‘Meddling in Balochistan’—Indo-Pak monitoring part III

BY subarno| IN Media Monitoring | 16/03/2006
Balochistan became a byword for Indian interference in Pakistani affairs, mirroring a paranoia in India about Pakistani meddling in Kashmir.

Subarno Chattarji


Ever since Partition, Kashmir has been the bone of political as well as media contention between Pakistan and India. That this is still true is proven by the density of articles in the press under survey on both sides of the border. For example, Nawai-e-Waqt carried 71 articles in a one month period on Kashmir. Its focus was on Indian army atrocities and how solidarity with the Kashmiris would ultimately lead to their deliverance and union with Pakistan. Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran were almost equally obsessive about Kashmir as well as Pakistani terrorist infiltration into all parts of India. With the eruption of troubles in Baluchistan and the Ministry of External Affairs comment on the ¿suppression¿ in the province, Baluchistan became a byword for Indian interference in Pakistani affairs, mirroring a paranoia in India about Pakistani meddling in Kashmir. 

Pakistani perspectives: 

In an editorial, ¿Indian interference in Balochistan¿, Nawai-e-Waqt quoted a former governor of the province, Nawab Akbar Bugti, who declared that although India was not supporting the insurgents, the insurgents would accept India¿s offer of help. This declaration was editorially condemned and refuted. ¿There is strong evidence of the Indian support to various Sardars in Balochistan. There have been reports of money, arms and ammunition being transferred to various Sardars through the Indian consulates based in Kandahar and Herat¿ (January 15). This accusation mirrors the frequent and often unsubstantiated allegations in Indian media that Pakistani consulates in Kathmandu or Dhaka are the hub of terror cells and/or conduits for counterfeit Indian currency to finance terrorism in India or generally undermine the Indian economy. 

The editorial reminds the Nawab of the debt he owes Pakistan: ¿Nawab Akbar Bugti and other such Sardars are in such high positions only because of Pakistan. Otherwise in India Princely States were abolished soon after 1947 and all properties of Rajas and Sardars were confiscated and they were forced to stand in the queue of ration depots.¿ There is a perverse pride expressed here in the preservation of feudal structures and a refusal to consider that those inequities might need to be addressed. 

On January 19, Nawai carried the following headlines on the front page, some of which were statements made by the Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson in Delhi: ¿India should stop interfering in Balochistan otherwise peace will be in danger. Balochistan is our internal problem; India has been told to find a permanent and acceptable solution to the Kashmir issue: Riaz Mohd. Khan and Tasneem Aslam.¿ Sandwiched between the two was another headline: ¿Pakistan involved in explosions in Bangalore in Delhi¿. That these charges and counter charges were traded while the Pakistan delegation was in India to talk peace indicates the level of distrust. 

A back page article on the same day further highlighted suspicion and paranoia: ¿Due to Indian interference in Pakistan¿s internal affairs, Pakistan has asked federal ministers, members of Parliament and government officers to seek NOC before accepting any invitation from the Indian High Commission for parties, private dinners from Indian diplomats or any other invitation that requires travelling to India to participate in any conference or meeting.¿ 

A comment piece on January 22, ¿India-Pakistan relations at a turning point¿ by Afzal Mahmood stressed an asymmetry of trouble spots: ¿It is hard to digest the Indian concern towards Balochistan as the two do not have a common border from which infiltration is feared neither has Balochistan a problem vis-à-vis religious fundamentalism which might pose a danger to India. Therefore, this Indian concern is quite disturbing and it would be as surprising if Pakistan were to show concern for Naxalite movement in AP, or a demand for freedom in Assam, Nagaland or Mizoram.¿ In comparing Balochistan to Nagaland or Mizoram Mahmood implicitly accepts that there may be a problem in the former, but holds out the veiled threat of India¿s vulnerabilities which Pakistan might exploit. 

The concern over Indian interference in Balochistan was indicated in a letter carried by Nawai on January 29 by one Nadir Zaman from Karachi. Titled ¿Jaswant Singh¿s new ploy¿ it saw his peace mission as part of a larger conspiracy: ¿The army operation in Balochistan and the ensuing chaos and India¿s statements on the situation are enough evidence to wake us up. Jaswant Singh¿s scheduled trip is part of the same conspiracy. It has just one purpose and that is to prove that India has a spiritual and religious link with Balochistan […]¿ Zaman admits to Pakistan army operations in the province (unlike the other articles surveyed) but he too is convinced that the Baluchi troubles are a means of extending Indian influence leading to the dismemberment of Pakistan. 

Professor Fateh Mohammad Malik¿s comment article, ¿India¿s nefarious activities and the Balochistan situation¿ further stressed Pakistan¿s fears of the ¿Akhand Bharat¿ ideology: ¿Kashmir is India¿s "atoot ang" and Balochistan is the unresolved agenda of the partition. This Indian logic is the result of the Western theory of calling an enemy a friend and which has now been adopted by our leaders as well¿ (February 12). 

Professor Malik then catalogued aspects of India¿s interference: ¿Balochistan CM has disclosed that India has established 40 terrorist camps where the terrorists are given a monthly stipend of Rs10, 000 per month (Daily Times, December 30, 2005). These "CBM" are taken to give impetus to the freedom movement in Balochistan.  The former RAW has asked the terrorists to draw strength from the Bangladesh freedom movement and have asked them to get together with the Sindhi nationalists, people of Azad Kashmir and the disgruntled elements of the Shia community in Baltistan and Gilgit and jointly push forward the freedom movement.¿ 

There is a direct mirroring of the ways in which Indian media details Pakistani help for Kashmiri militants as well as a paranoiac sense of being surrounded by the enemy. Just as Ujala and Jagran portray the ubiquitous Pakistani terrorist within India, so too Nawai projects a larger Indian plan to dismember Pakistan. It is significant that the historical frame for this fear is the Indian role in the creation of Bangladesh. While Bangladesh is the archetype for India¿s desire to fragment Pakistan, there are no contexts which explain what motivated the freedom movement in erstwhile East Pakistan. The creation of Bangladesh becomes then an example of Indian perfidy and hegemony and Pakistan¿s role is erased. 

Professor Malik delved into history to assert that Balochistan is an inalienable part of the country: ¿But we should know that Balochistan opted for Pakistan through a democratic process. Whereas, there were military interventions in Hyderabad, Junagarh and other estates but Balochistan opted for Pakistan through a clear democratic process.¿ The irony is obvious in that the inalienability predicated on ¿clear democratic process¿ is now under threat precisely because of the lack of democracy. Again, a clear parallel with Kashmir is apparent in the ways in which India asserts its rights over all of Kashmir and that is denied by the separatists and Pakistan. 

In his conclusion Professor Malik was surprisingly candid: ¿It is true that we are responsible for the present situation in Balochistan and India is just making use of the bad situation like what it did with East Pakistan. The greatest sin of our rulers has been that they have never tried to better the economic and political conditions in Balochistan despite repeated promises from them since the creation of Pakistan.

Present day situation demands that we make the dreams of the Pakistan movement a reality and don¿t just keep on pleasing India for the sake of the American goodwill.¿ 

The lack of self-reflection mentioned earlier vis-à-vis Bangladesh was rectified and a need for internal reform recognized, lest India capitalize on that discontent within. Yet the failure to ¿make the dreams of the Pakistan movement a reality¿ was attributed not so much to faulty internal policies as to ¿pleasing India for the sake of American goodwill¿. Once again it was easier to make a scapegoat of India than analyze internal problems in depth. 

The Daily Ibrat joined this chorus of accusation although without the intensity of Nawai. On February 2 it carried a headline ¿Proofs of Indian involvement in Balochistan have started to become visible: Zafarullah Jamali¿ and cited Jamali: ¿He said improvement in relations with neighbouring country, India, is welcome, but our neighbours have never been faithful to us. […] He said there has been evidence about the Indian involvement in Balochistan. However, no concrete evidence has been received, so we cannot say much in this regard. He said Balochistan is not a political issue, but it is an economic one.¿ 

Indian representations: 

Ibrat seemed to echo an earlier piece in Amar Ujala, ¿General Musharraf on same path as dictator Saddam¿ which cited a Baluchi leader: ¿According to Sanaullah, Balochistan is rich in gas, minerals and other natural resources. Pakistan has been exploiting it since 1952. But unfortunately the people of Balochistan are obliged to live in the Stone Age¿ (January 21). Sanaullah points to the symbiotic relationship between politics and economics rather than the DIVergence stressed by Jamali, stressing a type of economic and political colonization. 

In an editorial, ¿India-Pakistan over Balochistan¿ Amar Ujala took umbrage at Pakistan¿s reaction to India¿s comments on the Balochistan issue: ¿If there is the slightest of brawls in a Muslim inhabited area in India, Pakistan gets enraged enough to threaten to raise the issue in international forums, but if India is to comment on the atrocities and oppression in Pakistan, then it is seen as interference on India¿s part. Balochistan is such a case¿ (January 2). There was a clear erasure of India¿s recent communal history such as the 2002 Gujarat riots, which cannot be dismissed as ¿the slightest of brawls¿, while maximizing ¿atrocities and oppression in Pakistan¿. This historical amnesia and prickliness are inimical to any sort of peace between the two nations. 

The edit then went onto articulate its real anxieties about the ways in which Pakistan meddles in Indian affairs with impunity: ¿Pakistan cannot expect India to be blind to its activities and consider legitimate whatever steps it may take in the region, while, its secret agency, ISI may have a free hand in India. Pakistani seal was found on the grenades used in the terrorist attack on Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. […] Does Pakistan imagine that India¿s statement would have an adverse impact on the peace process and that its own actions would give a boost to peace? Actually, the root of the various problems of South Asia is ISI, the control of which is the need of the hour. Therefore Pakistan should cleanse itself before adopting a venomous attitude towards India.¿ 

The Ujala edit harks back to the old strategy of blaming outsiders for problems within. At one time it was the ¿foreign hand¿ (read CIA) for all ills within, now it is the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Foreign policy is predicated here on a simplistic tit-for-tat strategy. The Ujala edit, however, goes further in identifying Pakistan and ISI as ¿the root of the various problems of South Asia¿. ¿Various problems¿ is a such a catch-all phrase that it encompasses not only terrorism and security issues - presumably the main cause of editorial ire - but also any other problems faced by various South Asian nations. Thus there is an implicit opposition created between a terror sponsoring and therefore irresponsible Pakistan, on the one hand, and their victims, on the other hand. Whether or not India has designs on Baluchistan is a moot point but media intolerance on this side of the border feeds paranoia and fear-mongering on the other side. 

While Pakistan papers in the period under survey carried more articles on Indian interference in Balochistan than Indian media - 7 as opposed to 2 - there seemed to be a symmetry of suspicion and the former were naturally delighted to point to the Indian hand in the troubled province, just as much as the Indian media saw the problem as indicative of Pakistan as a failed state (a favourite of mainstream English language media). Of course, coverage of Balochistan pales in comparison to that of Kashmir. Nawai-e-Waqt, for example, had four pieces on the former as compared to 71 Kashmir related articles. However, Balochistan was significant because it allowed the Pakistani media to blame India of meddling in its internal affairs and fomenting disaffection in much the same way as India does with respect to Kashmir. The cycles of accusation and counter-accusations remained intact.

Contact: chattarji_s@yahoo.com

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