Welcome to the war in Balochistan

Published: February 3, 2012

I have vowed to write article after article with a call to action. PHOTO: AFP

In 2007, those of us journalists working on news desks could see from the daily reports pouring in from Swat and Fata that the situation had turned dire; that there was a war upon us that we, the media, could see, but which the general population would not wake up to, at least not until it reached their doorstep.

Due to Pakistan’s overt involvement in the US war on terror, the lid on that battleground blew open fairly soon, but even back in 2007 we could see that there was another deadly war front opening – the war in Balochistan. However, back in the day, we were encouraged to report more openly on the Swat and Fata front and discouraged from reporting on the Balochistan front, with an unspoken mantra attached to the issue: the Pakistan army will take care of it – let’s leave that can of worms alone for now and feed the public on the war at hand (besides which, we don’t have enough reporters in Balochistan anyway).

In 2007, there were daily reports of death tolls from Swat and Fata.

In 2012, there are now daily reports of death tolls from Balochistan.

In 2007, we saw the first big wave of terrorist attacks and operations outside of Swat and Fata.

In 2012, the war in Balochistan has now started to reach our urban centres as well.

In 2007, we began to see images of executed Pakistani soldiers in Swat and Fata, many of which were recorded and circulated by the militants themselves.

Last night, photos of executed Pakistani soldiers in Balochistan were being circulated on Twitter.

In 2007, we started to learn of how militants had taken charge of media via their own radio stations and by religious edicts against TV channels.

In 2012, the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) have shut off TV channels in parts of Balochistan in protest of the (lack of) coverage. Baloch separatists have also effectively taken to the internet to network and highlight their cause.

In 2007, the ideological basis and motivating factors  (religion, culture, ethnic divide, government endorsed lack of governance, funding, law and order, education and utter neglect) for the war in Swat and Fata ensured that this war could never be won by guns alone.

In 2012, the ideological basis and motivating factors for the war in Balochistan are near identical.

I can continue with parallel after parallel but I think the point has been made – Balochistan is our new, deadly war front, but there is a critical difference.

Unlike in Fata, where the Pakistan army has overt US support from intelligence and funding to equipment, in Balochistan they do not and will not, because this war holds no overt foreign interest. In fact, what foreign interest it has garnered has been almost exclusively in highlighting the atrocities being committed by the Pakistan army in a failed bid to clamp down on the situation.

Another key difference in this new war front is that the propaganda will not be led and sponsored by the US media machine as is the case for the war on terror in Fata. No, for this war, our state will have to come up with their own media campaign, which to date, has mostly consisted of “it’s just a small insurgency” and “this is all sponsored by foreign (Indian) hands.”

Unfortunately, the truth is, without a foreign (US) hand to aid Pakistan fight this war, it is all too easy to decipher that the enemy the state is fighting is Pakistan and Pakistanis itself (though at this point, I don’t think the Baloch “insurgents” refer to themselves as Pakistani).

I have vowed to write article after article with a call to action. This one has a very simple one: awareness.

Take some time out to read the news reports and Op-eds on Balochistan. That way, at the very least, you will not be shocked or surprised when the bombs start going off in your city, and you learn that we are in for another war that has (on the face of it) no end.

Wake up and talk about it.

To understand the war in Balochistan, read these articles:

Inside Balochistan –  Declan Walsh

Separatism online – Jahanzaib Haque

‘To be a Baloch is to embrace death’

The problem with Balochistan – Salman Latif

Saving BalochistanThe Express Tribune editorial

Recalling Baloch history – Yaqoob Khan Bangash

The right to self determination – Fahad Desmukh

Jahanzaib Haque

Jahanzaib Haque

News buff and Web Editor, The Express Tribune. Jahanzaib tweets @Jhaque_ twitter.com/jhaque_

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    “Wake up” is a sensational and dramatic term that’s overused these days when discussing various socio-religious issues, however frivolous.

    Thankfully, the usage of the term in this article seems apt. Good job. The Balochistan issue deserves a lot more coverage and attention than it’s currently receiving.Recommend

  • Atiq Rehman

    “no overt foreign interest”? Sir, you do not qualify to be a journalist or an analyst.

    Ambassador Munter says Baluchistan is of strategic importance to USA
    US House Committee holds hearing on Baluchistan
    USA wants to open a consulate there
    Nadeem Piracha clearly outlines the soviet aid to baloch rebels earlier
    Our government clearly says that India is backing rebels now
    Foreign Policy article says Mossad is training Jandulla
    Afghanistan hosts rebels before they’re given sanctuary in UK and Switzerland

    “no overt foreign interest”? sir, the foreign interest is overt and covert, if you choose to report it.Recommend

  • http://www.zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com Zaid Hamid

    No need to read anything.. I say again.. Balochistan is safe in hands of ISI and Pak Army..they will take care of everything…Recommend

  • Talat Haque

    Mr. Zaid Hamid – East Pakistan was in the safe hands of the Army ………. we know how safe that was …………. whenever people of one ethnic, racial or religious group view another as different from themselves , it is a recipe for disaster ………. everyone needs to minimize / change those perceptions / realities ……… everyone -like you and I and all.Recommend

  • Baloch

    Let the united states play the role intermediary between us and pakistan. We donot expect justice from pak Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/Omaidus Omaidus

    A very well put article. Pakistan face a very great challenge ahead, the one created by itself. in swat i was the foreign group of taliban who occupied the area. In balochistan it is the inside native groups to whom the Army has to deal with. the baloch insurgents of may we day them the freedom fighters in their opinion have the support of the locals, which make it a defeated war ab initio, we can only win it by giving the rights or otherwise if the numbers of unknown dead bodies continue to rise, Army’s chances to win the war will keep falling as the support of local people will deteriorate.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/#!/AreebahShahid Areebah Shahid

    Finally, a good, “aam-feham” peace on Balochistan to explain the on-going war’s dynamics to the general population..this is one front that we do really need to wake up to or else we’ll just wake up to severed Pakistan once again.Recommend

  • Meerza

    @Zaid Hamid:
    Fully Agree with you.

  • Meshwar

    @Zaid Hamid:
    Safe hands of ISI ..are you serious???Recommend

  • Sadia Mahmood

    Zaid Hamid should be sent to Balochistan.Recommend

  • murassa sanaullah

    our media is busy in stupid issues and even our so called judiary has become a party , our govt. to weak to takle the balouchistan issue .Recommend

  • umair

    I am pretty sure Zaid Hamid meant it as a joke. If not he is delusional. Recommend


    Let every ethnic / nation to decide their future, if any nation want freedom, let them to have as Muslim had in subcontenent.Recommend

  • Baloch Student

    The Baloch have been suffering from the first day of Pakistani occupation of Balochistan. The Baloch are human and they have the right to decide wither they want to be in Pakistan or not. They choose from 48 to stay independent, like Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan loves Balochistan resources, but the Baloch have no values what so ever. Yes we want any help we can getRecommend

  • Harri

    @zaid Hamid, sorry for you are still not able to understand the grave situation in Balochistan, It is going of ISI and Armys’ control…. Please let them keep this genocide going on against baloch people, this will help them to get their freedom sooner than later….Please keep sleeping Recommend

  • Milestogo

    Kashmiris have right of self determination but balochis don’t.Recommend

  • Milestogo

    Give Taliban thier homeland and give balochis their homeland.Recommend

  • Thevoiceofreason

    @ everyone, Zaid Hamid was clearly being sarcastic.Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Good article. I would like to add that there are 2 additional things that need to be noticed:
    1. Because of operations in Afghanistan by US and FATA / KPK by Pak Army, many militants have moved inward towards Balochistan. So, now in addition to disgruntled Baloch separatists, we have trained militants who have migrated to the area to make it worse. That’s why we see sectarian violence growing in the region as well.
    2. There are talks in some US foreign policy circles about how to leverage situation in Balochistan to strategic advantage in the region. If Balochistan is separated from Pakistan, it will provide alternate safer yet cheap supply route for NATO, facilitate additional monitoring on cross-border Iran, and restrict China’s access to the strategic port of Gwadar.

    Putting it altogether, unless we get our act together and address the concerns of our Baloch brethren, odds are stacked up against us which can lead to unexpected surprises in the region.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jahanzaib-Haque/149352001744540?ref=ts Jahanzaib Haque

    @Atiq Rehman:
    Perhaps I was not clear – to qualify my statement: I meant overt foreign interest in fighting the war alongside Pakistan/the Pakistan Army, and supporting them openly, as did the US in fata.


  • Grace

    @Baloch Student: Why is it that Baluch are signing up to join the Pak military in greater and greater numbers. Why is it that every Baluch you see in Karachi or Islmabad blames the violence on foreign agents who are funding and fighting with a few paid odd tribes? Yes there are challenges in Baluchistan but we know that the majority of Baluchis are with Pakistan and that most Baluchis are against the anti state criminals who are funded by anti Pakistani agencies. It has been proven that Afghanistan is a base for Indian agents to create trouble against innocent Pakistanis inlcuding Baluchis. And if you studies history, you would know that Baluchistan voted to join Pakistan.Recommend

  • Milestogo

    Wonder why did Osama not hide in Bangladesh?Recommend

  • ayesha khan

    @Grace: “And It will be a LOSS for US or UK to send all of them back. US and UK universities have earned and are earning millions of dollars and pounds from the Pakistani students. Some of the best minds are living there, and if they come back it will be in favor of Pakistan no US or UK !

    Wrong. Actually Khan of Kalat had a separate kingdom which was not part of the vote. Balochistan was annexed. It had never voted for Pakistan.Recommend

  • John B

    Balochistan is Pakistan’s Achilles heel. Recommend

  • Waqas

    @Talat Haque: East Pakistan’s total population was more than West Pakistan. Balochistan is least populated and most are Pashtuns in Balochistan who give us no problem. Recommend

  • Mir

    Balochistan Assembly didn’t vote to join Pakistan, it was municipal body in Quetta that did and Quetta was part of British Balochistan, when i was studying in Quetta my collegues started to disappear first and then killed by agencies, police always arrested political activist without reasons and tortured them and then they started doing with any college going student, first situation was bad in remote areas of balochistan but now it will soon grasp parts of sindh and then southern punjab. Student activists before nawab akbar’s death demanded full autonomy and their rights but after his death as situation became worse and worse they were pushed to seperatism. Power centers in Pakistan never hear less than US state department, soon they will be crying and UN human rights commission and european parliament will pass a resolution in favor of Balochistan, and then separatist movement will also spread to Sindh. Baloch wants respect if they will get from US they will certainly love them. Recommend

  • Usman Ahmad

    The guy who is writing here with the name ‘Zaid Hamid’ surely does that in jest. Had you people checked out his blog, you wouldn’t have been fooled like this. Besides, he is an Indian.Recommend

  • Mir

    @Zaid Hamid:
    Yes, This was the same mindset who says Dhakka is safe in hands of Army – 90K surrendered. Wakeup – man – a small support by US and International Community to Baloch separatist demand will exactly repeat the Dhakka episode. Recommend

  • Asma Baloch

    thank you JH for this thought provoking Article to draw the attention where majority in Media is not ready to do out of fear or less rating.It means some one somewhere is still adamant and ready to go against the grain.
    I also read the links you have provided regarding Baluchistan,My humble thanks.Recommend

  • Mj
  • John B

    Go back and read history from the treaty between Balochistan and British Raj. While you are at it, read the Govt of India Act as well.

    Pakistan did not inherit Balochistan and the Quetta vote was a sham and Kalat was not part of the deal.

    Also read Afghanistan-British Raj treaty (which by the way expired in 1993 ) on Durand line and by the treaty British Raj (as a successor to the treaty, PAK ) has to renegotiate WITH Afghanistan. The current PAK-AFG trouble also on this Durand line treaty and good friend Haqqani is part of this game. Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    Your analysis is spot on. The influx of the Taliban into the province will only vitiate the fragile situation further. If Pakistan over extends in Afghanistan and Baloch continue to be annihilated or go missing sooner or later the matter will land up at the UN. The right approach will be for Parliament to recall the Army and FC from Baluchistan and legislators from both Provincial and National Assembly to form a Peace Committee and negotiate with estranged groups. Unlike the Taliban who want to impose their ideology and take over the reigns of Power the Baloch only want to have control over their resources and a life of dignity. Recommend

  • Talat Haque

    Dear Mr. Waqas …………… does it matter how many human beings we are dealing with? ……….. or does it matter that they are Punjabi, Pashtun or Baloch ?……….. does it matter that they were Bengalis {back then] ? ……….. they are human beings ………… it is dangerous to start identifying people by their ethnicities ………… it leads to alienation and it is always easy to treat aliens as a threat ………. it justifies injustices, even genocide ……….. and only ends in tragedyRecommend

  • GullBaloch

    Pakistan is a Bristish formulated structured boundry, that is made for the purpose to protect western insterests. Basically it is a criminal state with fake history, identity, language , consititution, politics and extremely corrupt system . I feel pity those deny these facts and try to impose their fake ideologies upon other nation (like Benglis and now Baloch) , those are enslaved on gun point, to exploit the land and their resources.

    Paksitan and its army nothing but greedy beasts in human skin !
    Pakistani Army and ISI abused all humanity with their shameless deeds. Recommend

  • Shahzad

    Baloch have Arab roots. The Makranis have African roots. These people are all migrants and have no right to say who Balochistan belongs to. Balochistan will always be part of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ghulam Hussain Baloch

    pakistan is a bed country Recommend

  • nouman

    seriously come on?? wat do u know about the history of baluchistan? saying that they’re all migrants? baluch people have been living on that land for more than thousand years. there is black african baluchs in baluchistan but they were slaves just like they were in america, uk and other countries. they were brought there by portuguese about 200-300 years ago. Recommend

  • Nazir Ahmed

    @ Mir

    “Dhaka — 90K surrendered” absolute lie. I was one of about thrity two thousand army men who became prisoner and were detained by India for over two years. The total number of prisoners could not be more that forty thousand, including some para military and very few civilians. May be a figure of thirty nine thousand was inverted to “ninety three thousand” touted initialy. If you or anyone is interested to know the truth, go to some Indian site or Wikipedia, find out the details of units and their places of deployemnt on 03 Dec 1097 and then calculate the strength i.e. what was the authorised strength of those units and what was left of them after attrition in about ten months operations. I can give the details taken from these sources to any one who is interested. My mail is [email protected] Recommend

  • rex minor

    Shame on Pakistan current civilian Govt. Mr Saad Hafiz, the journalist talks about democracy in Pakistan and Mr Haque talks about the war in Balochistan. Let the military undrstand that those who are cruel towards the Balochi people are simple criminals and are going to be held accountable.. Those victims who do not have anyone are going to receive God’s help. This world is controlled by the almighty one God.

    Rex Minor

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan

    I live in a messed up neighbourhood. Balochistan was annexed by Pakistan. There was no popular referendum like in nwfp. Pakistan only cares about Kashmir land and water and not about its people. If rab forbids you get Kashmir , there will be land mafias and encroachers all around and demographic changes will reduce them to a minority. We want a happy and a prosperous Pakistan beecause we have a debt to our children and descendents. If we talk to Pakistan army, people say it was dictatorial, if we talk to ppp government then they are corrupt scoundrels. Hai rabba kisde naal gulla karesi. Think about it my Pakistani friends and brothers in humanity . Rab rakha, sat Sri akalRecommend

  • Cynical

    @Talat Haque

    “…. whenever people of one ethnic, racial or religious group view another as different from themselves, it is a recipe for disaster …”

    Couldn’t agree more.But Pakistan itself was created on the basis of ‘viewing the other as different from us’. The seeds of divisive politics were sown during the prepartition days and subsequent formation of Pakistan has since become an iconic symbol of success for this kind of politics.As the cliche goes, “As you sow so shall you reap.” Recommend

  • saqib

    @Baloch Student:

    The Major problem with you guys is that you never had a leader who is able to fight for your rights or collaboratively negotiate with the state .. and i fell that leadership is still lacking in balochistan .. correct me if i am wrongRecommend

  • akram

    In Blouchistan only 30% Blouch and 60% Pathan and 10% others ,ofcurse most Populition of Pathan and Pathan love with Pakistan,and most of Blouch love with Pakistan ..but the govt of Pak s soo stubed and also Army and ISI ..(and Army ,govt) and every high post only for panjab and sind ???????? and operation, drone attick all for Pathan and Blouch ,kpk and Blouchistan ,….this s why why ?..CAZ all Pakistani is no same , If our stuped and Crieft leader want Pakistan,so must bring equlity (No panjabi ,no sindi,no Blouch and no Pathan ..Recommend

  • Asim

    @ Jahanzaib Haque:
    Thank you for informing YOUR people that there exists a land, named Balochistan, where YOUR Army and ISI repeat everyday what they did in Bengal/Bangladesh.
    As for the people, who say Balochistan is in the SAFE HANDS of Pakistan Army and the ISI, I invite them to visit Balochistan and experience how your army is behaving like an imperialist army and treating as Americans treated the blackmen/slaves from Africa.

    Pakistan is doing nothing except creating and providing a reason to the common Baloch, like me, to hate Pakistan and its people. The kidnapping, torture and extra judicial killing of the Baloch youth.. Is this what is supposed to happen in a country achieved in the name of Allah and his Holy Prophet?

    But, as I have seen in my life, it is completely futile to expect anything from Pakistan, the Pakistani media and the people of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Nazir Ahmed

    @ Asim, I am sure you never visited Balochistan, otherwise you would have known that Army is not carrying out any operation in Balochistan. FC an Interior Ministery force is deployed on demand from the Provincial Government which has almost all the Sardars represented. If in four years they have not brought about peace in the sparsely populated Baloch inhabilited areas is it jutified to blame Pakistan? You are talking the language which the US wants; to malign law enforcing agencies erode faith in the State of Pakistan and justify occupation of this strategic area. With the help from people like you they might succeed.Recommend

  • Asim

    @Nazir Ahmed:
    I am a native of Balochistan and spent my whole life in Balochistan.

    Army is not conducting operation in Balochistan:
    So who is kidnapping, torturing, killing and dumping the bodies of Baloch? Who is attacking villages in Dera Bugti and Kohlu with gunship helicopters? Is it the Australian army?

    Sardars? Show me a single place in Pakistan where feudalism doesn’t exist. Remember the Mukhtaran Mai case by panchayat? Haven’t you seen Waderas in Sindh treating people like slaves? Haven’t you heard of Khans and Malaks sacrificing girls in the name of Wani?
    All of them are the puppets of ISI and hated by the common Baloch people.

    lets suppose it isn’t the Pakistan Army and ISI killing the Baloch people. Let’s suppose it is the Indian RAW. But again, isn’t it the duty of your so dear army to protect foreign agencies from interfering in the matters of state? It still means that your LEAs are a complete failure.

    As for the USA… lol it’s funny, when you recieve aid, its good and when they talk about human rights, it starts to hurt you..

    You know what the biggest reason for the hatred? The reason is Pakistan has treated Balochistan like a colony, failed miserably and still finding excuses to avoid the reality of their own deeds. Stop giving us those lame excuses. Be practical!Recommend

  • Nazir Ahmed

    @Asim. I am happy to be communicating with a native of Baluchistan where I have spent over eight years and extensively travelled throught the length and breadth of this vast province. I am sure few resident of Baluchistan will have the chance to do so. I have great respect for an ordinary Baloch who remains exploited by the Sardari system. Unfortunately the State has failed to reach out to the common man finding it convenient to deal with few sardars. Also a major factor is the vastness of space inhabited by very few people in the Baloch inhabited areas which demanded special measures to address the needs of the common people. This can be done anytime the rulers decide to do so. Not much money would be required, only the will and capacity is needed.

    Maligning Army and the ISI is really not the answer as it is not their job to provide governance. These forces are already spread thin struggling to fight the war on terror imposed on Pakistan by the US with the help of their men like Musharraf and Zardari/Gillani ruling Pakistan.

    Blame must be placed where it belongs to. If the provincial government represented by almost all the Sardars has failed to deliver in the last four years why blame Pakistan.
    Elect better people in coming elections.Recommend



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  • rabail

    i do not understand why balochis do not like punjabis especially.i mean we have done nothing to them and Why army is doing all those bad things to them (if it is actually) ?Recommend