Now Pakhtuns’ targeted killings in Balochistan – by Jan Assakzai

Source: Pakistan Press google group

First published in: The Frontier Post, 20 June 2010

As it were not enough for the problems of Balochistan, Pakhtuns’ targeted killings have started in Baloch-dominated areas of the province. This menace has the real potential to set both communities on the collision course causing strife in the whole province.

There are reports that Fazullah Barech, a Pakhtun shopkeeper, was killed couple of days ago in his shop by unknown assailants in Nushki —- the town lies southwest of Quetta.

There have been other incidents in areas like Turbat, Mand, Bella, Khuzdar and Awaran where Pakhtuns have been targeted, killed and their property and transports looted. Pakhtun nationalists, led by PkMAP have strongly protested over the killings of Pakhtuns and accused the Baloch militants for being involved in these incidents. They have also blamed Baloch militants for trying to stock ethnic clashes between Pakhtuns and Balochs in Balochistan.

So far Baloch militants have been targeting Punjabi residents of Balochistan for what they call avenging the killings of Balochs by the “Punjabi” Army. However, the above incidents are indicative that they have now started targeting Pakhtuns.

Pakhtuns constitute nearly half of Balochistan’s population. They have been supporting Baloch cause for securing rights from Islamabad and have avoided any direct confrontation with Balochs althoguh. Pakhtuns have suffered a great deal due to Baloch militancy. Pakhtuns mainly are involved in businesses in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan. The frequent shutter down and wheel jam strikes by Baloch militants have nearly ruined the business and commerce of Pakhtuns. Beside, the provincial government being dominated by Balochs openly discriminates against Pakhtuns in jobs, development funds and other arenas.

Pakhtun political forces have always backed Balochs in their struggle for more autonomy and rights as opposed to Baloch political forces who have remained silent on the suffering of Pakhtuns. The recent clashes between Baloch and Pakhtun students were notable because it were only Pakhtun political parties including PKMAP, JUI (F) who were trying to diffuse the situation and keep peace and harmony among the two communities.

The economic situation of Pakhtuns in Balochistan has deteriorated to the degree that they are forced to migrate. But the once luring Karachi option has vanished in the wake of MQM’s anti-Pakhtun drive from the city.

However, in the longer term, they are also faced with one of the world’s potentially worst environmental disasters (declining underground water table) coupled with specter of mass migration: agriculture — the main stay of Pakhtuns’ bread and butter — is on the throes of extinction because of depleting underground water reservoir.

Due to neglect of Islamabad and Baloch-dominated governments, over the past decades, no remedial steps have been taken including construction of delay action dams, and other measures to raise the level of underground water table. Over the course of next two decades, environmentalists fear that the

underground water table reservoir will completely dry up forcing Pakhtuns to face drought and desert like situation. Their choices for possible migration are very limited: further north is Afghanistan’s Helmand and Kandahar provinces which have already been suffering due to drought and instability. To the north-west is the de-facto “Islamic Emirate of Waziristan” which cannot sustain its own population while in the north-west is Baloch desert. The only viable route for migration is in the south leading to Dera Gazi Khan into South Punjab. Thus it is not far fetched that over 6 million Pakhtuns will be migrating to the South Punjab. In such an eventuality, any Punjab government will simply not be able to cope with such a large number of Pakhtun migrants.

Balochistan’s Pakhtun areas are likening the central Asia region including Ferghana Valley which are dependent on Arl Sea for their agriculture and drinking water needs. Over the past decades, Arl Sea has nearly dried up threatening the future of nearly 40 million population of Central Asia within next over fifteen years. They have nowhere to go except Russia en route to Kazakhstan, a scenario Moscow simply cannot deal with.

That said, in the short run, Baloch political forces need to understand that by not condemning Pakhtuns’ targeted killings, they will be seen complicit in these incidents. They have already got no allies hence losing the support of Pakhtun counter parts is the last thing they need.

As they cannot force Islamabad on their own to grant more rights without the support of the Pakhtuns who have huge political capital and a substantial clot in Pakistan as a extended community compared to tiny Balochs population. They blame Islamabad for their woes picking a fight with Pakhtuns by the militants would also divest them of their political capital, the goodwill and support they enjoy with Pakhtuns right now.

Thus let sanity be prevailed. It is not going to help blaming everything on ISI. For in Balochistan, Balochs and Pakhtuns know the configuration of all types of Baloch political strands. Thus they cannot confuse at least Pakhtuns by blaming targeted killings on ISI.

On the other hand, Pakhtuns are boxed in the northern corridor of Balochistan. And they blame Baloch militants for their existing problems, if nothing is done to stop Pakhtuns’ targeted killings in Baloch area, and security is not provided to them along Quetta-Karachi route, the ensuing ethnic strife will dwarf the situation in Karachi and leaving the province simply ungovernable not only for Balochs but also for Islamabad.



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