Historical Perspectives of Indian involvement in Balochistan and the future of CPEC

By Agha Iqrar Haroon

Agha Iqrar Haroon is a senior journalist and  Development Observer working in Central Asia, South Asia, and Eastern Europe regions

Last year in November the Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar along with the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a Joint Press briefing in Islamabad in which details of Indian sponsorship in terrorism against Pakistan were shared with national and international media.
Military and civilian leaderships of Pakistan through several dossiers presented to international forums have exposed that India is funding terrorism in Pakistan and the main target of India is Balochistan and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

No official document has ever been produced covering over 40 years’ Indian involvement in Balochistan.

Indian investment for destabilizing Baluchistan has a long history but this history is yet to be officially documented by institutions responsible for the security of the country. No official document has ever been produced covering over 40 years’ Indian involvement in Balochistan. Whenever a researcher needs data, he or she has to find data in pieces through press briefings, statements, counter-statements etc.

I believe Pakistan is shy to document Balochistan security crises due to several reasons but one of the foremost reason is —Pakistan’s love and hate relations with Afghanistan because Afghan soil has always been used to destabilize Balochistan but Pakistan is shy to accept this fact. Whenever a researcher collects data Balochistan, he or she cannot ignore that Kabul was the citadel for launching psychological, perceptual, financial, social, and terrorist attacks inside Balochistan. The passage of weaponry support, equipment support, terrorist training, and terrorist activities leads to Baluchistan from Kabul.
Submitting dossiers and raising the issue of Indian involvement in terrorism in Baluchistan is also not a piece of new news. Pakistan for decades is doing this exercise. I remember in October 2015, Pakistan handed over three dossiers to the then U.S. Secretary John Kerry about the Indian involvement in subversive activities in the country. The dossiers were handed over to the US side, by the then Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. Kerry was briefed about the destabilizing role of Indian agencies in erstwhile FATA, Balochistan, and Karachi.

One should look into how did India get this opportunity for meddling in Balochistan because without getting local support, nurturing terrorism in any specific area is almost impossible

In November 2020 briefing, the DG ISPR said that the recent upsurge in violence in Pakistan is a direct consequence of India’s intensified engagements with all brands of terrorists, sub-nationalists, and dissidents operating against Pakistan. He was of the view that after the unification of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with its breakaway factions Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Hizb ul-Ahrar (HuA) in August 2020, India is endeavouring to establish a consortium of TTP with proscribed dissident organizations of Balochistan i.e. Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) & Balochistan Republican Army (BRA) which are already united under the banner of BRAS (Baloch Raaji Aajoie Sangar) constituted in 2018.
He provided micro-level information about Indian operations in the briefing. Instead of going into micro-level perspective focuses on details, one should look into how did India get this opportunity for meddling in Balochistan because without getting local support, nurturing terrorism in any specific area is almost impossible. This is a proven fact that when the soil is ripe then the seeds of hatred and terrorism are spread by enemies.
Moreover, one should get historical perspectives of Indian involvement in Balochistan and its linkages with an aggravating situation that Pakistan faced after China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was launched. Does there any link between Indian frustration for CPEC and Indian aggressive policy of injecting terrorism in Balochistan?
Indian involvement in Balochistan is as older as its (Indian) success in chopping off former East Pakistan and converting it into Bangladesh.
There is no doubt that Balochistan has been at the target of several anti-Pakistan forces because it is the largest province in size, richest in minerals, the least populated, and poorest in living standards. Balochistan is a mixed formation of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for Pakistan.

The strength-factors for anti-Pakistan forces in Balochistan had been poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, sense of deprivation, and hegemony of the tribal culture

Strategically, Balochistan is situated at the crossroad of Central Asia and geographically linked with Sistan and the Baluchestan Province of Iran. One should remember that Abdol Malek Rigi (who was the leader of Jundallah, an Islamist Sunni terrorist group based in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province of southeast Iran and Balochistan of Pakistan) wanted to establish Islamic Shariah in “Greater Balochistan” comprising of Pakistani and Iranian Balochistan. Another so-called Islamic group —Islamic State (also known Daesh) is trying to establish “Greater Khorasan” comprising of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The passport of Abdol Malek Rigi had visa stamps of several European and Middle Eastern countries when he was captured and executed in 2010 by the Iranian government.

Regi was reportedly captured after a commercial flight departed from a Middle Eastern country for a Central Asian destination but was intercepted by the Iranian Air Force and forced to land in Iran. Therefore, one should remember that both Balochistans (Iranian and Pakistan) are always at the target of international forces; having multiple dimensions—international—national—regional and local.
The strength-factors for anti-Pakistan forces in Balochistan had been poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, sense of deprivation, and hegemony of tribal culture.

However, this strength is no more there for enemies and the local population is no more facing a sense of deprivation as the civil and military leadership of Pakistan giving priority to developments in Balochistan.
Right now, over 30,000 Baloch students are receiving quality education at various Army and FC-run schools and cadet colleges all over Pakistan. Nearly 25,000 sons of Balochistan are serving in Pak Army and thousands of Baloch cadets are undergoing training at Pakistan Military Academies. Baloch youth is being inducted in Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, and other Law Enforcement Agencies. I believe that Baloch youth is resilient, patriotic, promising, and as capable as the youth of any area of Pakistan.
One can easily blame for underdevelopment in Balochistan in past to Sardars (tribal chiefs) without finding out root causes that why did Balochistan fail to get educational and health care systems at par to other provinces of Pakistan?
There is a popular narrative that tribal chiefs wanted to see their people uncultured, uneducated, and poor; therefore they did not allow development in their province. This narrative is not totally illogical but it is certainly over-sold and over-emphasized. One should not forget that One-Unit was not announced by tribal chiefs. One should not forget those tribal chiefs of Balochistan did not ask former President Field Martial Ayub Khan for not placing Balochistan on the map of the first industrial revolution that took place in Pakistan during Ayub’s era. One should not forget those tribal chiefs did not stop anybody to provide natural gas to Quetta and the rest of Balochistan for over a quarter of a century although gas had been distributing to other parts of the country except gas provider—-Balochistan.

There is no doubt that politicians and tribal chiefs lacked the interest to develop their areas because they had no need to develop their province because they had been enjoying cash prizes from the Federation of Pakistan and spending half of their lives in European countries with state-injected money. The question is simple—why did the Federation not play its constitutional role to provide basic facilities to citizens of Balochistan and why the population of Balochistan was left at the mercy of tribal chiefs?
It was the responsibility of the Centre (Federation) to ensure a due share of socio-economic development in Balochistan. Education, Health, and law & order were federal subjects until the arrival of the 18th Amendment in 2010. Moreover, inadequate resources provided by the Federation were also eaten out by over a million Afghan Refugees living in central parts of Balochistan.
I travelled extensively in Balochistan during December 1991. Travelling in remotest areas of Balochistan (as far as Taftan Border from Quetta) was without fear and bodyguards although late former Chief Minister Taj Muhammad Jamali offered me hospitality and travel arrangements. I decided to travel alone and unguarded to feel this deserted province.
I travelled several days in the remotest parts of Balochistan to see the reality of this mysterious land and then initiated a series of interviews with Baloch politicians including those who were tagged separatists and survived 1972-73 military operation. I also interviewed the late Akbar Khan Bugti who stood with the Federation against separatists during the 1972-73 military operation.

I remember Akbar Khan Bugti, Taj Muhammad Jamali, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Abdul Malik Baloch, and several other politicians were of the view that there is (was) strong sense of deprivation among the population of Balochistan due to several actions of the Federation including the introduction of One-Unit, a military operation launched by former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and inviting Afghan Refugees to Balochistan by former military dictator General (retd) Ziaul Haq during Afghan-Russo War. They (Politicians) accepted in their interviews (I published a series of interviews in Frontier Post Lahore) that corruption among bureaucrats and politicians was also a reason for the lack of developments in Balochistan.

They were of the view that demo-graphical change imposed by Afghan Jihad had ruined their society and they wanted to send Afghan refugees out of their province. Alas, 30 years had passed since I interviewed the Baloch political figures but Afghan refugees are still in Balochistan with a multiplication factor in their population.

Strategists believe that India being an archrival of Pakistan had a “strategic right” to invest terrorism in Balochistan after its successful “Operation Jackpot” that resulted in the birth of Bangladesh

They (politicians) told me that the distribution of resources through Divisible Pool was unjustified and development project as well as Health and Education sectors of Balochistan need (needed) extra resources because the population of Balochistan does (did) not live in cities rather it is (was) spread-over and people live in small pockets in far-flung areas. They had no problem with the Pakistan Army or the State of Pakistan but they had a problem with the distribution of resources (interviews were taken in 1992—well before the 18th Constitutional amendment) and a general sense of “Leaving alone”.
Strategists believe that India being an archrival of Pakistan had a “strategic right” to invest terrorism in Balochistan after its successful “Operation Jackpot” that resulted in the birth of Bangladesh out of former East Pakistan in December 1971. Several Indian Think Tanks in their reports accepted that after achieving results in Bangladesh, India launched spadework in Balochistan during 1973 that resulted in a military operation against those politicians who, according to the then President (He thereafter became Prime Minister) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were planning to announce separation from Pakistan. Late Akbar Khan Bugti headed this operation as provincial governor. The situation came under control after military action but several Baloch politicians left Pakistan for Afghanistan and European countries and their international funding started by foreign intelligence agencies for further destabilizing Baluchistan.
Low-profile Indian involvement continued in Balochistan during the 80s and 90s and then India had its catch when a contra between the Bugti tribe and the then President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf triggered the situation after Dr. Shazia Khalid Case appeared on the surface. Circumstances led to the death of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006, in a cave and Baloch tribes held former President Gen Musharraf responsible for the death of Akbar Bugti.

While Pakistan was gaining control over the situation in Balochistan, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) came on the surface as the flagship project of the Chinese vision of the Belt and Road Initiative and this development instigated several regional players as well as international players to jump into the Balochistan arena

This incident was a golden opportunity for India to intensify Operation in Balochistan. India was successful to generate a situation in which Balochistan started slipping from the hands of Pakistan and separatists were operating freely against the state writ till 2013. The Residency of Father of Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Ziarat was burnt down on June 15, 2013, by separatists. This event was a turning point in the history of Balochistan and the Federal Government realized that things were really getting out of control and former Lt. General Nasser Khan Janjua, was posted as Commander of Southern Command (XII Corps in Quetta ). As a Major General, Nasser Janjua had participated in several operations against terrorists in Swat and oversaw Operation Rah-e-Haq in 2007.

CPEC is not a Project—–CPEC is not a so-called Game Changer—This is New Era of History —- A Renascence of Silk Road.

He went to Balochistan in August 2013 when Balochistan was burning. He teamed up with former Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and both used all possible channels successfully to cool down the situation in Balochistan. They offered a policy of general amnesty for those who took arms against the state of Pakistan. They were successful and separatists started losing their support among the masses and the majority of separatists fled to Afghanistan and India and decided to operate from abroad.
Meanwhile, Operation Zarb-e-Azb (Operation ZA) was launched in June 2014 that also helped to bust Indian networking in other parts of the country. Operation ZA was well-planned, passionate, committed and the most successful anti-terrorist operation in Pakistan.

While Pakistan was gaining control over the situation in Balochistan, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) came on the surface as the flagship project of the Chinese vision of the Belt and Road Initiative and this development instigated several regional players as well as international players to jump into the Balochistan arena and India immediately accelerated its investment for launching a new wave of terrorism in Baluchistan. I have reasons to believe that India is not playing alone rather it has strategic support of other players who do not want to see the success of the Chinese Model of Development and CPEC is now the foremost target of strategic partners.
Despite threats and conspiracies CPEC is facing, it is moving in the right directions but needs a comprehensive strategy to counter propaganda against it and proactive support of parliamentarians, academia, writers, journalists rather all strata of society of Pakistan— CPEC is not a Project—–CPEC is not a so-called Game Changer—This is a New Era of History —- A Renascence of Silk Road.

 

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.