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Pakistan: Deepening crisis in Baluchistan province
THE PROVINCE of Baluchistan in Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, has recently suffered from flooding, causing hundreds of deaths.
This misery has come on top of fighting between General Musharraf's regime and the province's power brokers, the tribal chiefs.
Khalid Bhatti, Socialist Movement Pakistan (SMP - CWI, Pakistan) reports on this deadly conflict.
THE SITUATION in 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 female doctor in a hospital near the Sui gasfields in January.
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 area of Baluchistan is called Dera Bugti. In everyday language it is referred to as "Sui" and is known for its huge gas reserves. The area where the gasfield is, the largest of its sort in Pakistan, belongs to the Bugti tribe, one of the biggest tribes in Baluchistan.
THE CHIEF of this tribe, Nawab Akbar Bugti, rules this area. He has prisons in which his rivals and dissidents vanish, and maintains his own military force to repress the masses. Tribalism in the province of Baluchistan not only still exists, but is very strong.
This rotten tribal and feudal system with all its repression and brutality, its inhuman and reactionary laws, is centuries old but it still exists today. 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-existent because it is not allowed by tribal law. Women are not allowed to leave their homes. Honour killings, forced marriages and other cruel, inhuman customs and traditions are widely practiced under the guise of tribal traditions and pride.
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 them 35 kilometres away from Sui. The whole area has become a theatre for military operations with the army conducting widespread house-to-house searches. However, 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. Recent events have already provided proof of elements of an emerging civil war
In the last few days, eight 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 nine bomb explosions in different cities were reported.
Attacks on security forces
THE DESTRUCTION of gas pipelines has become a daily routine. But whilst many innocent people have died as the result of continued violence, the promises of the government, on the one hand, and the leadership of the Nationalist parties on the other hand, are met with strong feelings of distrust.
A layer of the younger generation mistrust the Nationalist parties headed by the tribal chiefs. These youth are interested in the alternative ideas and in the future the SMP, with a correct strategy and programme, can make headway.
The government is in a quandary about how to control this region. Launching an all-out military operation might totally spiral out of control. 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.
It is unlikely that the government will opt for a solely 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.
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.
In The Socialist 19 February 2005: