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Published Date: Nov 15, 2012

Analysing Possible Role of USA in Pak-Baloch Conflict (W-128)

Afshan Ahmed
November 2012


Balochistan is a western province of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan and Iran. However, Balochistan and Kalat’s (a former princely state within Balochistan) accession to Pakistan after the partition of United India (August 1947) has been questioned by many nationalist groups. The province has special socio-political importance in the domestic context, as it is the largest province of Pakistan in terms of area but is least populated. It is rich on mineral resources. Natural gas that helped the Pakistan’s economy turned around was first discovered in this province back in the late 1950’s. Still it is the worst food insecure province of Pakistan[1]. The nationalist movements in this province against the federation are quite strong. First military operation was launched in this province in 1948 (soon after Pakistan gained independence from the British Raj). The province is also a known route for drug trafficking, arms and ammunition smuggling, and human trafficking[2]. More recently, the sectarian clashes, target killings of Hazara community and Punjabis, and missing persons phenomena (for which intelligence agencies are being blamed) have created a worsening law and order situation in the province, which demands that a sustainable solution of Baloch issues. The severity of Balochistan’s conflict became more prominent on global radar during last decade after the military operation against the chief of Bugti tribe in Balochistan by the then military president General Parvez Musharraf. However, the conflict seems to take a new turn at diplomatic level after the recent exclusive hearing on the issue of Balochistan by the US congress subcommittee members in February 2012.

This research paper attempts to answer the question on the potential role of USA to act as a third party in the conflict between Balochistan and the central Government of Pakistan. Narrating briefly about the conflict history, this paper analyses the US position and contribution in the past and present of Pakistan and then based on that analysis tries to foresee whether the USA can emerge as best third party (mediator) in the chosen conflict. In international context, the province is important because it borders with Afghanistan and Iran. It has housed Afghan refugees since the first Afghan war. Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, is known in Western circle for “Quetta Shoora” (a faction of Taliban that is allegedly based in Quetta and is supported by some state actors of Pakistan). The US government on record has accused Quetta Shoora of fostering militancy in Afghanistan. The province is also one of the hot spots for durable peace in South Asia, as Pakistan blames India for supporting anti federation militants in Balochistan. Iran, which is predominately a Shia majority country, expresses reservation against the target killings of Shias (Hazara community) in Balochistan.

Due to the complexity of the issue and time constraint, analysis of the conflict is limited to two main time periods i.e. USA and Pakistan ties during the Afghanistan war in 1970-1980’s and USA’s engagement with Pakistan as partner to war against terrorism after 9/11.

[1] SDPI-WFP-SDC (2009), state of Food Insecurity in Pakistan

[2] SDPI-UNODC (2011), Examining the Dimensions, scale and Dynamics of the illegal economy: A study of Pakistan in the Region.