Pak, post 1971, only concentrated development in Punjab and Sindh, ignoring its western provinces. They were secure in their belief that these areas which were under-developed, lacked education and inhabited by population which it could subdue would never rise against the state. This region houses two major communities, Pashtuns and Balochis.
The troubles for the Pashtuns, who have resided in Waziristan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) began post the US invasion of Afghanistan. The Pak army, which took over the responsibility of supporting the Taliban fleeing from Afghanistan, moved them into the region, placing locals at the mercy of the Taliban.
Mohsin Dawar, who represents North Waziristan in the Senate and is presently under arrest, states in an article in the Washington Post of 16 Apr this year, ‘Miran Shah, in Western North Waziristan’s tribal district, once served as the global headquarters of terrorism. Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network and other militant organizations moved there after being routed out by the US. We paid a high price for Islamabad’s misguided policies. We endured a decade of rule by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. After the military finally moved into North Waziristan in 2014, about 1million of North Waziristan’s residents were displaced, and our homes and livelihoods ruined.’
He added that after three years of displacement and attempting to rebuild their lives, the Taliban are now being permitted to return. This is contrary to what the world believes of Pakistan working with the US and Afghanistan to restore peace in the country. With their return, targeted assassinations are again rising. The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), created under two years ago, is determined to expose this and prevent its people from living under the tyranny of the Taliban.
Mohsin’s strongest comments are against the Pak army when he states, ‘Its policy of supporting militants and conducting proxy wars over the past four decades has resulted in death, destruction and economic disaster for Pakistan.’ This fact is well known, and Pak’s present economic mess is because of its skewed budget where the Pak army’s share is almost 10 times that of the nation’s education budget.
Since 2003, militant attacks and military operations have killed tens of thousands of Pashtuns and displaced many more. Nearly 2,000 Pashtun tribal leaders have been eliminated for resisting the Taliban takeover of FATA. The PTM’s peaceful campaign is only seeking the right to live. Their demands on ending extrajudicial killing, end to enforced disappearances, harassment and removal of mines is only to save the future of their populace.
The highhanded approach of the army has enhanced anger and increased frustration amongst the population. In a photograph, TTP (Pakistan Taliban) members were seen in Pashtun caps indicating solidarity with the PTM. This implies that with passage of time, members of the peaceful PTM movement, angry with the atrocities committed by the Pak army,may voluntarily join the TTP.If that happens, it would be disaster for Pak.
Irfan Husain writes in the editorial of the Dawn of 15 Jun, ‘it seems odd that the ruling combine has seen fit to open additional fronts in KP as well. One would have thought the government had its hands full of ongoing crises without poking a stick into more hornets’ nests.’
The reason why the Pak army fears this peaceful movement is because it is spearheaded by youth who have been born amongst violence and seen deaths of family members. They have witnessed their homes being demolished and elders killed. To subdue a protest of an entire region which has only witnessed suffering by force is almost impossible, which the Pak army has begun learning the hard way. The movement needs no international support or funding, as it is a struggle for survival.
The Baluch conflict rose in 2005. Baluchistan is the least populated region of Pakistan. The reason for the conflict was simmering tensions on the price of natural gas being produced from the region, construction of additional military cantonments and development of Gwadar port. The uprising was triggered by the rape of a female doctor, Shazia Khalid, by an army personnel who was never arrested and the army attempted a cover-up.The conflict continues till date and the region is slowly descending into a state of anarchy.
Baluchistan had declared independence post 15 Aug 1947, which the Pak government rejected and annexed the region nine months later. In 1948, 58 and 62, there were a series of conflicts between Baluch nationalists and the Pak state. The movement has recently gathered steam and presently there are multiple groups seeking independence, including the Baluch Liberation Army (BLA), Baluch National Army (BNA) and the Baluch Student Organization.
The leaders of the movement are educated youth who are aware of their actions and seek justice. Attacks on the Pak army have been on the rise in the region. The BLA was able to attack the Chinese consulate in Karachi last year and the Pearl Continent Hotel in Gwadar recently.
PM Modi in his Independence Day speech in 2016 referred to Baluchistan for the first time. Ajit Kumar, India’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), said on 14 Sept the same year, ‘This is a country (Pakistan), which has systematically abused and violated the human rights of its own citizens, including in Baluchistan.’ This indicated that India would in the future provide a voice for the atrocities committed on the Baluch people.
Pak has continuously blamed India for interfering in the Baluch insurgency. The reality is vastly different. The Baluchistan issue may not really need an Indian role to simmer. Pakistan has done enough to earn the wrath of generations of Balochis. The BLA and BNA are against the CPEC, which is exploiting their region. Their attacks have threatened the CPEC, forcing the Pak army to deploy thousands of troops for its security, which is proving insufficient. Irfan Husain states in his editorial, ‘A peaceful resolution to the conflict is more pressing as much of the CPEC initiative is focused on Baluchistan.’
Both the PTM, BLA and BNA are now a force to reckon with. While the PTM is presently peaceful, has a mass following and could become a part of the TTP later, the othersare militant and challenge the might of the Pak army. All these movements are being termed anti-national by the Pak deep state and strong military force is being employed to subdue them, but to no avail.
With a military government controlling a puppet regime in the country, there is no possibility of seeking a political solution by dialogue. Nothing could be worse than this for the country. The appointment of General Faiz Hameed as the new DG ISI is with the intention of curbing these movements, before they threaten the existence of Pak.
The hard approach by the Pak army has alienated the population. With members of both communities spread across the globe the world is being made aware of the atrocities of the region and it is only a matter of time before the UN Human Rights commission and other agencies begin demanding their rights to visit the region and question Pak for its mishandling and extrajudicial killings.It is the international projection of these movements alongside their rising popularity that has the Pak army sweating.
(The author is Major General (Retd)