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Newsman
06-01-06, 18:53
Musharraf attacks Pakistan's tribal lands


The Pioneer, New Delhi, India
04 January 2006


Musharraf napalms Balochistan


B Raman explains why Pakistan's military dictator has launched a
brutal war of repression against Balochis


Foiled in his attempts so far to drive a wedge between the Marri and
the Bugti tribes of Balochistan, Pakistan's military dictator and
President Gen Pervez Musharraf has ordered not only an
intensification of the air strikes against the members of the
revolting Marri tribe in the Kohlu and adjoining areas of
Balochistan, but also an extension of the ground and air mounted
operations against the members of the Bugti tribe in the Dera Bugti
and adjoining areas.


Apart from rushing Army and para-military reinforcements to the Marri
and Bugti areas, Gen Musharraf has also shifted four more
helicopters, hitherto deployed on quake relief work in the Pakistan-
Occupied Kashmir (POK), to Balochistan for use against the Marris and
the Bugtis. Now 12 helicopters are being used as gunships to quell
the spreading second war of Baloch independence, spearheaded by the
Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). Of these, eight are being used against
the Marris and four against the Bugtis. In addition to the use of
helicopters, there have been three more air strikes against Marri
youth. Representatives of the Balochs have alleged that the
helicopters have also been using napalm against Baloch youth.


As a result of these intensified operations, the casualties have been
mounting. At least 160 Balochs have been killed since December 18,
2005 - 120 Marris and 40 Bugtis. A large number of injured Balochs
has been prevented by the security forces from seeking medical
assistance. The security forces have shut off electricity and water
supply to many Marri and Bugti areas and blamed the BLA for having
done so by firing rockets at electricity transmission towers and
water supply lines.


Gen Musharraf and senior Army officers as well as leaders of the
Musharraf-created Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam), which is the
only political formation supporting the military action, have denied
undertaking any military operations against the Balochs. Instead,
they have been projecting it as a law enforcement operation
undertaken by the para-military forces against "fararis" (criminal
absconders) who, according to Gen Musharraf, have been trying to
obstruct the economic development of Balochistan.


At the same time, they have also been projecting the operations as
directed against the clandestine training camps of the BLA located in
Marri territory in the Kohlu area. The army has claimed to have
destroyed at least six so-called training camps and says seven more
are still functioning.


It is learnt that the decision to extend the operations to the Bugti
area was taken by Gen Musharraf following an ambush of a convoy of
the Frontier Corps in which over 15 para-military personnel were
killed. There have been at least two ambushes of security forces
convoys in the Marri area too, resulting in the death of about 20
members of the security forces. The Army has imposed an iron curtain
in the areas where the war of independence is raging and has not been
allowing details of the fighting to be disseminated by the media.


Even while projecting the operations as law enforcement action
against absconding criminals, the military spokesmen have not denied
that the action was provoked by a recent incident in which rockets
were fired at a meeting addressed by President Musharraf in the Kohlu
area. The BLA has denied firing any rockets on Gen Musharraf's public
meeting and has accused the Musharraf regime of stage-managing the
incident in order to use it as a pretext for ordering air strikes
against the Balochs fighting for their independence.


Replying to statements made by military spokesmen and some members of
the Government that no Government can sit quiet when the head of
state is sought to be assassinated by criminal elements, Baloch and
other political leaders belonging to the minority communities such as
Mr Afsandyar Wali Khan, the Pashtun leader of the Awami National
Party of the North-West Frontier Province, have pointed out that even
if the Government's contention was correct, it did not call for air
strikes on the Balochs. They have referred to the two attempts to
kill Gen Musharraf in December, 2003, and the subsequent attempts to
kill Mr Shaukat Aziz, the present Prime Minister, and the Corps
Commander of Karachi in which Punjabis were involved and asked
whether Gen Musharraf ordered air strikes against the Punjabis after
those incidents.


In response to the military operations, the BLA has confined its
tactics to guerrilla actions directed against train and other means
of transport, gas production and pipeline facilities and ambushes of
military and para-military convoys. It has avoided a frontal
confrontation with the security forces, in which it will be the
loser. It has been trying to extend its guerrilla operations to
Punjab. It has also sought networking with the revolting Shias of
Gilgit and Baltistan and the Sindhis, who have been angered by the
attempts of Gen Musharraf to force through the implementation of a
project for the construction of the much controversial Kalabagh dam.
The dam is meant for the benefit of the Pubjabi farmers. The Sindhis
are strongly opposing it on the ground that it would reduce the water
available for Sindhi farmers.


The Baloch nationalist elements have appealed to the international
community and the United Nations to take cognisance of the ant-Baloch
military operations and force the Army to stop them. They have also
appealed to international human rights organisations to send their
observers to Balochistan and to have the issue raised before the UN
Human Rights Commission in Geneva during its forthcoming meeting in
February.


The Baloch nationalists have assured the international community that
an independent Balochistan would put an end to the activities of Al
Qaeda and the Taliban from its territory and co-operate with it in
the war against international jihadi terrorism. It has also assured
the international community that an independent Balochistan would not
become another Bangladesh - a hotbed of Wahabi/Salafi fundamentalism.


Pro-Independence Uighur elements based in the West and in Pakistani
Punjab have made overtures to the BLA and offered to co-operate with
it in a joint freedom-struggle against the Punjabis in Balochistan
and the Han Chinese in the Xinjiang region of China. The BLA has not
so far accepted this offer since it does not want to be seen as anti-
Chinese despite its opposition to the Gwadar project being
constructed by the Chinese in Balochistan.


Despite this, there is considerable nervousness among Chinese
engineers and other experts working in Balochistan. Measures for
their physical security have been strengthened by the Pakistani
authorities, who had also kept the Chinese informed of their decision
to launch air strikes on the Balochs.


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