Oct 23, 2007

Balochistan: Forgotten Tensions

Active ImageIn Balochistan, the tensions remain as the Baloch are victims of human rights violations and oppresive government tactics that threaten to destabilise the wider region.

Below are extracts from an article published by the International Crisis Group:

The Forgotten Conflict in Balochistan,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the tensions across the strategically important and resource-rich province, where violence continues unabated between the military government and militants demanding political and economic autonomy. It urges the federal government to return power to democratic institutions in order to stem growing Baloch alienation and regional instability.


Relying on divide-and-rule policies, the military supports Pashtun Islamist parties like the JUI-F, a key patron of the Afghan Taliban, in a bid to counter secular Baloch and moderate Pashtun forces. Using Balochistan as a base of operation and sanctuary and recruiting from JUI’s extensive madrasa network, the Taliban and its Pakistani allies are undermining the state-building effort in Afghanistan. At the same time, U.S. and other Western support for Musharraf is alienating the Baloch, who otherwise could be natural partners in countering extremism in Pakistan.

The federal government needs to restore a democratic election process for national and provincial governments and allow representative and participatory institutions. It should cease all military operations, release all political prisoners, including those in the unlawful custody of intelligence agencies, and accept the Supreme Court’s directive to end the disappearances of political opponents. It should immediately produce those charged with criminal offences before competent civilian courts, which should be responsible for any trials, and drop terrorism charges against Balochistan National Party leader Akthar Mengal, transfer his kidnapping trial to a sessions court and release him on bail.

The government should also ensure freedom of speech, movement, association and assembly and remove all restrictions on Baloch nationalist parties.

“The staunchly anti-Taliban and secular Baloch believe the international community has yet to understand the threat the military’s Islamist allies pose, domestically and externally”, says Samina Ahmed, South Asia Project Director. “The restoration of participatory democratic institutions willing to accommodate the legitimate political demands of the Baloch would assuage dissent and restore trust in constitutionalism and rule of law”.

(Source: The International Crisis Group)