Source : http://axisoflogic.com
March 30, 2010 (by Shahid R. Siddiqi - Axis of Logic) Balochistan, Pakistan’s south western province, has evoked much interest among players of regional politics. The US, India, the former Soviet Union and even Afghanistan have toyed with the idea of Balochistan becoming an independent state in their geo-strategic interests.
Located very close to the oil lanes of the Persian Gulf and having a common border with Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan is strategically very important. Commanding almost the entire coast of the country – 470 miles of the Arabian Sea, and boasting of a deep sea port recently completed with Chinese assistance at Gawadar, Balochistan comprises 43% of Pakistan’s total area but is home to just over 5% of the population, 50% of whom are ethnic Pashtuns.
A tribal society, Afghanistan has always been ruled autocratically by sardars (tribal chiefs), some 250 of them, who have kept their people backward, illiterate and deprived. Mainly three sardars of Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes have been in revolt against the federation from time to time in their bid to maintain the status quo by blocking the federal government’s efforts of development or democratization. Although they held positions of power as chief ministers of their province from time to time, they neither did anything significant for their people nor did they remain part of the political process. To perpetuate their despotic rule, they decided to part ways with the federation. Other moderate sardars either chose to side with the federation or stayed neutral.
Reluctance of successive federal governments to promote genuine federalism for fear of compromising national unity in the belief that ‘a strong center would guarantee a strong federation’ proved a fallacy. The dissidents used this to inflame nationalist sentiments and demands for greater provincial autonomy and control over the province’s natural resources turned into a demand for independence.
President Musharraf invited the Chinese to finance and build the deep sea port at Gawadar south of Balochistan. This was aimed at generating economic activity in Balochistan and facilitating the Chinese to import oil and raw materials from the Middle East and Africa and export goods through a land corridor extending from Gawadar to China’s Sinkiang province. They were also encouraged to build an oil refinery in Gawadar and allowed to mine minerals in Balochistan. This, Musharraf hoped, would bring financial independence to people and empower them, keep the trouble makers out, and serve as the precursor of another enormous economic opportunity – a trade corridor for Central Asia, particularly for its oil and gas.Read full article »