Iran-Pakistan Joint Military Offensive Against
Hundreds of arrests and the harassment of Baloch media
in the past few days signal that Islamabad wants to
silence the voices that have been denouncing a joint
military operation by Iran and Pakistan against East
Baluchistan. Its objectives most likely go beyond
the annihilation of the Baluch people. This offensive
could be the first in many aimed at “stabilizing” the
region for the construction of a IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India)
By Karlos Zurutuza
Translated by Elena Arengo from the Spanish original
operación unirá a la resistencia baluche
a ambos lados de la frontera, Aug 30, 2009.
Gathering for disappeared at Quetta Press Club,
photo by Karlos Zurutuza
On August 20, Richard Holbrooke, Washington special
envoy to Af/Pak, expressed his concern over the “alarming
increase of tension in Baluchistan”.
But which situation was Holbrooke referring to? It's
hard to know, as the press has until now remained suspiciously
quiet. At the same time, the almost total absense of
emails from East Baluchistan in the last week only
fuels the worst suspicions of this correspondent.
“Both telephones and the internet are controlled by
the secret services, people are very scared”, Akhmar
Mustikhan, a Baloch journalist residing in Washington,
told me on the telephone.
In this environment, an “inopportune” email or phone
call can result in the arrest, or even the disappearance
of one Baloch interlocutor or another. After an agonizing
silence, voices begin to arrive through other means,
more or less safe.
“I told the military police that was deployed outside
of my office that I was a journalist, not a ‘terrorist'”,
said one reporter of the newspaper “Daily Baluchistan” who
obviously did not want to give his name.
“We'll only believe you if you say ‘Long Live Pakistan',
was the response from the uniformed men.
After pronouncing the “magical words”, the journalist
was able to get to work last Thursday. But the real
assault began the next day, with the interrogation
and subsequent arrest of several workers of the “Daily
Baluchistan” and the “Daily Azadi”, at the entrances
to their respective offices in Quetta.
A few days earlier, another Baloch newspaper, the “Daily
Asaap” had been the first to close, after the continuous
harassment that its workers had suffered for weeks
by the Pakistani security forces.
The fact is, they are all well aware of Javid Lehri's
state, a 21-year-old journalist, after 9 months of
detention and torture in a prison in Quetta. And of
course, the more than 7,000 disappeared during the
past three years.
The most important Baloch journalists are holed up
while the rest of the country remains silent in the
face of the massive assault against freedom of expression.
“We don't know what threat was made to the newspaper's
management, but we've been absolutely banned from publishing
anything about what is happening”, admitted from Karachi
one journalist for “DAWN”, the most prestigioud newspaper
in Pakistan. This “anonymous” colleague added that
it is impossible right now to access Baloch websites,
such as www.thebaluch.com, www.bso-na.org,
among others. But that's the least of it.
In addition to the reigning confusion, there is the
general strike and the mobilizations called for by
the Baloch movement to commemorate the third anniversary
of the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti. On August 20th,
2006, the cave in which the charismatic leader Bugti,
79 years old, was taking refuge, was bombed by the
Pakistani airforce, causing his death and that of his
companions. Robert Oakley, then US ambassador in Islamabad,
described Bugti as a “martyr for a just cause”, provoking
President Musharraf's anger.
According to the BBC-Urdu,
the roads from Taftan to Quetta, and Quetta to Karachi – the
main routs in East Baluchistan, were completely
blocked one day in which the memorial services ended
with the deaths of ten Baloch. Also on Wednesday,
guerrillas carried out a mortar attack against the
airport in Sui (the birthplace of the martyred Baloch
leader) and attacked one of the gas pipelines belonging
to the Loti plant. Everyone knew that it was a critical
date, and the day ended with three dead Punjabis
and another three wounded, an attack for which the
BLUF (United Front for Baloch Liberation) took resposnbility
the next day.
A member of the BSO (Organization of Baloch Students)
declared on the phone last Tuesday that dozens of his
classmates had been arrested in a raid without precedents,
which led many to go underground. Or to join the guerrillas,
which is practically the same thing.
From the headquarters of the BNP (Nationalist Baloch
Party), the increase in violence was placed in the
framework of a joint Iran/Pakistan military operation
against the eastern Baloch, which was denounced only
through the digital media in the diaspora.
According to these sources, frontier areas like the
Kullber Valley, Thump and Mand are being bombed from
both sides of the border by Iranian and Pakistani airplanes
and helicopters. Just last Saturday, some 50 Iranian
surface-to-surface missiles were said to have fallen
on the Baloch town of Mashkali. Of course, there are
no official figures concerning the number of victims,
but it is alleged that there are thousands of newly
internally displaced in Pakistani territory.
what is most remarkabla about this operation is that
it is being carried out jointly with the Iranian
Army, which had not occurred since the times of Pahlevi.
Coincidence or not, Islamabad and Teheran have taken
one more step in the construction of the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India)
gas pipeline, after the Pakistani Chamber recently
approved the final draft of its trajectory: 2,600
kilometers, most of which are across Baloch land.
The military offensive of these past days could be
the first of several aimed at "stabilizing" the
region for the construction of the only infrastructure
that will overshadow the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakisan-India),
and which Washington hopes to begin next year.
“This is Islamabad's ‘war against terror'” one BNP
militant complained, from a Saudi phone number. “For
them to keep stealing from us, they will have to kill
us all first”, he added.