They were once called the “wild herds” of southwest Asia: the Baluch after whom their stateless homeland Balochistan –or Baluchistan — is named, now soaked in daily bloodshed.
In the backdrop of the so-called Great Game being played out in the greater southwest Asia and the Middle East for future control of world’s energy resources, Balochistan has discretely come on the radar of the defense establishments of leading world powers, including the United States.
It’s “sexy” location as the upper lip of the Straits of Hormuz has made it equally enticing for global powers — NATO, China, Russia and India.
The area is vast – the Balochistan territory in Pakistan is the size of New Mexico, that in Iran is the size of Nevada and that in Afghanistan the size of West Virginia — and is extremely rich in terms of natural resources.
Pakistan tested its nuclear weapons in Balochistan May 1998. The local populace here have revolted against Pakistan’s central rule five times in the last six decades with a low-level insurgency going on to this day. Thousands, from top tribal leaders to common citizens, have perished in these uprisings.
In the four previous uprisings 1948, 1958, 1962 and 1973, the battles lines were clearly drawned — between the armed Baloch guerrillas and Pakistan army, secret services and paramilitary forces.
“We would hang them upside down and even cut off their genitals to get information, but they would not betray their comrades,” one army major who took part in crushing the 1973-77 Baloch insurgency in Pakistan told this scribe. He said the military would even hurl the guerrillas from flying choppers to instil fear in hearts of the populace.
However, since the killing of Baloch politician, former governor and chief minister, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006 and the subsequent death of his comrade Mir Balach Marri, who was also called Baloch Che Guevara on November 20, 2007, the insurgency has lost experienced leadership.
“More than 1,800 Punjabi settlers were killed,” in the years since Bugti’s death, says Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, son of one of the main founders of Baloch nationalism Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo. These pogroms in towns and cities acrossf Balochistan were an expression of hatred for Pakistan army, according to the hardline leaders.
Throughout history minority settlers, such as these victims, were guarded as “bahote,” or pride, in Baloch tribal traditions.
For the first time in the history of Balochistan even a woman was not spared: Professor Nazima Talib, an assistant professor at the department of mass in Quetta was gunned down rather proudly in spring last year by a militant outfit in retaliation for Baloch women killed during Pakistan security raids on their homes.
Militants have also targeted at least five Baloch political workers.
Baloch Diaspora elements insist the militants must realize their folly of targeting Baloch political activists. “They must show the courage to apologize to the victims’ families as well, who were shot dead without any obvious reasons,” says U.S. official Rashid Baloch, who lost two cousins Maula Bakhsh Dashti on July 11 2010 and Mohammed Hussain on September 14, 2011 at the hands of the militants.
Immediately after Dashti’s killings in July last year, Pakistani intelligence and security agencies came down heavliy on the militant supporters and forcibly disappeared professors, lawyers, doctors, journalists and student leaders. The killings matched the massive secret dirty war that Chile and Argentine launched against their citizens four decades ago.
Islamabad’s crackdown has forced many politicians and educated youth to seek asylum in the West. (Picture shows one youth Abid Baloch aka Abid Al-Balushi from Mekran who is now living in Seattle, Washington, with two of his American female friends).
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights Commission, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan have all condemned human rights violation in Balochistan being conducted by Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, Military Intelligence and Inter-Services Intelligence.
According to Balochistan observers both the killing of the best brains by the Pakistani security and
intelligence services out of sheer frustration in failing to win over the hearts of the Baloch people and the escape of notable leaders have created negative trends in the movement.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also charged Baloch militants for human rights violations.
In mid-November Mohammad Hassan, a resident of Tump area said the underground armed organization Baloch Liberation Front had in a statement November 5, 2011 claimed responsibility for the killing of his 22-year-old son Malik Baloch and accused him of being a government “informer and traitor.”
The militant outfit had earlier forcibly disappeared Malik Baloch.
“My 22-year-old son was innocent and was clean, and was not involved in any activity to harm anyone,” Hassan said. “B.L.F. not only snatched from me my loved son who was my support in old age but has stigmatized the reputation of my family by their baseless allegation and dirty accusation against my son,” Hassan said.
He said the B.L.F. must provide proof that his son was a government informer, his actions that might have harmed the freedom movement or any snitching he did that helped capture and killing of anyone.
Hassan said such actions of the B.L.F. of killing innocent persons and then accusing them of being government informers were unacceptable.