Will the Punjab collapse?

#1
Via Col Lang Straw in the wind - FB Ali
Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s biggest province, Punjab, was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards on Jan 4. The treacherous deed done, the guard (belonging to an elite police commando unit) calmly threw down his weapon and surrendered (as prearranged with his fellow guards, according to reports). He said he had done it because the governor had publicly demanded the repeal of the country’s blasphemy law (often misused to settle personal scores). A few days earlier, religious parties had held countrywide demonstrations and enforced shutdowns to protest against the governor’s outspoken criticism of the law; one cleric even offered a reward for his assassination.

Almost as bad as the killing was the reaction to it. Respected clerics issued statements praising the murderer, and forbidding Muslims to attend the governor’s funeral. Not one of the slain governor’s colleagues criticized the incitement or the inciters; in fact, the country’s interior minister hastened to tell the media that, if he came across a blasphemer, he would shoot him himself! When the assassin was taken to the courthouse for his arraignment he was mobbed by hundreds of admirers, including lawyers, who garlanded him and showered him with rose petals.

When the neocons who controlled the Bush administration took advantage of 9/11 to launch their war to tame and reshape the Muslim world, their PR people tried to emphasize that it was not a war against Muslims or Islam. Of course, in the Muslim world it was taken as exactly that. In reaction, the influence of the radicals and fundamentalists was enhanced, since they claimed to be the true defenders of the faith. Muslim societies became increasingly radicalized, and jihad against the new “crusaders” began to gather more and more adherents. The trap that Osama bin Laden had set had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams; the radicalization that he himself had failed to engineer, the neocons had achieved for him.

For several years now I have been warning here that the biggest danger for the US and the West in the region lies in the possibility of Pakistan falling under the control of Islamists. And that the war in Afghanistan is pushing Pakistan in that direction. While acknowledging Pakistan’s importance, and trying to shore it up with billions in aid, the US refuses to see that the policies it is pursuing in Afghanistan and Pakistan run counter to each other, and actually create a serious risk that it will lose both countries.

Others also see this clearly. Anatol Lieven, a noted British scholar and journalist, who knows Pakistan and the region intimately, wrote this in a recent article:

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the survival of Pakistan, not Afghanistan, is the most important issue for Western and global security in that region. With six times Afghanistan's population, plus nuclear weapons, a highly trained 500,000-man army and a huge diaspora (especially in Britain), Pakistan would increase the international terrorist threat by orders of magnitude if it collapsed........

If the United States continues this strategy indefinitely, the consequences for Pakistan could be dire. It has been argued (by the British military chief, Gen. Sir David Richards, for example, in Prospect magazine) that it is necessary to defeat the Afghan Taliban in order to protect Pakistan from Islamist extremism. The truth is almost exactly the opposite. More than any other factor, it is our campaign in Afghanistan that has radicalized Pakistanis and turned many of them not only against the West but against their own government and ruling system. In the worst case, the consequence of Western actions could be to destroy Pakistan as a state and produce a catastrophe that would reduce the problems in Afghanistan to insignificance by comparison.


In this article Lieven also suggests a practicable way out for the West in Afghanistan through a negotiated settlement that would preserve important Western security interests. However, the generals in Afghanistan, and their backers in Washington, are still chasing the chimera of a military victory. Recently, trial balloons have been floated with talk of US troops undertaking operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas if the Pakistanis don’t move against the insurgents there. Lieven has written about this in another recent article that he titled A March of Folly in Pakistan.

Pakistan has internal problems enough, even without the pressures of the Afghan war. Combined, they are pushing the country to the edge. The only entity that lends some stability to the country is the military; every other institution is hollowed out. Governor Taseer’s assassination highlights how fragile even the military’s structure may be. After all, its soldiers come from the same stock, the same background, as Taseer’s assassin. What is their breaking point? All it takes is one crack to start the fracturing. What is the breaking point of the weakest link?
I fear the former Brigadier is right. 2010 was a very bad year in the Punjab, the place is falling apart.

I've long said there'll be no military victory in this war while the enemy retains secure rear basing south of The Durand. There's really no prospect of Pindi shutting these down, it's just not in their interest, the Haqqanis etc are a strategic asset. Drone strikes and Pak Army actions in FATA really don't play well with the average Punjabi i.e. the main population base of the Pak Army.

One of the predictions from US commentators at the end of last year was a frustrated Barry with an eye on 2014 would extend the ground war into FATA. This is perhaps what should have been risked, if briefly, after 9-11 as our enemies fled into the embrace of the ISI but now it may be a disaster. Our long Pashtun war has left Pakistan in a far more fragile state, such an escalation might be the last straw. In trying to snuff out the talibans in lawless FATA we might set the Punjab ablaze. The religious parties aren't popular but offended nationalism is creating the conditions for a revolutionary putsch by Islamists supported by factions in Pindi.

An increasingly heavy footprint in Afghanistan isn't great from this point of view either and a precipitous withdrawal in 2015 also carries risks to Pakistan. The lesser evil may be going long and light.
 
#4
The majority of the Sikhs are in India.

Here is an interesting commentary on Pakistan by MJ Akbar, who is the editor of an Indian newspaper.

Pakistan: The Siege Within
The Sikhs are one of the groups the Punjabi Taliban target, the Shi'a of course and other minorities but also the Sufi tinged Islam of tradition in the region.

I think the odds are against a Deobandi revolution in Pakistan but who would have bet on Lenin's unpopular but daring Bolsheviks or Khomeini's gloomy revolution.
 
#5
The Sikhs are one of the groups the Punjabi Taliban target, the Shi'a of course and other minorities but also the Sufi tinged Islam of tradition in the region.

I think the odds are against a Deobandi revolution in Pakistan but who would have bet on Lenin's unpopular but daring Bolsheviks or Khomeini's gloomy revolution.
All one could say is Wah Guru de Khalsa! Wah Guru de Fateh!

Now, don't ask me what that means, since I am not too hot in Punjabi.
 
#6
It is hard to know what the true picture is in the land of the pure. Do not forget it always has been muddy and people are resilient, very much used to hardship and fending for themselves. The Punjab is unique in that it has approx. 60% of the overall population and perhaps is about of equal importance in terms of GDP, esp. farming and some industries around Lahore. It also is home to most of the Pak Armed Forces for historical reasons. The Punjab and its people have dominated the country since it came into being, whether the first leader was a Bombay born, Urdu speaker Mohajir (lit. refugee) lawyer or not.

From the bottom up, the issue is that Pakistan lacks a national fabric, something that ties people together. If you travel through that country and talk to people, you realise that they live a tribal life as part of a feudal system. Ask any layman in Lahore where he is from, he will revert back to his great-grandfathers village (more often than not that is across the border in India) and they do think of themselves as coming from this tribe, this village. Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan is a concept and isn't of great importance at all. This is the same across the country, from Balochistan to Gilgit and Skardu.

In Karachi the Sindhis have vanished into interior Sind(h), the Pashtoons battle it out with the Mohahjirs across the city and there is no end in sight. Add to that the sectarian issues and the less lack of interest of the west in tackling Pakistan’s establishment head on and you are sitting on a time bomb. The reality is that the country will implode before the Punjab implodes. I would think that India has very little interest in anything that distracts them from economic growth and they will be working the back channels to find a solution that might proof more fruitful than the half hearted attempts of the US.

There was a very good Doha debate on the BBC this past weekend (hosted by Tim Sebastian, formerly BBC's Hard Talk) about whether education is worthless without freedom of speech. One of the people on the panel was Tariq Ramadan who made a very valuable point in that many autocratic regimes where Islam plays a major role (in short the Arab Peninsula, North Africa, Iran and Pak before Gen. Musharraf I reckon), have told generations of people going through their universities to forgo freedom of speech and instead study to make a living and and not raise up to the elite that controls them. His point was that this may have prolonged the process to a more equal society. How do you expect people to raise up and change their countries for the better, if they grow up in a system where they cannot question or challenge anyone (incl. their teachers) in authority? To make the link to Pakistan: Rather than spending 60% of their GDP directly or indirectly into their armed forces, they have to build schools and introduce family planning. The worst that can happen is more generations of people who’s mind can be moulded and controlled by the people with the intent and money to do so.
 
#7
It is hard to know what the true picture is in the land of the pure. Do not forget it always has been muddy and people are resilient, very much used to hardship and fending for themselves. The Punjab is unique in that it has approx. 60% of the overall population and perhaps is about of equal importance in terms of GDP, esp. farming and some industries around Lahore. It also is home to most of the Pak Armed Forces for historical reasons. The Punjab and its people have dominated the country since it came into being, whether the first leader was a Bombay born, Urdu speaker Mohajir (lit. refugee) lawyer or not.

From the bottom up, the issue is that Pakistan lacks a national fabric, something that ties people together. If you travel through that country and talk to people, you realise that they live a tribal life as part of a feudal system. Ask any layman in Lahore where he is from, he will revert back to his great-grandfathers village (more often than not that is across the border in India) and they do think of themselves as coming from this tribe, this village. Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan is a concept and isn't of great importance at all. This is the same across the country, from Balochistan to Gilgit and Skardu.
I'd agree with a lot of that, certainly the 'muddy' bit, after the flood.
Apart from the raging sectarianism and regional loyalties, the main problem appears to be that Pakistan kept all the worst bits of the old British Raj government, but missed all the best bits. It kept the petty bureaucracy, and cumbersome legal system, but failed to develop any kind of 'public service' ethic. In all honesty, its only the Military that keeps it all together, and they spend most of their time bickering with the judiciary. They spend the rest of their time looking over their shoulder at India, wondering when the giant on their doorstep is going to lose patience with them.The 'Civil' government is totally corrupt and incompetent, and the public have learned not to rely on it for anything. When things go bad (like the floods) they rely on foreign assistance, local charity, relatives or the deeply suspect political/religious 'Charities'.

The country is still run on medieval lines. Most of the land is owned by rich landlords, who rule their serfs with a rod of iron, paying no taxes, and robbing the public purse through bribery and nepotism. The country is skint, the flooding exposed the rotten infrastructure and worthless administration, and the rich elites have turned away from the public to bicker about minor legal and political issues.
If the public weren't such devout Muslims, the place should have fallen to a Maoist insurgency years ago.

I don't think the issue is whether the Punjab will collapse. The whole country is ripe for disintegration, and I wouldn't like to guess how long its got. One more big disaster like an earthquake or flood could do it, or it could gently descend into tribal warlordism.
 
#8
#9
With nuclear weaponry! Wnat a pleasant prospect that is.
Indeed. But if it did go that way, they would probably use them on those shifty buggers in the next valley over than on us. They hate their next door neighbours much more than us.

I'd say it's more likely that, just like the old Soviet arsenal, the Pakistan nuclear programme would moulder away without maintenance until the US or UN buy the radioactive bits up for disposal.
 
#10
Indeed. But if it did go that way, they would probably use them on those shifty buggers in the next valley over than on us. They hate their next door neighbours much more than us.

I'd say it's more likely that, just like the old Soviet arsenal, the Pakistan nuclear programme would moulder away without maintenance until the US or UN buy the radioactive bits up for disposal.
I think there was a thread recently that contained a quote from a Indian government official on the possibility of nuclear war with Pakistan,

"We can afford to lose 100 million people in a war. Can Pakistan?"

In war as in everything else, size does matter.
 
#11
The whole place is a corrupt tinderbox-and we and the Yanks are obliged to support it.No wonder the Indians(no slouches themselves) got rid of it,at Partition.
 
#12
I'd say it's more likely that, just like the old Soviet arsenal, the Pakistan nuclear programme would moulder away without maintenance until the US or UN buy the radioactive bits up for disposal.
When Pakistan finally implodes, I very much doubt that the debris will resemble the fractured Soviet Union. In the ensuing chaos, much as in Iraq, everything of value will disappear.

B
 
#13
I don't think anyone in the Govt of India would think of a nuclear war with any country.

It could have been a statement that Pakistan could contemplate a nuclear war with India.

India's clear cut policy is that it will not resort to First Strike, whatever that means!

If someone wishes to wage war, it is but natural that one has to defend and then the aggressor face the consequences.

India is too preoccupied on the economic front to be distracted.
 
#14
I don't think anyone in the Govt of India would think of a nuclear war with any country.

It could have been a statement that Pakistan could contemplate a nuclear war with India.

India's clear cut policy is that it will not resort to First Strike, whatever that means!

If someone wishes to wage war, it is but natural that one has to defend and then the aggressor face the consequences.

India is too preoccupied on the economic front to be distracted.
I was not trying to say that India will get it's retaliation in first. I believe the Indian minister's remark is the diplomatic-speak for, "Come at me, bro!"
 
#15
I was not trying to say that India will get it's retaliation in first. I believe the Indian minister's remark is the diplomatic-speak for, "Come at me, bro!"
I understood that was the intent.

I merely thought I should state the view that is held here.

I had written that Indian policy is No First Strike, whatever that means.

Actually, India has to merely wait for Pakistan to explode/ implode.

There are too many contradictions in Pakistan and they cannot be resolved.

It is like that cartoon I saw many years ago, where donkeys were pulling in different directions and going nowhere.

Pakistan is a country that is foundationed on power struggle.

The Punjabis, who are the sons of the soil and are the tower of strength of the Army, found themselves losing their pristine place after Independence, since the were the feudal class, basically illiterate but OK for joining the Army with abundance of money. However, the Mohajirs, the refugees from India and totally rootless and without any grassroot identification with the country of Pakistan, apart from being Muslims, found themselves in an enviable position. And yet, they being educated and having been bureaucrats, in governance, in the judiciary and captains of commerce, garnered all the posts of governance, judiciary as also did well in commerce. The Mojahir, thus, became the destiny makers of Pakistan. The Mohajirs, to make themselves relevant to the new land of Pakistan, pandered to the idea of Islam being paramount and the sine qua non for the being of Pakistan. Along with that they imposed their language Urdu and made it identified as a Muslim language and thus, the language of Pakistan! This way they enhanced their relevance and supremacy in Pakistan much to the chagrin of the actual sons of the soil, more so, the Punjabis, who were the backbone of the military.


This was obviously not appreciated by the Punjabis, the others communities of Pakistan being immaterial as they were too busy with their tribal and feudal infighting. The Army found the Kashmir issue a manna from heaven and mucked in to show that they are the saviour and were the top instrument for the sovereignty of Pakistan. Having ensured that Kashmir is bifurcated, they made it their casus belli and added to the perpetual relevance of the being of Pakistan.

To be capable of challenging India, which became an adversary owing to historical animosity, Pakistan joined the CENTO and SEATO so as to get modern military weaponry as aid gratis.

All this was contrary to the address on 11 Aug 1947 to the Pakistan Consituent Assembly by MA Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, who visualised a secular Pakistan.

With the raison d'etre for Pakistan being the religion i.e. Islam, it gave a fillip to the Muslim clergy and they became a force to reckon with during Zia's tenure. Zia played up Islam to legitimise his illegal regime that was floundering after the killing of the popular leader Bhutto and crushing democracy for a long period. Clever that he was, he organised the Mujahideen for the US, to throw out the Soviets from Afghanistan. Having done so, instead of controlling the Mujahideens, he gave them a free hand to cause chaos in Afghanistan as also in Kashmir. The ground made by Zia, encouraged radical Islamists of the world wherein OBL and his ilk dug in and spread terrorism worldwide, including the dastardly act on the WTC.

It was a wake up call for the US to realise what a horrendous Frankenstein they helped Zia to create, but it was too late.

All this has led to this cul de sac in Afghanistan!

Quit and be damned for making the world dangerous, don't quit and still be damned that it was but your own baby as the Pakistanis keep harping about when they put out the alms bowl to be filled up!

It is not only the Punjabis who are in the vortex, but the whole state of Pakistan where subnationalism has become a Holy Cause, be it Balochistan, Sindhis, Saraikis, Balwaristanis of Shia Northern Area or the folks in NWFP and FATA.

I marvel at their audacity of biting the hand that feeds by not acting in concert in the badlands of the NW Frontier!
 
#16
I think there was a thread recently that contained a quote from a Indian government official on the possibility of nuclear war with Pakistan,

"We can afford to lose 100 million people in a war. Can Pakistan?"

In war as in everything else, size does matter.
I don't find that comforting, that would leave 90 million, some heavily pipped folk in Pindi could live with that. I've been reading the opinions of various retired Pak Amy officers for the past thirty years. Some tend to be disturbingly sanguine about a nuclear exchange as their geography is lumpier than the idolatrous Hindu state and favor putting their nukes on a US style hair trigger. They also pretty confident in retaining a second strike capability. I don't think they are "playing the madman" either, I recall what the psychotic buggers did in Bangladesh. And there's a logic to their desire to stab the big red button first, even with the insanely generous backing they've received from DC they've little chance of holding the Indians off in a conventional war.

From PAKISTAN’S NUCLEAR POSTURE: SECURITY AND SURVIVABILITY by Peter R. Lavoy
...
A key point that emerges from this understanding of the close connection of conventional
military force and nuclear force in Pakistan’s deterrence strategy is the realization that escalation
dominance at all rungs of the military ladder—from low-intensity conflict to conventional war
and all the way to nuclear war—is deemed absolutely essential for the weaker power to survive.
Pakistani defense planners firmly believe that if they allow India to seize the advantage at any
level of violence—from sub-conventional through conventional to nuclear warfare—then India is
sure to exploit it, and all will be lost.
...
Kidwai elaborated: “Nuclear weapons are aimed solely at India. In case that deterrence fails, they
will be used if:
a. India attacks Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territory (space threshold);
b. India destroys a large part either of its land or air forces (military threshold);
c. India proceeds to the economic strangling of Pakistan (economic strangling);
d. India pushes Pakistan into political destabilization or creates a large-scale internal
subversion in Pakistan (domestic destabilization).”

...
My bold, that's Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai, head of the SPD, speaking in 02. Rather a lot of Punjabis's are quick to see the hand of RAW in every suicide bombing. A disintegrating Pakistani state would make Pindi a very dangerous beast indeed, 71 involved something over a million dead, we could well be looking at a couple of hundred million dead and a wrecked Indian economy.

This is also a military with as long a history of employing terrorist tactics, if Pakistan went down in flames Pindi supplying some dangerous beards like LeT or the Haqqanis with a nuclear capability is entirely possible.

All the smug certainties of Cold War deterrence disintegrate when you look closely at Pindi, they really aren't a rational actor like cunning Qom, they face a genuine existential threat from India. Our leaders should start to realize the irresolvable Israel/Pal squabble is almost irrelevant in the 21st century and Kabul is a sideshow, avoiding a Pakistani meltdown is what needs their attention.
 
#17
sort of pace that could actually do with a maoist takeover:(
most of the politcal infrastructre is rotten to the corp the religious don't hurt and feudal landlors are not really going to be part of the sopultion.
time for the peoples courts :)
 
#18
Didn't Enoch Powell forsee this about 40 years ago?
Who was it in the 1990s that came with the idea that the only way to stop the world AIDS epidemic was by effective contraception?
I suppose we are all a bit too PC to voice the essential truth.
 
#19
My bold, that's Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai, head of the SPD, speaking in 02. Rather a lot of Punjabis's are quick to see the hand of RAW in every suicide bombing. A disintegrating Pakistani state would make Pindi a very dangerous beast indeed, 71 involved something over a million dead, we could well be looking at a couple of hundred million dead and a wrecked Indian economy.

This is also a military with as long a history of employing terrorist tactics, if Pakistan went down in flames Pindi supplying some dangerous beards like LeT or the Haqqanis with a nuclear capability is entirely possible.

All the smug certainties of Cold War deterrence disintegrate when you look closely at Pindi, they really aren't a rational actor like cunning Qom, they face a genuine existential threat from India. Our leaders should start to realize the irresolvable Israel/Pal squabble is almost irrelevant in the 21st century and Kabul is a sideshow, avoiding a Pakistani meltdown is what needs their attention.
It was interesting to remember that during the recent floods, a lot of local Pakistani news media were eagerly blaming the whole thing on the Indians. They were as convinced that the Indians had unleashed the floods from the dams on their side of the Indus as the Palestinians are convinced that Israel is sending spy vultures and trained killer sharks against them.

Both are wilfully turning a blind eye to their own failures of governance, and are looking for scapegoats for their own weaknesses. If the Indians can't be blamed for their miseries, it's natural to turn on the next closest minority, be it Shia, Hindu, Sikh or Baluchi.

That's what I suspect will finally pull the place apart- One or more big environmental disasters, and the Government will encourage the village mullahs to launch their congregations at the heretics down the road just to distract the public from the failures at the top. Eventually one or more groups, be it Punjabi, or more likely Baluchi, will just declare UDI. If South Sudan can do it, why can't they...?
 
#20
Interesting think-piece on Baluchistan, probably more dangerous than the Punjab
BBC News - Why we should worry about Balochistan
Worsening violence in Balochistan is going largely unnoticed as Pakistan slides ever deeper into crisis. The province has become the epicentre for regional warfare - threatening stability in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, reports guest columnist Ahmed Rashid.

It was a normal Sunday on 16 January in Pakistan's insurgency wracked province of Balochistan - five people were killed in targeted killings by unknown gunmen.

They included a lady health worker who was gunned down near the capital, Quetta; a taxi driver near the south-western town of Qila Saifullah shot dead in his cab; a teenage member of the Baloch Students' Organisation.

Also found was the body of Ghulam Hussain who had been kidnapped and was missing for the past eight months.

On the same day two tankers carrying fuel for Nato troops in Afghanistan were attacked near Quetta by the Taliban with rocket propelled grenades and torched.

The day before, 18 Nato tankers were burnt to cinders by gunmen operating further south.

Mayhem

As Pakistan slithers down the slope of Islamic extremism, economic meltdown and a continuing political crisis, there has been little concern for the long running insurgency in Balochistan that has picked up pace as Baloch separatists take advantage of the national chaos, while ever more ruthless retaliatory actions by the state go unchecked.


The region is heavily militarised Every day dead bodies turn up, many of them innocent victims of the mayhem in the province.

According to human rights groups, the suspected killers either belong to the intelligence services or Baloch militant groups.

Nobody claims responsibility for the spiralling death toll.

The government launched a so-called peace process 15 months ago but it is stalled.

Of the 61 steps envisaged in the package, only 15 have been implemented so far, according to Dawn newspaper.

Continue reading the main story
“
Start Quote
Balochistan has also become the epicentre for growing regional rivalries and warfare ”
End Quote The government package was introduced to reduce the alienation and growing poverty of the Baloch people.

But the lack of action by the government and army has led to a stepped up hatred for the Pakistan state by Baloch youth, a terrible climate of fear because of the targeted killings and the collapse of the local economy and jobs as business flees the province.

No organ of the state has fulfilled its promises to the Baloch people over the past two years.

Parts of eastern Balochistan suffered massively from the devastating summer floods, but aid workers say help to the Baloch farmers has been far less than in other parts of the country.

No remedies

If the government has failed, so have the courts and the army.

A year ago the Supreme Court promised to look into the cases of hundreds of Baloch who have gone missing over the years or made to disappear, but no remedies have been offered.

"Missing" usually means they have been kidnapped and then killed or kept in secret locations.


Blasts and ethnic violence have become a way of life in Balochistan province Some of those missing are political figures, others victims of criminal syndicates looking for ransom, while others are just innocent bystanders.

The Baloch accuse the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of carrying out the kidnappings.

The ISI denies the charges and says government officials are being targeted by the Baloch.

The army has made little attempt to speed up political reconciliation.

As part of the government package, the army said it would not build any more cantonments in the province, nor extend its presence.

But it has handed over its powers to the much more loathed Frontier Corps (FC), which is officered by the army.

Baloch leaders say the FC is not accountable to the province's chief minister or governor and a new demand - to place it under civilian control - has come up.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says the situation in the province is close to civil war.

In a recent report it says security has further deteriorated and 45 decomposed bodies have been found since July 2010 while 298 persons have gone missing.

There were 117 incidents of targeted killings last year, while another 119 people died in explosions and 19 in sectarian attacks.

Last October, Amnesty International called on the government to investigate the torture and killings of more than 40 Baloch political activists and leaders in what it termed ''a kill and dump policy", as the dead were usually found with a bullet wound to the head and torture marks on their bodies.


Last year's floods displaced many in Balochistan The military does not allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to monitor human rights abuses or take care of prisoners in the province.

The militants too have been wrecking havoc on non-Baloch who have been settled in the province for decades.

Human Rights Watch has documented the killings of nearly two dozen non-Baloch teachers and professors in the province over the past 12 months.

Hundreds of teachers are fleeing the province bringing the already dire educational system to a standstill.

Balochistan has seen five insurgencies since 1947, but never before have militants targeted non-Baloch residents and civilians in this manner.

On 7 December, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani survived a bomb blast on his motorcade that wounded nine people.

Nobody claimed responsibility but it is suspected that militants carried out the attack.


Balochistan has also become the epicentre for growing regional rivalries and warfare.

Leaders of the Afghan Taliban are based in Quetta, Chaman and Qila Saifullah - towns which border Afghanistan and are inhabited by Pashtun tribes.


Fuel tanks en route to Nato forces in Afghanistan are often set on fire in the province The US and Nato command in Afghanistan say the Taliban use these sanctuaries to re-arm and rest their fighters, who then attack Nato forces in southern Afghanistan.

Gen David Petraeus, the Nato commander in Afghanistan, has threatened to bomb these sanctuaries if Pakistan does not deal with them.

Iran accuses Pakistan of allowing Jundullah, an anti-Iranian government terrorist group, to maintain bases in south-western Balochistan.

On 15 December, a suicide bomber killed 30 people at the Iranian port of Chabahar which borders Balochistan.

Jundullah claimed the bombing was a revenge for the execution of its leaders by Iran, some of whom had been handed over by Pakistan to Iran last year.

Pakistan says it has ousted all members of Jundullah from its soil.

Meanwhile, sectarian killings also have an international dimension.

Sunni extremist groups, some funded by supporters in the Arabian Gulf states, are actively killing Shias in Quetta, who largely belong to the Hazara ethnic group.

The Taliban are also involved in killing Hazaras, because they say they work for the Americans in Afghanistan.

Given the political chaos in the country it is unlikely that Balochistan will receive much attention in the months ahead.

But the collapse of law and order in the province could have serious repercussions on Pakistan's territorial integrity and heighten tensions between the largest province Punjab and the smaller provinces.
 

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