Shawn Forbes reports on army operations in Balochistan. -- BTV Online
A former provincial fisheries minister, who is a direct victim of Pakistan’s terror in France-sized Balochistan, has said both China and Pakistan have evil designs to snatch Gwadar port – the crown jewel of Asia -- from the Baloch people.
In an interview with this scribe, Kachkol Ali, recalled Chinese officials had directly approached him more than a decade back when he was leader of the opposition in the Balochistan assembly to insist that Gwadar port is Islamabad’s sole discretion. Kachkol Ali’s son son Nabeel Ahmad, 21, was forcibly disappeared by the ISI last year on August 30 – the International Day of the Disappeared -- and his two houses in Turbat were illegally occupied by the paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers two years ago in violation of the Laws of War.
Gwadar is being developed as naval base to become part of China’s “string of pearls” bases on the rim of the Indian Ocean and will be connected to Kashgar with road and rail called China Pakistan Economic Corridor as part of President Xi Jinping’s vision of a Maritime Silk Route. The Chinese president signed 50 MoUs work $46 billion when he visited Islamabad in April.
“I remember a Chinese official came and visited with me in my office in 2004. At that time, I was leader of the opposition and a three Chinese engineers were killed by the BLF (Baloch Liberation Front) in Gwadar. He discussed with me the issue of Gwadar port. His line of argument was that the Chinese authorities had an agreement with the federal government in Islamabad and that the ports were a federal subject and so on and so forth,” Ali recalled. “But I categorically refuted his argument. I stressed without Baloch consent, we would not allow the port and its affiliated networks construction (roads and railway tracks). Up to now the issue has not been ironed out and the situation is deteriorating, day by day.”
Kachkol Ali explains that the plea of the Baloch nationalists is that they are owners of the Hormuz waters and Gwadar port, while Islamabad says that Balochistan is a province of Pakistan and that ports are listed in the federal legislative list of the 1973 Pakistan Constitution. “The Baloch counter the argument as they say that their homeland was occupied by dent of military invasion and aggression by Pakistan on March 27, 1948 and that they were not a signatory to the 1973 Pakistan Constitution.”
The former minister gave a brief history of what happened when Pakistan adopted the 1973 Constitution under slain premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “It would be pertinent to state here that the father of Baloch liberation movement the late Nawab Khair Bux Marri had opposed the 1973 Constitution. At the time, the 1973 constitution was tabled for discussion, debate and approval in the lower house of Pakistan’s parliament, two Baloch members Nawab Marri and Dr Abdul Hayee rejected the document and refused to sign it. The precise reason they forwarded for refusing to sign was that they said they challenge the very idea that Balochistan was a unit of Pakistan.”
According to Kachkol Ali, there has been a “perpetual conflict” between the Baloch and Pakistan since 1948, when Pakistan committed crime of aggression against Balochistan. “We Baloch understand our struggle for liberation is within the framework of the UN`s 1960 Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and People, which inter alia states: ‘The subjection of people to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the U.N. and is an impediment to world peace and co-operation.” He said in the UN charter, the right of self -determination has implied the right of people of a given territory to decide the status of their homeland by voting for independence or statehood, integration with another state, or some form of political association with another state (such as autonomy within that state).
Kachkol Ali, who is now a leader of the Baloch National Movement, said when it came to Gwadar port, the crux of the matter was that neither Pakistan nor China is sincere with the Baloch. He added “precisely for that reason” Baloch have a bitter experience with China in the Saindak copper and gold project where the Chinese took away 75 percent of the profits and gave only two percent to Balochistan, while the rest of the profits went into the pockets of Islamabad. “It is pertinent to note that Balochistan got two percent only on paper because in actual reality Pakistan did not give even that small share to the Baloch.”
The army-backed Balochistan chief minister Abdul Malik accepts what Kachkol Ali says on Saindak. In an interview, he called the Chinese run Saindak project “the worst form of exploitation.” The Saindak mine was estimated to have ore reserves of 412 million tons containing on average 0.5 gram of gold per ton and 1.5 grams of silver per ton. Local reporter Yousaf Ajab Baloch in an article in The Daily Times wrote the government of Pakistan in 2002 invited foreign investors to arrange funding for the project and awarded the mining project to the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) Ltd under a 10-year lease, which was extended for another five years. “The minerals valuing billions of dollars are being swindled since the Chinese company invested only 23 million dollars and, in return, it holds the entire resources of the Saindak project, with no independent monitoring of the project,” Baloch wrote.
Kachkol Ali reiterated by virtue of past observation and experiences and behavior of Pakistan and China, Baloch expect nothing good from either of the two countries. He said copper and gold being minerals were a provincial subject in the concurrent list of the constitution of Pakistan but even then the theoretical two percent share meant for the Baloch was denied to Balochistan. “Then how can we trust the duo, namely Pakistan and China, on the issue of port which is a federal subject in the 1973 Constitution and believe the Baloch would be beneficiaries of the Gwadar port. To me, this will never happen.”
He said there was a severe deficit of trust between Balochistan and Pakistan as Islamabad had many a time deceived the Baloch who are plain and simple people who followed traditional honor codes. “In actual reality, Pakistan means Punjab. The population of Punjab is a big problem for them and the establishment has nefarious designs on how to marginalize the population of the Baloch so as to shift the surplus population from the Punjab to Balochistan. For this reason, it is their planning to change the demography of Baloch,” Ali said, adding, “To some extent they have succeeded in this conspiracy because Pakistan establishment with mala fide intentions have settled a huge Afghan refugee population in Balochistan. In this respect Baloch, have voiced their grievances by daily protests and demonstrations, demanding that the Afghan refugee be sent back to Afghanistan, but the establishment deliberately does not pay any attention to this crucial issue of Balochistan.”
Just last week when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif convened an All Parties Conference to discuss the China Pakistan Economic Corridor route pro-Islamabad Senator Hasil Bizenjo, who believes “Gwadar should be connected with whole of Pakistan,” –much against the wishes of the Baloch of Balochistan-- was publicly castigated by his coalition partner Mahmud Khan Achakzai in the Balochistan government when Bizenjo demanded that the Afghan refugees be sent back to Afghanistan. The CPEC project is headed by Major General (Retd) Zahir Shah, who reports to Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister for planning, development and reform.
Kachkol Ali says Pakistan and China are also not considering the principles which had been laid down by the UN, according to which any development has to benefit the local and indigenous population. “Realization of the potentials of a human person in harmony with the community is the central purpose of any development. The human person should be regarded as the subject and not the object of the development process,” he said.
Kachkol Ali said Pakistan has decided, by hook or crook, to operate the Gwadar port which was clear by army chief General Raheel Sharif vow to crush the internal and external obstacles with regard to China Pakistan Economic Corridor. He said under such circumstances Islamabad or its toadies in Balochistan who are defending the CPEC are trying to befool the Baloch people. The former minister, who is also a book worm, said sarcastically, “I repeat the words of King Lear to the blind Gloucester from William Shakespeare play. ‘You don’t need eyes to see how the world works. Look with your ears.’”
In furtherance of General Sharif’s vow, Kachkol Ali said Pakistani security forces have heightened military operations in Kalat, Mastung, Panjgur, Awaran and Mashkay. He said these actions are a clear-cut and gross violation of the Geneva conventions and Rome Statute and falls under the classification of crimes against humanity as they are brazen violation of the Laws of War.
Kachkol Ali had to flee Pakistan and seek asylum in Norway after he registered a case against the intelligence services who abducted and later tortured and killed three of his clients from his lawyer’s chamber on April 3, 2009 in Turbat. The victims Ghulam Mohammed Baloch and Lala Munir, were president and vice president of the BNM, respectively, while their comrade Sher Mohammed Baloch was a leader of the Baloch Republican Party. Their bodies were thrown by army helicopter in Pidarak, 26 miles from Turbat.