Violence in Balochistan Is there a military solution? | By Farrukh Saleem
Violence in Balochistan Is there a military solution?
Violence does not happen in a vacuum. The violence in Baluchistan has an explanation based on ‘greed and grievances’.
The greed-based explanation is that fighters are “motivated by a desire to improve their situation and conduct an informal cost-benefit analysis by considering whether the benefits of joining a rebellion outweigh not joining”.
The Baloch “insurgents” appear to have established a strong financial pipeline from London to Qatar to the United Arab Emirates.
Then there are a whole host of foreign intelligence agencies with a negative interest in Balochistan, including India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service MI6 SIS, Mossad , the National Intelligence Agency of Israel, the Signals Intelligence Agency (SIA) of the United Arab Emirates, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States and the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran (MOIS).
A grievance is a “wrong or prejudice suffered, real or perceived, which constitutes a legitimate ground for complaint”. The grievance-based explanation is the “grievance-frustration-aggression-rebellion” cycle.
The cycle begins with a grievance, real or imagined, which turns into individual frustration and this frustration over time turns into collective aggression leading to rebellion.
This cycle signifies a political failure in which political leaders failed to address Baloch grievances, both real and imagined.
Among the real grievances are four: an unrepresentative political structure, an inefficient administrative apparatus, relative deprivations (education, employment, health and income) and the exploitation of indigenous resources. Another grievance is the narrative that revolves around “bribing the sardars, marginalizing the poor”.
Certainly, resolving Baloch grievances, both real and imagined, is the responsibility of Pakistan’s political leadership. Certainly, we have lit the fire in Balochistan and RAW, SIS, Mossad, SIA, CIA and MOIS are now fueling it to the fullest. Iran has Chahbahar port, they don’t want Gwadar. The UAE also does not want another competitor.
The Pentagon has classified China as a “strategic adversary” and China’s strategic presence in Gwadar is an irritant. Violence in Balochistan has three main drivers: the exploitation of resources – some real, some imagined; political grievances and administrative grievances.
Political grievances include an unrepresentative and ineffective political structure. Administrative grievances include an unrepresentative and inefficient administrative structure. Secondary, state-backed drivers include India, Britain, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Iran.
The main drivers of violence in Balochistan have been political, but our response has been kinetic.
There was a military response in 1958, another in 1973 and yet another in 2006. Political problems have no military solution. Our political and military leaders are still not on the same page. The military leadership believes politicians have lost public trust and there is a serious political vacuum in Pakistan’s largest province.
The political leadership, on the other hand, claims that it has lost all authority to the HQ XII Corps and the Inspector-General Frontier Corps (IGFC). Military doctrine also has a sectarian dimension in which sectarian garbs have been used to achieve military-strategic goals.
In 2003, General Musharraf declared 90% of Balochistan’s 347,190 square kilometers as “A areas” under police jurisdiction and under direct state mandate.
In 2011, President Zardari reversed the Musharraf-era arrangement and reverted 90% of Balochistan to ‘B areas’ subject to levies.
The Baloch “insurgents” know very well that they cannot defeat the Pakistani army. Their goal is a long, low-intensity conflict in which they employ guerrilla tactics of ambush, sabotage, evasion, and deception. “Insurgents” also use terrain as a force multiplier.
The violence in Balochistan must be understood in its proper context with the ultimate goal of preserving the Pakistani military’s “monopoly of violence” over Pakistan’s 881,913 square kilometers of landmass.
Yes, violence has state supporters and if it spreads, the cost of controlling it – in terms of labor and capital – will skyrocket. Yes, the cost of its removal through the use of force will harm our international standing.
Balochistan is fully refundable. Force, however, is not the answer, nor is the politics of divide and conquer. Hearts and minds must be conquered.
The answer lies in participatory representative institutions. The answer lies in an efficient and representative administrative apparatus. The answer lies in redressing grievances. Remember, we started the fire and if there was no fire, no one could feed it.