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Pakistan's Achilles heel?

The question of nationalism in Balochistan is the strongest threat to Pakistan and the issue has resurfaced after a period of 30 years.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2006 18:58 IST
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A great responsibility devolves on Pakistan to retain the built-in initiative-cum potential in Balochistan. It is vital to the defence of Pakistan and by implication to the defence of Iran, Afghanistan and India…

-Lt Colonel Syed Iqbal Ahmed

Pakistan is conscious of the fact that the socio-political, economic and geographical conditions in Balochistan provide a favourable opportunity for neighbours to penetrate in the region.

Perhaps keeping this in mind, president Zia-ul-Haq had launched many development projects. Plenty of money was injected into Balochistan's economy.

Funds for this purpose were received from many foreign countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Later, toeing in General Zia's line, General Musharraf too has launched many a development projects in the region.

An amount of Rs 140 billion has been allocated for the string of development projects in Balochistan and Musharraf says his government remains committed to providing better health, education and communication facilities.

But as Lt Colonel Syed Iqbal Ahmed says, "The problem of Balochistan is not development alone…Nevertheless, the real issue centers around the question of Balochi nationalism".

Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo, a staunch Baloch nationalist, believed in four nationalities - the Baloch, Pathans, Sindhis and Punjabis. This manifestly is in conflict with the concept of Pakistan as a nation state.

The question of nationalism in Balochistan is the strongest threat to Pakistan and the issue has resurfaced after a period of 30 years.

Pakistan wants to go for a political solution and has asked the local sardars give up arms and stop hampering oil and gas exploration activities and development projects in the province.

Pakistan has credited the violence in Balochistan to mainly two factors: 1) the rejection of nationalist parties by the voters in the last elections and their consequent removal from power and;

2) The concern of feudal lords that the mega developmental projects will expose the tribal population to outside world and thereby weaken their hold on them.

This has resulted in the Pakistani military and the tribal warlords or insurgents to cross swords.

While the government continues to add military cantonments in strategically significant areas like Sui, Gwadar and Kohlu, the insurgents continue to target important government installations.

The situation has worsened after Musharraf's visit to the Kohlu region on December 14 last year. Insurgents fired eight rockets to show their displeasure.

The government is accused of carrying out military operations in the area. Musharraf has vehemently denied the charge.

"The action against some individuals cannot be construed as a military operation," Musharraf had told a private channel.