To the west and north, the province is bounded by Afghanistan and Iran, each of which has its own Baloch population; the Pashtuns who predominate in the northern part of the province also spill across international borders. The province’s location at this explosive geopolitical crossroads – as well as its vast mineral resources and valuable coastline – have focused the anxieties of international powers near and far, suggesting that a new Great Game may take Balochistan as its target. Tehran worries about what conflicts in Balochistan will mean for its own Sistan-Balochistan province, whose Baloch population has been brutally suppressed by the state. The Americans are concerned about the Taliban who have taken refuge in the province’s Pashtun belt and the leaders of the Afghan Taliban long believed to be operating out of Quetta. Washington is also concerned about China’s increasing involvement in the area, most visibly the deep-water port at Gwadar, built with Chinese investment and intended to provide an Indian Ocean foothold for Beijing.
But for the government of Pakistan – and particularly for its army – Balochistan is first and foremost the epicentre of a stubbornly secular Baloch national rebellion whose endurance poses a threat to the state’s ideological and geographical coherence.
Balochistan is a looking glass for Pakistan today, reflecting the tortuous struggle to imagine a national community. How the state handles the rising tide of Baloch nationalism will also determine the future of Pakistan’s nationalist project.
And, in case, one needs more reminding about the Army that owns a state, here’s a story from Antiwar.com about the military attacking civilians in Fata’s Orakzai Agency, killing 61 people.
Pakistani warplanes attacked a number of sites in the Orakzai Agency today, including a mosque, a school, and a religious seminary, killing 61. Security officials initially labeled all 61 “suspected militants,” though locals later conceded that a great many of them were actually innocent civilians.