Everyone wants to have a hand to play in Balochistan.
The latest player to unmask itself is the United States. Even as tensions brew between Pakistan and the US over a resolution introduced in the US House of Representatives seeking sovereignty for the volatile province, officials reveal that the US has been pushing Islamabad for permission to establish bases in Balochistan for intelligence operations against bordering Iran.
“Like always, things are not what they look like, and how they unfold … lies at the heart of all (this). The outburst in America for Balochistan is part of an ambition to set up intelligence bases close to the Iranian border,” an official told The Express Tribune on Sunday, indicating that the Congressional hearing and proposed resolution were playing their part as pressure tactics.
“They (Americans) want to use our soil against Iran, which we can never allow,” said the official, who did not want to be named.
Three officials, two from the security agencies and one from diplomatic circles, confirmed to The Express Tribune that American diplomats and military leaders have been requesting permission for their agents to operate near the Iranian border in Balochistan.
The revelation came days after a bill was moved in the House of Representatives, blaming Pakistani security agencies for forceful disappearances and extra-judicial killings in Balochistan and calling for the liberation of the country’s largest province. It also follows the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Pakistan for a trilateral summit.
Officials said that ostensibly, US authorities were seeking Pakistan’s permission to establish bases in Balochistan, claiming to counter the activities of the Afghan Taliban, whom they blame for operating out of the provincial capital under the umbrella of the so-called Quetta Shura. Islamabad, however, denies the presence of any such Taliban shura or council.
The proposed resolution adds to the rising chorus of voices across the country pointing fingers over the troubles of the violence-ridden province, including the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) which has vowed to introduce a resolution in the National Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and even the Pakistan Bar Council among others.
The international front
Running parallel to the Balochistan saga is the recent rising concern in the West over purported Iranian ambitions to build nuclear arsenal. Reports in the recent past suggest American and Israeli authorities are starting to run out of patience, and the threat of Israeli military action against defiant Iran is a growing one.
Just last week, President Ahmadinejad reportedly urged Pakistani authorities to disallow Americans from reinforcing their presence at a consulate in Quetta.
Trilateral summit statement
Earlier last week, a joint declaration was issued at the conclusion of the Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan summit in Islamabad, where all three sides vowed to put up collective resistance to any new misadventure by any force in the region.
Experts say the statement was a veiled reference to American ambitions to put an end to Iran’s nuclear drive.
In December last year, President Asif Ali Zardari delivered a speech at a gathering of Pakistan Peoples Party workers, saying he would never allow his country to become part of any other war theatre in the region.
“We are the well wishers of all and don’t want to make any more enemies,” the president said in remarks that officials interpreted as a snub to American pressure seeking permission for anti-Iran intelligence operations.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2012.