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Deepening crisis in Baluchistan province

The situation in Pakistani province of Baluchistan has become so explosive and volatile that the Pakistani army is finding it difficult to control. The present wave of violence in Sui and other areas of Baluchistan started after the rape of a lady doctor in a hospital near the Sui gasfields in January 2005.
The local people and tribal chiefs suspected a military officer of the crime. At first the government denied the involvement of this army officer but when violence erupted they withdrew their first statement and admitted to the involvement of the army.

This shamefull reaction of the government was driven by their desire to protect the Army officers and other culprits. Finally the police has arrested a number of people in relation to this rape but many people still believe the government is more worried about saving their face than in arresting the rapists.

This area of Baluchistan is called Dera Bugti. In everyday language it is reffered to as Sui and is known for its huge gas reserves. The area where the gasfield is, the largest in its sort in Pakistan, belongs to the Bugti tribe, one of the biggest tribes in the province of Baluchistan.

Tribalism

The chief of this tribe, Nawab Akbar Bugti, rules this area like other chiefs with his own government. He has prisons in place in which his rivals and dissidents vanish. He maintains his own military force to repress the masses. Tribalism is in the province of Baluchistan does not only still exist, it is very strong. The province is divided between many tribes each with their fiefdom. Tribal chiefs rule like Gods on earth. They treat tribes’ men as their slaves and nobody dares to challenge their power and orders. They are the real rulers of these areas and their word is law.

This rotten tribal and feudal system with all is repression and brutallity, its inhuman and reactionnary laws is centuries old but it still exists in the 21st century. The area of Sui is very backward and underdeveloped. Schools, hospitals, transport facilities and other basic requirements of life hardly exist. Education for women is non existant because it is not allowed by tribal law. Women are not allowed leave their homes. Honour killings, karokari, forced marriages and other cruel, inhuman customs and traditions are widely practiced under the guise of tribal traditions and pride. Walking around on the streets or visiting public places you hardly see any women. Women are forced to follow the very peculiar tradition that if she sees a man she is not aquainted with she needs to sit herself on the ground and turn her back to this man. She will remain in this position untill the stranger has walked by. These women are not allowed to reply to any question or talk to any stranger.

Social and economic conditions

This area of Baluchistan is marked by abject poverty and horrific social and economic conditions. A wasteland of poverty stretches as far as the eye can see. Houses built of concrete are not available for the overall majority of ordinary people. Most of them live in mud houses without clean drinking water, sanitation and electricity.

The military rulers have deployed the Pakistani army in Sui. The military have established a small military base in the area. The original plan was to build a much larger base which would have allowed them to control the area. This proved impossible and they have changed their approach. To secure the area they are now planning to forcefully remove the civil population from the area and house shift them 35 km away from Sui. The whole area has become a theatre for military operations. In an attempt to stop the attacks on the army and security forces the army has turned to widespread house to house searches. Whilst these are continuing relentlessly the military repression is failing to stop the attacks.

Local people are saying that they will resist any forced evacuation and that if war is imposed on them they will prepare for it.

The situation has become very dangerous; all out action from the military will escalate the situation to the level of a civil war in many areas of Baluchistan. Events over the last seven days have already provided proof of elements of an emerging civil war

In last few days 8 trains have been targeted by, what the government claims are, unknown terrorists. All the main power lines have been destroyed disrupting the electricity supply to most areas of Baluchistan. The main railway lines have been destroyed and 9 bomb explosions in different cities were reported.

Many attacks on security forces.

The destruction of gas pipe lines has become a daily routine. But whilst many innocent people have been died as the result of continued violence the promises of the government, on the one hand, or of th leadership of the Nationalist parties on the other hand, are met with strong feelings of distrust. A layer of the younger generation who mistrust the Nationalist parties headed by the tribal chiefs. These youth are interested in the alternative ideas and in the future the SMP can make headway provided with a correct strategy and programme.

The government is in a quandary about how to try and control this region. Launching an all out military operation might totally spiral out of control and different political forces are trying to exploit the weakness of the military regime and make some gains for themselves. The muthida qaumi movement (MQM, a Karachi and urban sindh, linguistically based and politically middle class outfit) has already threatened to quit the government if the government decides to launch an all out military operation. In Sindh, nationalist parties organised a very successful strike on 24 January. Markets, schools, transport, education were closed and normal life disrupted.

It is not likely that the government will opt for a military solution. It will try to reach a compromise with the tribal chiefs and the leadership of the Nationalist parties. This will reduce the violence temporarily but will open new rivalries, struggles and political wars between the different currents and tendencies amongst the Nationalist leadership keen for a slice of the money and power offered by the government. An weakened armed struggle might continue while the Nationalist will undermine their authority among the advance layers of Nationalist movements and youth. This crisis can not be solved on a capitalist basis. Capitalism has made the national question more complicated and volatile. The overthrow of capitalism is necessary to solve all the basic and fundamental problems faced by the working class.

Khalid Bhatti

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