On March 29, 2011, the celebrated Irish journalist Declan Walsh wrote about a 70-year-old conflict that few in the West had heard off. It was about Balochistan, which has been under Pakistani occupation since March 1948.
Headlined as ‘Pakistan’s Secret Dirty War,’ Walsh lifted the lid on atrocities being committed by the Pakistan Army and its jihadi death squads inside Balochistan.
He wrote: “In Balochistan, mutilated corpses bearing the signs of torture keep turning up, among them lawyers, students and farm workers … The bodies surface quietly, like corks bobbing up in the dark. They come in twos and threes, a few times a week, dumped on desolate mountains or empty city roads, bearing the scars of great cruelty. Arms and legs are snapped; faces are bruised and swollen. Flesh is sliced with knives or punctured with drills; genitals are singed with electric prods. In some cases, the bodies are unrecognizable, sprinkled with lime or chewed by wild animals. All have a gunshot wound in the head.”
Almost a decade later, the killing fields of Balochistan are as bloody in 2020 as they were during the previous wars of independence fought by the Baloch in 1948, 1956, 1963, 1972 and 2005. Except this time the Baloch face a more powerful enemy – ‘Communist’ China.
Under the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, not only are the traditional tools of occupation being employed, but also the organized plunder of Balochistan’s natural resources. A territory as large as France, Balochistan is rich in oil, gas, copper, gold, coal and fisheries along its 750km coastline with the port of Gwadar strategically sitting at the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz.
Predictably, the battle involving Baloch guerilla groups fighting what they consider Pakistan’s ‘occupation’ army now involves China and its economic interests. Among the myriad of Baloch political parties and armed groups involved, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) has taken their fight to attack Chinese interests in Pakistan’s urban cities.
In November 2018, BLA fighters attacked the Chinese consulate in Karachi and last week they attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) where all four Baloch guerillas were killed.
The Pakistan Stock Exchange was attacked because the majority investment in the PSX was made by Beijing as the place where most Chinese state-run Corporations working on CPEC traded their shares.
The reaction from Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, was predictable. Khan denounced what he called “terrorism” and laid the blame on next-door India, which denied any role in the attack.
That was quite rich of Khan. In 2009 while appearing as a witness in a UK court trying two Baloch men on charges of terrorism, Khan said if he had been in the same position as the two men in the dock, he would have been prepared to take up arms.
Imran Khan told the court had he been from Balochistan, he would be willing to use violence against the Pakistan government who had killed and kidnapped citizens, made 75,000 homeless, rigged elections and controlled the courts.
The one fact Imran Khan may not know is that Balochistan was an independent country until it was invaded and occupied by the Pakistan military in March 1948. That’s a fact of history, not an opinion.
It is time for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to intervene and stop the slaughter and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Balochistan. However, this would require the over a dozen Baloch political parties and guerilla groups to join hands to issue a ‘Balochistan Declaration about their future where the enemy is no longer the Pakistan Army, but China.
India too bears responsibility for the pain and suffering of the Baloch in how New Delhi betrayed her allies, abandoned them “to the wolves,” in the words of one freedom fighter known as the ‘Frontier Gandhi’.