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What's the brouhaha about?

After decades of unrest, the province of Balochistan is in turmoil again. Meenakshi Iyer finds out why.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2006 18:58 IST

Ever since Pakistan's creation in 1947, the Balochis -- who never wanted to be a part of Pakistan—have taken up the cudgels for autonomy.

After decades of rebellion, unrest and war cry, the region is on fire again. And this time, their fight is not justfor autonomy or rights.

As the tribal chiefs put it: "The Great Game II is all set to begin" -- a game for power, control and access to the energy resources of Pakistan's largest oil and mineral-rich province - Balochistan.

For a long time, the restive region vacillated between obscurity and prominence, but its geo strategic significance never slackened.

The country, as analysts say, remains in the eye of a storm due to its closeness to the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and India Ocean. And therein lies its importance.

The presence of Chinese and American players and development projects undertaken by them this time has forced the area and its locals to go beyond the boiling point.

The tribesmen fear that increasing US and Chinese presence would bring a new political repression.

By allowing superpowers in the province, the Balochis fear that the Pakistan Army would be successful in persuading them and rest of the world that the Baloch nationalist movement is linked to terrorism.

Pakistan, which had always wanted to crush the tribal system, feels that implementation of projects will help it to have a more direct federal role in the territory.

It's the setting up of military cantonments that have further forced the feudal lords to cross swords with the establishment in Islamabad.

Balochistan, of late, stands witness to clashes between the armed Balochis and the Pakistan Army.

Islamabad, accused of carrying out military operation in the region, says the tribal chiefs and nationalists are opposed to development.

It says that the sardars or feudal lords of Balochistan are supported by countries like India.

President Musharraf, upset by Indian remarks on Balochistan unrest, says New Delhi and RAW are providing arms and financial support to the tribesmen.

And amid all these, as the killings, bombings and gross human rights violations continue, the present Khan of Kalat has given his message loud and clear: "If we do not get our rights, we will be a major player in the Great Game part II.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 21:18 IST