Pakistan has been using force to crush insurgency in Balochistan.
By: S K Sinha
Balochistan and Kashmir are two former princely states afflicted by insurgency on the subcontinent. All others merged with either India or Pakistan and have been peaceful. The origin and history of insurgency in Balochistan are different from Kashmir. On August 4, 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the Governor- General of India, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Governor-General-designate of Pakistan, and the Khan of Kalat signed a tripartite agreement stipulating that on Pakistan becoming a dominion, Balochistan will revert to its 1876 status. The British had conquered Balochistan in that year. Jinnah had been the attorney of the Khan. In March 1948, when the Khan was in Karachi, Jinnah forced him to sign the Instrument of Accession. This was repudiated by the state Assembly and led to the start of armed revolt against Pakistan.
Maharaja Hari Singh was the Hindu ruler of a predominantly Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir which had common borders with both India and Pakistan. He realised that being a Hindu he had no future in Pakistan. His bitter opponent Sheikh Abdullah, who had launched the Quit Kashmir Movement against him, was a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru. He toyed with the idea of independence. But then Pakistan invaded his state and advanced close to Srinagar.
Desperate, Sheikh Abdullah fled to Jammu and sought assistance from India. He agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession but, on the advice of Mountbatten, the accession was for defence, foreign policy and communications only. This suited Sheikh Abdullah, and Nehru accepted this conditional accession. The population of Balochistan is of one ethnic and religious identity. The struggle for freedom has the support of the entire population of Balochistan. Insurgency in Kashmir is confined primarily to one community inhabiting only 10 per cent of the state’s land.
Balochistan is the largest state in Pakistan, covering 44 per cent of its land space. It is rich in natural resources with large copper and gas deposits. It is sparsely populated. China is developing Gwadar port to have an outlet to the sea and is investing $43 billion in it. This will turn around the economy of Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir’s land space and population are a small fraction of the rest of India. The state has hardly any resource other than scenic beauty, an asset for tourism, and water reserves which have to be shared with Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty.
Pakistan has been using maximum force to crush insurgency in Balochistan through aerial bombing, artillery strikes and machine guns. India has never used such weapons against insurgents in Kashmir. The Indian Army’s record of human rights in Kashmir is far superior to that of the Pakistan Army’s genocide in East Pakistan and Balochistan or the Chinese Army’s in Tibet and the US Army’s in Vietnam and Iraq. Two specific instances in Balochistan and Kashmir highlight the difference. In 2006, an Indian Army major was caught by the local people of Handwara in the house of a woman when her daughter raised a hue and cry. It was alleged that the major had raped both the mother and daughter.
The Valley was on the boil for over a month, demanding that the Army be withdrawn from the state. The major was tried by the Army, its proceedings open to public. Rape was not proven. It was found that the major had illicit relations with the woman and used to frequently visit her at nights. When her daughter found him in her mother’s room, she raised an alarm. The woman alleged that she was being raped. The court martial acquitted him of the charge of rape but he was convicted of an act unbecoming of an officer. He was discharged from the Army.
At about the same time, a Pakistan Army major was accused of raping a lady doctor in a hospital. There were violent disturbances against this in Baouchistan but no action whatsoever was taken against the major. The lady doctor and her husband migrated to Canada. Pervez Musharraf, on a visit to the US, was asked about this incident by a journalist. He dismissed the matter, saying, “Get raped and get a visa to Canada.”
Mr Musharraf ordered an airstrike on the hideout of Nawab Ali Bugti Khan, the 79-year-old veteran leader of Baloch insurgency. The Khan was killed. The 80-year-old Kashmiri separatist leader, Sayed Ali Shah Geelani, who was in prison at Ranchi, was provided a state government plane to fly to Mumbai for treatment. In 2007, he was reported to be suffering from cancer of the liver. He wanted to go to the US for treatment but was denied visa by the US because of his terrorist connection. All treatment facility was provided for him in Mumbai and a successful operation was performed by a Kashmiri Pandit surgeon whose family had been evicted from the Valley.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani has all the freedom to visit Pakistan high commission in Delhi. He continues to propagate sedition as well as his anti-India activities. Gilgit-Baltistan region is a colony of Pakistan. Its predominantly Shia population is denied basic democratic and human rights. Punjabis and Pathans from mainland Pakistan are being settled there to alter the demography of the region. The local population has been agitating against this and the Pakistan Army has been crushing their agitation.
We have never given any assistance to separatist leaders, not even any moral support. Our high commission in Islamabad does not maintain any contact with the separatist leaders of Gilgit-Baltistan. We even agreed to open the Srinagar-Muzaffrabad road even though Pakistan refused to open the Kargil-Skardu road. Our supporting insurgency in Gilgit-Baltistan would have been a fitting reply to Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Despite India’s non-interference in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan has been accusing her of promoting terrorism in Balochistan for long. India has no common border with Balochistan and cannot promote cross-border terrorism like Pakistan does in Kashmir or India could do in Gilgit-Baltistan. There has never been a shred of concrete evidence to establish India’s support of insurgency in Balochistan. Possibly Pakistan has been making this accusation to establish moral equivalence with India for all its nefarious activities in Kashmir.
The Pakistan Army is opposed to dialogue with India and it appears that Kulbhushan Jadav, a retired officer of the Indian Navy, was kidnapped from Iran. He is being projected as a Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) agent promoting insurgency in Balochistan. His so-called confessional statement, extracted under pressure and torture, lacks credibility. Intelligence agencies send their spies or informers to work in target countries and not their senior officers. R&AW has denied that Jadhav is one of their officers. The government of Iran has instituted an inquiry into this affair and it would be interesting to see its outcome.