By Lt Gen Prakash Chand Katoch (Retd)
The unprecedented spat between the police and Pakistan army in Sindh following the abduction of Inspector General Mushtaq Mahar, and forcibly getting his signature on the arrest warrant of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law veteran Captain Safdar Awan made headlines on two counts; high-handed Pakistan army meddling in politics and dawn of a new phase of discontent in Sindh. But army has ruled Pakistan directly or indirectly ever since, defining the country’s foreign and defence policies and orchestrating elections with civil governments and judiciary playing second fiddle. Reporters critical of military disappear or are killed. On October 20, Pakistan sacked 749 employees of Radio Pakistan with immediate effect. Army chief can sack Prime Minister Imran Khan anytime if he does not behave the way army wants.
Reports of exchange of fire between Sindh police and army were fake but many police officers went on protest leave following the incident. Sindh Bar Council passed a resolution stating, “The leave application tendered by dozens senior police officers throughout Sindh citing demoralising of the force due to this brazen interference in policing functions are a sign of complete breakdown of the rule of law and an undeclared martial law…. unlike the Sindh police, the judiciary is yet to take a strong stance against such interference…. unless this trend … is immediately reversed it will permanently damage the public reputation and trust not only in the government and the judiciary of Pakistan but also the beloved armed forces…..The Bar Council calls upon the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo moto notice… fix it for hearing and enquiry before a Full Court of the Supreme Court.”
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has ordered an inquiry into the incident but the army will go scot free or a scapegoat found with Sindh ruled by opposition Pakistan People’s Party. The incident will die down but discontent in police will remain. In February 2020, Pakistan media had reported a drive to recruit more than 18,000 policemen in Sindh to improve public-police ratio for better law and order. Discontent is Sindh is not restricted to police alone. Sindhis realise that Pakistan is mortgaging territory of Sindh to China not only for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but recently violated Pakistan’s Constitution by re-appropriating islands of Bundal and Buddo off the Karachi coast as federal territory whether to hand them to China to house Chinese submarines or turn them into international jihadi tourist resorts.
Notably, increased attacks by the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) is causing concern within the Pakistani establishment. On August 5, 2020, SRA claimed responsibility for a grenade attack on the Jamaat-i-Islami rally against revoking of Article 370 in J&K in Karachi, injuring 39. Sindh is Pakistan’s third largest province by area and second largest by population bordering Balochistan, Punjab (Pakistan) and Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. During the 1971 Indo-Pak War Pakistani army succeeded in organising Hurs of Sindh as ‘desert militia’ Hurs had waged a bloody insurgency against the British resulting in heavy reprisals including hanging of Hurs’ leader the ‘Pir Pagara’. But now SRA says it is fighting for a “Free, Sovereign, Secular and Democratic State of Sindhudesh.”
Prominent Sindhi politician Ghulam Murtaza Syed announced separation of Sindh from Pakistan and starting struggle for ‘Freedom of Sindhudesh’ on March 31, 1972. GM Syed died in April 1995 but SRA was founded in 2010 with Shafi Muhammad Burfat Darya Khan as its Chief Commander. SRA has claimed responsibilities for several attacks on Pakistani forces and also Chinese Engineers in Karachi, Sukkur and other cities of Sindh. One of the statement by SRA reads, “Pakistani state has occupied on our motherland Sindh on the basis of gunpoint of Punjabi military and Punjabi establishment. The Sindhi Nation will never ever accept any outsider attack or occupation on own land, resources, Indus River, Coastal belt and Sea of Sindh. SRA will resist against the all occupational projects of Punjab and China over Sindh including China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and others. SRA will continue its attacks on CPEC and all other projects which may occupy and exploit our land, resources, sea routs.”
A significant development is the Baloch organisations (Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and Baloch Republican Guards (BRG) forming the new alliance of ’Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar’ (BRAS) and announcing they are joining hands with the SRA against China subjugating Sindh and Balochistan through the CPEC. Spokesman for BRAS says, “Through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China aims to subjugate Sindh and Balochistan and occupy the coasts and resources from Badin to Gwadar. Currently, both nations aim for independence and both consider Pakistan state (Punjab) an arch-enemy.”
The united front of BRAS and SRA recently held a joint meeting to chalk out a common strategy, following which Baloch Khan, spokesperson for BRAS said that all the participants unanimously agreed that Sindh and Balochistan have political, historical and cultural ties since thousands of years, both nations aim for independence and both consider Pakistan’s Punjab arch-enemy. Therefore, both should act as a united front. The statement also said that the alliance will establish contacts and ties with other oppressed nations and resistance organization though stipulated points, conditions and code of conduct to form a vast and resilient entity and liberate the oppressed nations from Pakistan’s grip.
Balochis have been fighting Pakistani forces for many year, which should have led to revolts in the Baloch Regiment but Pakistan has avoided this by having predominantly Punjabi officers in Baloch army units. The rise of SRA and their joining hands with BRAS is a good development. There is no denying China has become a threat to humanity and Pakistan’s evil collusion with Beijing facilitates China getting stronger. Pakistan needs to be balkanised and the CPEC destroyed. The civilized world should render all possible help to achieve this. The US may have labelled BLA as terrorist organisation but the CIA can still assist the BLA against China-Pakistan.
America is in the process of correcting the mistake of Nixon-Kissinger in making China the monster it is today. Similarly, the US must review its policy against Pakistan especially after the terror attack on a convoy transporting US military, equipment, armed vehicles and supplies from Afghanistan to Pakistan in the Bara area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on October 23 in which many tanks caught fire – as reported by Khama Press of Afghanistan. Apparently, the US is transferring its military equipment, tanks and accessories to Pakistan instead of the Afghan National Army before US troops exit Afghanistan under the US-Taliban peace deal. The pundits in Capitol Hill must be really stupid to think (unless on payroll of Beijing-Islamabad) that sitting in China’s lap Pakistan is still an American ally.
-The author is veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal.