The Quetta Shura


shura

Many people are asking me these days about the Quetta-Shura. Washington has threatened to expand its drone attacks to Balochistan. In the wake of these developments, I would like top reproduce an article of mine, “Threat to secular Balochistan”, which was published in Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper, Dawn, in March this year. This article gives an insight about the real issue.
“The Quetta Shura does exist,” said Habib Jalib, secretary general of the Balochistan National Party, last night in an interview with Samaa TV. The government of Pakistan is still not being very truthful about the presence of Taliban in Quetta. It seems to love Taliban more than the very people of Balochistan. Here is my article:

Threat to secular Balochistan?
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Monday, 09 Mar, 2009

Nothing embarrasses and irks Pakistani spymasters more than the issue of Talibanisation in Quetta. Over the years, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly protested against the alleged protection provided by Islamabad to Mullah Omar, the one-eyed spiritual cleric and reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban.

As Pakistan’s internationally acclaimed journalist, Ahmed Rashid, laments in his book Descent into Chaos, “Today, seven years after 9/11, Mullah Omar and the original Afghan Taliban Shura still live in Balochistan province.”

A Baloch nationalist leader, Sanaullah Baloch, also bemoans the presence of Taliban supporters who have captured land worth Rs2bn along the eastern and western bypass of Quetta. These quarters are now virtual no-go areas. Islamabad, nonetheless, has been in a state of constant denial.

The Taliban have now vociferously asserted their existence in Balochistan. Engineer Asad, a self-proclaimed spokesman of the newly formed Tehrik-i-Taliban Balochistan (TTB), was recently quoted in a newspaper as saying that their struggle was “against non-Muslims and western forces that had attacked and occupied Islamic countries … the TTB was committed to fighting the enemies of Islam”. The TTB, as reported, disassociates itself from Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), bills suicide bombing as un-Islamic and rules out any vendetta with the Sherani faction of the JUI.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the ISI-CIA-nexus enthusiastically exported this jihad from Quetta to Afghanistan. During the Taliban regime, Islamabad went overboard in its support for their rule in Kabul by setting up a telephone network, which became a part of the Pakistan telephone grid. Hence one could dial Kandahar from anywhere in Pakistan as a domestic call, with the same code as Quetta.

For Islamabad, the post-Taliban era coincided with the rise of the nationalistic insurgency in Balochistan. The Islamists were given protection in Quetta so that they could serve Islamabad’s interest against progressive and secular Baloch forces. The centre is confident that a bribed mullah is certain to serve as a reliable collaborator against the mounting Baloch nationalist movement.

In fact, over the past many years Quetta has been used as a training ground by the Taliban as they have been blowing up Internet cafes, music and CD shops in the city for long. There is growing fear that the Taliban can surface with a Swat-like showdown any time in the near future.

The Taliban presence is substantiated by the fact that not a single incident of suicide bombing has ever been reported by Baloch insurgents who have confronted the centre five times since the controversial accession of Balochistan to Pakistan in 1948. Suicide bombing is purely a Taliban-related phenomenon in this region and in the recent past, Quetta city has been the hub of continuous suicide bombings.

For instance, on Feb 17, 2007, 13 people, including a senior judge, were killed and several others injured in a suicide bomb attack in a district court. On Dec 13, 2007, seven people were killed in another suicide bombing incident. Last year, on Sept 24, two persons, including a teenaged girl, were killed and 22 people were injured in a suicide bomb explosion. An earlier suicide bomb attack on Sept 9 took place at a religious school in the outskirts of Quetta; it left five dead and 12 students were injured. The latest suicide attack on March 2 in Pishin also took six lives.

Ironically, Islamabad eliminated Baloch leaders Nawab Bugti and Balaach Marri on the pretext that they had challenged the ‘writ of the state’. But to date, not a single bullet has been fired at Islamists who are training suicide bombers and murdering innocent civilians in the name of religion.

The discourse on moderate and extremist Taliban is ridiculous. A Talib will always remain a narrow-minded, conservative barbarian, bent upon killing until people subscribe to his bizarre and irrational interpretation of Islam. Today, the Taliban are operating in Balochistan with a better strategy. No longer are they willing to put all their eggs in one basket. The proponents of the Taliban, often described as ‘moderate religious forces’, are fast penetrating the secular Baloch province by getting elected to the provincial legislature with overwhelming financial assistance from intelligence agencies, according to some reports.

In the 2002 general elections, the pro-Taliban JUI-F secured16 seats in the Balochistan Assembly. In the incumbent Balochistan Assembly, the JUI-F has 10 seats — a political front for the clandestine backing provided to the Taliban.

Secondly, the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, another brainchild of the establishment, is out to crush democratic and secular forces in the conflict-ridden province. On Jan 26, the outlawed group killed the chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) Hussain Ali Yousafi. Such attacks are likely to transform Quetta into an intol

erant place where one would eventually have to be a practisng Sunni Muslim to clinch a ‘residential permit’ from the ‘custodians of Islam’.

The Talibanisation of Balochistan, a province which shares borders with Iran and Afghanistan, is going to be catastrophic. The policymakers in Islamabad should recognise that if the secular Baloch province falls into the hands of fanatics, it will not only jeopardise the integrity of the federation, but also cause unrest in the entire region.

Al Qaeda would surely use this area as a hub for further terrorist attacks on Nato and American forces and pro-US Gulf countries. Undoubtedly, when carrying out political transactions in Balochistan, both Islamabad and the international community must give preference to the democratic and secular Baloch over obscurantist Taliban forces.

The writer is a journalist based in Quetta.

Comments
21 Responses to “The Quetta Shura”
  1. nota says:

    “It seems to love Taliban more than the very people of Balochistan.”

    Let me be a prick here and ask: Are you saying, “US, you are right and there is a ‘Quetta Shura’ that is so, so very dangerous that being bombed by you is so much preferable. So please — pretty please — Obama come and bomb Quetta!!!”

    Siraj, sorry to say but I am really starting to doubt you and starting to understand why Sethi has hired you. Like they say, road to hell is paved with good intentions (I mean to make it clear I am not doubting your sincerity but suggesting you are becoming an instrument — unknowingly of course — of the forces you seem not to like. They call it “auxiliary forces:

    Preparing the ground for U.S. attacks and/or subversive operations by proxy forces aligned with American goals are a key component of UW theory. Whether a population is “on-board” with U.S. geostrategic goals or the tactical modalities employed in such campaigns is irrelevant to the new cold warriors of the GWOT. When “persuasion” fails the muscle moves in to get the attention on the “natives.”

    Organization of the larger indigenous population from which the irregular forces are drawn–the mass base–must likewise be conducted primarily by the irregular organization itself under indirect guidance of SF. The primary value of the mass base to UW operations is less a matter of formal organization than of marshaling population groups to act in specific ways that support the overall UW campaign. The mass base, or general population and society at large, is recognized as an operational rather than a structural effort for ARSOF in UW. Elements of the mass base are divided into three distinct groups in relation to the cause or movement–pro, anti/con, and those who are uncommitted, undecided, or ambivalent. ARSOF, the underground, and the auxiliary then conduct irregular activities to influence or leverage these groups. These groups may be witting or unwitting of the UW nature of the operations or activities in which they are utilized. (Unconventional Warfare, p. 5-5)

    Am I being too harsh? Probably. But seeing the implications of your piece the way I see them, I’d say hardly.

    • gmcmissing says:

      @NOTA: Why do you feel the need to give a reference of Najam Sethi each time you comment on my blog? I don’t understand it. Make sure this particular article was not printed in Daily Times but in Dawn.
      No matter how you look at things, I would prefer to be called an “instrument” in someone’s hand rather than supporting Taliban rule on Balochistan. So far, suicide bomings carried out by the Taliban, secterian killings by their supporters have claimed more lives of innocent people than any US bombardment in the area. Terrorists have to be eliminated, without unnecessarily debating if the attacks should be carried out by the Pakistani or American forces.

  2. nota says:

    Thanks for removing my comment. Just shows I was right 😉

  3. nota says:

    Ah there is still hope. I see my comment is still there (last time I came it had disappeared hence my stupid followup jab). Apologies..

  4. Meeran says:

    The Baloch in overseas should make them strong in debating these issues on available international forums, and should share these facts with those organizations effecting international or respective superpower’s policies.

  5. Meeran says:

    All the peace loving countries must act now to unstable the threats and epi-center of terrorism (Pakistan & Iran) in order to stable the world.
    UN and Int. Powers should stop supporting Pakistan n Iran and Start helping Baloch Nation, because The Baloch are’nt only fighting for themselves but for all USA, UK and the whole world to acheive a peacefull world

  6. nota says:

    “No matter how you look at things, I would prefer to be called an “instrument” in someone’s hand rather than supporting Taliban rule on Balochistan.”

    Spoken like a true shagird of Sethi 😛 (BTW: I only mentioned Sethi once before and another time in reference to that comment. (besides this mention). But thanks for clarifying it so I know what ‘school of thought’ you belong to. Sorry but I strongly disagree on that (Could you please inform me what Baloch leaders agree with you on that? Are there any??)

    “So far, suicide bomings carried out by the Taliban, secterian killings by their supporters have claimed more lives of innocent people than any US bombardment in the area.”

    You cleverly ignore the fact that the US has not started drone strikes on Quetta/Balochistan yet (though you wish they had) so of course the comparison with “alleged” killing by Taliban and supporters is unfair. Even more cleverly you fail to compare
    the numbers against innocent people killed by FC and Pak Army “in the area”. Is it because your argument would fall flat on it’s face? Have the guts then please do a comparison of those killed by Talibs vs FC/army and let’s see where your “anyone’s instrument but Talibans” argument goes.

    BTW: Why do you feel you have to be anyone’s instrument?

    @Meeran
    “UN and Int. Powers should stop supporting Pakistan n Iran and Start helping Baloch Nation, because The Baloch are’nt only fighting for themselves but for all USA, UK and the whole world to acheive a peacefull world”
    Oh please…. You really don’t believe this stuff do you? Talk about a warped sense of self-importance.

    • Nawaz ali says:

      Well done Mr Siraj. U are fighter with PEN. godbless U. please carry on with ur fight. Don’t care for such nonsanses who dont care for truths and rights of innocent peoples . Sethi is great man who allways in his life fight for the right of peoples in Pakistan & every where els. These people who dont know the reallity in Balochistan and don’t care for the right of Balochistans peoples are blind on Balochistan issues. These people wish to see a Taliban rule in Balochistan as was once seen in Afghanistan. However, they do not know that Baloch peoples of Balochistan are very broad-minded and secular. We will allways fight against such barbarian narrow-minded elements. we dont want these people its the Agenceis of Pakistan army who never learn from the history who helping and housing these barbarian to defeat secular Baloch .
      Long live Siraj Long Sethi long live truths. Down with Taliban & theirs narrow minded sprtr.

  7. gmcmissing says:

    NOTA:
    As a journalist working in Quetta, I can assure you that all nationalist parties, including Pashtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party, Awami National Party, National Party and the Balochistan National Party have publicly said they support drone attacks.

    In a seminar organized by ActionAid, Abdul Rehim Ziaratwal, former parliamentary leader of PKmP said since the entire world community backed the war against terror and endorsed drone attacks, why would his party not support these attacks on the Taliban hide-outs.

    NOTA: It is fascinating to see come to Taliban’s rescue.

    As far as I being anyone’s instrument, so far no one has been able to substantiate it. I am a journalist with an independent opinion who dares to stand outside the mob. Unlike you, I do not use a fake name. I at least have the courage to tell the world who I am and what I think.

  8. nota says:

    @Siraj
    “As a journalist working in Quetta, I can assure you that all nationalist parties, including Pashtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party, Awami National Party, National Party and the Balochistan National Party have publicly said they support drone attacks.”
    If that is true — don’t think it is — I am glad I don’t belong to any one of them 🙂

    “It is fascinating to see come to Taliban’s rescue. “
    Moi? Where?? Oh, I see: You are equating my stance on “no droke strikes on Quetta” to mean that. Now if that is not dishonest, I don’t know what is. But then I am not surprised 😉

    “In a seminar organized by ActionAid, Abdul Rehim Ziaratwal, former parliamentary leader of PKmP said since the entire world community backed the war against terror and endorsed drone attacks, why would his party not support these attacks on the Taliban hide-outs.”

    And who funds ActionAid? Man, you are doing yourself and your “independent opinion” no favors. And I am disappointed you could come up only with a name like “Abdul Rehim Ziaratwal, former parliamentary leader of PKmP” who with his brilliant statement (“since the entire world community backed the war against terror and endorsed drone attacks, why would his party not support these attacks”) himself proves he has no eggs in his basket and is an admission in itself he has no independent opinion and will be led by anyone — just like a camel.

    “As far as I being anyone’s instrument, so far no one has been able to substantiate it.”
    Well your position and your twists is all the substantiation I need.

    “Unlike you, I do not use a fake name. I at least have the courage to tell the world who I am and what I think.”
    That the best you could do? Wow! Brilliant 😉 And “Bravo” for your “courage”. Should I yell “Sher Aaya! Sher Aaya!!”? Well, I really don’t want the world to know who I am (don’t have that big an ego) — just what I think. It also allows me to speak my mind without censoring myself, which you yourself has admitted to doing (self-censoring that is) — twisting “sexual-slavery” into “sexual-harassment”, not giving credit to people where deserved. Now how much courage does that take?) BTW I will use my “real” name once I start working as an “independent” journalist paid for my “services” (no plans though on becoming someones rakhail for now) 🙂

    P.S. Thank you for “clarifying” your “independece” once again. It is all very clear now…Curious though: Why would you be so interested in my “real” name?

  9. Murtaza says:

    Dear Qāumās

    I would like to congratulate you guys for the solid work you put in for gathering news from all over the world just for us.
    Much Appreciated from Cook Island!!!:)

  10. Asad Khan says:

    Malik Siraj Akbar clearly you do not even have a clue what you are writing about. Your argument is based on mere rhetoric & false assumptions rather than on any factual premises.
    There was not even a glimpse of intellect visible in it you have ample ignorance spread all over.

    “Taliban supporters has captured Rs 2 billion land surrounding by-pass” Seriously I considered Sanaullah to be smart man but you’re forcing me not to. What exactly do you mean by TALIBAN SUPPORTERS…? are they taliban..? do they provide taliban with weapons or logistical support..? who are they exactly… I think you are clearly confusing native pashtoon population with Talibans….?
    your conclusion is based on an allegations & surely Islamabad is not dumb enough to react on mere allegations .. what hard evidence do you have against those people… oh i tell you, you have NOTHING…

    I don’t believe you are actually supporting the terrorists organizations like BLA & BRA ..? check the statistics how many innocent people these organizations has killed against the causalities if ever occurred from Talibans in Balochistan, you’ll be stunned I must stay if let go your prejudice for a while.
    How many NATO & US supply caravans has been attacked in Balochistan compared to the NWFP…?
    Talibans are a phantom force they are not stupid to clog up in the big cities & open their training centers there…? They have a big lawless Afghanistan with NATO & US only controlling few major cities…..? they would leave all that come to Pakistan to Quetta city…?

    You live in Quetta right? have you ever ever seen a training camp or a mob of taliban yourself from your naked eye…? I am not denying there may be one or two of the remnants of taliban living here & there around Quetta …. but CIA operated drones coming to kill taliban seems an overstretched american statement to justify their failure in Afghanistan to put the blame on some one else

  11. khan says:

    No we haven,t seen the Quetta shura its just a lie its a lame excuse of people that here is a training in Quetta …..being a Quetta citizen we have not seen nor heard about Quetta Shura who ever is saying its not true……i srongly against of those people who says about Quetta Shura ……

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