Secret hand(s) behind militancy in Balochistan
02 March, 2005)
Tariq Saeedi in Ashgabat
The Daily Mail
With Sergi Pyatakov in
Moscow, Ali Nasimzadeh in Zahidan, Qasim Jan in Kandahar and S M Kasi in
Additional reporting by Rupa Kival in New Delhi and Mark Davidson in
and treachery; Live and let die. The ultimate zero sum game. Repetition
of bloody history: Call it what you may, something is happening in the
Pakistani province of Balochistan that defies comprehension on any
conventional scale.Four correspondents and dozens of associates who
collectively logged more than 5000 kilometers during the past seven
weeks in pursuit of a single question - What is actually happening in
Balochistan? - have only been able to uncover small parts of the entire
conspiracy.However, if the parts have any proportional resemblance to
the whole, it is a frightening and mind-boggling picture.Every story
must start somewhere. This story should conveniently have started on the
night of 7 January 2005 when gas installations at Sui were rocketed and
much of Pakistan came to almost grinding halt for about a week. Or, we
should have taken the night of 2 January 2005 as the starting point when
an unfortunate female doctor was reportedly gang-raped in Sui. However,
the appropriate point to peg this story is January 2002 and we shall
return to it in a minute.Actually, the elements for the start of
militancy and rebellion in Balochistan had been put in place already and
the planners were waiting for a convenient catalyst to set things in
motion. The gang-rape of 2 Jan, around which this sticky situation has
been built, was just the missing ingredient the planners needed.Two
former KGB officers explained that the whole phenomenon has been
assembled on skilful manipulation of circumstances. We shall keep
returning to their comments throughout this report.As Pakistan and India
continue to mend fences, as Iran, Pakistan and India try to pool efforts
to put a shared gas pipeline, as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan
join hands to lay a natural gas pipeline of great economic and strategic
importance, as the United States continues to laud the role of Pakistan
as a frontline nation in war against terrorism, as Chinese contractors
forge ahead with construction work in Gwadar port and on trans-Balochistan
highway, as the Pakistan government makes efforts to bring Balochistan
under the rule of law and eliminate safe havens for Saboteurs, arms
smugglers and drug barons, as the whole region tries to develop new
long-term models to curb terrorism and bring prosperity to far flung
areas, there is a deadly game going on in the barren and hostile hills
of Balochistan. Liens are muddy; there are no clear-cut sectors to
distinguish friends from foes.
Right in the beginning we would like to clarify that when we say
Indians, we mean some Indians and not the Indian government because we
don't have any way of ascertaining whether the activities of some Indian
nationals in Pakistan represent the official policy of their government
or is it merely the adventurism of some individuals or organizations.
When we say Iranians or Afghans, we mean just that: Some Iranians or
Afghans. We don't even know whether the Iranian and Afghan players in
Balochistan are trying to serve the interests of their countries or
whether their loyalties lie elsewhere.
But - and it is a BUT with capital letters - when we say Americans or
Russians, we have reasons to suspect that the American and Russian
involvement in Balochistan is sanctioned, at least in part, by Pentagon
(if not White House) and Kremlin.
We would also like to acknowledge that the picture we have gathered is
far from complete and except for the explanatory comments of two former
KGB officials, we have no way of connecting the dots in any meaningful
For the sake of honesty, this story should better remain abrupt and
The story we are going to tell may sound a lot like cheap whodunit but
that is what we found out there.
Before zooming in to January 2002, let's set the background.
We consulted Sasha and Misha, two former KGB officers who are Afghanis -
the veterans of Russo-Afghan war - and they seem to know Balochistan
better than most Pakistanis. Obviously, Sasha and Misha are not their
They live on the same street in one of the quieter suburbs of Moscow.
Two bonds tie them together in their retirement: While on active duty in
KGB, they were both frequent travelers to Balochistan during the
Russo-Afghan war where they were tasked to foment trouble in Pakistan;
and they are both wary of Vodka, the mandatory nectar of Russian cloak
and dagger community. They visit each other almost every day and that is
why it was easy to catch them together for long chats over quantities of
green tea and occasional bowls of Borsch.
We made more than a dozen visits to the single-bedroom flat of Misha,
where Sasha was also found more often than not, and we picked their
brains on Balochistan situation. As and when we unearthed new
information on Balochistan, we returned to Sasha and Misha for comments.
As they told us, during the Russo-Afghan war, the Soviet Union was
surprised by the ability and resourcefulness of Pakistan to generate a
quick and effective resistance movement in Afghanistan. To punish
Pakistan and to answer back in the same currency, Kremlin decided to
create some organizations that would specialize in sabotage activities
in Pakistan. One such organization was BLA (Balochistan Liberation
Army), the brainchild of KGB that was built around the core of BSO (Baloch
BSO was a group of assorted left-wing students in Quetta and some other
cities of Balochistan.
Misha and Sasha can be considered among the architects of the original
The BLA they created remained active during the Russo-Afghan war and
then it disappeared from the surface, mostly because its main source of
funding - the Soviet Union - disappeared from the scene.
In the wake of 9-11, when the United States came rushing to Afghanistan
with little preparation and less insight, the need was felt immediately
to create sources of information and action that should be independent
of the government of Pakistan.
As Bush peered into the soul of Putin and found him a good guy, Rumsfeld
also did his own peering into the soul of his Russian counterpart and
found him a good game. The result was extensive and generous
consultation by Russian veterans who knew more about Afghanistan and
Balochistan than the Americans could hope to find.
It was presumably agreed that as long as their interests did not clash
with each other directly, the United States (or at least Pentagon) and
Kremlin would cooperate with each other in Balochistan.
That brings us to January 2002. "Actually, most of the elements were in
place, though dormant, and it was not difficult for anyone with
sufficient resources to reactivate the whole thing," said Misha about
the present-day BLA that is blamed for most of the sabotage activities
In January 2002, the first batch of 'instructors' crossed over from
Afghanistan into Pakistan to set-up the first training camp. That was
the seed from which the present insurgency has sprouted.
It seemed like a modest effort back then. Only two Indians, two
Americans, and their Afghan driver-guide were in a faded brown Toyota
Hilux double cabin SUV that crossed the border near Rashid Qila in
Afghanistan and came to Muslim Bagh in Pakistani province of Balochistan
on 17 January 2002. For this part of the journey, they used irregular
trails. From Muslim Bagh to Kohlu they followed the regular but
In Kohlu they met with some Baloch youth and one American stayed in
Kohlu while two Indians and one American went to Dera Bugti and returned
after a few days. They spent the next couple of weeks in intense
consultations with some Baloch activists and their mentors and then the
work started for setting up a camp.
"Balach was one of our good boys and even though I don't know who the
present operators are, it can be said safely that Kohlu must have been
picked as the first base because of Balach," said Misha.
Balach Marri is the son of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and he qualified as
electronic engineer from Moscow. As was customary during those times,
any Baloch students in Russia were cultivated actively and lavishly by
Balach was one of their success stories. Because of intimate connections
with India and Russia, it was no surprise that Balach Marri was picked
as the new head of the revived BLA. The mountains between Kohlu and
Kahan belong to the Marris.
The first camp had some 30 youth and initial classes comprised mainly of
indoctrination lectures. The main subjects were: 1. Baloch's right of
independence, 2. The Concept of Greater Balochistan, 3. Sabotage as a
tool for political struggle, 4. Tyranny of Punjab and plight of
oppressed nations, and 5. Media-friendly methods of mass protest.
"Manuals, guidelines and even lecture plans were available in the
Kometit [KGB] archives. Except for media interaction, they virtually
followed the old plans," told Sasha.
As was logical, the small arms and sabotage training soon entered the
syllabus. First shipment of arms and ammunition was received from
Afghanistan but as the number of camps grew, new supply routes were
opened from India.
Kishangarh is a small Indian town, barely five kilometers from Pakistan
border where the provinces of Punjab and Sindh meet. There is a supply
depot and a training centre there that maintains contacts with militant
training camps in Pakistan, including Balochistan.
There is also a logistics support depot near Shahgarh, about 90
kilometers from Kishangarh, that serves as launching pad for the Indian
supplies and experts.
These were unimportant stations in the past but they have gained
increasing importance since January 2002 when Balochistan became the hub
of a new wave of foreign activity.
The method of transfer from India to Balochistan is simple. Arms and
equipment such as Kalashinkov, heavy machine guns, small AA guns, RPGs,
mortars, landmines, ammunition and communication equipment are
transferred from Kishangarh and Shahgarh to Pakistani side on camel back
and then they are shifted to goods trucks, with some legitimate cargo on
top and the whole load is covered by tarpaulin sheets. Arms and
equipment are, as a rule, boxed in CKD or SKD form.
The trucks have to travel only 140 or 180 kilometers to reach Sui and a
little more to reach Kohlu, a distance that can be covered in a few
hours only. This is most convenient route because transferring anything
from Afghanistan to these areas demands much sturdy vehicles that must
cover longer distance over difficult terrain.
The small arms and light equipment are mostly of Russian origin because
they are easily available, cheap, and difficult to trace back to any
This route is also handy for sabotaging the Pakistani gas pipelines
because the two main arteries of Sui pipe - Sui-Kashmore-Uch-Multan and
Sui-Sukkur - are passing, at some points, less than 45 kilometers from
the Indian border.
Whoever planned these camps and the subsequent insurgency, had to obtain
initial help in recruitment and infrastructure from Indian RAW.
"When we first started the BLA thing, it was logical to ask for RAW
assistance because they have several thousands of ground contacts I
Pakistan, many of them in Balochistan," said Sasha.
"Anyone wanting to set shop in Pakistan needs to lean on RAW," added
The number of camps increased with time and now there is a big triangle
of instability in Balochistan that has some 45 to 55 training camps,
with each camp accommodating from 300 to 550 militants.
A massive amount of cash is flowing into these camps. American defence
contractors - a generic term applicable to Pentagon operatives in
civvies, CIA foot soldiers, instigators in double-disguise, fortune
hunters, rehired ex-soldiers and free lancers - are reportedly playing a
big part in shifting loads of money from Afghanistan to Balochistan. The
Americans are invariably accompanied by their Afghan guides and
Pay structure of militants is fairly defined by now. The ordinary
recruits and basic insurgents get around US $ 200 per month, a small
fortune for anyone who never has a hope of landing any decent government
job in their home towns. The section leaders get upward of US $ 300 and
there are special bonuses for executing a task successfully.
Although no exact amount of reward could be ascertained for specific
tasks, one can assume that it must be substantial because some BLA
activists have lately built new houses in Dalbandin, Naushki, Kohlu,
Sibi, Khuzdar and Dera Bugti. Also, quite a few young Baloch activists
have recently acquired new, flashy SUVs.
Oddly enough, there is also an unusual indicator for measuring the
newfound wealth of some Baloch activists. In the marriage ceremonies the
dancing troupes of eunuchs and cross-dressers are raking in much heavier
shower of currency notes than before.
Based on the geographic spread of training camps, one can say that there
is a triangle of extreme instability in Balochistan. This triangle can
be drawn on the map by taking Barkhan, Bibi Nani (Sibi) and Kashmore as
three cardinal points.
There is another, larger, triangle that affords a kind of cushion for
the first triangle. It is formed by Naushki, Wana (in NWFP) and Kashmore.
Actually, landscape of Balochistan is such that it offers scores of safe
havens, inaccessible to outsiders.
Starting from the coastline, there are Makran Coastal Range, Siahan
Range, Ras Koh, Sultan Koh and Chagai Hills that are cutting the land in
east-west direction. In the north-south direction, we find Suleiman
Range, Kirthar Range, Pala Range and Central Brahvi Range to complete
the task of forming deep and inaccessible pockets. Few direct routes are
possible between the coastline and upper Balochistan. Only two roads
connect Balochistan with the rest of the country.
Apart from the triangles of instability that we have mentioned there is
an arc - a wide, slowly curving corridor - of extensive activity. It is
difficult to make out as to who is doing what in that corridor.
Here is how to draw this arc-corridor on the map: Mark the little Afghan
towns of Shah Ismail and Ziarat Sultan Vais Qarni on the map. Then mark
the towns of Jalq and Kuhak in Iran. Now, draw a slowly arching curve to
connect Shah Ismail with Kuhak and another curve to connect Ziarat
Sultan Vais Qarni with Jalq. The corridor formed by these two curves is
the scene of a lot of diverse activities and we have been able to gather
only some superficial knowledge about it.
The towns of Dalbandin and Naushki where foreign presence has become
matter of routine are located within this corridor.
Different entities are making different uses of this corridor. Despite
employing some local help, we could find very little about the kind of
activity that is bubbling in this corridor.
We found that the Indian consulate in Zahidan, Iran, has hired a house
off Khayaban Danishgah, near Hotel Amin in Zahidan. This house is used
for accommodating some people who cross over from Afghanistan to
Pakistan and from Pakistan to Iran through the arched corridor we have
described. But who are those people and what are they doing, we could
We also found that although Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards), the trusted
force directly under the control of Khamenei, are monitoring
Zahidan-Taftan road, there is no regular check post of Pasdaran on the
road between Khash and Jalq, making it easy for all kinds of elements to
cross here and there easily.
We also found that the border between Afghanistan and Iran is mostly
under the control of Pasdaran who come down hard on any illegal border
movement and that is why the arched corridor passing through Pakistan is
the favourite route for any individuals and groups including American 'defence
contractors' and their Afghan collaborators who may have the need to go
across or near the border of Iran.
Not surprisingly, part of this corridor is used by Iranians themselves
when they feel the need to stir some excitement in Pakistan. Iranians
also use the regular road of Zahidan-Quetta when they can find someone
with legal documents as was the case with an Iranian who has business
interests both in Pakistan and Iran and who came to Quetta just before
the start of 7 Jan trouble. He has not been heard of since then.
There is a coastal connection that also provides free access for
elements in Dubai and Oman to connect with militants in Balochistan.
This is a loosely defined route but there are three main landing points
in Balochistan: Eastern lip of Gwater Bay that lies in the Iranian
territory but affords easy crossover to Pakistan through unguarded land
border; 2. Open space between Bomra and Khor Kalmat; and 3. Easternmost
shoulder of Gwadar East Bay.
Some Indians, a curious mix of businessmen and crime mafia, came in
fishing boats from either Dubai or Oman and landed on the Gwater Bay in
the Iranian territory before the start of 7 Jan eruptions. From there
they traveled to Khuzdar and then Quetta where they met with some Baloch
militants. It is rumoured in those areas that the Indians came with
heavy amounts of cash but there was no way of verifying it. They were
escorted both ways by some Sarawani Balochs who run their own fishing
Simultaneously, there were reports from our Washington correspondent
that some 'sources' in Pentagon had been trying to 'leak' the story to
the media that Americans and Israelis were carrying joint reccee
operations inside Iran and for that purpose they were using Pakistani
soil as launching point. The lead was finally picked and disseminated by
Semour Hersh of The New Yorker.
However, from our own observations in the area we could not confirm this
report although there is a possibility that the curving corridor that we
have identified may have been used by the Americans and Israelis to
travel from Afghanistan into Pakistan and then into Iran and back for
this purpose although this is mere speculation, based on the movement of
foreigners in this area, and we can neither confirm nor deny the
substance of this report.
Also, there was some buzz, as reported by our correspondent in New
Delhi, that some high circles were questioning the wisdom of two-faced
policy of engaging Islamabad in peace dialogue while at the same time
supporting insurgent activity in Balochistan.
It was also not clear as to why Iran would be interested in stirring
trouble in Balochistan when it was faced by an imminent war from the
American side and it needed all the allies it could muster on its side
and one of those allies could possibly be Pakistan. It was also
difficult to reconcile Iranian involvement in Balochistan with the fact
that Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, that is a crucial project for
Iran, was in the final stages of negotiation and there seemed no logical
point in sending mixed signals by creating difficulties in Balochistan.
These were some of the questions that we took to Misha and Sasha and
here is the explanation they gave. Their answers came in bits and pieces
but we have reconstructed their replies in the form of one coherent
Question: What was the purpose of Russian invasion of Afghanistan?
Misha: The Soviet Union was not in love with Afghanistan itself and by
now everyone must have understood it. We, or at least our leaders,
wanted a convenient corridor to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean --
the idea was to first establish full control in Kabul and from there to
raise the double-bogey of Pakhtunistan and Greater Balochistan and try
to detach at least a part of Balochistan from Pakistan and to either
merge it as a new province of Afghanistan or to create a new country
that should be under the firm control of Moscow. That would have solved
most of the problems facing Kremlin.
Question: When you helped create BLA back in the 1980's, what objectives
did you have in mind?
Sasha and Misha: It was simply an instrument to create problems in
Pakistan. There were no ideological reasons - it was merely a pragmatic
solution for a strategic problem.
Question: Who could have revived BLA after so many years of inactivity?
Misha: Most likely, Pentagon. With good lot of support from Kremlin. You
should keep in mind that reviving such an organization is a tricky task
and it needs active support from a number of players. Pentagon and
Kremlin would not be able to do much without some help from RAW that has
hundreds of active contacts all over Balochistan. Russia could have
helped negotiate the involvement of Balach Marri in the project.
Sasha: RAW must have jumped at the chance because last July the
'discretionary grants' budget [a euphemism for espionage fund] was
increased by 700% in the Indian consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad and
Misha: Yes, discretionary grants are not subject to central audit and
the station chief can do what he wants with it.
Sasha: Balach possibly came to head the revived BLA through Russian
facilitation but you cannot say the same for Sardar Ataullah Mengal. He
returned from his self-imposed exile in London and established his
headquarters in Kohlu. Was it a mere coincidence? I don't think so. In
all probability, he is the American man to keep a check on Balach
because Americans can never fully trust Russians.
Question: From your comments it appears that Balach and Mengal are
heading the resurrected BLA and the BLA has been revived by the
Americans and Russians to create trouble in Balochistan but could you
give us any coherent reasons for going to such great lengths for
disturbing Pakistan that is supposed to be a frontline ally of the
United States on its war against terrorism?
Misha and Sasha: [Misha laughed so hard that tears came to his eyes
while Sasha merely kept smiling in an absentminded way] - Frontline
ally? Are you kidding? Americans are using Pakistan and Pakistanis would
soon find it out if they have not already. Americans don't need that
kind of allies and they have made it abundantly clear for anyone who can
read their policy goals correctly. Let them deal with Iran and you would
see. If there can be any desirable American ally in that region, that is
Iran - Iran under a different regime, and they are working to that end.
Except for Balochistan, the rest of Pakistan is useless for them.
Question: It is still not clear from your answer as to what do the
Pentagon and Kremlin hope to achieve by stirring trouble in Balochistan?
Sasha: Americans have two long-term policy objectives in that region:
First, create a safe and reliable route to take all the energy resources
of Central Asia to the continental United States, and second, to contain
Misha: Balochistan offers the shortest distance between the Indian ocean
and the Central Asia, that is to say, shortest distance outside of the
Gulf. The moment the conditions are ripe, Americans would like to take
all the oil and gas of Central Asia to Gwadar or Pasni and from there to
the United States.
Question: If the Americans are interested in creating safe channel for
shipping energy resources through Balochistan, why would they encourage
Misha: That is for now. By inciting trouble, they would effectively
discourage Trans-Afghan Pipeline or any other project that is intended
for sending Central Asian resources to South Asia. They are not
interested in strengthening the South Asian economies by allowing them
to obtain sensibly priced oil and gas. They would be more interested in
taking all they can to their own country and let everyone else starve if
that is the choice.
Sasha: The Americans would also like to discourage China from entering
into more development projects in Balochistan than it already has. By
developing the port and roads in Balochistan, China is ultimately
helping itself by creating a convenient conduit for commerce that would
connect China concurrently with Central Asia, South Asia, and
all-weather Balochistan ports. The space is limited - where China gains,
America loses, and where America gains, China loses.
Questions: OK. This sounds plausible. But what interest could Russia
have in helping Pentagon in this trouble-Balochistan project?
Sasha: Russia has its own policy goals and as far as the present phase
of creating trouble in Balochistan is concerned, American and Russian
goals are not in conflict with each other. Russia wants to maintain its
monopoly over all the energy resources of Central Asia. At present, the
Central Asian countries are dependent entirely on Russia for export of
their gas to any sizeable markets. If Trans-Afghan or any other project
succeeds, it would open the floodgates of exodus. Central Asian
countries would understandably rush to the market that pays 100% in cash
and pays better price than Russia.
It is therefore very clear that by keeping Balochistan red hot, Russia
can hope to discourage Trans-Afghan pipeline or any other similar
projects. Russian economy in its present form is based on the monopoly
of Gazprom and if Gazprom goes under, so will the Russian economy at
Question: So far, there is some in sense what you have said but how
would explain Indian involvement in the Balochistan revolt?
Sasha: India has its own perceived or real objectives. For instance,
India would go to great lengths to prevent Pakistan from developing a
direct trade and transportation route with Central Asia because it would
undermine the North-South corridor that goes through Iran. Also, while
the acute shortage of energy may have compelled India to extend limited
cooperation to Pakistan, the preferable project from Indian point of
view still remains the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.
Misha: Moreover, you cannot ignore the fact that India is preparing to
use Afghanistan as its main artery system to connect with Central Asia
and it would not allow Pakistan to share this sphere if it can.
Question: What about Iran? Why should Iran be a party to it?
Misha: Iran has incurred great expenses to develop Chah Bahar, the port
that is supposed to be the Iranian answer to Pakistani ports of Gwadar
and Pasni. Iran has also done lot of work to create excellent road link
between Herat and Chah Bahar. All this would go to waste if Pakistani
route comes on line because it is shorter and offers quick commuting
possibilities between Central Asia and Indian Ocean.
Sasha: At the same time you need to allow certain margin of
unreliability when dealing with Iran. You cannot be sure whether they
mean what they are saying and you cannot be sure whether they would keep
their promises. They do what suits them best and to hell with any
commitments. I am sorry but that is how I judge Iran.
Question: While both of you have given some explanation of American,
Russian, Iranian and Indian involvement in Balochistan, what is the role
Sasha: There are many influential circles in Afghanistan that are deadly
opposed to Pakistan for one reason or the other. While Afghanistan as a
country may not be harbouring any ill will against Pakistan, it is
difficult to rule out the possibility that some power circles would not
be inclined to damage Pakistan wherever they can. It is clear from the
recent developments that as India, Iran and Afghanistan have made great
strides to form some kind of economic, trade and transportation
alliance, all efforts have been made to exclude Pakistan from any such
Question: While BLA is being used by a number of power players for their
own objectives, does it have any potential, even as a byproduct, to
serve the cause of Baloch people?
Misha and Sasha: BLA is not the only fish in the pond. There is Baloch
Ittehad and there is PONAM and there is lots of small fry out there. But
none of them can be expected to do any good to the Balochi people
because the command this time is mostly in the hands of Baloch Sardars
and they have no past record of bringing any benefit to their own
people. If anything, they are known to sell their own people down the
[Misha thumbed through a dog-eared file and read] Sardar Mehrullah Marri
sold all mineral and petroleum rights of Khatan region to the British
government in 1885 for a paltry sum of Rs. 200 per month. There was no
time limit to this agreement - it was, as they say, in perpetuity.
In 1861, Jam of Bela allowed the British government to put a telegraph
line through his territory, thus helping substantially the British
government in consolidating its control over large areas of Balochistan.
He received less than Rs. 900 per month for this disservice to his own
people and took the responsibility to safeguard the telegraph line.
In 1883, the Khan of Kalat sold the Quetta district and adjoining
territories to the British government. This was an outright sale. The
agreement that was signed in Dasht, included the provision that the
heirs and successors of Khan of Kalat would also be bound by the same
He received annual grant of Rs. 25000 for selling the most attractive
part of Balochistan to the British government.
In the same year, the British government paid Rs. 5500 to the Bugti
Sardar for his cooperation although it was not specified as to what kind
of cooperation he extended to the British government.
While the Baloch Sardars were enthusiastically selling Balochistan to
the British government, there was no support to the idea of Pakistan
whereas the ordinary Balochs gave full approval for Pakistan. Any
positive development in Balochistan would go against the interests of
Sardars and only a fool would expect them to do anything for the good of
Bear in mind that Marri and Mengal Sardars first stood up against the
Pakistan government when the law was passed to abolish Sardari system in
Balochistan to free the ordinary Balochs from the clutches of their
Question: The way the things are progressing in Balochistan, what could
be the likely outcome?
Misha: If no strong action is taken for another few months, the result
could be bifurcation of Pakistan.
Question: Is that the only likely outcome?
Misha: No. In fact, that is the farthest possible scenario but that
could eventually happen if Pakistan fails to assess, analyze and address
the situation quickly. For example, I have yet to see any Pakistani
effort to contact the ordinary Balochs. They are still trying to woo the
same Sardars who are living on the blackmail money since the creation of
Sasha: I am surprised at the way Pakistan goes about tackling this
problem. During my few years in Afghanistan when I was engaged with
Balochistan, I found that while Baloch Sardars would sell their
loyalties and anything else at the drop of a hat, ordinary Balochs are
stupidly patriotic. They are hard to buy and harder to manipulate. If I
were a Pakistan government functionary, I would gather enough ordinary,
educated Balochs to counter the Sardar influence and deflate this whole
Question: Both of you were, let's say, among the developers of the
original BLA. Do you find any differences between the original and the
Misha and Sasha: Plenty. Original BLA was mostly led by the young people
and Baloch Sardars had very little to do with it but the present BLA is
concentrated in the hands of Sardars.
The present movement in Balochistan, led by BLA, PONAM and Baloch
Ittehad is a mismatched concoction of ancient and modern.
They are trying to run a modern media campaign but there are crucial
gaps in that effort. Ours were different times and we could do without
media support. They have created a list of Pakistani journalists who are
supposed to be sympathetic to any move against the government and they
are feeding them daily a mixture of truth and lies, a practice that has
been perfected by the Pentagon.
They managed to bring some Baloch women in Dera Bugti but the results
would be little if they cannot repeat the performance in most other
areas of Balochistan.
They have built their campaign around a single incident - the Sui
gang-rape - and if the government is smart enough, it would hang the
real culprits and ask the victim of the rape to announce publicly that
she was satisfied with the justice meted out to the criminals and that
would take all the wind out of the sails of the BLA campaign. A real
hard campaign needs to be built around much broader and hard to solve
Question: Hypothetically speaking, if the Pakistan government asked your
advice, what would you suggest?
Sasha: The options are few. They should abolish Sardari system
immediately and crack down powerfully on the private armies. As far as I
know, the constitution of Pakistan does not allow Sardari system and
private armies and there would be no legal questions if those laws are
implemented with the full help of state power.
Misha: They should involve broadest possible range of ordinary Balochs
in the dialogue. The can find enough educated youth in Marri and Mengal
tribes to match the influence of tribal leaders. They should also allow
the fragments of Bugti tribe to return to their ancestral lands and that
would be enough to calm down the ageing and eccentric Bugti who pretends
to be the leader of that tribe.
Sasha: Pakistan government should hasten the development process in the
province because it would open job opportunities and that would allow
the escape hatch to ordinary Balochs to distance themselves from their
Misha: They should try to cut down the sources and channels of supply of
arms and cash to insurgents