Jan 2005 visitors were not welcome at the house in Karachi where Dr. Shazia Khalid was living, a police team posted at the gate and Pakistan
Army rangers prowling the grounds inside. “You need the permission from the bosses at the top,” maintained a mustached officer firmly. “The very top.”
These were the days of Musharraf’s rule, emboldened by recent US Victory over Taliban. So reckoned Musharraf, the present golden boy in the region, Pakistan had decided to up the ante overall discontent in its
Exploitation of the region backed by military
Rape by Army Officer
Relations between the military government and the elected
representatives of the province had been tense for months, centered on grievances related to provincial sovereignty, the allocation of resources, interprovincial migrations, and the protection of local language and culture.
These claims were valid, however not new. The new was the disdain and exploitatively dismissive attitude of the then Pakistani establishment, fresh from the concluded
Afghanistan War, elated over new found identity. Perhaps Musharraf thought the time ripe, to haul in all his eggs. The tension was, however, particularly intense in the Bugti area, due to its rich natural gas resources and the determination of Akbar Bugti,
a prominent Bugti leader and a former interior minister of state and governor of Baluchistan, to get for his tribe a just share of the royalties generated by their exploitation.
Baluchistan has been simmering for decades, but temperatures had risen drastically while 103 people died and over 300 were wounded in violence since 2004. Things were brought abruptly to a boil in Gas fields of Sui
after the Army sought to cover up the brutal gang rape of a woman doctor Dr Shazia Khalid, at the Sui Refinery in the night of 2 January, allegedly by a Pakistan Army Officer and personnel of the Army’s Defense Security Guards (DSG) who are charged with
the protection of the gas installation.
The military establishment’s alleged effort to cover up the incident triggered a series
of attacks against the DSG and the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary arm of Pakistan Army, by members of the Bugti tribe that hails from Baluchistan. The rape of Shazia Khalid provided the spark that started a blaze throughout the territory.
Beginning of Brutal Purge
Fake Narrative created by Pakistan
Pakistani powers that be, presented the conflict as the creation of greedy sardars, local
tribal leaders fighting for a greater share of provincial resources and opposing development in order to preserve their own power, the outdated relic of a feudal system. Reality is that Pakistan’s military did not take Baluchi nationalist
leaders seriously. They also discounted the risk of a long term struggle.
Narrative build was that the leader Bugti did not subscribe
to development, and wanted to keep Baluch people medieval and repressed, using armed insurgency. The Pakistan government claimed at the time, that they had unearthed terrorist camps in Kohlu and were not only taking measures to stop the flow of weapons to
these camps but were also contemplating action to eliminate them. In the Marri areas of Barkhan and Kohlu, there they complained of resistance to the operations of the oil and gas companies, which were working for the benefit of Punjab dominated Pakistan and
its economy. Starting from the year 2000, the Baluchi nationalists have continued to target the gas infrastructure, to cause damage to the Pakistani economy and deny Pakistan the resources of Baluchistan, and also to keep their secessionist aspirations alive.
Islamic Radicalization of the Region
The only card Pakistan Army knows well to play
The engineering of political Islam or Islamic nationhood contributed
to the partition of India on religious grounds and brought far reaching consequences on various nations in south-central Asia who, although with different historical, lingual and cultural backgrounds, were merged together in the newly-created religious state
Islamization of Baluchistan and the lateral entry of sectarianism was part of the strategy to contain or dilute the Baluch
national movement. Religious political parties were given patronage at the expense of the inherent Baluchi representation.
electoral manipulation had a larger strategic objective as well. With Islamist parties in power in the two provinces adjacent to the Afghan border, it was easier for the military regime to provide the Afghan insurgency the sanctuaries it needed for the pursuit
of a low-intensity conflict in Afghanistan while denying any responsibility in the process.
The Baluchi and Pashtun nationalist parties
found themselves fundamentally affected. A Baluchi, Mohammad Jam Yusaf was appointed chief minister but had little control over even his own cabinet, which was dominated by Jamaat-Ulema-u-Islam, a conservative Islamist party. Lacking a voice in their own province,
Baluchi nationalists rejected the military’s electoral, political, and constitutional manipulation. The rigging of the 2002 elections thus constituted the first step toward the conflict.
Determined to eradicate Baluchi nationalism, Musharraf accelerated the arrest of its leaders. A parliamentary committee including members of the Baluchi opposition convened to resolve matters; however,
intentions of Musharraf were not to be. Even when a compromise with Akbar Bugti seemed imminent, Musharraf deliberately opted for confrontation.
In addition, One of the core strategies of Musharraf was to upset the social harmony, of the Baluchi society by intimidation and murder of Baluchis, Hindus, Christians and Shia Hazara of Quetta. The kidnapping for ransom, acts of extortion and murder
of Hindus started in this year of 2005.
Deliberately by Musharraf
Musharraf, to escalate the Baluchi issue and to
convert from political to military dare, launched a devolution plan, that bypassed the provincial assemblies to create local governments entirely dependent on the central government for their survival. Although presented as a form of decentralization, all
provinces except Punjab realised the scheme to be an imposition of a centralized form of government and a negation of provincial autonomy.
While the rape took place on the night of 1 January 2005, the matter came to light a week later after the Baluchistan Liberation Front (BLF) blew up a pipeline in Sui and exchanged fire with security personnel, as a manner of exhibit of outrage.
What ensued later was not to anyone’s belief. In retaliatory fire, security forces resorted to heavy firing and shelled civilians, killing
many people, including women and children. Musharraf pumped in some 3,000 men, along with tanks and artillery, backed by helicopters and gunships. This evidently showed the intent; however no one took it so seriously, as the Baluch never wanted independence,
but the worth of region’s natural resources, what was rightfully theirs.
According to Nawab Akbar Bugti, the sardar (chieftain)
of the Bugti tribe that dominates the Sui region, “There are activities in the area which suggest that they intend only a war against us. For the last two days, there has been a full military build-up in the area. This is words of a man
wanting resolution of issues, not shedding blood, contrary to what Musharraf planned.
On 17th March 2005, Pakistan Army attacked Baluchistan’s
Dera Bugti town with gunship helicopters, mortars, and rocket shells. Pakistan army came up with an inhuman plan to use all available air and ground power, supposedly to eliminate prominent Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, however, they were sending a
72 innocent civilians were killed, among them were innocent 33 Hindu worshipers, including children, men, women and more than
100 people were severely injured, with the severe damage to the houses including Mosque and a Hindu temple. The minority Hindus had taken shelter inside the temple in Nawab Akbar Bugti’s compound when it was hit by rockets fired deliberately on Nawab
Bugti’s house by Pakistani armed forces.