ishaq or Iraq’s version of Abu Musab Zarqawi, in hatred and murder of Shias. Here are two of several incidents of Shia genocide conducted and claimed by Jundullah: 32 Shias were killed on Imam Hussain’s birthday in Zahidan in July 2010, and another 38 were killed in December 2010 in an attack on Imam Hussain Mosque.
Balochs have been very tolerant to Shias and other minority groups. Hindus have lived most peacefully in Balochistan.. Baloch-Brahvi society always been heterogenous, all-welcoming. I knew plenty in real life, they are lovely folk. However, radicalized Balochs do not represnt all Balochs; same way a few Punjabi/Pashtun degenerates do NOT represent all Pashtuns and Punjabis. I am NOT judging whole of Baloch nation as “sectarian monsters” as I dont judge Pashtuns Punjabis either.