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Deep Waters; Baluchistan's Fight for Independence

By H. Baloch

Pakistani government and/or military and security agency efforts to control Internet content, install listening posts to monitor communications, kill Web activists, commit indiscriminate assaults on Baluch civilians, mass military resources, demand the repatriation of Baluch diaspora and employ antagonizing tactics to threaten citizens all point to what may be termed as a "contain & kill" policy.

Summers are approaching and this summer follows a U.S. Congressional hearing on the Pakistani occupation's gross human rights violations in occupied Baluchistan. The intensity of the conflict has increased since the hearing with Baluch nationalists stepping up efforts on both political and military fronts and Pakistani authorities employing greater brutality to quell any advances. It is increasingly obvious that the Pakistani army will be changing gears rather faster; the only thing on the Pakistani agenda will be 'containment.' The subject of Baluchistan has been internationalized, and before the cause is widely endorsed by the international community, the Pakistani occupiers will want to crush the Baluch resistance. What may lie ahead is an all-out military crackdown.

The Pakistani military has already strategically deployed the Pakistan Air Force's front-line fighter-bombers in-range for carrying out bomber sorties, close air support and aerial reconnaissance missions. Pakistan deployed sixteen F-16 Block 52s at the PAF Shahbaz base in Jacobabad, Sindh, in mid-February. Jacobabad is around eighty kilometers from Dera Bugti, the Baluch Republican Army's theater of operations and two hundred kilometers from Kohlu, the Baluch Liberation Army's bastion. The current deployment at Air Force Base (AFB) Shahbaz totals twenty, a whole squadron of counterinsurgency (COIN) enabled F-16s. Another deployment is at the AFB Samungli in Quetta, where Mirage-V and F-7P jets have been spotted flying; Quetta's resident squadron is comprised of F-7MG jets. The PAF's Mirage-Vs are capable of carrying out night-time precision strikes. Further, as reported by Pakistani television on 9th February, 2012, the army has deployed drone aircrafts in Baluchistan.

Another change one can observe is that Pakistani army personnel are now dressed in full battle gear, i.e., helmets, bulletproof vests, and protective padding, when traveling in Balochistan; there is also increased patrolling of Baluch streets by Pakistani security forces. The military crackdowns against the Baluch have also been stepped-up; the Occupation is deliberately targeting civilians, especially women and children. The Pakistanis employ such tactics to lure guerrillas out into the open. A very famous instance of this is the battle of Chamalang, September 1974, when the Pakistani army attacked Baluch civilians to lure resistance fighters out from the hills.

The ongoing bout of Pakistani atrocities against Baluch civilians in the RD238 area of Dera Bugti has claimed 21 lives and the abduction of 32 people, including at least three women and three children in a single week. The incident was separately condemned by Mr. Sher Muhammad Bugti of the Pro-Independence Baluch Republican Party and Mr. Talal Bugti, chairperson of the Pro-Pakistan Jamoori Watan Party on March 7, 2012. On March 6th, twelve Marri tribesmen, including two children, were abducted from Saryab, Quetta; all belonging to the same family. The ensuing protest was crushed when police baton-charged and fired aerial shots at protestors which included women and children. The number abducted in the Occupation's abduct & dump (A&D) operations in the first two weeks of March 2012 is 42, bringing the total number of missing Baluchs to an overwhelming 14,385 as reported by the Voice for Baluch Missing Persons on March 11th, while at least 33 have been killed because of army actions or A&D operations in under two weeks.

The Pakistani government is also acquiring at the price tag of a staggering ten million US dollars a state of the art URL filtering system that can filter as many as 50 million websites. Already they have systems capable of efficiently filtering any websites with material considered objectionable by the Pakistani state; new websites are inaccessible within a few hours or a day or two at most. It's also believed that the Pakistani government has set up communications listening posts in Baluchistan; the posts are said to be able to triangulate Twitter, Facebook and email communications in real-time. Pakistan has draconian cyber laws, and the Baluch, being second-class citizens, are denied access to Pakistani courts for any actions deemed as threats to the sovereignty of the state. Web activist Waheed Baluch and a friend were assassinated in Khuzdar on February 29, 2012. The Baluch Musalla Defai Tanzeem (BMDT), a Pakistani death squad, claimed credit for those murders. The Pakistani government has been tapping phone calls and has text filters in place to monitor cellular communications.

Another trend relates to the mind-games played by the Pakistani occupation. Traditionally the Pakistanis have either rejected or altogether ignored claims by resistance fighters, but lately they are issuing public counter-claims regarding losses to the resistance. The Pakistanis have also rolled out new death squads, one of which is the Baluch Warna Ittehad (Baluch Youth Union), which accepted responsibility for the murder of three alleged members of the Baluch Republican Army: Pota Bugti, Shamir Bugti and Tangu Bugti, and also claimed responsibility for having killed two more alleged resistance members in their custody: Buland Khan and Ahmed. The claimed incidents probably occurred between March 5th and March 7th, but the only incident that really fits the death squad's claims is an incident in Hameed Pur, where the Pakistani Frontier Corp reported killing three resistance fighters in a skirmish on March 6th. The death squad's claim was delivered as a threat to the international representative of the Baluch Students' Organization-Azad following a TV interview. The threat was followed by another hitherto unknown group's (the Baluch Youth Council) demands to cancel the passports of 25 Baluch students studying abroad.

The Pakistani authorities also demolished martyred Baluch statesman and military commander Mir Balach Marri's Shal residence. This event was not reported by mainstream media. The demolition came in the wake of a car bomb attack on the alleged death squad Baloch Musla Defai Tanzeem (BMDT) safe-house in Shal. Some of the caretakers of the Marri residence were also abducted. Balach Marri is revered by the Baluch and this is an attempt to provoke the resistance into reactionary operations: the rumors being that the BMDT has dared the resistance into attacking their safe-house again, regardless of its location, which is a densely populated region of Shal city.

Where an all-out military assault is an inevitable chapter in the history of nations fighting for their freedom, their success depends on their military preparedness and the international community's support for them. While the Baluch movement is slowly gaining international recognition, it still is under-equipped and starkly outnumbered by the Pakistani Army, one of biggest armies in the world, with around a million troops. Pakistani government and/or military and security agency efforts to control Internet content, install listening posts to monitor communications, kill Web activists, commit indiscriminate assaults on Baluch civilians, mass military resources, demand the repatriation of Baluch diaspora and employ antagonizing tactics to threaten citizens all point to what may be termed as a "contain & kill" policy. The Pakistani military is probably considering a "first mover's advantage." While the Baluch movement has come a long way, the Pakistani military probably considers it young enough to be wiped out in an all-out assault. In that case, the world will have a situation worse than the ongoing Syrian revolution. Baluchistan already has over fourteen thousand missing, and no one has an idea of whether they're dead or alive.