Counter-Terrorism: The Baluchi Blues Again

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January 12, 2012:  The violence in southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) doubled last year. In 2011 there were 711 terrorist/separatist related deaths (542 civilians, 122 security forces, and 47 terrorists/separatists) in Baluchistan. In 2010 there were 347 deaths (274 civilians, 59 security forces, and 14 terrorists/separatists). Most of the violence is caused by local Baluchi tribesmen fighting for more autonomy and a greater share of the natural gas shipped from the area. 

While the capital of Baluchistan (Quetta) is a sanctuary for the Taliban (even American UAV operations are forbidden and a sort-of-truce pervades the city), the rest of the province is a battleground for the security forces and Baluchi rebels. The police have adopted tactics that involve kidnappings and illegal (and unreported) arrests, often followed by murdering those taken. The army and police deny this but the bodies keep piling up.

There is not much Islamic terrorism in Baluchistan (except for the Taliban forces operating out of Quetta). Most of the fighting is over more benefits for the local Baluchis. The largely Pushtun Taliban stay out of it. The Pushtun and Baluchis are ethnic cousins but have long avoided large scale conflict with each other.

The government has promised reforms but has not delivered. As a result, there have been more attacks on the natural gas operations. There have been 170 such attacks in the last seven years, 30 percent of them last year. If the Pakistanis don't do something about the poverty in Baluchistan (the poorest region in the country, with 45 percent of the people very poor), the violence and losses to the natural gas industry will only increase.

 


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