Security Dynamics of Pakistan’s Baluchistan

Baluchistan’s strategic importance is in perpetuum. Historically, this region served as the cross road between the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia. However, currently, Baluchistan finds itself in the midst of numerous power struggles for the purpose of profiting from its riches. This includes not only international powers, such as the USA and China, but regional powers like India and Iran too. Additionally, jihadist organizations, such as, Quetta Shura and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, as well as, Baloch National Parties are also involved. Although this proves and adds up to the strategic aspects of Baluchistan, it also make the area prone to more threats due to clash of interests between these stakeholders. As a result, lack of security prevails in Baluchistan. In fact, the conflicts can be divided into categories; namely, religious conflicts, sectarian conflicts and ethnic conflicts.

To begin, religious conflicts and the creation of extremist organizations play a major role in the deteriorating security in the province of Baluchistan. The soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 had several regional implications. Even though the mujahedeen were primarily created and situated in Afghanistan, their essence was also felt in the Pashtun dominating northern belt of the Baluchistan. This was done in order to resent and prevent the soviet influence into Pakistan. Nonetheless, the madrasas continued to operate even after the soviet exit from Afghanistan. In fact, they served as a breeding ground for Afghan terrorists. Formation of organizations; such as, the Quetta Shura and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan increased the security hazards of the area. Mainly because, Baluchistan served as an excellent hiding place for the Afghan terrorists; resulting in, terrorism and Pakistani recruits into the Afghani operations.

Furthermore, sectarian divide serves as another threat to the security of Baluchistan, as certain sects are targeted based on their religious identity. Causing them to feel precarious in their own homeland. Specifically, the Shia minority group known as the “Harzaras” are targeted by an organization named Lashkar e Jhangvi. The ideology behind its creation is to transform Pakistan into a Sunni state by violent means. Meaning, they want a homogenous Sunni state to prevail in Pakistan, which threatens the life of Shia minority groups residing in Baluchistan.

In fact, the sectarian divide has also resulted in resentment between Iran and Pakistan, threatening the security of bordering Baluchistan. During the War on Terror the USA worked against the interests of Iran in order to destabilize it. Thus, the USA supported the organization named Jandullah (also known as Iranian Peoples Resistance movement). The organization aimed to support the Baloch minority in Iran and stop their repression. As a result, Jandullah has been behind several killings of the Iran Revolutionary Guards. Consequently, the government of Iran had strong reactions against this. Due to which Pakistan had to turn Abel Malik Rigi over to Iran, as he was behind the planning of these attacks. This was done in order to prevent conflicts between both nations and the threats to Baluchistan’s security.

Moreover, Baluchistan is also home to several ethnic conflicts, which also challenge the security dynamics of the area. Since the very beginning the Balochi’s apposed their entry into Pakistan, as he Khanate of Kalat was a separate princely state. As a result, the Baloch insurgency movements have been carried out in 1948,1958,1960,1973,1977 and 2002 to present day. The present day insurgency is stronger than ever, as the Baloch youth have joined the Baloch Liberation Army. Together, they have attacked several local government equipment’s, gas pipelines and have started ethnic killing targeting the non – Balochi’s living in Baluchistan. Adding on, there also an ethnic divide between the Pashtuns and Balochi’s. Originally, the Pashtuns and Balochis fell under the same political party known the National Awami Party. However, the party was unresponsive to the Baloch insurgency in 1970, resulting in clashes and resentments. Additionally, clashes based on the creation of one Pashtun united also arose, which aimed to join the Pashtun Baluchistan with KPK. As, the Pashtuns felt that they were not given equal shares in the blanch provincial services.

Moving on, Baluchistan is abundant with resources and economic potential. It has access to a 760 km sea coast, known as Gwadar, which has the potential of becoming a shipping route in global trade. At the moment, Pakistan has signed an agreement with China to form road, rail, air and pipelines to Gwadar with China and Central Asian Republics. However, the Balochi’s feel that they are a non-participant in the operation and management of the port, as it is run by the federal government. Furthermore, they also fear that it will attract more Punjabis, Sikhs and Pashtuns in the region for jobs. Baluchistan is also important in terms of gas supply nexus, as the gas pipelines pass through this region. Namely, the Iran- Pakistan- India pipeline and Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- India pipeline. Moreover, the region also holds extensive deposits of gold and copper in Chagai, that the Techyan Copper Company was interested in mining but the Baluchistan mining committee refused to provide access. As a result, 200,000 tones of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold remain untouched. Hence, the Baloch ethnic and political conflicts have prevented the province from prevailing, which impacts the economic security of the region.

In my opinion, Baluchistan is a land with immense potential. It is a multi-ethnic and multi- religious land, which is rich with resources. I believe that, Baluchistan should focus more on unification and embrace their heterogeneous society, instead of prevailing in ethic and sect based conflicts. As, they only challenge the security dynamics of the area. Adding on, the federal as well as provincial government needs to take actions against religious madrassas, and open more schools and universities instead. In this manner, individuals will become practical Muslims rather than extremists. Furthermore, the re-sources; such as, copper and gold reserves should be utilized in order to improve the economy of Baluchistan, and the federal government should more readily involve the Balochi’s in the CPEC project. As a result, the security aspects of Baluchistan will improve, and it will become a prevailing society.

Tamseel Aqdas
Tamseel Aqdas
Undergraduate student of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defence University Islamabad