Pakistan’s Baluchistan separatists demand Scots-style vote

Updated 20 September 2014
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Pakistan’s Baluchistan separatists demand Scots-style vote

QUETTA, Pakistan: Baluch separatist leaders on Friday called on Pakistan to follow in Britain’s footsteps by holding a referendum similar to Scotland’s on granting independence to the insurgency-wracked province.
Scots rejected independence in a vote that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact despite a surge in nationalist support in the final fortnight of the campaign.
Asked whether a similar poll should be held in Baluchistan, Dr. Bashir Azeem, secretary-general of the outlawed Baloch Republican Party, told AFP: “The Baluch have been struggling against the excesses and tyranny of Punjab-dominated establishment of Pakistan for decades.”
Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous and influential province.
“If a fair referendum is conducted after creating an atmosphere for it, providing the opportunity to Baluch population for deciding their future, it is welcomed,” he added.
Resource-rich Baluchistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.
Rebels began their fifth insurgency against the state in 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.
But rights groups allege security forces are also responsible for picking up non-militant separatists, including academics and students, torturing them and dumping their bodies on the streets.
The current insurgency gained in intensity after the 2006 killing of 79-year-old Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a revered figure for many rebels.
Azeem’s son Jamil Akbar Bugti said: “I stand for a free and fair referendum in Baluchistan under the United Nations.
“Let Baluch people who are struggling for their independence decide their future whether they want to stay with (the) federation of Pakistan or break away.”
The desperately poor province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence in its northern Pashtun belt, with middle-class Baluch increasingly viewing independence as their only hope for a more liberal and secular state.
Pakistan accuses neighboring India of funding and arming the rebels — a charge analysts believe is true and payback for Pakistan’s interference in Kashmir.


Pakistan minister urges Iran to take action against terror camps inside its borders

Updated 7 min 24 sec ago
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Pakistan minister urges Iran to take action against terror camps inside its borders

  • Pakistan doing ‘everything’ to facilitate peace process, says spokesperson

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has demanded that neighboring Iran take action against “terrorist camps” in its border regions following an attack in Balochistan that left 14 army personnel dead.

The move comes amid fears that the situation could escalate into a full-blown conflict between the two countries if it is not resolved.

On Thursday, gunmen disguised as Pakistani security officials forced passengers off buses on the Makran coastal highway in the southwestern province bordering Iran and killed 14 Pakistani army personnel.

“We have identified terrorist camps that exist in Iran’s border areas,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said. 

“We are hopeful Iran will take action against these terrorists. Today, I had a detailed conversation with the Iranian foreign minister in which I conveyed Pakistan’s sentiments and expectations,” the foreign minister added. 

“The Iranian foreign minister has guaranteed his country’s full cooperation in the matter.”

BRAS, an alliance of three Baloch separatist organizations, was behind the attack, Qureshi said.

Pakistan has identified the alliance’s training and logistical camps inside Iran’s borders and shared details with Tehran, he said.

The foreign minister said Pakistan expected Iran to take action.

The separatist alliance also has a presence and leadership in Afghanistan, he added.

Qureshi’s comments came on the eve of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two-day maiden visit to Iran which began on Sunday.

Retired Gen. Talat Masood, a security analyst, said that Islamabad has told Iran’s leadership that “its land was being used for terror activities within Pakistan.”

“Iran has been trying to strengthen its relationship with Pakistan to offset international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear program,” he told Arab News. 

“In this context, we can expect Iran to initiate action against terrorist outfits that are accused of (acting) against Pakistan.”

Another security analyst, Zaigham Khan, urged the Pakistani PM to raise the issue of terror camps with Iran’s leadership during his visit to Tehran.

“The use of Iranian territory by militants against Pakistan is worrying for our security institutions,” he told Arab News. 

“This could turn into a full-blown conflict if Tehran fails to initiate action against militants using its territory.”

On Friday, the foreign affairs minister lodged a formal protest with Iran for failing to take action against militant groups Islamabad believes use bases on Iranian territory to launch attacks against Pakistan.

“Pakistan awaits Iran’s response to its request for action against these groups, whose locations have been identified by Pakistan a number of times,” the Foreign Office said.

Giving details of Thursday’s attack, the foreign office said up to 20 gunmen in paramilitary uniforms stopped three or four buses at dawn on April 18 and, after identifying the passengers, killed 14 Pakistani troops.

“After the incident, the terrorists who arrived from border region (between Pakistan and Iran) returned to that area,” it said.

The Foreign Office said Islamabad had repeatedly shared “information about the hubs of these Baloch terrorist organizations in Iran.”

“Unfortunately, no action has been taken by Iran,” it said.

Separatist groups have been waging an insurgency in Balochistan for more than a decade, demanding an end to what they see as the exploitation of their resources by people from other parts of Pakistan.

In May 2015, gunmen wearing security forces uniforms killed at least 22 passengers after forcing them off buses traveling from the western city of Quetta to Karachi.

Militants and Balochi separatists frequently target civilians and security forces in Balochistan, which is at the center of the much-vaunted $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that Pakistan is building with Chinese loans.