Thursday, September 28, 2006


Who has controlled the Middle East over the course of history? Pretty much everyone. Egyptians, Turks, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Greeks, Persians, Europeans...the list goes on. Who will control the Middle East today? That is a much bigger question.

Twenty civilizations in 90 seconds. Press here

1450 Kingdom of Egypt
1340 Hittite Empire
1050 Kingdom of Israel
920 Kingdom of Israel / Kingdom of Judea
721 Assyrian Empire
600 Babylonian Empire
550 Persian Empire
336 Macedonian and Greek Empire
117 Roman Empire
565 Byzantine Empire
750 The Caliphate
1140 Crusader's Kingdom
1187 Saladin's Empire
1279 Mongol Empire
1700 Ottoman Empire
1912 European Colonialism
1920 Nation States and Borders are Established
1948 State of Israel Founded
1979 Era of Independance

You need to make a couple of additions

1) Sumerians
2) Sassanids 602-629,
3) Seljuk Turks 1037-1194


I think comedian Bill Hicks said it best in this quote from Rant in E-Minor:

I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here: "I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs." "I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking." "Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Speech here

...The devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house.

"And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here." [crosses himself] "And it smells of sulfur still today.

Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.

I think we could call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday's statement made by the president of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world.

An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: "The Devil's Recipe."


UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Venezuela's outspoken President Hugo Chavez has called US president George W. Bush "the devil", "a liar" and a "tyrant" in a scathing attack before the UN General Assembly.

"Yesterday the devil came here and this place still smells of sulphur," Chavez said, referring to Bush's speech at the assembly on Tuesday.

"He came here talking as if he were the owner of the world."

Chavez launched a virulent attack on what he called US "hegemony" and renewed calls for drastic reform of the
United Nations to reduce the US influence.

In a warmly applauded speech in which he quoted at different times left-wing US intellectual Noam Chomsky, Greek philosopher Aristotle and film director Alfred Hitchcock, Chavez also called Bush "a liar" and "a tyrant".

"We cannot allow world dictatorship to be consolidated," he told the assembly.

US "imperialism", he added, was "a threat to the survival of the human race."

Bush promoted "a false democracy of the elite" and a "democracy of bombs", he declared.

The left-wing Venezuelan president is a frequent critic of the US administration which he accuses of backing a plot to overthrow him.

Washington considers Chavez, a close ally of communist Cuba, to be a destabilizing influence in Latin America. But the United States is a major consumer of Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez displays author Noam Chomsky's book: 'Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance' as Chavez addresses the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations at United Nations headquarters in New York September 20, 2006. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"I should have been as tough as Putin": Gorbachev

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said on Tuesday he supported tough measures taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin and wished he had adopted them.

Gorbachev, whose political reforms led to the collapse of the communist empire, said he should have squashed the challenge from Boris Yeltsin, his arch-rival and subsequently first Russian president, by sending him into diplomatic exile.

And he said separatist outbreaks that plagued his last years in power should have been crushed by taking their leaders to court.

"I now support Putin as far as resorting to tough measures to maintain stability is concerned," he said.

Putin, who succeeded Yeltsin in 2000, has moved to restore Kremlin control over Russia, lost in the first post-Soviet decade marked by unending political crises and economic hardships for the majority of the population.

In achieving his goals, Putin has subdued political opposition and put political forces, government and regional administrations under strong Kremlin control triggering Western fears that Russia could be backtracking on democracy.

Putin has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "one of the greatest geo-political catastrophes of the 20th century".


New Fox Unit to Produce Christian Films

The studio plans to produce as many as 12 movies a year aimed at religious audiences.

By Lorenza Muñoz
Times Staff Writer
Posted September 19 2006

Sep 19, 2006

In the biggest commitment of its sort by a Hollywood studio, News Corp.'s Fox Filmed Entertainment is expected to unveil plans today to capture the gargantuan Christian audience that made "The Passion of the Christ" a global phenomenon.

The home entertainment division of Rupert Murdoch's movie studio plans to produce as many as a dozen films a year under a banner called FoxFaith. At least six of those films will be released in theaters under an agreement with two of the nation's largest chains, AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas.

The first theatrical release, called "Love's Abiding Joy," is scheduled to hit the big screen Oct. 6. The movie, which cost about $2 million to make, is based on the fourth installment of Christian novelist Janette Oke's popular series, "Love Comes Softly."

Over the last four years, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has quietly built a network to mobilize evangelical Christian moviegoers in an era of diminishing box-office returns. The network includes 90,000 congregations and a database of more than 14 million mainly evangelical households.

FoxFaith films, to be based on Christian bestsellers, will have small budgets of less than $5 million each, compared with the $60-million average. The movies each will be backed by $5-million marketing campaigns. Although that is skimpy compared with the $36 million Hollywood spends to market the average movie, the budget is significant for targeting a niche audience, especially one as fervent as many evangelical Christians.

"The Passion" grossed $612 million
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion..." took in $745
"The Da Vinci Code," which has brought in $754 million worldwide.

But what really propelled the idea of devoting a label to Christian titles was Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." The film's success stunned Hollywood and confirmed Fox executives' hunches about the Christian market.

In preparation for its theatrical debut, FoxFaith partnered with the Dove Foundation, a nonprofit organization that monitors "wholesome" family entertainment. Dove agreed to place its seal of approval on some FoxFaith films.

In February, Yordy unveiled the FoxFaith logo at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, bringing the normally skeptical crowd to its feet. Seeing the label on the big screen formalized the commitment from Fox, Yordy said.

Outside the studio system

Here are key movies produced by Christians outside the Hollywood studio system:

Title, Release date: Domestic box-office gross (in millions)

The Passion of the Christ, 2004: $370.8

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 2005: $291.7

Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, 2002: $25.6

The Omega Code, 1999: $12.6

End of the Spear, 2006: $11.7

Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, 2001: $6.0

Luther, 2003: $5.8

The Other Side of Heaven, 2001: $4.7

Left Behind, 2001: $4.2

China Cry: A True Story, 1990: $4.2


Bush Tells Group He Sees a 'Third Awakening'

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006; A05

President Bush said yesterday that he senses a "Third Awakening" of religious devotion in the United States that has coincided with the nation's struggle with international terrorists, a war that he depicted as "a confrontation between good and evil."

"A lot of people in America see this as a confrontation between good and evil, including me," Bush said during a 1 1/2 -hour Oval Office conversation on cultural changes and a battle with terrorists that he sees lasting decades. "There was a stark change between the culture of the '50s and the '60s -- boom -- and I think there's change happening here," he added. "It seems to me that there's a Third Awakening."

The First Great Awakening refers to a wave of Christian fervor in the American colonies from about 1730 to 1760, while the Second Great Awakening is generally believed to have occurred from 1800 to 1830.

The White House did not release a transcript of Bush's remarks, but National Review posted highlights on its Web site. On another topic, Bush rejected sending more troops to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas to find Osama bin Laden. "One hundred thousand troops there in Pakistan is not the answer. It's someone saying 'Guess what' and then the kinetic action begins," he said, meaning an informer disclosing bin Laden's location.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gilles Kepes: "The War for Muslim Minds"

By Thomas D'Evelyn

Reading Gilles Kepel's new book, "The War for Muslim Minds," challenges one's sense of scale. Crucial, irreversible steps such as George W. Bush's early decision not to pursue the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and the neoconservatives' justification for the Iraq war, take on new meaning when seen in context of the enormous geopolitical scope of Islam today.

In short, while the US administration believes that Western values will appeal to the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, the Muslim world is consumed with its own internal debates that dwarf those of the West. In this sense, 9/11 was only incidentally about "us."

Kepel, a professor of Middle East studies at the Institutde of Political Studies in Paris, gathers his early themes in the following statement: "The attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon were not a thunderbolt out of the blue. They were part of a precise, carefully considered program that combined the logic of jihad, the operational tactics of guerrilla warfare, the opportunistic advantages offered by the Arab-Israeli conflict during the second intifada, and the political influence of neoconservative ideology on US foreign policy - all of which worked to the advantage of radical Islamism."

While Kepel's book helps us to see how American strategies influence debates within the Islamic world, we also begin to understand the "war on terror" not as "Bush's war" but as a war waged by militant Islamists for the minds of Muslims. Osama bin Laden, he argues, has not won that war yet, but both Russia, with its war in Chechnya, and the US, with its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have inadvertently fueled the cause of radical Islam.

In later chapters on "Saudi Arabia in the eye of the storm," "the calamity of nation building in Iraq," and "the battle for Europe," Kepel describes the crosscurrents and conflicts that characterize the Muslim world today.

Easy to read (no footnotes but a good bibliography for each chapter), this persuasive book challenges the American perspective on the war on terror and, more important reveals the rich complexity of contemporary Islam.

What's more, Kepel's final pages on the integration of young progressive Muslims in Europe hold out a promise for a better world.

• Thomas D'Evelyn is an editorial consultant in Providence, R.I.

Jason Burke, Author of "Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror"


Where Bush and the Neo-cons see a childish sort of black and white, good and bad battle against "evil," British journalist Jason Burke sees a thousand shades of gray. If you read through Burke's thoroughly researched "Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terrorism," you come away thinking that we have simpletons in the White House directing a unilateral blunderbuss at a problem that requires nuance, vision and collaboration.

But most importantly, you learn from Burke's exploration of Islamic terrorism that the Bush Cartel and its Neo-con strategists don't understand the complexity of the problem. As a result, we are less secure as a nation because the White House doesn't really have a clue what is motivating the terrorism committed against the United States.

We were pleased to interview Jason Burke over the phone from his office at the London-based "Observer."

BuzzFlash is offering "Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terrorism" as a premium. [LINK]


When David Cole was first writing Enemy Aliens, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the anti-immigrant brand of American patriotism was at fever pitch. Now, as the pendulum swings back, and court after court finds the Bush administration�s tactics of secrecy and assumption of guilt unconstitutional, Cole�s book stands as a prescient and critical indictment of the double standards we have applied in the war on terror.

Called �brilliantly argued� by Edward Said, and �the essential book in the field� by former CIA Director James Woolsey, Enemy Aliens shows why it is a moral, constitutional, and practical imperative to afford every person in the United States the protections from government excesses that we expect for ourselves.

David Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a volunteer staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. He is also legal affairs correspondent for The Nation and a commentator on NPR�s All Things Considered. He was named one of the top forty-five public sector lawyers under forty-five by The American Lawyer.

Frontline Documentary: Chasing the Sleeper Cells

Friday, September 15, 2006


It would be fair to say that the killing of the Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti has shocked many if not most of Pakistan – the 99.65% civilian part that is.

The general feeling is that this was one step too far for Musharraf to take.

Many people believe – including your Blogger – that the little man in Musharraf was incensed by the derision Akbar Bugti often directed towards his burgeoning sense of self-importance. This was made obvious when he made pejorative references to Nawab Bugti as a ‘pygmy’ and ‘non-Nawab’ in his televised speeches.

The first attempt to kill Bugti was made on 17th March 2005 when high-tech TOW missiles rained all around the Nawab as he moved around his private grounds in Dera Bugti. Then luck was with him as several of people accompanying him perished in the sudden aerial attack. Sadly seventeen Hindus of Dera Bugti, who had taken shelter nearby, also died after being subjected to a direct hit.

The second attempt to assassinate him took place in early July 2006 when after some PAF bombing sorties and dozens of helicopter gunship missile attacks, elite SSG commandos were dropped near Bugti’s mountain hideout. In the ensuing firefight in which the commandos suffered heavy casualties, Nawab Bugti made a successful escape and sought sanctuary, as we now discover, in the Bhambore hills, between Kohlu and Dera Bugti.

On Saturday the Army said their interception of a satellite phone call led security forces to Bugti’s latest lair. A ferocious firefight took place in which it is believed that 25 commandos and between 24-37 Baloch rebels died – including the venerable Nawab Akbar Bugti. Upon hearing the news of Bugti’s death, Dawn reported, Musharraf was quick to congratulate his troops.


Not surprisingly the news of Nawab Bugti’s killing led to a frenzied response in Balochistan as the whole province came to a standstill amid public protest.

Caught on a hop Musharraf began dissembling. No, said the ISPR spokesman, Bugti had not been a target – which is pure piffle. Then came an extremely muddled response from the usually glib ex-Jamaati Minister for Information. Durrani prattled on about a cave which had seemingly collapsed with the Nawab in it, ‘We are now searching for his body’, he said.

Hang on, Akbar Bugti was an eighty-year old man incapacitated with a muscle-wasting disease and unable to walk. How could the army have so confidently announced that they had killed him if he had been trapped within the depths of a cave?

On the other hand the account of the BLA spokesman Azad Baloch, broadcast last night on BBC’s Urdu Service, is much more credible. According to him, having tracked down the Bugti chief on a hillside the commandos and the Baloch engaged in a bitter battle out in the open. Outnumbered the Baloch were all killed and Akbar Bugti’s body was identified among the slain. The army has no intention of handing over the deceased Nawab’s body to his heirs, hence the subterfuge about digging out the cave searching for a body that will not be found.

And, why is Musharraf so scared of handing over the body to the Nawab’s family?

Simply because his grave will become a focal point, a shrine for all the Baloch as they vent their rage over the army’s merciless actions in Balochistan.

Your Bloggers parting comments:
1. Nawab Akbar Bugti was a man who was prepared to die for his beliefs. He will be eulogized by the Baloch, even by the unborn Baloch generations yet to come.
2. Musharraf is a disaster for Pakistan. He is a little man wearing boots of a size much too large for him.


27/08: Nawab Akbar Bugti and his grandons killed
For those of you who don't know about Bugti, you can read about him on Wikipedia.

The security forces killed Akbar Bugti, a tribal leader of Balochistan, and his two grandsons last night. Usually I would protest against such actions but this time, I am quite glad and commend the Armed Forces of Pakistan for this. Akbar Bugti and his grandsons were rebels in Balochistan, commiting terrorism which is armed and financed by India from its consulates in Afghanistan and backed by India, Russia and some American factions (to pressurize Musharraf). The backing provided to these terrorists (in the form of terror and propaganda cells in Balochistan and Afghanistan and modern weaponry) and their illegal activities in Balochistan from the Indian consulates in Afghanistan is a well known fact even though the Indian government vehemently denies it.

Bugti and his terrorist organization, calling itself BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army) have made it difficult for the people of Balochistan to live a peaceful and prosperous life. Most of the affectees of BLA's terrorist acions are women and children. South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) has this to say about the activities of BLA:

Over last few months, Baloch rebels have been hard at work planting landmines, firing rockets, exploding bombs or ambushing military convoys and killing dozens including army jawans (soldiers), levies, security agents, Government officials as well as civilians. The Sui airport building has been blown up, gas pipelines and electricity grids have been hit repeatedly, and bomb explosions have been engineered close to the official residence of the provincial Chief Minister as well as the Governor. Even the military installations in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, have not been spared by the angry nationalists. A fierce gun-battle between tribal insurgents and the Frontier Corps (FC) near Sangsela in the Dera Bugti district of Balochistan province on March 17, 2005, left more than 50 dead, mostly women and children.

Bugti was also against allowing the people of Balochistan the right of education. This was all done to keep the poor people of Dera Bugti which included peasants and slaves, under his thumb. His grandsons were equal culprits in all of these activities. People had to get education in secret to avoid the ire of Bugti and his fines of upto 0.5 million rupees. Here's a link for the article about the murder of many people by Bugti and his henchmen for wanting to be educated.

These events had become a routine in the province until the current government headed by Musharraf made some efforts to try to control the situation. I commend Musharraf and the armed forces for getting rid of this menace from Balochistan and hope that the Balochi people can now work together against any such future leaders and progress further. This might also help mark the end of the Sardari (feudal) system.



By Miguel Angel Gutierrez Thu Sep 14, 7:22 PM ET

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Leftist protests forced President
Vicente Fox to abandon plans to lead Mexico's main independence day ceremony in the capital on Friday, reducing the risk of violence over a hotly contested election.

Fox will instead give the highly charged cry of independence in the central town of Dolores Hidalgo, Interior Minister Carlos Abascal told reporters on Thursday.

The conservative Fox is targeted by leftists angry at what they say was fraud in the July 2 presidential vote, narrowly won by ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon.

The traditional ceremony, known as "el grito" (the shout) normally takes place in the capital's huge Zocalo square on the September 15 eve of independence day and culminates in the president shouting, "Viva Mexico!" to a flag-waving crowd.

But followers of losing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who have occupied the plaza for six weeks had vowed a rowdy demonstration against Fox there.

"They would have booed him. They would have called him traitor and stuff like that, insulted his mother," said Lopez Obrador supporter Nicolas Lopez, 63, in the Zocalo.


The Balochistan Crisis – Part Two
February, 2006

Articles and ReportsAmicus
Continued from Part One
With this background in mind we come to the present situation in Balochistan that needs to be looked at from domestic and international perspectives, for it is far more complex than what had been happening in the past.

The geopolitical changes in the post-Cold War period, together with the cataclysmic events related to 9/11, have imparted great importance to Balochistan and dragged Pakistan into what is referred to as the new ‘Great Game’, which is all about control of, and access to, the energy resources of Central Asia. In this regard, the following facts need to be highlighted:

1. The Central Asian Republics are rich in oil and gas resources. They are landlocked and in dire need of a corridor for export of their energy resources and a transit route for trade and commerce.

2. China has produced an economic miracle during the last decade or so. To maintain the momentum of its growth, China has three sets of requirements:

a) Transit trade route for its western region
b) Energy corridor to import oil from the Gulf region
c) Naval facilities or foothold on the Arabian Sea coast to protect its energy supply line from the Middle East.

3. India’s growth rate is also spectacular. For catering to its increasing energy requirement, it needs to look towards the Central Asian Republics and Iran. Its long-term strategic objective is to dominate the whole Indian Ocean region from eastern parts of African continent to South East Asia. It has its own version of ‘Monroe Doctrine’ for South Asian Subcontinent where it seeks absolute and exclusive hegemony.

4. The United States is pre-occupied with the obsession to maintain its super power status. To prevent the rise of any rival, be that China or any European power, the United States desires to dominate the Middle East and Central Asia, for they are rich in oil and gas resources. Apart from ‘war on terror’ and bogey of weapons of mass destruction, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq should be seen in the context of its quest for world hegemony. The United States wants to command important sea-lanes, be that the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Hormuz or the Suez Canal.

5. Due to its common border with Afghanistan, the United States considers Balochistan territory as important for military operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In fact, the United States has military bases in Dalbandin and Pasni on the Balochistan coast.

Fully mindful of the tremendous opportunities at hand, Pakistan government has embarked upon or envisaged a number of projects that have potentials to change the destiny of Balochistan.

The most important of all the projects is the Gwadar port that is being developed with the financial and technical assistance of China. The agreement for the construction of this deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea coast of Balochistan was concluded in 2001. The work on the project began in 2002 and its first phase was completed in January 2005. The Gwadar Port is situated at a distance of 725 km from Karachi and 72 km from the Iranian border and on completion it would serve as a transit route for Central Asian Republics as well as China.

The Gwadar Port would help China in enhancing its energy security by offering a transit terminal for oil imports from the Middle East and the Gulf region. At present the bulk of oil imported by China has to pass through the Strait of Malacca, a route that is quite long and increases the risk factor in abnormal times due to American presence in the region.

China is very much concerned about its energy security, and is, acquiring different facilities in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand. [5]

After completion of the second phase, the Gwadar port would be able to receive oil tankers with a capacity of nearly 200,000 tons. Obviously it is not exclusively meant for China and a number of countries would use the facilities at Gwadar when it becomes the gateway to Central Asia.

Apart from a source of earning, the Gwadar Port is important for Pakistan from strategic and defense point of view. During the war of 1971, India had successfully blockaded the port of Karachi that could have choked the economic lifeline of Pakistan. There was a serious apprehension in the midst of the Kargil confrontation in 1999 that the Indian Navy might try to do the same again. To strengthen its naval defense, Pakistan has completed the construction of Ormara base.

Now, the Gwadar Port would not only be a relatively secure alternative port for Pakistan but with Chinese presence it would be a strong impediment for India in the realization of its hegemony in Indian Ocean region. During the 1970s, Pakistan had supported American naval presence in the Indian Ocean, including its plan to develop the Diego Garcia military base, to counter Indian domination. With the United States and India coming closer for their strategic objectives, it is extremely important that China makes its presence felt for the same purpose.

As stated above, Balochistan has the potentials to offer energy corridor to the Central Asian Republics. In this regard, there is a plan to construct a gas pipeline from Daulatabad to Gwadar via Afghanistan for onward export to South East Asia. For this purpose, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan have already concluded an agreement.

Lately this project was overshadowed by Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project to be completed at a revised cost of $ 7 billion. Signed in January 2005, India has an agreement with Iran under which Iran is to supply 7.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas annually to India from 2009 for next 25 years. The proposed gas pipeline project, if completed, would fetch $ 700 million per annum for Pakistan. India and Pakistan are under intense American pressure to give up the project.

The United States and India are in the process of finalizing a deal on transfer of advanced nuclear technology from America to India for use in civilian nuclear program. As quid pro quo, the United States has demanded opening up of Indian civilian nuclear facilities for inspection by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and abandonment of Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

In a recent statement, General Pervez Musharraf has asked for “compensation” if Pakistan agrees to drop the idea of implementing this economically lucrative project. The United States has no objection on Turkmenistan – Afghanistan -- Pakistan or Qatar – Pakistan gas pipeline and extension of any of them to India.

In case sanctions are imposed on Iran or the United States opts for military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, these alternative projects may go ahead first.

Without proper infrastructure the real potential of Balochistan could not have been realized. Therefore, the government has planned to construct a network of roads linking Gwadar with Karachi, Pasni, Ormara and Turbat. This Coastal Highway will reach the Iranian border at Gupt. Simultaneously, the whole network would be connected to the Indus Highway and through it to China.

There is also an agreement concluded between Pakistan, China, Kazakhistan, Kyrgistan and Uzbekistan for development of railroad to link Central Asia and Xin Jiang province of China with the Arabian Sea Coast. [6]

In shaping its foreign policy Pakistan has given due consideration to the sensitivities and capabilities of the external players as would be evident from the discussion below:

The Chinese have vital interest in sovereignty, political independence, security and territorial integrity of Pakistan. In politics one does not have permanent friends or foes but because of the nature of China’s stakes in Pakistan it can be relied upon to stand by Pakistan in thick and thin. Both China and Pakistan have identity of interests in denying India any hegemonic role in the Indian Ocean.

Therefore, China’s presence on the Balochistan coast of Arabian Sea is beneficial for Pakistan. China is also expanding its cooperation with Pakistan in Saindak project. It is also a positive sign that Pakistan is not prepared to play any role in American design to contain China and is not willing to offer any facilities to the United States that may be considered as detrimental to Chinese security interests. All credit goes to the Musharraf government for concluding the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good-Neighborly Relations with China on 5 April 2005 that has provisions to the above effect. [7]

The United States does not seem to be very happy with the Chinese role in Balochistan. In the first place, it goes against the America policy which is to develop India as a counterpoise to China in the Indian Ocean region.

Secondly, Chinese presence at Mekran Coast, right at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, which enhances China’s energy security and enables it to intercept communications of American military bases in the Gulf and to monitor naval movements in the region, is something unpleasant for the United States. Therefore, it may be in the interest of the United States to let Balochistan remain disturbed to an extent where progress on mega projects slows down.

By promoting Balochi nationalism, America can also hope to create problems for Iran in its Balochistan. However, the United States is in a dilemma because it realizes that the Pakistan government may have to rely on Islamic militants to counter the Balochi nationalists and that would have a negative impact on its so-called ‘war on terror’.

Frederic Grare, an ex-diplomat and expert, (presently with Carnegie Endowment Trust in USA) on South Asian affairs, has expressed his opinion in a recent study that “the Pakistan army (allegedly) exercises its power by manipulating Islam to weaken Baluch nationalism.” [8]

He may be right. However, Americans and other stake holders in the region should be vary of pushing Pakistan into a situation that may coerce Pakistan into making such compulsive choice in its National interest.

American dilemma is likely to restrain it from supporting the nationalists in Balochistan in any meaningful way. The United States ought to be well aware that by making any move that may antagonize Pakistan, it would only push that country further towards China.

The other option for the United States is to work for creation of an independent Balochistan. But that is an extremely risky business and may plunge the whole region into turmoil with China fighting a proxy war against America. With its hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States cannot afford to go for such an option.

The unrest in Balochistan is in India’s interest for various reasons: First to impede China from projecting its power in the Arabian Sea that India wants to be its domain. Secondly, to prevent Pakistan from offering safe transit route to Central Asian Republics, so that they opt for alternative Afghanistan–Iran route. India has been investing on Zaranj-Delaram road to facilitate trade links with Central Asia via Iran and Afghanistan. Thirdly, to apply pressure on Pakistan that it should give up support to militancy in Kashmir.

The opening of Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandhar has facilitated the RAW in its activities inside Balochistan. Indian statement on the situation in Balochistan was a blatant interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and was duly rebuked.

By continuing with composite dialogue with India and minimizing the level of infiltration, Pakistan is ensuring that India also shows restraint in Balochistan as a quid pro quo. Pakistan’s decision not to back or encourage full-fledged militancy is itself a built in leverage of sort.

India knows that if it crosses the threshold of Pakistan’s tolerance by enhancing its involvement in Balochistan, Pakistan could substantially increase promotion of militancy in Indian occupied Kashmir.

India does not have direct physical contact with Balochistan and that restricts its capability to intervene in Balochistan.

However, if India does not retract its present overt and covert overtures and flirtation with the disgruntled Sardars (Tribal Leaders) from its so-called diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, Iran and its South Block, it may qualitative hurt the composite dialogue and ancillary CBMs. Pakistan having direct borders with Kashmir is fully capable of tit for tat.

Provided Pakistan remains committed to the policy of non-interference in Iranian affairs and does not offer its territory to the United States for use against Iran, there is no reason for Iran to foment trouble in Balochistan.

In fact it is not in the interest of Iran that Balochi nationalism becomes strong in Pakistan, for that may spillover into Iranian side and revive the idea of ‘Greater Balochistan’. Very sensibly Pakistan has resisted American pressure to work for regime change in Iran and this is a guarantee that Iran would refrain from interfering in Pakistani Balochistan.

In the light of international constraints and compulsions, we may conclude that Pakistan is playing its cards well on the external front.

With the announcement of the mega projects, Balochistan started to simmer. The foremost reason was that the Pakistan government decided to tighten its hold over the province. It was felt that implementation, security and operation of the mega projects required greater and more direct control of the federal and provincial governments over the Balochistan territory.
For this reason and its threat perceptions and National Security concerns, the federal government announced the establishment of three cantonments, which was resented by Baloch nationalists and certain tribal chiefs.

In March 2005, the Prime minister of China was to inaugurate the first phase of the Gwadar Port when all of a sudden in January the level of insurgency reached new height and Sui erupted like a volcano on the pretext that a Lady Doctor posted there had been raped by some army officer.

The inauguration ceremony at the hands of the Chinese Premier had to be cancelled. To sort out the issues a special committee was set up, but no final solution could be achieved.

During the year 2005 there were 187 bomb blasts, 275 rocket attacks, 8 attacks on gas pipelines, 36 attacks on electricity-transmission lines and 19 explosions on railway tracks. At least 182 civilians and 26 security personnel were killed. [9] The situation took a particularly ugly turn when on 14 December 2005 President Musharraf went to visit Kohlu for announcement of a development package and rockets were fired at him. Subsequently, an army helicopter carrying the Inspector-General Frontier Corps (IGFC), Maj-General Shujaat Zamir Dar and his Deputy Brig. Saleem Nawaz, was fired at.

The government launched a para-military action that targeted training camps but the Baloch nationalists claimed that several women and children were killed. Since then bomb blasts and attacks on government installations of all kinds has become a routine and there have been incidents of sabotage in Punjab and Sindh. The official version is that a number of guerrilla training camps have been destroyed and selective action is being taken against the miscreants.

The crux of the Balochistan problem is that some of the tribal chiefs, in particular Mir Khair Bukhsh Marri, Attaullah Khan Mengal and Nawab Akbar Bughti, are not prepared to give up the privileged and effective position that they enjoy under the remnant of the Sandeman system. They are vehemently opposed to conversion of indirectly-controlled ‘B’ category territory into directly-controlled ‘A’ category territory for simple reason that it would undermine their authority and prestige.

However, the Baloch nationalists, including the tribal chiefs, have other complaints also:

1. They perceive the policies of federal government as against their national aspirations and demand recognition of ethnic identities in ‘multi-national’ Pakistan. The nationalist leaders refer to past experiences of Baluchistan with Pakistan government, in particular during the crises of 1958 and 1973-1977.They insist on greater provincial autonomy, including recognition of their rights on natural resources and ports, something that the federal government finds difficult to concede.

2. The middle class Baloch nationalists resent the fact they do not have proper representation in the armed forces and civil administration.

3. The Baloch nationalists also contend that the federal government ignored the economic and social development of Balochistan during last six decades. Potable water is not available in several parts of Balochistan. It lags in education. There is hardly any industrialization in the province. Even Sui gas, which was discovered in 1953, was first supplied to big cities of Sindh and Punjab.

4. The present mega-projects, according to the Baloch nationalists, are meant for the benefits of people from other provinces who would in due course colonize Balochistan converting the ethnic Balochis into a minority. They give the example of Sindh where the provincial government is at the mercy of non-Sindhis and anticipate the same future for Balochistan if unhindered influx of population from outside Balochistan in the name of development is allowed.

5. They resent the manner in which the mega projects have been conceived. Important jobs have gone to non-Balochis. The entrepreneurs from other provinces, in particular developers and builders, are minting money. Non-Balochis have benefited a lot from land speculation. Profitable contracts have gone to the armed forces personnel.

6. The Baloch nationalists are unanimously against the construction of cantonments in Kohlu, Sui or any other place.

7. In the past, the Bhutto government had failed to break the resolve of the Marris and Mengals, despite heavy deployment of troops and use of air power. According to one estimate some fifty-five thousand tribesmen fought against seventy thousand Pakistani troops during the 1973-77 insurgencies. The situation may not be much different today.

The common Baluch, uneducated and nurtured in tribal culture, has strong commitment to his chief and military action may lead to the involvement of the Pakistan Armed forces in a protracted and costly conflict. It is easy said than done that Pakistani troops can flush out the miscreants or destroy their sanctuaries.

No doubt, the Baloch nationalists do not seem to have strength to secure separation of Balochistan, but they do have the capability to damage transport and communication network at will through guerrilla warfare.

The sons of Khair Bukhsh Marri have established a foreign-based network to receive financial support and arms and ammunition. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) is said to be under their control. Akbar Bugti has his own force of about ten thousand tribesmen.

These tribal chiefs have managed to establish training camps where hundreds of disgruntled youth have been taught in use of weapons. The insurgents can also finance their war through drug-trafficking. The Pakistan government may be stretched to ensure security of pipelines, highways, railway tracks, electric towers and communication installations in sporadically populated and territorially vast Balochistan.

Given its own limitations and precarious geopolitical situation in the region, the preferable option for Pakistan government is to go gradually for the introduction of reforms in the existing administrative system.

Rather than imposing from above, let the urge for reforms come indigenously at appropriate time. Both the sides__ the government and the tribal chiefs __ have shown their muscles. It’s the time if the tribal chiefs offered a guarantee that development infrastructure and installations related to mega projects would be not be targeted, they should be taken on board and due monetary benefits from mega-projects be shared with the tribal chiefs in greater national interests.

As regards other Baloch grievances, there cannot be two opinions that the provincial autonomy enshrined in the Constitution of 1973 be granted in letter and spirit, more jobs be reserved for locals in the development projects, the share of Balochistan in the award of National Finance Commission be enhanced and necessary legislation, to the satisfaction of all genuine concerns of Balochis, be done regarding the settlement of non-locals in Balochistan as a result of mega-projects.

As regards establishment of cantonments, they should be proceeded with as the National Interest demands securing the borders, safe guarding the coastline, precious economic, geo-strategic, (land bound and maritime), national interests.

If the Baloch nationalists are not prepared to accept these conditions, the Pakistan government would have legitimate reasons to resort to selective military action against the miscreants.

About the author: Amicus is the pseudonym of Mohammed Yousuf Advocate, a Lawyer based in Karachi. He has written extensively on current affairs, with reference to South and Central Asia. He can be reached on

1. A.B. Awan, Baluchistan: Historical and Political Processes, London: New Century Publishers, 1985, p. 201.
2. Quoted in Khalid B. Sayeed, Politics in Pakistan: The Nature and Direction of Change, Newyork: Praeger Publishers, 1980, pp. 3-4.
3. A.B. Awan, op.cit., p. 189.
4. Quoted in ibid., p 211.
5. For detail, see Sudha Ramachandran, “China’s Pearl Loses Its Luster”, Asia Times Online, 21 January 2006.
6. Wilson John, “Gwadar and the China Angle”, The Pioneer, New Delhi, 4 January 2005.
7. Mohammad Ali Siddiqui, “New Level of Friendship with China”, Dawn, Karachi, 9 April 2005.
8. Frederic Grare, Pakistan: The Resurgence of Baluch Nationalism, (Carnegie Paper), Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Number 65, January 2006, p. 3.
9. Sudha Ramachandran, op.cit


The Balochistan Crisis – Part One

Articles and ReportsAmicus
Situated in the southwest of the country, and spread over 347,190 sq km, the province of Balochistan comprises 43% of Pakistan’s territory. In the west it has common borders with Iran and in the northwest with Afghanistan. In the south, Balochistan has a long coastline on the Arabian Sea. Greater part of Balochistan is mountainous, although there are some plains and desert areas also. The terrain is generally barren and rugged. The land of Balochistan is rich in mineral resources. Apart from gas, it holds deposits of coal, copper, silver, gold, platinum, aluminum and uranium. It is also said to possess oil in substantial quantities.

Balochistan has an estimated population of 7,000,000, (according to the census of 1998 it was nearly 6,511,000) which comes to about 4½ % of the total population of the country. A little over half of this population is ethnically Baloch. The second largest ethnic group in Balochistan is that of the Pashtuns, which has concentration in the northern part of the province and along its border with Afghanistan. Nearly 70% of the total Balochi population lives in Balochistan and other provinces of Pakistan, whereas about 20% inhabits the southeastern Iran or what is Irani Balochistan. There is a considerable population of the Balochis in Afghanistan also.

The Balochis have preserved their ancient tribal structure. Each tribe or tuman has its chief and consists of several clans. Generally, the attachment to the tumandar i.e., the tribal chief is very strong and the Balochis blindly follow him.

The prominent Balochi tribes in Pakistan are Mengal, Marri, Bugti, Mohammad Hasni, Zehri, Bizenjo and Raisani. Differences between tribes and clans are not uncommon.

Describing the lifestyle of the Balochi people, Encyclopedia Britannica observes:
“The Balochis are traditionally nomads, but settled agricultural existence is becoming more common; every chief has a fixed residence. The villages are collection of mud or stone huts; on the hills, enclosures of rough stone walls are covered with matting to serve as temporary habitations. The Balochis raise camels, cattle, sheep and goats, and engage in carpet making and embroidery. Their agricultural methods are primitive.”

The Balochis are not the indigenous people of Balochistan. These tribal people, it is said, originally lived on the Iranian plateau. As a result of the Seljuq invasion of Kerman in the 11th century, they started their migration eastward. It was not until the 14th century that the Baluchis started to enter the region that is presently Pakistani Balochistan. In the 17th century, the Mughals occupied greater part of Balochistan and, in the 19th century, the Persians conquered its western part. In 1839 the British, who had established themselves in India, made their presence in Balochistan to protect their lines of communication during the First Afghan War. They initially withdrew in 1841, but soon returned to assume a permanent role by concluding treaties with local rulers and tribal chieftains.

Amongst the tribal chiefs, the Khan of Kalat enjoyed the central position. The British regarded him “as a de jure head of the tribes rather than as a de facto ruler of a state” and “as the Head of a Confederacy with the Confederates exercising full or partial independence and the Khan customary over lordship.”[1] In 1877, the British carved out what came to be known as the British Balochistan, a region that was brought under their direct control and included the city of Quetta.

To strengthen their hold, the British restored the prestige and dignity of the tumandars that was lately in a state of decay. They administered nearly 90% of the territory in Balochistan through the tumandars who were paid allowances.

Under what is known as the Sandeman system, the British employed “the tribes as custodians of the highways and guardians of the peace in their own districts”. In a memorandum dated 1890, Sir Robert Sandman, the British official who was the architect of this system, observed:

“All military experts, however, without exception, declare it to be necessary to secure Afghanistan from Russian aggression in British interests and for the defense of India. . . . . The policy which I advocate has given us Baluchistan, the position at Quetta and on the Khojak, in Zhob and on the line of the Gumal. . . . If we knit the frontier tribes into our Imperial system in time of peace and make their interests ours, they will certainly not oppose us in time of war, and as long as we are able and ready to hold our own, we can certainly depend upon their being on our side.” [2]

Although occasionally there were some troubles, this policy served the British imperial interests well in the Balochistan States and the British Balochistan. Despite persistent demands on the part of Indian political parties for introduction of constitutional reforms, even British Balochistan was not granted the status of a full-fledged province by London in any of the Government of India Acts.

When the time for British departure from India came, the 3rd June Plan provided that the future of British Balochistan was to be determined by a voting college comprising the Shahi Jirga ____ excluding the representatives of the Balochistan States ___ and the elected members of the Quetta Municipality. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, who dreamed of an independent Balochistan under his overlordship, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, an emerging Baloch nationalist, and Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai, avowed Gandhian and the leader of Indian National Congress, made their best efforts to prevent the voting college from opting for Pakistan. Their efforts failed and the vote taken on 29 June 1947 went in favour of Pakistan amidst unproven charges that the British had exercised their influence to obtain the verdict.

The case of Balochistan States was quite different, as they had specific treaties with the British Crown. Oil had already been discovered in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, and it seems that the Khan of Kalat cherished the dream of a Baloch Kingdom on the lines of the House of Saud in Arabia or the Pehlevi Dynasty in Persia. [3] Although the British declared in the Government of India Act, 1935, that Kalat was an Indian state, the Khan had serious reservations about the British view, which he duly communicated to the British on more than one occasion.

Arguing Kalat’s case before the Cabinet Mission in 1946, the Khan contended that after the withdrawal of the British and termination of the treaties, Kalat would become independent, and other Baloch regions, including the States of Kharan and Las Bela, and the Marri and Bugti areas would revert back to it.

On the day the British transferred power to the dominions of Pakistan and India i.e., 15 August 1947, the Khan issued a firman (decree) declaring the independence of Kalat and announced establishment of a bicameral legislature for the State. Initially, the Khan was able to gather considerable support for his designs for independence but, before the firm resolution of the Quaid-i-Azam, he did not succeed.

The Khan’s maneuvering to secure an independent state failed and, on 17 March 1948, the States of Kharan, Mekran and Las Bela applied for accession to Pakistan. On 26 March, the Pakistan government informed the Khan that it had decided to move troops to protect installations in Jiwani, Turbat and Pasni.

The message was loud and clear for any sensible person to understand. The next day, the Khan of Kalat wrote to the Quaid:

“Confirm to you clearly that I agree to accession to Pakistan. But at the same time I hope you will consider all claims and rights of Kalat which I have frequently presented to you. I am trusting in your good intentions and sense of fairness to preserve the ancient state of Kalat in the same way as you has brought Pakistan into existence.” [4]

To cut the story short, even after the British Balochistan and the Balochistan States became a part of Pakistan, some reservations did persist in a section of the Balochi population, and the Khan of Kalat found it difficult to reconcile himself to the reality that his state was an integral part of Pakistan.

In 1952, the States of Balochistan __ Kalat, Mekran, Kharan and Las Bela __were permitted to form ‘The Balochistan States’ Union’.

In 1955, these States were made a part of the ‘One Unit’ or the single province of West Pakistan to facilitate the framing of a constitution on the basis of the principle of ‘parity’ between the two wings of the country. But by mid 1957 it became apparent that the political system established under the Constitution of 1956 was not likely to survive.

Anticipating the break-up of the ‘One Unit’, it is alleged, the Khan of Kalat organized a rebellion to secede from Pakistan. On 6 October 1958, under the order of President Iskandar Mirza, Pakistan Army took control of the Kalat Palace and arrested the Khan on the charges of sedition. Another version is that it was the result of a plot hatched by Iskandar Mirza who wanted one more justification for imposing martial law.

He had encouraged the Khan to demand restoration of his state, and the Khan fell into the trap. On 7 October, Iskandar Mirza imposed martial law on the country, and on 27 October 1958, the Chief Martial Law Administrator, General Mohammad Ayub Khan, removed Mirza as the president to assume full authority.

The arrest of the Khan led to disturbances in some parts of Balochistan that continued for about a year. It was during these disturbances that the sad episode related to Nauroz Khan, one of the Khan’s Sardars, occurred leaving lasting scars on the Balochi psyche. After fighting for several months, Nauroz Khan agreed to surrender to the government of Pakistan.

It is claimed that his surrender was secured through ‘etabar’ or oath on the Holy Quran. But instead of given amnesty by the government, he and his companions were tried in a military court and convicted. The government rejected their mercy petitions and seven of them were hanged. This episode made Nauroz Khan a hero in the Baloch folk-lore and the government of Pakistan untrustworthy in their eyes. The Khan of Kalat was subsequently forgiven and freed.

Although the Marris were radicalized during the 1960s, which resulted in some serious problems in 1962, the next major “insurgency” in Balochistan surfaced in 1973. Under Yahya Khan’s martial law, ‘One Unit’ was abolished and an integrated province of Balochistan, comprising former Balochistan States and directly governed Balochistan territory, was created on 1 July 1970. In the General Elections of December 1970, the National Awami Party (NAP) and Jamiat-ul Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) secured majority of seats in the Balochistan Provincial Assembly. After the traumatic events of 1971, which delayed the transfer of power, they formed their coalition government in Balochistan under the Interim Constitution of 1972.

This government, in which Sardar Attaullah Khan Mengal was the Chief Minister and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo the Governor, was dismissed by the federal government in less than a year on the charges that it was receiving arms from foreign countries and preparing for rebellion or secession. Before the dismissal of the Balochistan government, arms and ammunition, allegedly meant for supply to Baloch separatists, were discovered in a raid on the Iraqi Embassy.

The actual reasons for dismissal of the NAP-JUI government were many: President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (he was not then Prime Minister) was not prepared to let the provincial government headed by the opposition parties function and pursue a separate agenda, the military establishment had suspicions about the NAP due to the past affiliation of many of its leaders with the Congress, their alleged links with India and the Soviet Union and their association with the ‘Pakhtunistan’ movement. The Shah of Iran did not like the democratic institutions to flourish in Pakistani Balochistan for that had the potentials to destabilize Iranian Balochistan; and he also pressed Bhutto to act.

As a result of the dismissal of popularly elected government, an unprecedented uprising took place in Balochistan in which the Marris were in the forefront and Sher Mohammad Marri became a legendary figure. The casualties on the sides of the rebels and the government troops were in thousands. Reportedly air power was also used and the insurgents had to withdraw to the mountains from where they conducted guerrilla warfare.

Ironically, Sardar Akbar Bugti, the tumandar of the Bugti tribe, and Ahmad Yar Khan, the Khan of Kalat, were on the side of the federal government under Bhutto and were duly rewarded for their roles.

The insurgency continued from 1973 to 1977 when General Zia-ul Haq staged a coup to oust Bhutto and arrived at an understanding with the incarcerated NAP leaders and the rebels.

Continued . . .


Pakistan: Unveiling the Mystery of Balochistan Insurgency - Part Two

NewsContinued from Part One

These were some of the questions that we took to Misha and Sasha and here is the explanation they gave. Their answers came in bits and pieces but we have reconstructed their replies in the form of one coherent interview:

Question: What was the purpose of Russian invasion of Afghanistan?

Misha: The Soviet Union was not in love with Afghanistan itself and by now everyone must have understood it. We, or at least our leaders, wanted a convenient corridor to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean -- the idea was to first establish full control in Kabul and from there to raise the double-bogey of Pakhtunistan and Greater Balochistan and try to detach at least a part of Balochistan from Pakistan and to either merge it as a new province of Afghanistan or to create a new country that should be under the firm control of Moscow. That would have solved most of the problems facing Kremlin.

Question: When you helped create BLA back in the 1980’s, what objectives did you have in mind?

Sasha and Misha: It was simply an instrument to create problems in Pakistan. There were no ideological reasons – it was merely a pragmatic solution for a strategic problem.

Question: Who could have revived BLA after so many years of inactivity?

Misha: Most likely, Pentagon. With good lot of support from Kremlin. You should keep in mind that reviving such an organization is a tricky task and it needs active support from a number of players. Pentagon and Kremlin would not be able to do much without some help from RAW that has hundreds of active contacts all over Balochistan. Russia could have helped negotiate the involvement of Balach Marri in the project.

Sasha: RAW must have jumped at the chance because last July the ‘discretionary grants’ budget [a euphemism for espionage fund] was increased by 700% in the Indian consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Zahidan.

Misha: Yes, discretionary grants are not subject to central audit and the station chief can do what he wants with it.

Sasha: Balch possibly came to head the revived BLA through Russian facilitation but you cannot say the same for Serdar Ataullah Mengal. He returned from his self imposed exile in London and established his headquarters in Kohlu. Was it a mere coincidence? I don’t think so. In all probability, he is the American man to keep a check on Balach because Americans can never fully trust Russians.

Qeustion: From your comments it appears that Balach and Mengal are heading the resurrected BLA and the BLA has been revived by the Americans and Russians to create trouble in Balochistan but could you give us any coherent reasons for going to such great lengths for disturbing Pakistan that is supposed to be a frontline ally of the United States on its war against terrorism?

Misha and Sasha: [Misha laughed so hard that tears came to his eyes while Sasha merely kept smiling in an absentminded way] – Frontline ally? Are you kidding? Americans are using Pakistan and Pakistanis would soon find it out if they have not already. Americans don’t need that kind of allies and they have made it abundantly clear for anyone who can read their policy goals correctly. Let them deal with Iran and you would see. If there can be any desirable American ally in that region, that is Iran – Iran under a different regime, and they are working to that end. Except for Balochistan, the rest of Pakistan is useless for them.

Question: It is still not clear from your answer as to what do the Pentagon and Kremlin hope to achieve by stirring trouble in Balochistan?

Sasha: Americans have two long-term policy objectives in that region: First, create a safe and reliable route to take all the energy resources of Central Asia to the continental United States, and second, to contain China.

Misha: Balochistan offers the shortest distance between the Indian ocean and the Central Asia, that is to say, shortest distance outside of the Gulf. The moment the conditions are ripe, Americans would like to take all the oil and gas of Central Asia to Gawadar or Pasni and from there to the United States.

Question: If the Americans are interested in creating safe channel for shipping energy resources through Balochistan, why would they encourage trouble there?

Misha: That is for now. By inciting trouble, they would effectively discourage Trans-Afghan Pipeline or any other project that is intended for sending Central Asian resources to South Asia. They are not interested in strengthening the South Asian economies by allowing them to obtain sensibly priced oil and gas. They would be more interested in taking all they can to their own country and let everyone else starve if that is the choice.

Sasha: The Americans would also like to discourage China from entering into more development projects in Balochistan than it already has. By developing the port and roads in Balochistan, China is ultimately helping itself by creating a convenient conduit for commerce that would connect China concurrently with Central Asia, South Asia, and all-weather Balochistan ports. The space is limited – where China gains, America loses, and where America gains, China loses.

Questions: OK. This sounds plausible. But what interest could Russia have in helping Pentagon in this trouble-Balochistan project?

Sasha: Russia has its own policy goals and as far as the present phase of creating trouble in Balochistan is concerned, American and Russian goals are not in conflict with each other. Russia wants to maintain its monopoly over all the energy resources of Central Asia. At present, the Central Asian countries are dependent entirely on Russia for export of their gas to any sizeable markets. If Trans-Afghan or any other project succeeds, it would open the floodgates of exodus. Central Asian countries would understandably rush to the market that pays 100% in cash and pays better price than Russia. It is therefore very clear that by keeping Balochistan red hot, Russia can hope to discourage Trans-Afghan pipeline or any other similar projects. Russian economy in its present form is based on the monopoly of Gazprom and if Gazprom goes under, so will the Russian economy at some stage.

Question: So far, there is some in sense what you have said but how would explain Indian involvement in the Balochistan revolt?

Sasha: India has its own perceived or real objectives. For instance, India would go to great lengths to prevent Pakistan from developing a direct trade and transportation route with Central Asia because it would undermine the North-South corridor that goes through Iran. Also, while the acute shortage of energy may have compelled India to extend limited cooperation to Pakistan, the preferable project from Indian point of view still remains the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

Misha: Moreover, you cannot ignore the fact that India is preparing to use Afghanistan as its main artery system to connect with Central Asia and it would not allow Pakistan to share this sphere if it can.

Question: What about Iran? Why should Iran be a party to it?

Misha: Iran has incurred great expenses to develop Chah Bahar, the port that is supposed to be the Iranian answer to Pakistani ports of Gawadar and Pasni. Iran has also done lot of work to create excellent road link between Herat and Chah Bahar. All this would go to waste if Pakistani route comes on line because it is shorter and offers quick commuting possibilities between Central Asia and Indian Ocean.

Sasha: At the same time you need to allow certain margin of unreliability when dealing with Iran. You cannot be sure whether they mean what they are saying and you cannot be sure whether they would keep their promises. They do what suits them best and to hell with any commitments. I am sorry but that is how I judge Iran.

Question: While both of you have given some explanation of American, Russian, Iranian and Indian involvement in Balochistan, what is the role of Afghanistan?

Sasha: There are many influential circles in Afghanistan that are deadly opposed to Pakistan for one reason or the other. While Afghanistan as a country may not be harbouring any ill will against Pakistan, it is difficult to rule out the possibility that some power circles would not be inclined to damage Pakistan wherever they can. It is clear from the recent developments that as India, Iran and Afghanistan have made great strides to form some kind of economic, trade and transportation alliance, all efforts have been made to exclude Pakistan from any such deal.

Question: While BLA is being used by a number of power players for their own objectives, does it have any potential, even as a byproduct, to serve the cause of Baloch people?

Misha and Sasha: BLA is not the only fish in the pond. There is Baloch Ittehad and there is PONAM and there is lots of small fry out there. But none of them can be expected to do any good to the Balochi people because the command this time is mostly in the hands of Baloch serdars and they have no past record of bringing any benefit to their own people. If anything, they are known to sell their own people down the river.

[Misha thumbed through a dog-eared file and read]

Serdar Mehrulla Marri sold all mineral and petroleum rights of Khatan region to the British government in 1885 for a paltry sum of Rs. 200 per month. There was no time limit to this agreement – it was, as they say, in perpetuity.

In 1861, Jam of Bela allowed the British government to put a telegraph line through his territory, thus helping substantially the British government in consolidating its control over large areas of Balochistan. He received less than Rs. 900 per month for this disservice to his own people and took the responsibility to safeguard the telegraph line.

In 1883, the Khan of Kalat sold the Quetta district and adjoining territories to the British government. This was an outright sale. The agreement that was signed in Dasht, included the provision that the heirs and successors of Khan of Kalat would also be bound by the same agreement. He received annual grant of Rs. 25000 for selling the most attractive part of Balochistan to the British government.

In the same year, the British government paid Rs. 5500 to the Bugti serdar for his cooperation although it was not specified as to what kind of cooperation he extended to the British government.

While the Baloch serdars were enthusiastically selling Balochistan to the British government, there was no support to the idea of Pakistan whereas the ordinary Balochs gave full approval for Pakistan. Any positive development in Balochistan would go against the interests of Serdars and only a fool would expect them to do anything for the good of their people.

Bear in mind that Marri and Mengal Serdars first stood up against the Pakistan government when the law was passed to abolish Serdari system in Balochistan to free the ordinary Balochs from the clutches of their tribal leaders.

Question: The way the things are progressing in Balochistan, what could be the likely outcome?

Misha: If no strong action is taken for another few months, the result could be bifurcation of Pakistan.

Question: Is that the only likely outcome?

Misha: No. In fact, that is the farthest possible scenario but that could eventually happen if Pakistan fails to assess, analyze and address the situation quickly. For example, I have yet to see any Pakistani effort to contact the ordinary Balochs. They are still trying to woo the same Serdars who are living on the blackmail money since the creation of Pakistan.

Sasha: I am surprised at the way Pakistan goes about tackling this problem. During my few years in Afghanistan when I was engaged with Balochistan, I found that while Baloch Serdars would sell their loyalties and anything else at the drop of a hat, ordinary Balochs are stupidly patriotic. They are hard to buy and harder to manipulate. If I were a Pakistan government functionary, I would gather enough ordinary, educated Balochs to counter the Serdar influence and deflate this whole insurgency balloon.

Question: Both of you were, let’s say, among the developers of the original BLA. Do you find any differences between the original and the present BLA?

Misha and Sasha: Plenty. Original BLA was mostly led by the young people and Baloch Serdars had very little to do with it but the present BLA is concentrated in the hands of Serdars.

The present movement in Balochistan, led by BLA, PONAM and Baloch Ittehad is a mismatched concoction of ancient and modern.

They are trying to run a modern media campaign but there are crucial gaps in that effort. Ours were different times and we could do without media support. They have created a list of Pakistani journalists who are supposed to be sympathetic to any move against the government and they are feeding them daily a mixture of truth and lies, a practice that has been perfected by the Pentagon.

They managed to bring some Baloch women in Dera Bugti but the results would be little if they cannot repeat the performance in most other areas of Balochistan.

They have built their campaign around a single incident – the Sui gang-rape – and if the government is smart enough, it would hang the real culprits and ask the victim of the rape to announce publicly that she was satisfied with the justice meted out to the criminals and that would take all the wind out of the sails of the BLA campaign. A real hard campaign needs to be built around much broader and hard to solve issues.

Question: Hypothetically speaking, if the Pakistan government asked your advice, what would you suggest?

Sasha: The options are few. They should abolish Serdari system immediately and crack down powerfully on the private armies. As far as I know, the constitution of Pakistan does not allow Serdari system and private armies and there would be no legal questions if those laws are implemented with the full help of state power.

Misha: They should involve broadest possible range of ordinary Balochs in the dialogue. The can find enough educated youth in Marri and Mengal tribes to match the influence of tribal leaders. They should also allow the fragments of Bugti tribe to return to their ancestral lands and that would be enough to calm down the ageing and eccentric Bugti who pretends to be the leader of that tribe.

Sasha: Pakistan government should hasten the development process in the province because it would open job opportunities and that would allow the escape hatch to ordinary Balochs to distance themselves from their leaders.

Misha: They should try to cut down the sources and channels of supply of arms and cash to insurgents.



Pakistan: Unveiling the Mystery of Balochistan Insurgency - Part One

NewsTariq Saeedi in Ashgabat
With Sergi Pyatakov in Moscow, Ali Nasimzadeh in Zahidan, Qasim Jan in Kandahar and S M Kasi in Quetta
Additional reporting by Rupa Kival in New Delhi and Mark Davidson in Washington

Deception and treachery. Live and let die. The ultimate zero sum game. Repetition of bloody history: Call it what you may, something is happening in the Pakistani province of Balochistan that defies comprehension on any conventional scale.

Four correspondents and dozens of associates who collectively logged more than 5000 kilometers during the past seven weeks in pursuit of a single question – What is happening in Balochistan? – have only been able to uncover small parts of the entire picture.

However, if the parts have any proportional resemblance to the whole, it is a frightening and mind-boggling picture.

Every story must start somewhere. This story should conveniently have started on the night of 7 January 2005 when gas installations at Sui were rocketed and much of Pakistan came to almost grinding halt for about a week. Or, we should have taken the night of 2 January 2005 as the starting point when an unfortunate female doctor was reportedly gang-raped in Sui. However, the appropriate point to peg this story is January 2002 and we shall return to it in a minute.

Actually, the elements for the start of insurgency in Balochistan had been put in place already and the planners were waiting for a convenient catalyst to set things in motion. The gang-rape of 2 Jan, around which this sticky situation has been built, was just the missing ingredient the planners needed.

Two former KGB officers explained that the whole phenomenon has been assembled on skilful manipulation of circumstances. We shall keep returning to their comments throughout this report.

As Pakistan and India continue to mend fences, as Iran, Pakistan and India try to pool efforts to put a shared gas pipeline, as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan join hands to lay a natural gas pipeline of great economic and strategic importance, as the United States continues to laud the role of Pakistan as a frontline nation in war against terrorism, as Chinese contractors forge ahead with construction work in Gawadar port and on trans-Balochistan highway, as the Pakistan government makes efforts to bring Balochistan under the rule of law and eliminate safe havens for terrorists and drug barons, as the whole region tries to develop new long-term models to curb terrorism and bring prosperity to far flung areas, there is a deadly game going on in the barren and hostile hills of Balochistan. Liens are muddy; there are no clear-cut sectors to distinguish friends from foes.

Right in the beginning we would like to clarify that when we say Indians, we mean some Indians and not the Indian government because we don’t have any way of ascertaining whether the activities of some Indian nationals in Pakistan represent the official policy of their government or is it merely the adventurism of some individuals or organizations. When we say Iranians or Afghans, we mean just that: Some Iranians or Afghans. We don’t even know whether the Iranian and Afghan players in Balochistan are trying to serve the interests of their countries or whether their loyalties lie elsewhere.

But – and it is a BUT with capital letters – when we say Americans or Russians, we have reasons to suspect that the American and Russian involvement in Balochistan is sanctioned, at least in part, by Pentagon (if not White House) and Kremlin.

We would also like to acknowledge that the picture we have gathered is far from complete and except for the explanatory comments of two former KGB officials, we have no way of connecting the dots in any meaningful sequence. For the sake of honesty, this story should better remain abrupt and incomplete.

The story we are going to tell may sound a lot like cheap whodunit but that is what we found out there.

Before zooming in to January 2002, let’s set the background.

We consulted Sasha and Misha, two former KGB officers who are Afghanists – the veterans of Russo-Afghan war – and they seem to know Balochistan better than most Pakistanis. Obviously, Sasha and Misha are not their real names. They live on the same street in one of the quieter suburbs of Moscow. Two bonds tie them together in their retirement: While on active duty in KGB, they were both frequent travelers to Balochistan during the Russo-Afghan war where they were tasked to foment trouble in Pakistan; and they are both wary of Vodka, the mandatory nectar of Russian cloak and dagger community. They visit each other almost every day and that is why it was easy to catch them together for long chats over quantities of green tea and occasional bowls of Borsch.

We made more than a dozen visits to the single-bedroom flat of Misha, where Sasha was also found more often than not, and we picked their brains on Balochistan situation. As and when we unearthed new information on Balochistan, we returned to Sasha and Misha for comments.

As they told us, during the Russo-Afghan war, the Soviet Union was surprised by the ability and resourcefulness of Pakistan to generate a quick and effective resistance movement in Afghanistan. To punish Pakistan and to answer back in the same currency, Kremlin decided to create some organizations that would specialize in sabotage activities in Pakistan. One such organization was BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army), the brainchild of KGB that was built around the core of BSO (Baloch Students Organization). BSO was a group of assorted left-wing students in Quetta and some other cities of Balochistan.

Misha and Sasha can be considered among the architects of the original BLA.

The BLA they created remained active during the Russo-Afghan war and then it disappeared from the surface, mostly because its main source of funding – the Soviet Union – disappeared from the scene.

In the wake of 9-11, when the United States came rushing to Afghanistan with little preparation and less insight, the need was felt immediately to create sources of information and action that should be independent of the government of Pakistan.

As Bush peered into the soul of Putin and found him a good guy, Rumefeld also did his own peering into the soul of his Russian counterpart and found him a good game. The result was extensive and generous consultation by Russian veterans who knew more about Afghanistan and Balochistan than the Americans could hope to find.

It was presumably agreed that as long as their interests did not clash with each other directly, the United States (or at least Pentagon) and Kremlin would cooperate with each other in Balochistan.

That brings us to January 2002.

“Actually, most of the elements were in place, though dormant, and it was not difficult for anyone with sufficient resources to reactivate the whole thing,” said Misha about the present-day BLA that is blamed for most of the sabotage activities in Balochistan.

In January 2002, the first batch of ‘instructors’ crossed over from Afghanistan into Pakistan to set-up the first training camp. That was the seed from which the present insurgency has sprouted.

It seemed like a modest effort back then.

Only two Indians, two Americans, and their Afghan driver-guide were in a faded brown Toyota Hilux double cabin SUV that crossed the border near Rashid Qila in Afghanistan and came to Muslim Bagh in Pakistani province of Balochistan on 17 January 2002. For this part of the journey, they used irregular trails. From Muslim Bagh to Kohlu they followed the regular but less-frequented roads.

In Kohlu they met with some Baloch youth and one American stayed in Kohlu while two Indians and one American went to Dera Bugti and returned after a few days. They spent the next couple of weeks in intense consultations with some Baloch activists and their mentors and then the work started for setting up a camp.

“Balch was one of our good boys and even though I don’t know who the present operators are, it can be said safely that Kohlu must have been picked as the first base because of Balach,” said Misha.

Balach Marri is the son of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and he qualified as electronic engineer from Moscow. As was customary during those times, any Baloch students in Russia were cultivated actively and lavishly by the KGB. Balach was one of their success stories.

Because of intimate connections with India and Russia, it was no surprise that Balach Marri was picked as the new head of the revived BLA. The mountains between Kohlu and Kahan belong to the Marris.

The first camp had some 30 youth and initial classes comprised mainly of indoctrination lectures. The main subjects were: 1. Baloch’s right of independence, 2. The Concept of Greater Balochistan, 3. Sabotage as a tool for political struggle, 4. Tyranny of Punjab and plight of oppressed nations, and 5. Media-friendly methods of mass protest.

“Manuals, guidelines and even lecture plans were available in the Kometit [KGB] archives. Except for media interaction, they virtually followed the old plans,” told Sasha.

As was logical, the small arms and sabotage training soon entered the syllabus. First shipment of arms and ammunition was received from Afghanistan but as the number of camps grew, new supply routes were opened from India.

Kishangarh is a small Indian town, barely five kilometers from Pakistan border where the provinces of Punjab and Sindh meet. There is a supply depot and a training centre there that maintains contacts with militant training camps in Pakistan, including Balochistan.

There is also a logistics support depot near Shahgarh, about 90 kilometers from Kishangarh, that serves as launching pad for the Indian supplies and experts.

These were unimportant stations in the past but they have gained increasing importance since January 2002 when Balochistan became the hub of a new wave of foreign activity.

The method of transfer from India to Balochistan is simple.

Arms and equipment such as Klashnikov, heavy machine guns, small AA guns, RPGs, mortars, landmines, ammunition and communication equipment are transferred from Kishangarh and Shahgarh to Pakistani side on camel back and then they are shifted to goods trucks, with some legitimate cargo on top and the whole load is covered by tarpauline sheets. Arms and equipment are, as a rule, boxed in CKD or SKD form.

The trucks have to travel only 140 or 180 kilometers to reach Sui and a little more to reach Kohlu, a distance that can be covered in a few hours only. This is most convenient route because transferring anything from Afghanistan to these areas demands much sturdy vehicles that must cover longer distance over difficult terrain.

The small arms and light equipment are mostly of Russian origin because they are easily available, cheap, and difficult to trace back to any single source.

This route is also handy for sabotaging the Pakistani gas pipelines because the two main arteries of Sui pipe – Sui-Kashmore-Uch-Multan and Sui-Sukkur – are passing, at some points, less than 45 kilometers from the Indian border.

Whoever planned these camps and the subsequent insurgency, had to obtain initial help in recruitment and infrastructure from Indian RAW.

“When we first started the BLA thing, it was logical to ask for RAW assistance because they have several thousands of ground contacts in Pakistan, many of them in Balochistan,” said Sasha.

“Anyone wanting to set shop in Pakistan needs to lean on RAW,” added Misha.

The number of camps increased with time and now there is a big triangle of instability in Balochistan that has some 45 to 55 training camps, with each camp accommodating from 300 to 550 militants.

A massive amount of cash is flowing into these camps. American defence contractors – a generic term applicable to Pentagon operatives in civvies, CIA foot soldiers, instigators in double-disguise, fortune hunters, rehired ex-soldiers and free lancers – are reportedly playing a big part in shifting loads of money from Afghanistan to Balochistan. The Americans are invariably accompanied by their Afghan guides and interpreters.

Pay structure of militants is fairly defined by now. The ordinary recruits and basic insurgents get around US $ 200 per month, a small fortune for anyone who never has a hope of landing any decent government job in their home towns. The section leaders get upward of US $ 300 and there are special bonuses for executing a task successfully.

Although no exact amount of reward could be ascertained for specific tasks, one can assume that it must be substantial because some BLA activists have lately built new houses in Dalbandin, Naushki, Kohlu, Sibi, Khuzdar and Dera Bugti. Also, quite a few young Baloch activists have recently acquired new, flashy SUVs.

Oddly enough, there is also an unusual indicator for measuring the newfound wealth of some Baloch activists. In the marriage ceremonies the dancing troupes of eunuchs and cross-dressers are raking in much heavier shower of currency notes than before.

Based on the geographic spread of training camps, one can say that there is a triangle of extreme instability in Balochistan. This triangle can be drawn on the map by taking Barkhan, Bibi Nani (Sibi) and Kashmore as three cardinal points.

There is another, larger, triangle that affords a kind of cushion for the first triangle. It is formed by Naushki, Wana (in NWFP) and Kashmore.

Actually, landscape of Balochistan is such that it offers scores of safe havens, inaccessible to outsiders.

Starting from the coastline, there are Makran Coastal Range, Siahan Range, Ras Koh, Sultan Koh and Chagai Hills that are cutting the land in east-west direction. In the north-south direction, we find Suleiman Range, Kirthar Range, Pala Range and Central Brahvi Range to complete the task of forming deep and inaccessible pockets. Few direct routes are possible between the coastline and upper Balochistan. Only two roads connect Balochistan with the rest of the country.

Apart from the triangles of instability that we have mentioned there is an arc – a wide, slowly curving corridor – of extensive activity. It is difficult to make out as to who is doing what in that corridor.

Here is how to draw this arc-corridor on the map: Mark the little Afghan towns of Shah Ismail and Ziarat Sultan Vais Qarni on the map. Then mark the towns of Jalq and Kuhak in Iran. Now, draw a slowly arching curve to connect Shah Ismail with Kuhak and another curve to connect Ziarat Sultan Vais Qarni with Jalq. The corridor formed by these two curves is the scene of a lot of diverse activities and we have been able to gather only some superficial knowledge about it.

The towns of Dalbandin and Naushki where foreign presence has become a matter of routine are located within this corridor.

Different entities are making different uses of this corridor. Despite employing some local help, we could find very little about the kind of activity that is bubbling in this corridor.

We found that the Indian consulate in Zahidan, Iran, has hired a house off Khayaban Danishgah, near Hotel Amin in Zahidan. This house is used for accommodating some people who cross over from Afghanistan to Pakistan and from Pakistan to Iran through the arched corridor we have described. But who are those people and what are they doing, we could not find.

We also found that although Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards), the trusted force directly under the control of Khamnei, are monitoring Zahidan-Taftan road, there is no regular check post of Pasdaran on the road between Khash and Jalq, making it easy for all kinds of elements to cross here and there easily.

We also found that the border between Afghanistan and Iran is mostly under the control of Pasdaran who come down hard on any illegal border movement and that is why the arched corridor passing through Pakistan is the favourite route for any individuals and groups including American ‘defence contractors’ and their Afghan collaborators who may have the need to go across or near the border of Iran.

Not surprisingly, part of this corridor is used by Iranians themselves when they feel the need to stir some excitement in Pakistan. Iranians also use the regular road of Zahidan-Quetta when they can find someone with legal documents as was the case with an Iranian who has business interests both in Pakistan and Iran and who came to Quetta just before the start of 7 Jan trouble. He has not been heard of since then.

There is a coastal connection that also provides free access for elements in Dubai and Oman to connect with militants in Balochistan. This is a loosely defined route but there are three main landing points in Balochistan: Eastern lip of Gwater Bay that lies in the Iranian territory but affords easy crossover to Pakistan through unguarded land border; 2. Open space between Bomra and Khor Kalmat; and 3. Easternmost shoulder of Gawadar East Bay.

Some Indians, a curious mix of businessmen and crime mafia, came in fishing boats from either Dubai or Oman and landed on the Gwater Bay in the Iranian territory before the start of 7 Jan eruptions. From there they traveled to Khuzdar and then Quetta where they met with some Baloch militants. It is rumoured in those areas that the Indians came with heavy amounts of cash but there was no way of verifying it. They were escorted both ways by some Sarawani Balochs who run their own fishing vessels.

Simultaneously, there were reports from our Washington correspondent that some ‘sources’ in Pentagon had been trying to ‘leak’ the story to the media that Americans and Israelis were carrying joint reccee operations inside Iran and for that purpose they were using Pakistani soil as launching point. The lead was finally picked and disseminated by Semour Hersh of The New Yorker.

However, from our own observations in the area we could not confirm this report although there is a possibility that the curving corridor that we have identified may have been used by the Americans and Israelis to travel from Afghanistan into Pakistan and then into Iran and back for this purpose although this is mere speculation, based on the movement of foreigners in this area, and we can neither confirm nor deny the substance of this report.

Also, there was some buzz, as reported by our correspondent in New Delhi, that some high circles were questioning the wisdom of two-faced policy of engaging Islamabad in peace dialogue while at the same time supporting insurgent activity in Balochistan.

It was also not clear as to why Iran would be interested in stirring trouble in Balochistan when it was faced by an imminent war from the American side and it needed all the allies it could muster on its side and one of those allies could possibly be Pakistan. It was also difficult to reconcile Iranian involvement in Balochistan with the fact that Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, that is a crucial project for Iran, was in the final stages of negotiation and there seemed no logical point in sending mixed signals by creating difficulties in Balochistan.