Attrition: Dead Bodies in Baluchistan

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August 25, 2006: While Afghanistan gets most of the attention, there's another war going on next door, between the Pakistani government and several Baluchi tribes. So far this year, rebellious Baluchi tribesmen have instigated 624 violent incidents. These led to about a thousand casualties (35 percent of them fatal). Some 80 percent of these losses have been Baluchis (a third of them rebels, the rest civilians). The government has made 353 arrests, and induced another 1,582 tribesmen to surrender.
However, it's believed that as many as 5,000 tribesmen are still involved in the violence. The government has two army divisions, and nearly as many police and paramilitary troops, in the area. About half the province is "unsafe" for non-Baluchis. Some government officials from outside the province are pulling strings, or even offering bribes, to avoid getting posted to Baluchistan. It is now known as an unfriendly place.
Baluchistan has 36 percent of Pakistan's natural gas, and only four percent of the population (spread thinly over 180,000 square kilometers). Some 80 percent of this natural gas is exported, and the Baluchis only get about twelve percent of the money. On top of that, corrupt officials steal much of that, leaving the tribes with very little. Now the government wants to expand drilling and mining, and remove more of Baluchistans wealth. The tribes are, literally, up in arms over this. Since the Summer of 2004, there have been several dozen violent incidents each week, ranging from tribesmen shooting at government facilities, or employees, or blowing something up (electricity transmission towers, roads, gas pipelines and so on.)
Baluchistan is not all Baluchi. About 40 percent of the seven million inhabitants of the region are Pushtun tribes (30 percent), and other groups (10 percent). Most of Pakistan's coastline is in Baluchistan, as are two of the navy's three bases, inhabited by many of the non tribal people. The tribes may control the back country, but the Pakistani government has a better position when it comes to the coastal communities, and cities in general.

 


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