Rebellions & Tense Borders: How Pak Bit Off More Than It Can Chew
Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim & Mohd Irshad Alum
Camera: Abhishek Ranjan
Pakistan got itself into a near-war situation with the conventionally superior and nuclear-armed India, but that’s hardly where its problems end.
From separatist insurgencies to irate neighbours, on at least seven important fronts, Imran Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’ is under a lot of pressure.
1. Iran Not Happy
Two days after the Pulwama attack, Iran issued a statement that more or less supported the Indian line on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.“Pakistan’s government, who has housed these anti-revolutionaries and threats to Islam, knows where they are, and they are supported by Pakistan’s security forces.” Revolutionary Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari
Iran’s Major General Jafari was referring to the militia called ‘Army of Justice’. It’s an anti-Iran terror group based in Pakistan that has bombed buses killing Iran’s armed forces personnel, and abducted their border guards multiple times in the past.
Iran claims that these militias are backed by Saudi Arabia and given cover in Pakistan.
It has even threatened to hit these militias inside Pakistani territory if the government doesn’t take action.
2. Afghanistan Even Less Happy
The Afghan army is baying for the Pakistan Army’s blood, and the Afghan government isn’t pleased either.
In January, it took Pakistan to the UN for its attempt to host the Taliban for peace talks. In February, Afghanistan wrote to the UN AGAIN saying the Pakistani military was “interfering” in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.“Pakistan fired 28,849 artillery shells into Afghanistan between 2012 and 2017, resulting in deaths of at least 82 people and injuring 187 others, including women and children.”Afghanistan’s Letter to the UN
In 2017, there was a deadly border skirmish between the two armies – Pakistan claimed it responded to ‘unprovoked firing’ by the Afghans and killed 50 Afghan soldiers, while Afghanistan claimed it lost only two of their own and killed four Pakistani soldiers.
As recently as 1 March, Afghanistan’s Defence Minister accused the JeM and Taliban of jointly carrying out a deadly attack that killed 26 Afghan troops. He said the attack had been planned in Pakistan.
3. Balochistan Simmering
This area is an integral part of the CPEC project. Balochi fighters released a video just a few days before the Indian air strike in Balakot which shows their ambush on a Pakistani convoy. In recent weeks, more than 15 Pakistani security forces personnel were killed in attacks by Balochi fighters.
– The Loralai attack, in which two Frontier Corps personnel were killed
– Dera Ismail Khan attack, in which four police personnel were killed
– Turbat attack, where 9 were killed on CPEC route
…that’s to name a few. The Baloch separatist movement wants liberation of the western part of their province from Pakistan. Activists claim that the province has been deliberately kept poor by the state and its resources are being plundered to fund the wealthier Punjab province.
This separatist movement is a particular problem for Pakistan because the insurgency has targeted Chinese nationals and CPEC projects in the past.
4. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Problem
Pakistan is facing major civil unrest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the Pashtun Protection Movement.
Its largely peaceful rallies regularly attract thousands despite a total media blackout by the Pakistan government. The government has even gone so far as to censor an NYT article accusing the Pakistani Army of carrying out forced disappearances, kidnappings and killings of ethnic Pashtun activists.
The activists want an end to extrajudicial killings, to forced disappearances, end to racial profiling of Pashtuns, and for the government to clear landmines in tribal areas.
5. Sindhudesh Ramping Up
The Pakistan army has been heavy-handed in the face of a Sindhi separatist movement.
In January, protesters took out an anti-Pakistan march, alleging the abduction and killing of Sindhi activists by Pakistani security forces. Shafi Burfat, exiled leader of the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), a separatist group, said in January:“All Sindhis to unite against this filthy theocratic state.Shafi Burat, Exiled Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) Leader
Burfat used all of these protests to call attention to Pakistan’s brutality in the form of torture of Sindhi activists, abductions and killings. He has even called on the international community, including India to ‘demolish’ the Pakistani state but to spare civilians and Sindhudesh.
5. Gilgit Baltistan Protests
This disputed region has seen protests from its majority Shiite population against the China-sponsored CPEC project, against land grabs and against demographic change.
There were clashes here in 2018 over a Pakistan government order that wanted to strip the region of its autonomous status and bring it under the purview of the Pakistani state as a fifth province. Police had to resort to air firing and tear gas to disperse protesters who were heading to the Assembly for a sit-in.
6. Economy in a Shambles
Pakistan is reeling from a severe debt crisis and PM Imran Khan has openly said the country is desperate for money. It has reached out to China and Saudi Arabia for urgent help. Saudi Arabia has given about $26 billion in loans, oil payment deferments and investments. China is being tight-lipped about how much it has given.
Meanwhile, the IMF refuses to serve up yet another loan without full transparency about Pakistan’s finances
With all of this going on, Pakistan could hardly afford a protracted war with India… and that too so close to the election.