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Balochistan and the war
  • Balochistan and the war
    Balochistan and the war
Imran Khan has finally gone to Balochistan. To Nushka, to be precise, along with Gen. Bajwa, to spend the day “with the troops who repulsed terrorist attack”. And he is promising 'panem et circenses', meaning food and amusement, to Baloch while announcing a raise in the salary of the Frontier Corps and other paramilitary organs. Those same corps, to be clear, exploiting, disappearing and killing Baloch every day in connection with criminal squads and, of course, with the Chinese protectors of the CPEC interests in the area. The premier and his guardian flew to Balochistan after on 2dh February the Balochistan Liberation Army launched what they called 'Operation Ganjal' carried out by their Majeed Brigade. The attack, targeting military posts, both in Panjgur and Noshki, lasted almost 72 hours. According to the BLA spokeperson: “More than 90 enemy personnel, including approximately 55 personnel of Frontier Corps, 18 SSG Commandos and 7 Lite Commandos were killed in Noshki, whereas at least 105 enemy personnel were neutralized in Panjgur. This includes 85 personnel of Frontier Corps and 20 SSG Commandos. During the battle a military drone was shot, wheras a helicopter was also targeted. However, it could not be ascertained if this helicopter crashed or not. Two armored vehicles of Pakistani military were destroyed, whereas both military camps were partially destroyed”. According to the Pakistani military: “Both attacks have been successfully repulsed while inflicting heavy casualties to terrorists. In Panjgur, terrorists tried to enter a security forces' camp from two locations, the statement read. However, timely response by troops foiled terrorist attempt. During intense exchange of fire one soldier has been martyred. Terrorists have fled while their casualties are being ascertained". So, they flew drones and helicopters and evacuated the area just for fun, it seems, while Imran and Bajwa went to Balochistan just to have a picnic with the soldiers carrying out a routine operation. The truth might be in the middle, as always happens during war operations, but, beside numbers and figures of casualties there's another truth, a more unpalatable one, lying there. Baloch are in arms, more than ever, and are not going to give up. Islamabad tries to silence the press about military operations carried by BRAS almost every day, the region is sealed for journalists and independent observers, but the reality on the ground still filters out of the region. Islamabad mantains the usual narrative: Baloch handlers are in Afghanistan and in India, it is not a freedom movement or a spontaneous revolt, Baloch are happy and dancing in the streets like Uighurs in China and the revolt is just due to terrorist elements funded and armed by India. Interestingly enough, talking by terrorists, Mohammed Hafiz Saeed flew to Balochistan before Bajwa and Imran and gave a scandalised statement about the anti-Pakistan (and anti-China) feelings harbouring there. The same feelings highlighted in the past by Imran himself who, in 2009, was saying on record: “Hundreds disappeared, there was extrajudicial killing. It was treated more like a colony rather than a part of Pakistan” and making clear that: “If he was a Baloch he may well be someone who would turn to arms” in order to: “defend the rights of my people..I think if I had no access to getting into parliament because most of the elections are heavily rigged there....”. Imran testified in favour of Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baloch during a trial for terrorism held in UK against them under Musharraf's pressures. According to the record of Henry Blaxland QC (Marri's lawyer) final speech, in a video call from Islamabad the actual PM of Pakistan: “Describe that sense of military occupation, the roadlocks, the military cantonments everywhere – I think he described the one in Quetta being the biggest he had ever seen – that permanent sense of occupation”. Interestingly enough, in his testimony in Hyrbyair and Faiz case, Imran manteined the same position currently held by Bashir Zeb, the actual commander of BLA, who stated: “We consider armed struggle a form of political approach. Our movement stems from established political concepts and it is in its current status only because peaceful means of struggle have been banned on us and armed struggle has been left as the only choice”. However, the latest BLA statement, while mantaining that: “Baloch freedom movement is a homegrown movement, and its power sources lie in Baloch public. All Baloch fidayees involved in Operation were educated Baloch youth who were born in Balochistan and, following the philosophy of Genral Aslam Baloch, died defending the motherland. This should be now clear that this freedom movement cannot be weakened by any changes in neighboring countries or by being labeled as a proxy movement” offers also an overture to the Government: “Baloch Liberation Army values human lives and we do not find happiness in ending any life. If Pakistan, instead of bloodshed and carnage, opts for peace then we in the presence of an international guarantor invite Pakistan to the negotiation table. We are ready for negotiations on agendas of secure withdrawal of Pakistani forces from Balochistan and complete independence of our motherland”. Otherwise, they say, attacks will go on against military posts and Chinese economic interests, in Balochistan and all over Pakistan. But it might be too late for Islamabad to end the state of denial narrative they are carrying since many years: they sold Balochistan to Chinese telling Beijing they could easily manage few rioters funded by the usual 'foreign powers', and the only way out they could conceive was escalating the repression against Baloch, the human rights violations, the level of violence permeating any aspect of life in the region. And Chinese gave them a good hand, trying to adopt in Balochistan the same strategies they adopted in Xinjiang, including showing happy people playing golf in Gwadar. With the only result of creating a new generation of fighters even more motivated than their elders. A negotiation table might be the better idea both for Islamabad and China. They should all in fact go back to history books, and remember what happened to East Pakistan. History, if you don't learn from it, is always going to repeat itself.
Francesca Marino