The January 18th Army Operation in Balochistan | Q&A

Jan 2013
By M.A.

TQ: Could you give us an overview of army operations that have taken place in Balochistan over the last few years?

MSA: The army operation began in 2004 in the Marri and Bugti tribal region after the gang rape of Dr. Shazia Khalid allegedly by a captain of the Pakistani military. The Baloch tribesmen, headed by Nawab Akbar Bugti, demanded that the military officer should be punished for raping their “guest” (the doctor belonged to Sindh) on Baloch territory.

On March 17, 2005, the security forces killed at least 43 people, including 19 Hindu men and women, in an attack on the fort of Nawab Bugti. On August 26, 2006, the forces killed Nawab Bugti and dozens of his colleagues while a large number of army personnel were also killed. The circumstances of that operation still remain elusive.

Before the killing of Nawab Bugti, the insurgency was only restricted to Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts and the leadership of the insurgency also rested in the hands of the tribal elite. Since then, the armed rebellion has spread across Balochistan. Hence, the military has been conducting operations from now and then across Balochistan, mainly in the areas of Mashky (Awaran District), Mand (Turbat District), Khuzdar, Bolan and many other places.

Since 2004, parts of Balochistan have become “no-go areas” for the natives and also for independent journalists. It is not as if forces were ever moved out of one district and deployed in another. There has been a constant presence as well as a surge in the deployment of troops in the province.

TQ: Is the current operation in any way linked to the decision to place Balochistan under Governors rule?

MSA: Governor’s rule was enforced in the backdrop of the increasing attacks on the Shias and Hazaras living in Quetta. Sunni militant group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), has accepted responsibility for the killings and has also warned that they will carry out more of such attacks in the future. The fresh operations unleashed by the security forces, on the contrary, have been targeting secular Baloch nationalists instead of cracking down on the LeJ. The Baloch say the Pakistani security establishment uses radical Islamists, such as the LeJ, to counter Baloch nationalism and also divert attention from their political movement.

It now seems that the security establishment wanted the governor rule to provide a cover-up for their operations against the Baloch nationalists and the civilian populations. Dismantling the networks of religious extremists was never the motivation in the first place. The operations are the continuity of the government’s earlier policy toward the Baloch nationalists and the governor rule has helped the security forces acquire legal authority and justification to carry out these operations.

TQ: What is your take on the mainstream media’s coverage?

MSA: While the job of the media is to educate the people, the Pakistan media indeed needs to educate itself about Balochistan. The media is extremely ignorant about Balochistan, its geography, various ethnicities and tribes, political stakeholders and their affiliations, ideologies and, above all, the causes of unrest.

The media often mixes apples and oranges while reporting about Balochistan. The ignorance of the media remarkably helps government to divert attention from critical issues. People in the rest of Pakistan believe the source of instability, backwardness and injustice in Pakistan stems only from one source which is a very simplistic interpretation of a decades-old conflict.

A lot of Pakistanis surely have their reason to support an operation in Balochistan at this point after seeing 120 getting killed in the hands of the Sunni extremists but do they really know that not a single bullet has yet been fired against those who actually carried out the assault on the Shias and the Hazaras? The media must play its role in asking hard questions to the Balochistan government and the military authorities on why the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is still operating with absolute impunity whereas their actions were cited as the justification for the governor rule in Balochistan. In addition, the media should debate what fresh operations against Baloch people would mean for the government’s so-called policy of reconciliation and integration.

Malik Siraj Akbar is the editor-in-chief of The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English newspaper. The paper is banned in Pakistan by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.

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One Response to The January 18th Army Operation in Balochistan | Q&A

  1. […] of telling these details, Mr Malik Siraj in an interviews with an “unknown website” Tanqeed twist this operation and claim that government is doing operation against Baloch nationalists to […]

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