Insurgency in Balochistan

Insurgency in Balochistan

Map with the Balochistan region in pink.
Date1948 – present (68 years)
Main incidents: 1948, 1958–59, 1963–69, 1973–77, 2004–2012, 2012–present (low-level insurgency)
Status Low level insurgency, political violence largely subdued, talks underway (May 2012) [1] Ongoing[2]



Baloch separatist groups

Supported by:
 Iraq (1970s)[4]
 India[5][6] (alleged)
 Soviet Union (until 1988, alleged)
Afghanistan Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (until 1992)

Sectarian groups
Jaish ul-Adl

Supported by:

 United States (alleged, only in Iran)[10]
Commanders and leaders
Liaquat Ali Khan (1949–1951)
Ayub Khan (1958–1969)
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1971–1973)
Tikka Khan (1988–1990)
Rahimuddin Khan (1979–1988)
Pervez Musharraf (2001–2008)
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (2007–2013)
Raheel Shareef (2013–present)
Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1948–1979)
Iran Ruhollah Khomeini (1979–1989)
Iran Ali Khamenei (1989–present)

Karim Khan (POW)
Nowroz Khan (POW)
Khair Bakhsh Marri  
Balach Marri  
Brahamdagh Bugti[11]
Allah Nazar Baloch
Javed Mengal[12]

Dad Shah  
Abdolmalek Rigi  
Abdolhamid Rigi  
Muhammad Dhahir Baluch

Pakistan Pakistan

BLA: 10,000[14]

Jundallah: 700[15] −2,000[16]
Casualties and losses
Pakistan Pakistani security forces
3,000–3,300 killed[17]
303+ killed[18]
Iran Iran
154 killed (security forces and civilians)[19]
Baloch fighters
5,300 killed[17]
380+ killed[18] ----
~6,000 civilians killed in Pakistan (1973–1977)[17]
1,628+ civilians killed in Pakistan (2004–2009)[13][18]
~4,500 arrested (2004–2005)[13]
~140,000 displaced (2004–2005)[13]
China 3 Chinese engineers killed
4 kidnapped
5 oil tankers damaged[20]

The Insurgency in Balochistan is a guerrilla war waged by Baloch nationalists against the governments of Pakistan and Iran in the Balochistan region, which covers Balochistan Province in southwestern Pakistan, Sistan and Baluchestan Province in southeastern Iran, and the Balochistan region of southern Afghanistan. Rich in natural resources like natural gas, oil, coal, copper, sulphur, fluoride and gold,[21] this is the least developed province in Pakistan.[22] Baloch want greater autonomy, increased royalties from natural resources and provincial revenue, and an independent nation-state.[23] In the 2010s, attacks against the Shia community by sectarian groups—though not always directly related to the political struggle—have risen, contributing to tensions in Balochistan.[24][25]

In Pakistan's Balochistan province, insurgencies by Baloch nationalists have been fought in 1948, 1958–59, 1962–63 and 1973–77, with an ongoing and reportedly stronger, broader insurgency beginning in 2003.[26]

This insurgency has begun to weaken, in an article titled "The End of Pakistan's Baloch Insurgency" Baloch analyst Malik Siraj Akbar reported that Baloch militants began killing their own commanders.[27] As of May 2015, one foreign-based Baloch journalist (Malik Siraj Akbar) calls anger towards Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch "growing and often uncontrollable".[28] Baloch militants have taken some reconciliation offers from the government and offered to hand in their weapons. In April 2016, four militant commanders and 144 militants had surrendered under reconciliation.[29] 600 rebels were killed and 1025 surrendered after accepting reconciliation as of August 2016.[30]

Baloch seperatists argue they are economically marginalised and poor compared to the rest of Pakistan..[31] Being crucial for Pakistan's economic future, China has invested $46 Billion in the region.[22] The Balochistan Liberation Army, designated as a terrorist organisation by Pakistan and Britain,[32] is the most widely known Baloch separatist group. Since 2000 it has conducted numerous deadly attacks on Pakistani troops, police, and civilians. Other separatist groups include Lashkar-e-Balochistan and the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF).[33][34][35] In 2005, a rebellion by Baloch against the Islamic Republic of Iran began. The fight over the IRI Baloch region bordering Pakistan, has "not gained" as much ground as the conflict in Pakistan.[36][37] Human rights activists have accused nationalist militants and the Government of Pakistan of human rights abuses.[38]

Baloch militants have targeted minority communities such as Hazara Shia on the basis of their religious beliefs.[39] This inter-communal violence led to Hazara refusing to bury their dead and demanding that the Pakistani government deploy even more troops for their protection. The governor took charge and accused security forces of being "too scared or clueless to act", according to the BBC[40] Baloch militant groups, who have pledged allegiance to ISIS, have also targeted moderate Sunnis who follow Sufi teachings such as the Shah Noorani attack killed 52 including women and children.[41][42]

The News International reported in 2012 that a Gallup survey conducted for DFID revealed that the majority of Baloch do not support independence from Pakistan. Only 37 percent of Baloch were in favour of independence. Amongst Balochistan's Pashtun population support for independence was even lower at 12 percent. However, a majority (67 percent) of Balochistan's population did favour greater provincial autonomy.[43] The government has since taken democratisation steps, in 2013 provincial elections were held and a Grand Alliance of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Pashtun and Baloch local parties was formed[44] The Supreme court ordered local government elections to be held which by 2015 helped to further decentralise policy making for local population regarding health, education and sanitation, the ruling coalition re-affirmed its mandate in the Balochistan province and won the majority.[45]

Area of dispute

Historical Balochistan covers the southern part off Sistan o Baluchestan Province, Iran, in the west, the Pakistani province of Balochistan in the east, and, in the northwest, Afghanistan's Helmand Province. The Gulf of Oman forms its southern border. Mountains and desert make up much of the region's terrain. Most Balochis live in part that falls within Pakistan's borders.

Geographically, Balochistan Province is the largest region of Pakistan, comprising 44% of the country's total area), but it is the least inhabited, with only 5% of total population, and the least developed.[46] Sunni Islam is the predominant religion.[47]

Stuart Notholt, in his Atlas of Ethnic Conflict, describes the unrest in Balochistan as a "nationalist/self-determination conflict".[48]



The Baloch naitonalist struggle is centred on the Khanate of Kalat, established in 1666 by Mir Ahmad. Under Mir Naseer Khan I in 1758, who accepted the Afghan paramountcy, the boundaries of Kalat stretched up to Dera Ghazi Khan in the east and Bandar Abbas in the west. However, in November 1839, the British invaded Kalat and killed the Khan and his followers. Afterwards, the British influence in the region gradually grew. In 1869, the British Political Agent Robert Sandeman ended up mediating a dispute between the Khan of Kalat and the Sardars of Balochistan, and established the British primacy in the region. The tribal areas of Marri, Bugti, Khetran and Chaghi were brought under the direct administration of a British Agent, eventually to become the Chief Commissioner's Province of Balochistan. Lasbela and Kharan were declared Special Areas with a different political system. The remaining areas of Sarawan, Jhalawan, Kacchi and Makran were retained as the Khanate of Kalat, supervised by a Political Agent of Kalat.[49]

In the 20th century, the educated Baloch middle class harboured hopes of an independent Balochistan free of the British. They formed a nationalist movement Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Balochistan in 1931. One of their first campaigns was to fight for the accession of Azam Jan as the Khan of Kalat and a constitutional government to be established under him. They were successful in establishing Azam Jan as the Khan but the new Khan sided with the Sardars and turned his back on the Anjuman. His successor Mir Ahmad Yar Khan was more sympathetic to Anjuman but he was averse to upsetting his relations with the British. The Anujman, transformed into the Kalat State National Party (KSNP), continued to fight for independence from the British. It was declared illegal by the Khanate in 1939 and its active leaders and activists were exiled. This paved the way for the formation of new political parties, Balochistan Muslim League allied to the Muslim League in June 1939 and Anjuman-i-Watan allied to the Indian National Congress in the same year.[50]

Mir Ahmad Yar Khan provided generous funding to the Muslim League, both at the local and All-India levels, and acquired the services of Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the Legal Adviser to the Kalat state. With Jinnah's advocacy, it was agreed on 4 August 1947 that the 'Kalat State will be independent on 5 August 1947, enjoying the same status as it originally held in 1838, having friendly relations with its neighbours'. On the same day, an agreement was also signed with Dominion of Pakistan. According to the Article I, 'The Government of Pakistan agrees that Kalat is an independent State, being quite different in status from other States of India'. However, the Article IV stated:

a standstill agreement will be made between Pakistan and Kalat by which Pakistan shall stand committed to all the responsibilities agreements signed by Kalat and the British Government from 1839 to 1947 and by this, Pakistan shall be the legal, constitutional and political successor of the British.[51]

Through this agreement, the British Paramountcy was effectively transferred to Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat achieved a pyrrhic victory by becoming 'independent' on 15 August 1947.[52]

First conflict

Balochistan was divided between four princely states under the British Raj. Three of these, Makran, Las Bela and Kharan joined with Pakistan in 1947 after independence.[53] The Khan of Kalat, Ahmad Yar Khan, declared Kalat's independence as this was one of the options given to all of the 535 princely states by British Prime Minister Clement Attlee.[54]

Muhammad Ali Jinnah pressured Yar Khan to accept Pakistani rule but the Khan stalled for time. Out of patience, on 27 March 1948, Pakistan formally annexed Kalat.[55] In April, the military invaded, conquering the territory in a month.[56] Yar Khan signed a treaty of accession, submitting to the federal government. His younger brothers, Princes Agha Abdul Karim Baloch and Muhammad Rahim, refused to lay down arms, leading the Dosht-e Jhalawan in unconventional attacks on the army until 1950.[57] Jinnah and his successors allowed Yar Khan to retain his title until the province's dissolution in 1955.

Second conflict

Nawab Nauroz Khan took up arms in resistance to the One Unit policy, which decreased government representation for tribal leaders, from 1958 to 1959. He and his followers started a guerrilla war against Pakistan, and were arrested, charged with treason, and imprisoned in Hyderabad. Five of his family members, sons and nephews, were subsequently hanged on charges of treason and aiding in the murder of Pakistani troops. Nawab Nauroz Khan later died in captivity.[58]

Third conflict

After the second conflict, a Baloch separatist movement gained momentum in the 1960s, following the introduction of a new constitution in 1956 which limited provincial autonomy and enacted the 'One Unit' concept of political organisation in Pakistan. Tension continued to grow amid consistent political disorder and instability at the federal level. The federal government tasked the Pakistan Army with building several new bases in key areas of Balochistan. Sher Muhammad Bijrani Marri led like-minded militants into guerrilla warfare from 1963 to 1969 by creating their own insurgent bases, spread out over 45,000 miles (72,000 km) of land, from the Mengal tribal area in the south to the Marri and Bugti tribal areas in the north. Their goal was to force Pakistan to share revenue generated from the Sui gas fields with the tribal leaders. The insurgents bombed railway tracks and ambushed convoys. The Army retaliated by destroying vast areas of the Marri tribe's land. This insurgency ended in 1969, with the Baloch separatists agreeing to a ceasefire. In 1970 Pakistani President Yahya Khan abolished the "One Unit" policy,[59] which led to the recognition of Balochistan as the fourth province of West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan), including all the Balochistani princely states, the High Commissioners Province, and Gwadar, an 800 km2 coastal area purchased from Oman by the Pakistani government.

Fourth conflict 1973–77

For more details on this topic, see Baloch Insurgency and Rahimuddin's Stabilization.

The unrest continued into the 1970s, culminating in a government-ordered military operation in the region in 1973.

In 1973, citing treason, President Bhutto dismissed the provincial governments of Balochistan and NWFP and imposed martial law in those areas,[60] which led to armed insurgency. Khair Bakhsh Marri formed the Balochistan People's Liberation Front (BPLF), which led large numbers of Marri and Mengal tribesmen into guerrilla warfare against the central government.[61] According to some authors, the Pakistani military lost 300 to 400 soldiers during the conflict with the Balochi separatists, while between 7,300 and 9,000 Balochi militants and civilians were killed.[17]

Assisted by Iran, Pakistani forces inflicted heavy casualties on the separatists. The insurgency fell into decline after a return to the four-province structure and the abolishment of the Sardari system.

Fifth conflict 2004–to date

In 2004 an insurgent attack on Gwadar port resulting in the deaths of three Chinese engineers and four wounded drew China into the conflict.[20] In 2005, the Baluch political leaders Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri presented a 15-point agenda to the Pakistan government. Their stated demands included greater control of the province's resources and a moratorium on the construction of military bases.[62] On 15 December 2005 the inspector general of the Frontier Corps, Major General Shujaat Zamir Dar, and his deputy Brigadier Salim Nawaz (the current IGFC) were wounded after shots were fired at their helicopter in Balochistan Province. The provincial interior secretary later said that, after visiting Kohlu, "both of them were wounded in the leg but both are in stable condition."[63]

In August 2006, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, 79 years old, was killed in fighting with the Pakistan Army, in which at least 60 Pakistani soldiers and 7 officers were also killed. Pakistan's government had charged him with responsibility of a series of deadly bomb blasts and a rocket attack on President Pervez Musharraf.[64]

In April 2009, Baloch National Movement president Ghulam Mohammed Baloch and two other nationalist leaders (Lala Munir and Sher Muhammad) were seized from a small legal office and were allegedly "handcuffed, blindfolded and hustled into a waiting pickup truck which is in still [sic] use of intelligence forces in front of their lawyer and neighboring shopkeepers." The gunmen were allegedly speaking in Persian (a national language of neighbouring Afghanistan and Iran). Five days later, on 8 April, their bullet-riddled bodies were found in a commercial area. The BLA claimed Pakistani forces were behind the killings, though international experts have deemed it odd that the Pakistani forces would be careless enough to allow the bodies to be found so easily and "light Balochistan on fire" (Herald) if they were truly responsible.[65] The discovery of the bodies sparked rioting and weeks of strikes, demonstrations, and civil resistance in cities and towns around Balochistan.[66] See Turbat killings

On 12 August 2009, Khan of Kalat Mir Suleiman Dawood declared himself ruler of Balochistan and formally announced a Council for Independent Balochistan. The council's claimed domain includes Sistan and Baluchestan Province, as well as Pakistani Balochistan, but does not include Afghan Baloch regions. The council claimed the allegiance of "all separatist leaders including Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti." Suleiman Dawood stated that the UK had a "moral responsibility to raise the issue of Balochistan's illegal occupation at international level."[67]

The Economist writes:

"[The Baloch separatists] are supported—with money, influence or sympathy—by some members of the powerful Bugti tribe and by parts of the Baloch middle class. This makes today's insurgency stronger than previous ones, but the separatists will nevertheless struggle to prevail over Pakistan's huge army."[33]
The Economist, April 2012

US-based exiled Baloch journalist and newspaper editor Malik Siraj Akbar writes that the ongoing Baloch resistance has created "serious challenges" for the Pakistan government, "unlike the past resistance movements", because it has lasted longer than previous insurgencies, has greater breadth—including the entire province "from rural mountainous regions to the city centers", involves Baloch women and children at "regular protest rallies", and has drawn more international attention—including a 2012 hearing by the US Congress. Islamabad has accused its neighbour India of supporting the insurgency in Balochistan.[27] However infighting between insurgent groups as of late 2014 has weakened the movement.[27]

Drop in violence (2012-present)

Many factors limit the scope of the nationalist insurgency, the Baloch themselves are divided into rival camps and often carry out tribal infighting amongst themselves. Pakistan's ISI often exploits this and brings tribal rivals into the ruling government. Balochistan province itself is of mixed ethnicity, with Baloch being 54% and the rest being Pashtuns and Sindhis, who are overwhelmingly Pakistani nationalists, this information can be seen in preliminary findings of 2011 census.[68] Sindhis vote for federalist parties such as Pakistan Peoples Party of Bhutto-Zardari family[69] and Pashtuns historically voted for conservative pro-Pakistan Islamist politicians such as Fazal-ur-Rehman (politician).[70] The Baloch practice Islam, are predominantly Sunni and speak Urdu with other ethnic groups such as Pashtuns and Sindhis, cultural traits in common with the rest of Pakistan. Government schools provide Urdu education, Baloch militants themselves stand accused of rights abuses, Human Rights Watch published a 40 page report which criticised Baloch nationalists of killing, threatening and harassing teachers.[71]

Conflict in Iran

In 2014 there were about two million ethnic Baloch in Iran.[72]

In 1928, the new Pahlavī government of Iran was sufficiently well established to turn its attention to Baluchistan. Dost Mohammad Khan Baloch refused to submit, trusting in the network of alliances he had built up over the whole of the province south of the Sarḥadd. However, as soon as Reżā Shah's army under General Amīr Amanullah Jahanbani arrived in the area, the alliances dissolved. Dūst-Moḥammad Khan was left with a relatively small force and few allies of any consequence. The Persian army had little difficulty in defeating him. Once again Baluch political unity proved highly brittle. Dūst-Moḥammad eventually surrendered and was pardoned on condition he live in Tehran. After a year, he escaped while on a hunting trip. In due course he was recaptured, and having killed his guard in the escape was hanged for murder.[73][74] Baloch activists complained that the new governance was centralised and dominated by the Persians, "forcing the Baloch community and other minorities to fight to protect their rights."[72]

Baloch people in Iran have several grievances. The Shi'ite Islamic revolution perceived the predominantly the Sunni Baloch as a "threat". Sistan-e-Balochistan, the province where Baloch have traditionally lived in Iran, has the country's worst rates for life expectancy, adult literacy, primary school enrolment, access to improved water sources and sanitation, infant mortality rate, of any province in Iran. Despite its important natural resources (gas, gold, copper, oil and uranium), the province has the lowest per capita income in Iran. Almost 80% of the Baloch live under the poverty line.[72]

Attacks by insurgents

In the early 2000s the radical Islamist group Jundallah became active in Balochistan. The al Qaeda-linked terrorist organisation has branches in both Iran and Pakistan. From 2006 to 2010, 254–346 people were killed in Jundullah-related violence in Iran.[75] Attacks in Iran included bombings in Zahedan in 2007, which killed 18 people, and another bombing in 2009 that killed 20 people. In 2009, 43 people were killed in a bombing in Pishin. In July 2010, 27 people were killed in bombings in Zahedan. In 2010, a suicide bombing in Chabahar killed 38 people.

Among the deaths in the Pishin bombings were two Iranian Revolutionary Guards generals: Noor Ali Shooshtari, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards' ground forces, and Rajab Ali Mhammadzadeh, the Revolutionary Guards' Sistan and Baluchistan provincial commander.[76]

In 2010 the leader of Jundallah, Abdolmalek Rigi, was killed, causing fragmentation of the group but not an end to insurgent attacks. In October 2013, the group Jaish al-Adl (JAA, Army of Justice), killed 14 Iranian border guards in an ambush in the town of Rustak, near the town of Saravan. Shortly there after, the Iranian authorities executed 16 Balochs, on charges ranging from terrorism to drug trafficking.[72] Another group, Harakat Ansar Iran (Partisan Movement of Iran, HAI) killed two Basij officers and wounded numerous civilians in a October 2012 suicide bombing against the mosque of Imam Hussein, in the port city of Chabahar (Sistan and Baluchestan Province).[72]

According to analyst Daniele Grassi, "Salafism plays an increasingly central role" for the "post-Jundallah" militants of JAA and HAI. "The rhetoric of groups such as HAI and JAA uses strongly anti-Shia tones. The two groups often refer to the Iranian Islamic Republic as a Safavid regime, in reference to the Safavid dynasty which introduced Shiism in Iran." Iran is also concerned about anti-Shia co-operation between the two groups and ISIS.[72]

Iran has accused America of supporting Jundallah "for years". The US government, which has officially designated Jundallah a terrorist organisation, has denied this charge.[77] Iran has been angered by JAA's use of Pakistani territory as a refuge, and has threatened military operations in Pakistan to counter terrorist groups "on several occasions".[72]

Drivers of insurgency

In Balochistan, Pakistan, "drivers" of insurgency have been economic, cultural, involving immigration and human rights.

Economic inequality

Economic inequality, and Balochistan's status as a "neglected province where a majority of population lacks amenities" is a dimension in the conflict.[78][79] Since the mid-1970s Balochistan's share of Pakistan's GDP has dropped from 4.9 to 3.7%.[80] Balochistan has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate, the highest poverty rate, and the lowest literacy rate in Pakistan.[79][81]

On the other hand, according to a report published in the Pakistani English-language Dawn newspaper, members of Balochistan's elite society, including provincial government ministers and officials, own "pieces of land greater in size than some small towns of the country", and had luxury vehicles, properties, investments and businesses valued at millions of rupees.[78]

Development issues

Gas revenue

Balochistan receives less per/unit in royalties than Sindh and Punjab provinces, since Balochistan's wellhead price five times lower than in Sindh and Punjab (the gas wellhead price is based on per capita provincial income in 1953).[82] Furthermore, the government has returned little of the royalties owed to the province, citing the need to recover operating costs.[83] Consequently, Balochistan is heavily in debt.[84][85]

Balochistan Province receives Rs 32.71 per unit on gas revenues, including a royalty of Rs 13.90, excise duty of Rs 5.09, and gas development surcharge of Rs 13.72. Many private individuals with gas deposits on their land also receive payments. Many Balochs argue that such royalties are too low.[86] In response, in 2011 Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani announced an addition of Rs. 120 billion (US$2.5 billion) to the gas development surcharge and royalty portion of the "Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan" package. However, royalties often do not trickle down to the common people in Balochistan due to the corruption and wealth-hoarding of Baloch tribal chiefs. This has hindered the growth of infrastructure.

Regional inequality

Extensive road and rail links developed by British colonialists in northern parts of Balochistan province have brought greater economic development to areas mainly inhabited by ethnic Pashtuns, which has also heightened nationalism among ethnic Balochs within the province.[85]


Another grievance is the construction of the megaport of Gwadar, which began in 2002 and is run entirely by the federal government. Baloch complain that construction of the port relies on Chinese engineers and labourers, and few Balochs have been employed. There has been little improvement in living standards for Balochs in the area. A parallel town for workers at Gwadar is being built close to the old one to segregate Balochs from the growing influx of outsiders. Government officials illegally sold much of the land around Gwadar, making massive profits at the expense of local Balochs. The Pakistani government responded to the Baloch's increased resentment and resistance to their economic marginalisation in Gwadar with a hardline approach, stationing soldiers in the area to secure it from insurgent attacks.[87][88][89]

The construction project resulted in the employment of a large number of non-Balochs, especially Punjabis, even though there is an excess in the number of unemployed Baloch engineers and technicians.[90]

Multiculturalism and immigration

Due to the historical shortage of skilled labour in Balochistan, skilled workers are often imported from other regions.[91] Their arrival means new industries can develop, boosting the local economy; however, nationalists argue that this creates resentment amongst the local inhabitants. Like Karachi, which after migration from Balouchistan, Central Asia, Iran, East Asia and especially a large number of people arriving from other areas of Pakistan in search of daily living settled there, it has been a national financial hub in Pakistan.[92] thus the local inhabitants (Sindhis) became a minority in the largest city of their province. Nationalists argue against multiculturalism and non-Baloch immigration. Karachi city has been playing a key role as a financial hub for Pakistan and its economy has exploded to become on the major cities in Asia as a seaport. However, the city continues be a home for ethnic and sectarian violence. Balouch nationalist argue that migration leads to such events, and they are opposed to similar situation in Baluchistan. Mir Suleiman Dawood claims that the people in Balochistan remain deeply resentful of Pakistan's policies in the region and he, apart from other, rather militant, Baloch nationalist organisations have openly called for India's assistance in Balochistan's separation from Pakistan. On 12 August 2009, Khan of Kalat Mir Suleiman Dawood declared himself ruler of Balochistan and formally made announcement of a Council for Independent Balochistan. The Council's claimed domain includes "Baloch of Iran", apart from Pakistani Balochistan, but does not include Afghan Baloch regions, and the Council contains "all separatist leaders including Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti."[93]

After the soviet invasion, around 4 million refugees from Afghanistan arrived and settled in the region which has resulted in substantial demographic imbalance.[90] Perceived marginalisation as a result of increased Pashtun migration from Afghanistan during the Afghan War drives the insurgency.[85]

Education issues

A major factor in the Balouchistan conflict is education, which nationalists feel has been neglected. The government of Pakistan recognises that importing skilled labour from other regions has caused tensions in the region, and has thus sought to encourage scholarships for Balochi students so they can participate in development programmes. The quota for Baloch students in Punjab university was doubled in 2010 under the Cheema Long Scheme, on the order of CM Shabaz Sharif. The provincial governments of Sindh, Punjab and KP said they would take steps to encourage Balochistan students to enroll and benefit from 100% scholarships.[94][95] However, nationalists argue that not enough education development is taking place, and that the government has neglected its duty.

Military response

Balochs have not tended to look favourably on Pakistan army intervention in politics as they saw the military as dominated by Punjabis and the interests of the Punjabis (who make up 45% of Pakistan's population) and lacking Baloch representation.[79]

In the insurgencies themselves, the military's "harsh response" has led to "a spiral of violence".[96][97] (See Human Rights Issues below.) A report by the Pakistan Security Research Unit notes, "Islamabad's militarized approach has led to ... violence, widespread human rights abuses, mass internal displacement and the deaths of hundreds of civilians and armed personnel."[98]

According to the International Crisis Group the attempt to crush the insurgency as in earlier insurgencies is feeding Baloch disaffection.[99] Moderate Balochs have been alienated from the government by the imprisonment of civilians without charges, and routine kidnapping of dissidents.[97] [Note 1]

Foreign support

Pakistan has repeatedly accused India, and occasionally the US, of supporting Baluch rebels; both countries have denied the charge.[101][102]


During 1970s the then Afghan President Mohammed Daoud Khan established militant training camps in Afghanistan for Baloch rebels. These were the first modern training camps in the country.[103]

The former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, wrote that in the 1970s training camps were set up in Afghanistan by Daoud to support Baloch separatists in Pakistan.[104] According to a student paper, "Pakistan's fear that a communist Afghanistan would embolden the Baloch and Pashtun Marxist separatists in the western Pakistani province of Balochistan was confirmed when Daoud began supporting Marxist Baloch and Pashtun groups in eastern Afghanistan".[105]

As president, Daoud started antagonising Pakistan [...] He set up a training camp outside Kandahar for Baluch rebels to foment trouble across the border in Pakistan...
Christian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2011), p.103[106]

Daoud Khan was removed from power in Afghanistan in 1978 by a communist coup.

In 2012, Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik stated that Baloch Republican Party chief Brahamdagh Bugti was operating militant training camps in Afghanistan, which were dismantled only after Islamabad conveyed its knowledge of these camps to Kabul. Malik said that the camps in Afghanistan were responsible for training up to 5,000 insurgents, and that Bugti had hired three large houses in Kabul. The Pakistani minister claimed that the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, had accepted that militants based in Afghanistan were fuelling terrorism in Balochistan.[107] The Pakistani Tribune wrote that "in response to Islamabad's request, Kabul has formally given its assurance [that it will] stop the infiltration of militants from Kandahar to Balochistan's border district Chaman."[108] Previously, Karzai had always denied that Balochs in Afghanistan were supporting an armed struggle in Balochistan.[109] According to wikileaks cables, Karzai said in a 2007 conversation with US officials, "that [Baloch leader] Bugti had once tried to call Karzai but he had refused for the sake of good relations with Pakistan. Now he cannot forgive himself for refusing. Karzai assessed that Pakistan had troubles with many other tribes too, as a result of its trying to divide and conquer and turn the tribes against each other. Pakistan needed to address the bigger picture, Karzai urged."[109] Baloch leaders such as Bugti left Afghanistan for Switzerland.[107]

Against the backdrop of heavy criticism of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps over its alleged role in forced disappearances and human rights violations in Balochistan, the chief of FC troops in Balochistan, Major General Obaidullah Khan Khattak, said in June 2012 that "over 30 militant camps" had been established in Afghanistan and were being used "to launch terrorist and anti-state activities in Balochistan".[110]

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency has been accused of working with the Afghan Taliban in Balochistan, with the Taliban's leadership council, Quetta Shura, named after the provincial capital Quetta.[111][112][113]


According to Malik Siraj Akbar, a Baloch journalist living in exile, there is a consensus in Pakistan that it can be assumed that India is behind the insurgency in Balochistan and no evidence is required.[28] Pakistan has repeatedly accused India of supporting Baloch rebels, starting with an attack in Gwadar in 2004 where three Chinese engineers were killed.[101][102][114] On 29 March 2016, Pakistan claimed that it had apprehended a serving Indian naval officer, Kulbhushan Yadav who was tasked by Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to carry out terrorism in Balochistan, and bomb Chinese nationals in a hotel in Gwadar who were there to work on a deep sea port construction project.[115]

Wright-Neville writes that outside Pakistan, some Western observers also believe that India secretly funds the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).[116] Wikileaks cables indicate that the British intelligence "strongly believes" New Delhi supports the Baloch insurgency in response to alleged Pakistani support for Lashkar-e-Taiba. Following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, British diplomats feared that intense domestic pressure would force Delhi to "ramp up" the covert support, an apprehension discounted by the US State department.[117] The former American Af-Pak envoy Richard Holbrooke said in 2011 that while Pakistan had repeatedly shared its allegations with Washington, it had failed to provide any evidence to the United States that India was involved in separatist movements in Balochistan. He did not consider Pakistan's accusations against India credible.[118] Holbrooke also strongly rejected the allegation that India was using its consulates in Afghanistan to facilitate Baloch rebel activity, saying he had "no reason to believe Islamabad's charges", and that "Pakistan would do well to examine its own internal problems".[118]

India has categorically denied the allegations, pointing to Pakistan's failure to provide evidence.[102]

Brahamdagh Bugti stated in a 2008 interview that he would accept aid from India, Afghanistan, and Iran in defending Baluchistan.[119] When asked about the alleged link of his group with India, he is reported to have laughed and said, "Would our people live amid such miserable conditions if we enjoyed support from India?."[120] Baloch National Front secretary Karima Baloch claims the allegations against India are an "excuse to label ingrown Balochistan freedom movement as a proxy war to cover up the war crimes Pakistani state has committed in Balochistan".[121]

In 2016, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi criticized Pakistan and human rights issues in Balochistan during an Independence Day speech.[122] Pakistan condemned Modi's remarks, calling it an attempted diversion from violence in Kashmir and a reiteration of Pakistani allegations vis-a-vis Indian involvement in Balochistan.[123] Modi's comments were welcomed by exiled Baloch separatist leaders[124] but sparked anti-India protests by political organisations and local population inside parts of Balochistan.[125]

The Pakistan government is considering asking the United Nations to take up the matter of foreign involvement.[126][127][128][129][130]


On 10 February 1973, Pakistani police and paramilitary raided the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad, seizing a large cache of small arms, ammunition, grenades and other supplies, which were found in crates marked 'Foreign Ministry, Baghdad'. The ammunition and weaponry was believed to be destined for Baloch rebels. Pakistan responded by expelling and declaring persona non grata the Iraqi Ambassador Hikmat Sulaiman and other consular staff. In a letter to President Nixon on 14 February, Bhutto blamed India and Afghanistan, along with Iraq and the Soviet Union, for involvement in a "conspiracy ... [with] subversive and irredentist elements which seek to disrupt Pakistan's integrity."[131]


According to author Mark Perry, CIA memos revealed that in 2007 and 2008 Israeli agents posed as American spies and recruited Pakistani citizens to work for Jundallah (BLA affiliate) and carried out false flag operations against Iran.[9]

The Baloch Society of North America (BSO-NA) was a Baloch lobbying group founded in 2004 in Washington D.C.[132] by Dr. Wahid Baloch, a graduate of Bolan Medical College who had gone into self-imposed exile in the United States in 1992. Between 2004 and 2014, his group had been trying to gain American (as well as Israeli) support for the independence of Balochistan. He held meetings with several American Congressmen and allegedly had meetings with several CIA officials. Dr. Baloch had long claimed that the Pakistani state was committing acts of genocide against the Baloch people, and that Islamabad's aim was to plunder the province's vast mineral resources. In January 2014 he released a letter appealing to the United States and Israel for direct assistance in preventing an alleged "killing spree of Baloch people" by the "Pakistani army".[133]

In May 2014, Dr. Baloch disbanded the BSO-NA, claiming that the War of Independence of Balochistan was actually a "war of independence of Khans, Nawabs and Sardars". He has since formed the Baloch Council of North America (BCN), which has dedicated itself to working with all democratic and nationalist forces in Pakistan to secure Baloch rights through democratic, nonviolent means, within the federation of Pakistan.[134]

Soviet Union

Syed F. Hasnat alleged that during the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989), the Soviet Union helped establish the Balochistan Liberation Army[135] which chiefly operates from Southern Afghanistan.[116]


The US State Department's official policy rejects secessionist forces in the Pakistani part of Balochistan, in support of the country's "unity and territorial integrity".[136] The US has, however, expressed concerns over human rights issues and urged parties in Pakistan to "work out their differences peaceably and through a valid political process."[136] In February 2010 a Jundullah leader captured by Iran, Abdulmalek Rigi, alleged on Iranian TV "that the US had promised to provide" Jundullah "with military equipment and a base in Afghanistan, near the Iranian border" for its fight against Iran. Rigi did not mention assistance in fighting Pakistan (which Iran accuses of backing the Jundullah, according to the BBC). The US has denied links with Jundullah, and according to the BBC, "it is not possible" to determine whether Abdolmalek Rigi "made the statement freely or under duress."[137]

In late 2011, the Balochistan conflict became the focus of dialogue on a new US South Asia strategy brought up by some US congressmen, who said they were frustrated over Pakistan's alleged continued support to the Afghan Taliban, which they said led to the continuation of the War in Afghanistan. Although this alternative to the Obama Administration's Af-Pak policy has generated some interest, "its advocates clearly do not yet have broad support".[138]

In the 1980s the CIA, the Iraqi Intelligence Service, Pakistani Sunni extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, and the Mujahedin e-Kalq supported a Baluchi tribal uprising against Iran.[4] A February 2011 article by Selig S. Harrison of the Center for International Policy called for supporting "anti-Islamist forces" along the southern Arabian Sea coast, including "Baluch insurgents fighting for independence from Pakistan", as a means of weakening the "rising tide of anti-American passion" in Pakistan and heading off any alliance between Islamabad and Beijing – Pakistan having granted China access to a naval base at Gwadar.[139]

Human rights issues

In the period 2003 to 2012, it is estimated that 8000 people were abducted by Pakistani security forces in Balochistan.[33] In 2008 alone, an estimated 1102 Baloch people disappeared.[140] There have also been reports of torture.[141] An increasing number of bodies "with burn marks, broken limbs, nails pulled out, and sometimes with holes drilled in their heads" are being found on roadsides as the result of a "kill and dump" campaign conducted by Pakistani security forces, particularly Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Frontier Corps (FC) – which, until the 9/11/01 World Trade Center attacks, had sided with the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.[142][143] In July 2011, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a report on illegal disappearances in Balochistan and identified ISI and Frontier Corps as the perpetrators. The Pakistan Rangers are also alleged to have committed a vast number of human rights violations in the region.[144] No one has been held responsible for the crimes.[142]

Islamist parties such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jamaat-e-Islami have systematically targeted Shia Muslims in Balochistan, with about 600 being killed in attacks in recent years.[33]

About 800 non-Baloch settlers (mostly Punjabis) and anti-BLA Balochis have been killed by Baloch militant groups since 2006.[33][34][35]

During a camp at Broken Chair, Geneva, Baloch Republican Party (BRP) leader Sher Baz Bugti alleged that Baloch youth, women and children were kept in "torture cells".[145] BRP chief Brahumdagh Bugti called upon human rights organisation, including the United Nations, to take steps to stop the alleged "Baloch genocide".[145]

Sunni Extremism and Religious Persecution of Zikris

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and other independent national and international media sources, the efforts of Pakistan governmental agencies in countering Baloch nationalism, as well as the activities of terrorist organisations such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Pakistani Taliban, have produced a surge in religious extremism in Balochistan. Hindus, Shias (including Hazaras) and Zikris have been targeted, resulting in the migration of over 300,000 of them from Baluchistan.[146][147][148][149]

Supreme Court investigation

There are more than 5,000 cases of 'forced disappearances' in Balochistan.[150] Many are innocent and stuck in Pakistan's slow court system whilst other are in prison awaiting charges on a range of things such as gun smuggling and robbery.[151] The chief justice of an apex court of Pakistan asked about the situation and said it was going out of control in Balochistan.[150] The Supreme Court is currently investigating the "missing persons" and issued an arrest warrant for the former Military Dictator Pervez Musharaff. Furthermore, the Chief Justice of the court said the military must act under the government's direction and follow well-defined parameters set by the Constitution.[152]

Missing people found

In June 2011, the prime minister was informed that 41 missing people had returned to their homes, false cases against 38 had been withdrawn and several others had been traced. The PM urged police to trace the missing people and help them to return to their homes.[153]

Supreme Court orders

The Supreme Court apex court headed by Justice Iqbal decided ordered the government to the grant of subsistence allowance to the affected families. Justice Iqbal advised families not to lose hope. He said the issue of missing persons had become a chronic problem and, therefore, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, constituted on the orders of the apex court, should be made permanent.[154]

Affect of and remedies for the insurgency

Development issues

The government of Pakistan has repeatedly stated its intention to bring industrialisation to Balochistan, and continues to claim that progress has been made by way of the "Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan" package of political and economic reforms issued in 2009.[155] This is challenged by Baloch nationalist groups, who argue the benefits of these policies have not accrued to native Baloch residents of the province. Baloch nationalist groups continue to highlight the extraction of natural resources, especially natural gas, from the province, without discernible economic benefit to the Baloch people. Nonetheless, the government of Pakistan continues to insist that industrial zones are planned along the new Gawadar-Karachi highway. According to the government, this development is envisaged to bring accelerated progress in the future for the Baloch.

In February 2006 three Chinese engineers assisting in the construction of a local cement factory were shot and killed in an attack on their automobile,[156] while another 11 injured in a car bomb attack by BLA. China recalled its engineers working on the project in Balochistan. The progress in the hydro-power sector has been slow since then.

The people of the region have largely maintained a nomadic lifestyle marked by poverty and illiteracy.[157] The indigenous people are continuously threatened by war and other means of oppression, which have resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives over many years.[158][159][160] Presently, according to Amnesty International, Baluch activists, politicians and student leaders are among those that are being targeted in forced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrests and cases of torture and other ill-treatment.[161]

Economic effects and shortage of skilled workers and goods

The chief minister of the province has said

"A large number of professors, teachers, engineers, barbers and masons are leaving the province for fear of attacks, This inhuman act will push the Baloch nation at least one century back. The Baloch nation will never forgive whoever is involved in target killings... He said the government has approved three university campuses, three medical colleges and hospitals for Turbat, Mastung, Naseerabad and Loralai districts but there was shortage of teachers in the area".[162]

Rice traders from Punjab have also been killed in target killing, this has resulting in higher prices of foods items in Balochistan. Almost 40 people of non-Balochi ethnic groups were killed in 2009.[163]

MPA personal development budget

Funding for Balochistan's annual development programme in 2010–11 was 27 billion rupees, as compared to 13 billion in 2007–08. This allowed each Member of the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan a personal development budget of 180 million for his or her constituency, with the figure increasing to 250 million in 2011–2012. However, critics argue that development funding is not a fix for deep political issues, and that MPAs have no incentive to find political solutions with the insurgents when they believe they will receive more funding as long as the insurgency continues. There have also been allegations that MPAs are exploiting the PSDP programme to arrange kickback schemes and other forms of corruption.[164]

Gadani Energy Corridor

Four coal-fired power plants will be built Gadani, creating a power corridor in Balochistan based on the Houston Energy Corridor. This was announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a visit to the region. The Gadani Power Park and it is expected to generate 5200 MW.[165][166] Some nationalist groups objected to the project, saying they had not been consulted and instead favoured expanding access to electricity in the province rather than increasing capacity. However, Nawaz Sharif's PMLN party is the largest party in the Provincial Assembly.

Farm subsidy

The Federal government announced it would transfer Rs 4 billion subsidy to Provincial Government to be passed onto farmers in Balochistan to promote for tube-wells. The Provincial Government announced it would spend further Rs 3 billion to support the Federal Programme.[153] However, high levels of corruption amongst civil servants and senior ministers may mean the common man only gets partial benefit.

Army Education City at Sui

In January 2011 then Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, announced the establishment of Education City in Sui. The military said it had built colleges in Balochistan, such as Balochistan Institute of Technical Education (BITE) and the Gwadar Institute of Technical Education (GITE) with approximately 1,673 graduates. The military-administrated institutions are less corrupt than civilian-managed ones. Around 22,786 Baloch students attend military-run educational institutions.[167]

See also


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