Bolan Pass, Baluchistan, Pakistan. Photo by Sheryaar.
Bolan Pass, Baluchistan, Pakistan. Photo by Sheryaar.

ROUNDTABLE: Baluchistan and the War on Terror

Dec 18, 2006

[Click here for a map of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border regions.]

Inspect Baluchistan by Ashley Bommer

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf are arguing about the Pakistani province of Baluchistan [also spelled Balochistan]. Intelligence sources—and Karzai—say that the Taliban's kingpin, Mullah Omar, is operating out of Quetta, Baluchistan's capital. And he is sending arms and fighters into southwest Afghanistan.

No wonder Karzai is upset. The front line of the Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgency has a supply line in Pakistan. But U.S. troops cannot enter Pakistan—precisely where al-Qaeda and the Taliban are.

There is a simple next step: Musharraf should allow UN inspectors into Baluchistan.

Pakistan continues to challenge the facts. Last month, Musharraf said: "So, let's nail these people, like President Karzai, who think they are coming from Pakistan. And I am suggesting we will mine the borders. Let anyone who's going from here get into the mines. We will fence the borders. Let's fence the borders."

An independent evaluation of the facts is necessary. The only system in the world that can do this is the UN's Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC). With more than 300 experts, it can conduct a comprehensive fact-finding mission in Baluchistan immediately.

Their experts, ready to be dispatched, include weapons specialists, scientists, engineers and analysts. They can determine if the Taliban command hubs do exist. They will report back to the international community truthfully.

UNMOVIC's record of independence speaks for itself. At no time, for instance, did it find WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction] or the continuation of such programs in Iraq. UNMOVIC's mission in Baluchistan will be dangerous. But we cannot continue to sit by idly while al-Qaeda and the Taliban gain more control in Afghanistan.

International observers will not only deter efforts by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, they will verify if Taliban hubs are providing military, financial help, and propaganda to operatives in Afghanistan.

Musharraf should prove he does not want terrorism to destroy Afghanistan. To do this, he should invite UN inspectors to Baluchistan immediately.

Bommer worked at the U.S. Mission to the UN during the Clinton administration. Her essay first appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Nov. 25, 2006.

Pakistan Committed to War on TerrorBy Asad Rahman

For all the doubts about the war on terror, what should not be in question is the Pakistani Government's absolute commitment to the cause. On all levels—social and economic policy, political ideology, even their personal well-being—Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his allies have defined their interests as a zero-sum game with the radical elements.

As a society and nation, Pakistan knows firsthand, and is regularly reminded, of the danger presented by these groups. We want a moderate, progressive Pakistan, not because of pressure from the West or the prevailing geopolitical rhetoric, but because this is the only option for a successful, cohesive Pakistan.

Pakistan has been a good friend to the United States, often at considerable cost and risk: serving as a base for U.S. spy planes throughout the Cold War, as agent and facilitator in the Soviet-Afghan War, in brokering Nixon's trip to China, and of course now. As consistent as Pakistan's loyalty has been, it has with the same consistency been abandoned when its immediate usefulness has expired.

The historical tendency of abandonment seems to be prologue, as we now hear about how the prevailing anarchy in Iraq is caused by the Iranians, the Syrians, or (most audaciously) a "lack of will" from the Iraqi government, or how the resurgence of the Taliban is the fault of "elements in Baluchistan and Northern Pakistan."

Call it "cut and run," call it "troop rationalization," or "bringing our soldiers home," it all amounts to finding a reason or pretext for dissipating attention away from another abandonment.

To hold Pakistan's feet to the fire on Baluchistan may seem to be a tactical necessity, given goals in Afghanistan. But Karzai and his administration—as appealing a story as they may seem—are weak and ineffectual not because of any groups or any individuals in Baluchistan, but because they have no national constituency.

With an insurgency in the North, a 50-year revolt in Baluchistan, sectarian tension in the Punjab and Sindh, the Pakistani government does not have the luxury of instigating further tension. In Pakistan, the United States and its allies, have a progressive, moderate regime that can once again serve as a true regional partner because of a profound alignment of strategic interests.

The appropriate maneuver is not to pressure Pakistan regarding Baluchistan—to forget strategy in the name of tactics—but to completely and fully walk a mile in its shoes.

Rahman is a Pakistani who currently lives in New York. Before moving to the U.S., he spent time working in the non-profit sector in Pakistan, and on a national voter education campaign.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Dispute Must Be ResolvedBy Jere Van Dyk

Ashley Bommer writes in her well-informed article that in order to resolve the question of whether the Taliban are living in Pakistan, and to settle the border dispute between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee, noted for its independence, should go to Baluchistan, as it went to Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction. But this would require Pakistan to open its doors.

The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan—called "the Durand Line" in Afghanistan, and "the border" in Pakistan—stretches south and west from Chitral in the Himalayan foothills of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province down to the Iranian border, 1,510 miles away.

In 1949, the Grand National Assembly, or Loya Jirga, a meeting of all Afghan tribal leaders, rejected the Durand Line, drawn in the 19th century by British India. Afghanistan once controlled much of what is today the Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan.

In the 1980s, the Muslim guerilla Mujahideen were fighting the Soviet Union. In order to put greater pressure on Pakistan, which it wanted to break up, the Soviets promised Baluchistan independence if it would back them and stem the flow of arms into Afghanistan.

The Soviet offer was not the first whiff of independence for Baluchistan. In 1947, when the British Raj ended and Pakistan was carved out of India as a home for South Asian Muslims, Baluchistan announced its independence. In 1948, the Pakistani army entered Baluchistan to assure that it joined Pakistan. For decades, Punjabis, who make up the largest ethnic group in Pakistan, and who control its bureaucracy, have controlled Baluchistan.

In August 2006, the Pakistani army, which is largely Punjabi, killed the popular Oxford-educated Pakistani politician and Baluch tribal leader, Nawab Bugti, reputed to be the head of the Baluch Liberation Army. Pervez Musharraf called his death a "great victory."

Asad Rahman, who knows much about Pakistan, and is sympathetic to its problems and is proud of its accomplishments, writes that the West should not judge Pakistan until it "completely and fully walks a mile in its shoes."

The Pakistani army is trying to establish government control over all of Pakistan, particularly in its restive tribal regions along the Afghan border. It wants to assure that the Durand Line is the border. It is concerned about Iranian involvement in Baluchistan.

Above all, it is frightened of India. In 1971, Pakistan lost half its population when East Pakistan, treated poorly by the Punjabi majority of West Pakistan, seceded from Pakistan and became Bangladesh. India interceded in the end on behalf of the Bengalis.

Pakistan today claims that India is fostering unrest in Baluchistan. India has trained Baluch guerrilla fighters in India.

In Afghanistan, there are Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, on Pakistan's borders. Pakistan feels that Indian spies are causing unrest in Pakistan, which is using the Taliban, based in the Northwest Frontier Province and in Baluchistan, to undermine the Karzai government of Afghanistan and to keep from being surrounded there by India.

The war will continue, and many more Afghans and Pakistanis, particularly innocent Pashtuns and Baluch, will die until the border disputes are resolved and people learn to live within them, and to curb their ambition to control or conquer their neighbors.

Van Dyk is a Carnegie Council Senior Fellow.

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