Pakistani Generals Forced Baloch’s to Pick Arms. By Manish Rai


Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan has been the scene of a low-level insurgency and a brutal military crackdown for decades. However, the vast and resource-rich province has witnessed a surge in deadly attacks in recent times. Pakistan’s largest province recently witnessed a drastic increase in attacks against the Pakistani security forces, with Baloch rebels having caused heavy casualties to the state forces in different operations. The many experts tracking Baloch insurgency are of the view that recruitment of the separatist Baloch armed groups has skyrocketed, and this has enabled the groups to launch more attacks. The ongoing violent turn in the Baloch movement is considered part of the “Fifth Wave” of the ethno-nationalist insurgency in the region, which began in the early 2000s. Pakistan’s military has been a grandmaster in deflecting blame and labeling failures as grand conspiracies or political failures. But in reality, it's the Pakistani Army that is responsible for flaring most of the internal insurgencies faced by Pakistan, especially the Baloch one. Since from the very beginning mighty military generals of Pakistan portrayed Balochistan's issue as a security affair instead of a social or ethnic matter. By doing this they got the last say on any policy matter concerning Balochistan.

The military always attempts to shift the entire onus of public outrage in Balochistan on the government and bureaucracy by overplaying the ‘neglect’ part while conveniently brushing the more menacing of its brutal practices towards the Baloch people under the carpet. It’s the gross human rights violations and unspeakable atrocities being committed by Pakistan’s army upon the Balochs pushing the oppressed locals to take up arms against the state. Let’s have a look at the practices of the army which have alienated the common men of Balochistan.

Enforced disappearances/ Kill and Dump Policy – This is a major source of discontent among the people and also the real tipping point for the violent unrest in Balochistan. Enforced disappearances in Balochistan occur during so-called anti-terrorist operations conducted by the Pakistan Army and various paramilitaries, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies under its command. Any person believed to be a supporter or sympathizer of the Baloch freedom movement is considered a threat and kidnapped, tortured, or killed. This has not only affected the common people but also high-ranking officials. The 2006 arrest of Akhtar Mengal, the Chief Minister of Balochistan, is a glaring example. The number of cases of Baloch disappearing is attributed to either Pakistan’s security forces or Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

Use of Death Squads- The military outsourced the targeting of Baloch separatists and political activists to private militias known as “Death Squads”. These squads receive all kinds of support from the Army like- training, weapons, and intelligence. Many death squad operatives have turned to mainstream politics with the help of the Pakistani army. These squads under the patronage of the military are run by the hardcore criminals and drug lords, while a few of them are also led by extremists, pro Pakistan politicians, and former separatist insurgents who have surrendered to authorities under reconciliation schemes in the recent past.

Spread of Extremism- Another strategy employed by the army to suppress the local rebellion, especially in the northern parts of Balochistan is to Islamize the youth, with the help of seminaries run by religious groups close to the military. The top brass of the army thought that by propagation of hardline Sunni Islam, they could undermine the essentially secular nature of the Baloch movement and divide the largely tribal-dominated structure of Baloch society. This effort to promote extremism has resulted in proliferation of Deobandi madrasas and the emergence of Sunni extremist groups like Sipah-e-Sahba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, in the province.

Grabbing of Economic Opportunities- The ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its flagship project. i.e. Gwadar port hasn't provided any significant benefit to the locals. The projects under CPEC have systematically excluded the Baloch indigenous people, not only depriving them of employment and development prospects but also forcefully clearing them to make way for the construction sites. It would be right to say that CPEC projects have brought investment and economic opportunities only for the Army. CPEC hinges on the role of the Pakistan Army, whose role is not limited to the provision of security to the corridor, but also in catering to its own economic interests. Ayesha Siddiqa a prominent Pakistani political scientist and author wrote in his book titled “Military Inc.” While it is the Prime Minister who inaugurates CPEC’s key projects, it is the Pakistan Army who controls them.

The Pakistan Army does not know how to contain the insurgencies that are confronting it. The General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi only knows to use excessive force to silence any voice of dissatisfaction. The re-application of colonial tactics by the military elites over other ethnic groups (non-Punjabis) clearly illustrates that the Army lacks empathy towards fellow countrymen. Also, it shows that the country still hasn’t learned lessons from its past. Pakistan needs to understand that the military has to be more vital in protecting the state from external enemies; for internal matters, the institution needs to support a political system governed by parliamentary and democratic forces. The sooner it realizes this, the better it will be for Balochistan and the entire country.

For this article, inputs were received from Bahot Baloch, a prominent Baloch Journalist

(The author is a columnist and geopolitical analyst for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and can be reached at


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