India-Pakistan: March 21, 2005

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 Southwestern Pakistan, also known as Baluchistan, has always been something of a "wild west." In the last few days, fighting between tribesmen and troops has left nearly fifty people dead, including eight soldiers. Most of the other dead are armed tribesmen. Some 3,000 people have fled the scene of the fighting in the town of Dera Bugti. 

Baluchistan comprises 44 percent of Pakistan's territory, but only contains five percent of the country's population. And most of those people belong to several Baluchi tribes. The Baluchis are old school, clinging to conservative Islamic religious practices and resistance to education and economic improvements. The tribal chiefs use this conservatism to maintain their traditional powers, and long time suspicion of outsiders. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda was welcomed because of their shared admiration of religious and social conservatism. Bin Laden was also against school for girls, much freedom for women or anything Western (except weapons and many consumer goods.) The Baluchis are another of the Indo-European peoples, like the Pushtuns, Tadjiks, Kurds, Iranians and most of those living in Pakistan and northern India. Like the Kurds, they've never had a country of their own. And like the Kurds, they want a greater share of the oil and gas being pumped from their territory.

 

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