By S. M. Hali

The political milieu in the strife torn province of Balochistan is undergoing a sea change. With the interim government in place, it is interesting to note that the caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan as well as the caretaker Chief Minister is Baloch while the Chief Justice of Pakistan has a Baloch domicile and the President is of Baloch origin. This quirk of fate should remove some of the grouse of the Baloch dissidents and provide an opportunity to the incumbents of the high positions to offer some respite to their troubled province and enable it to come back into the fold of the federation and drop the collision course its separatist elements had adopted.

Another major development, which can be viewed positively, is that personal rifts and jealousies have led to creation of cracks and differences between Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and United Balochistan Army (UBA).

The BLA is a separatist militant group, which was propelled into fame during the summer of 2000, after it claimed credit for a series of bombings of attacks on Pakistani authorities in response to the alleged mistreatment and neglect of the Baloch province in Pakistan. The group is currently headed by Harbyiar Marri and has an estimated strength of 500 fighters. It was declared a terrorist organization in Pakistan in April 2006, after a series of attacks conducted by the group targeting security personnel, civilians and journalists. On 17 July 2006, the government of the United Kingdom listed the BLA as a proscribed group per the Terrorism Act 2000. As a result of this designation, any person associated with the organization is barred from entering the United Kingdom. The group’s actions have also been described as terrorism by the US State Department of State.

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The BLA and UBA have been acting in tandem, creating unrest and destabilizing the province, however, the growing rivalry between the two extremist groups, is likely to deplete their resources as well weaken their resolve to foment trouble. These differences are likely to grow in days to come, especially when Khair Bux Marri becomes politically further weak. Cracks and fissures between BLA and UBA exist and are likely to grow in days to come as personal interests and jealousies between leadership are likely to create more division between the two outfits.

Previously Zarman Marri was more active on media front for projecting Balochistan issue and less inclined towards militancy. Harbiyar’s lust for power and desire to exercise absolute control over BLA, with a view to project himself as the absolute leaders of BLA, compelled Zarman to establish his own militant outfit-UBA.

Formation of UBA has diluted the collective power of BLA. Reports indicate that UBA has been formed with due approval and blessings of Khair Bux Marri.

Differences are widening between the two outfits led by Marri brothers. Dispute over weapons & ammunition has also become cause of rift between BLA and UBA. Ferraris who joined UBA took along with them weaponsammunition while arms dumped in Kahan area were also taken by UBA led militants. Harbiyar tried his best to retrieve these arms but all in vain.

Mehran (Zarman) is brother-in-law of Brahamdagh Bugti and both enjoy close relationship. Their closeness has resulted into the joint militant activities of UBA and BRA. On the other hand there is a trust deficit between Brahamdagh and Harbiyar over Rs 60 million which Harbiyar reneged. Greedy attributes of these leaders have further heightened the rivalry.

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Instead of brainstorming and resolving his issue with other Baloch sub nationalist leaders including his father KB Marri and brother Zarman Marri, Harbiyar Marri relies on the counsel of paid advisorFerrari commanders working under him. Moreover, he believes in militancy rather than popular politics. On the other hand, Zarman is reported to have regular consultation with his father and other significant people.

The law enforcement agencies in the province have a small window of opportunity to exploit the crevasses created in the relationship of the militants.

It is also worth noting that the rich mineral treasures of Balochistan and strategic importance of Gwadar port are the focus of all the major powers. Various schemes of division based on sectarianism make the fact evident that anti-Pakistan forces/ hostile countries are attempting to break the social fabrics of the province. Sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, working on the behest of these hostile elements, are highly active in Balochistan to foment sectarian violence.

Forensic investigations of sectarian killings indicate that same weapons and killing patterns are used in targeting the leaders /followers of various sects. These facts take us to the conclusion that a third group is staging sectarian killings to provoke large scale violence in the country. Involvement of RAW and western hostile agencies, therefore, cannot be ruled out.

Foreign intervention is certainly a major agent of sectarian violence. Unfortunately the neighboring Muslim countries are involved in promoting and strengthening different sectarian organizations in the country. In this context if Iran is backing Shia organizations then Arab States are financing Sunni sectarian groups to further their own designs. The Western countries are also providing funds to moderate religious groups as a part of their strategy to counter radicalization in Pakistan which is eventually harming Pakistan’s cause of national integration. Domestic media while denouncing sectarian killings in Quetta, Karachi, KPK and GB must expose the foreign powers involved in sectarian violence in Pakistan.

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The current unrest in Balochistan centers around forced disappearances, kidnappings, targeted killings, assassinations and terrorism. However, these are merely the tactics of a much broader, more geopolitically complex war in which the United States and its Western allies are engaged. Though seemingly insignificant against the backdrop of all the regional and international crises affecting our world, Balochistan is, in fact, a nexus: the point at which diametrically opposing strategic interests converge. Another positive development is the resolve of Akhtar Mengal and his Baloch Nationalist Party to contest the forthcoming elections.

The interim set up should make sure that they make use of the time at their hands and bring the province towards peace. It is an uphill task but where there is a will, there is a way.