By Aamir Khakwani
By : Imran Jamali
Brainwashing of people across Pakistan, both on provincial and national levels, is going on seemingly under well thought out plan. For example, other parts of the country are injected with disinformation that the ongoing struggle in Balochistan is for the basic rights of the people as if there are enough rights or everything available to the people in interior Sindh, Punjab, KPK and FATA.
On the provincial level this brainwashing is extremely effective where the masses are fed with the fairy tales of Pakistan’s occupation of Balochistan. The propagandists don’t use the term “forceful annexation”, which is unfairly propagated on the national television screens in Pakistan. In the province it is even worse.
This is carried out by different methods. There are anti-Pakistan books easily available in cities and districts of Balochistan, which support the Indian narration of history
The domestic newspapers and political seminars, by using the banner of Baloch Students Organization-Azad, are extremely lethal in manufacturing hardcore militants out of hatred for Pakistan. The trend needs to be arrested by our policy makers. There is a need for a national debate on the Balochistan issue as early as possible.
The Balochistan province of Pakistan is prone to environmental hazards such as tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, heat waves, cold waves and droughts. A number of quite devastating calamities have hit the province in the recent past. Some of the ruinous events have been as follows: tsunami in 1945; floods in 1950, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1992, 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2012; cyclone in 2007; and drought in 2000. Some of these, e.g. the 1935 Earthquake and the 1945 Tsunami, were phenomenally devastating.
On September 24, 2013, Awaran district of Balochistan was hit by an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale with five aftershocks on September 28. Awaran district is home to nearly 300,000 people. Of them, some 125,000 were affected by the earthquake. According to the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority’s (ERRA) estimates, 375 persons were killed and 825 got injured and about 25,000 houses were destroyed. With just about 3.3 % of its total land under cultivation, Awaran is one of the most underdeveloped districts of Balochistan. Awaran district makes a lopsided triangle on the map between three important highways: the RCD Highway, the Coastal Highway, and the (projected) Motorway (M-8). With 12 hours of travelling time, Karachi is the closest city from Awaran.
Like earlier such calamities, Pakistan Army, along with the Frontier Corps (FC), promptly acted as asked for by the government.
Even though the FC components located in the area were themselves struck by the earthquake as much as was the civilian population, yet they were the first ones to respond to the situation. The Army units were moved from Khuzdar and Karachi. Initially, the Army and FC troops distributed their own rations (about 500 tons), tents, blankets, sleeping bags, mattresses, bed sheets, clothing, cooking utensils, bathroom items such as buckets, medicines, and other commodities of common use. Later, collection points were established in Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The relief work continued even during the Eid days. About 2,500 Army personnel and 1,000 FC personnel are part of the relief efforts.
The Army has a good interface with the provincial government, the ERRA, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), and Pakistan Air Force (PAF). By the end of the Eid holidays,
24 relief sorties of C-130 and 240 helicopter sorties had flown, completing over 526 flying hours. The Army has established a field hospital in Awaran and six mobile medical camps at far-flung localities. Over 8,000 local patients have been treated, 7,000 tons of food items delivered and 37,000 tents have been distributed by the Army besides thousands of school books, stationery items and sports gear.
This makes a colossal relief effort spread over an area of 182 kilometres. As a matter of fact, Pakistan Army has transformed into an impressive and inspiring nation-building force, which remains on call of the nation for defence against external threats, security against internal threats, and human security against non-traditional threats including the environmental disaster from Attabad Lake and Gayari in Gilgit-Baltistan to floods in Thatta and Badin, and earthquake in Awaran district.
Sadly, the relief effort has been politicised and even “militarised” – all to the disadvantage of the affected populace. The militants, their collaborators, and the hostile countries and agencies have started fervidly opposing the relief activities by the Army and FC, both through a war of words and a war of weapons. The militants repeatedly attacked the security forces personnel during relief work. During 20 such attacks, six security forces personnel embraced ‘shahadat’ and 12 were seriously injured.
As for information narrative of the militants and their collaborators, a number of news items, op-eds, social media feeds and media interviews bear testimony to the fact. The threads of the militants’ narrative, though a mix of falsity and half-truths, are as follows: (1) The Army is conducting military operation against the militants; (2) The Army is gathering information about the militant organizations from the residents of Awaran; (3) The Army will stay in the area for a long time; (4) Relief efforts of the other organizations, especially the militant organizations, are being obstructed; (4) The government is not allowing the foreign NGOs and relief organizations.
On the other hand, the government upholds that not even a single soldier is operationally deployed in Balochistan. DG ISPR, in a statement on October 20, said that there was “no military operation in Awaran and Mushke as being propagated by miscreants.” He further stated that the security forces were busy in relief activity only.
Why then the noble acts and activities are being opposed, and the relief workers being attacked with rockets, machine-guns and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by the militants, can be analyzed from many angles.
First, the “no-go area” created and held as such by the militants in Awaran district, wherein the state had virtually lost its writ, seems to have been “penetrated” by the state. This has certainly fractured the narrative of militants’ control and clout over the poor Awaranites, and coercion of the district administration.
Second, the rescue and relief efforts by the Army and FC seem to have zero-sum effects in view of the militants’ pursuits and agenda. While it induces goodwill for the state security forces, the militants lose their appeal and influence over the locals. Whereas the security forces acted to rescue the Awaranites, the militants rather coerced them to rebuff the relief offers and efforts by the state.
Third, the militants fear that the Army could gather sufficient information about them. They also fear that after completing the relief work the Army might start operation against them in collaboration with the locals. This mix of fear and scepticism has led them and their collaborators to start crying foul before that the foul actually occurs.
Fourth, the issue of access to foreign NGOs in Awaran district has two important angles: (1)Under the circumstances when the Pakistani security forces engaged in relief work are “insecure” in the face of militants’ attacks, who would ensure or guarantee the security of foreign NGOs?. What if someone of them is kidnapped? The episode of John Solecki’s abduction for ransom by the Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) on February 2, 2009 (eventually released on April
4, 2009) is still fresh; and (2) in the aftermath of 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, a host of foreign NGOs were given access to the affected areas. What was the consequence? Some recently published books, e.g. The Command: Deep Inside the President’s Secret Army by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady, and The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth by Mark Mazzeetti, and several articles published in such sources as The Telegraph and Foreign Policy have revealed that Raymond Davis like CIA’s secret agents were pushed into Pakistan posing as the aid and construction workers in 2005. What if it recurs in Balochistan, which has already turned into an important square on the geo-strategic chessboard of South Asia? Bear in mind the Indian ingress in Afghanistan as a case in point. India is working on 84 different projects of socio-economic significance in Afghanistan, but all have covert military and intelligence presence for strategic pursuits.
Epistemologically speaking, the militants’ narrative is out of justification and has encountered evidential setback before that it could make some semblance of truth, and thus knowledge. Therefore it is of paramount importance for all segments of the state and society to prefer the humanitarian issues over the parochial interests. The reality of devastation in Awaran is more important than petty rhetoric, sloganeering and blame game.
The writer is a PhD (Peace and Conflict Studies) scholar and author of Human Security in Pakistan (published 2013) Email: email@example.com
By Yasmeen Aftab Ali
Even before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s “loud-thinking” the idea of making Gwadar into a free port- India moved in May this year to counter China, upgrading Iran’s Chahbahar port that gives a transit route to land-locked Afghanistan. An investment of $100 million is envisaged in the upgrade. Of course USA may not want big bucks being invested in developing of infrastructure in Iran by her new ally India, from the region. Admirably, India has stood for her ground in favor of her national interest; like every nation should. Chabahar is a roughly 100 miles from the Gwadar port. Surrounded by a free zone port, Chahbahar has strategic economic importance since Pakistan has not yet developed the transit route linking Gwadar with Qandahar.
Gwadar port; located at the entrance of Strait of Hormuz, offers huge economic opportunities not only to Pakistan but to others too ie the Central Asian Republics, Middle East, South Asia and the Gulf States. By the very virtue of this strategic geographical location it creates a conflict of interests between nations deeply influenced by its development. Gwadar also provides the shortest possible access for Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean and is the most cost effective.
Therefore under an agreement entered into by Iran and India, it were the Indian army engineers who built a road from the port leading to Dilaram for onward linkage across Oxus, thus creating and giving an alternative transit route to Afghanistan. In 1995 the first Tripartite Agreement was signed between India, Iran and Russia, when Iranian President Rafsanjani visited India. This focused on the opening of Bandar Abbas port for the Indian goods and trade, linking with Russia and later Eastern Europe. Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee pursued the matter further on his visit to Iran in 2001, resultantly; the Iranian President Khatami was invited in 2003 as the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations, which resulted in the 2003 Tripartite Defense and Trade Agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan.
Since 2001 with the laying of foundation stone of Gwadar Port by the then Chinese Vice Premier Wu Bangguo, the project has been mired in difficulties erupting from political instability overall and specifically in Baluchistan. The primary investors in the port, adjacent road and rail infrastructure and planned city of Gwadar have been China and the government of Pakistan. Construction on the highway link to Karachi and on the port began in 2002. (Reuters May 26, 2011) Sardar Akhtar Mengal admitted to the presence of “death squads sponsored by Pakistan’s neighbors and foreign powers” in Baluchistan. (Published July 8, 2013 in a local newspaper) For Pakistan, a victim of terrorism; the development of an anti-terrorism strategy cannot be emphasized enough!
I could not but link Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s words to The Kao Plan. A 240 page plan, it aims to destabilize Pakistan at three levels. “The first, known as Kao’s Bangla Plan (KBP) was chalked out to start an insurgency movement in East Pakistan and transform the Eastern part of Pakistan into a new State. The 2nd plan, known as Kao’s Balochistan Plan (KBP-II) was architected to create a similar scenario in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, while the 3rd one was relating to organize a separation movement in the then North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and now Khyber PakhtunKhwah to establish an independent State there and this one is known as the Kao’s Pakhtoonistan Plan (KPP).” The plan was, according to research source was envisaged way back in 1968 by India. Named after Rameshwar Nath Kao, the then head of IB External Division head and the founder of Directorate General of Security termed as DG (S) in India, the plan was very intelligently based on the ethnic fault lines within Pakistan.
Baluchistan’s issues are multidimensional and would require a separate article to deal with it. Suffice to say, these have been exploited by the local leaders as well as external forces interested in taking advantage of the situation. At the end of the day, it remains the responsibility of our successive provincial and central governments who have failed to evolve a cohesive economic plan for the development of Baluchistan.
China is deeply interested in Gwadar. Not because it is our “fair weather” friend as touted by many but because it sees Gwadar as a harbor from where goods from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan (petro-chemicals) and that from Afghanistan (minerals) can be shipped home. In addition, it offers a substitute trade route for the western Xinjiang province. Xinjiang shares borders with Pakistan, Eastern Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan. It provides China with an option to avail of the shortest approach to the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden, only by travelling a mere 2500km via the existing Silk Route. Gwadar is part of the “string of pearl strategy” consisting of a number of friendly ports offering possible naval facilities throughout the Indian Ocean to China. This “string of pearls strategy” can be then effectively relied upon to support any mission to protect key shipping routes between China and the Middle East or Europe through the Suez. A country like China, aspiring to take its place in the world as the next giant, is taking the right course by investing in trade routes. For Pakistan, Chinese presence in Gwader offers a strategic advantage; Chinese naval presence at this crucial point of Gulf can check the INDO-US domination of Indian Ocean. Also, Chinese naval presence is most likely to beef up Pakistan’s coastal defense. This is a development that may be viewed as threatening by many in India.
US would want to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The thawing of ice between America and Iran in the past few days notwithstanding, it does not change the American strategy. Also, US and India will be on the same page so far the question of Gwadar is concerned, both wanting to curtail the increasing China’s influence in the area, however, they may very well have different approaches towards the policy to be followed in entering into an understanding between Iran and India aimed to achieve this objective. China’s approach to the Central Asian countries has been to offer excellent terms of trade coupled with loan offers and unlike America does not pressurize Central Asian leaders to concur to a timetable and agenda for internal reforms within their country. Interestingly, there is another diplomatic twist here. Iran herself will not want to alienate China. According to a congressional commission report that came to the light in December 2012, China’s government provided goods and expertise for Iran’s nuclear program in the past and also gave Tehran’s Islamist regime missiles and other arms as part of the nations’ anti-United States policies.
Pakistan, with an objective to develop the Gwadar port, must address the issues hampering in this goal being achieved. Better sooner than later. Any country’s national interests must always first and foremost be based on the need of the country itself and then the determination as to what tactics to use and which strategic partnerships to put in use to achieve the objectives. Governments come and governments go but the long term national interest strategies are ensured implementation by succeeding political dispensations. This is exactly what India does. It does not change gears on issues of national importance with changing governments. Pakistan too must devise intelligent strategies to ensure a robust and thriving Gwadar Port. Intelligent strategies demand intelligent leadership. I am reminded here of Jeff Sessions who once said, “I certainly believe that improving our intelligence is of important national interest.”
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.