Pakistan's Balochistan no Paris, but equally crucial in fight against ISIS

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam
Pakistani lawyers react as they stand near the bodies of victims of a bomb explosion at a government hospital premises in Quetta on August 8, 2016. © Banaras Khan
If you thought the cancer of terrorism was under control, you most certainly did not read, or hear about Balochistan. But then again why would you when the lives of faraway Balochs weigh little in the balance of Western politics? Quetta is no Paris!

On August 8, 2016, a horrific suicide attack took place in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s province Balochistan, claiming the lives of over 70 civilians, notwithstanding dozens upon dozens of casualties. Had such a violent and bloody attack struck a Western capital you can be sure an outpouring of grief and condemnation would have flooded the world wide web – a grand righteous cry against the evil of Islamic terrorism. But like I said, Quetta is not Paris, and violence in this corner of the world is somehow expected – an occupational hazard if you will, yet another reminder that civilized firmly rhymes with Westernized.

I will not bore you with a philosophical debate on ethno-centrism and neo-colonial bigotry, but the prejudice is nevertheless there, disturbingly palpable, and most definitely unpalatable.

Today is not the day to discuss political bias or political xenophobia. Rather, I’d like to bring your attention to a development which concerns us all, as it speaks of the alliance of capitalism with our modern day evil: the infamously western-labeled Islamic terrorism.

But let’s start at the beginning – what is Balochistan, and why should you care?

Let’s not fool ourselves here and pretend that we care about every single act of violence committed across the world. Chances are, if any such violence does not directly involve you, or speak to your particular sensitivity you will stand deaf, blind and mute to it. This is not a critic, only an observation. However loudly we would like to think that we are fair and righteous creatures, we filter world events according to our own ethno-social and political egocentrism.

This is where you will want to pay attention though, for Balochistan is not just another faraway place where radicals play let’s-blow-up-a-hospital on account it will forward their warped religious beliefs – Balochistan is the cautionary tale we need to learn from. Balochistan is where the cancer of radicalism meets venture capitalism, laying bare an agenda which is absolutely political, and not in the slightest religious.

In other words, events in Balochistan have allowed for the true nature of Islamic radicalism to be unveiled, and much more since we can now trace the outlines of those powers which all along have played Terror as the asymmetrical weapon of war so many analysts have long asserted, without any real smoking gun. Balochistan is your smoking gun. Balochistan is your writing on the wall lit up with massive blinking neon signs.

DISTURBING FOOTAGE, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED

A restless province of Pakistan, Baluchistan has not enjoyed peace since 1947 when Islamabad, breaking away from India, proclaimed its independence and identity. Situated at the eastern end of the Iranian plateau, Balochistan’s troubles can be traced to its forced balkanization, and the negation of a people’s call for political independence. Unlike their Afghan counterparts, the Baloch never had mountains to act a buffer against imperial powers, never mind regional geopolitical ambitions.

Split almost evenly between Pakistan’s Balochistan province and Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province, notwithstanding a small portion of the southern parts of Afghanistan’s Nimruz, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces, Baluchistan has played piggy in the middle to conflicting political agendas and capitalists’ greed.

Today such greed has found a disturbing catalyst: Terror.

Arid and poor it may, Balochistan nevertheless remains dazzlingly rich in natural resources – hence Pakistan’s desire to keep the province within its sphere of influence, as we may soon discover to whatever cost.

Daesh aka ISIS has now claimed footing in Balochistan. Whether or not such a statement is a reflection of reality remains to be fully determined, but in any case the terror group has shown intent and that alone should send cold shivers down our spines. Considering that Afghanistan is once again slipping back to into the arms of the Taliban or al-Qaeda, depending how you want to label those Wahhabi-inspired madmen, it is really Central Asia we stand to see disappear in the fires of Islamic radicalism.

But the issue here is not radicalism. Radicalism here is merely a foot-soldier, a front man and smokescreen. How so? Well, for starters Daesh is systematically rearing its ugly head in those regions of the world where natural resources abound: Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya … even Egypt has been a target. Balochistan is really next on a long list of to-be-controlled resources hotspots.

Let me borrow the words of another analyst to better make my case. Akhilesh Pillalamarri wrote for The Diplomat in February: “Pakistan has faced almost constant turmoil in Balochistan since its independence, even as it struggles to secure and develop the region with Chinese help. The port access offered by Gwadar in Balochistan is an important component in China’s emerging transportation network across Asia. Right across the border in Iran, India is struggling to complete Chabahar, its attempt to answer Gwadar and link to Afghanistan by going around Pakistan. Iranian Balochistan is Iran’s soft underbelly, a restless Sunni region in a mostly Shia country, a place where Saudi Arabia can make mischief using groups like the radical Sunni Jundallah.”

Balochistan is not just a capitalist honey pot; it offers undeniable geopolitical advantages, especially if in opposition of Iran’s regional traction.

Let me put this in a clearer light. We know now that what we call 'Islamic radicalism' is in fact the undiluted, and unfettered political manifestation of Wahhabism – the same Wahhabism which has always had ambitions to destroy any challenge to its religious rule. We also know that Wahhabism has found in liberalism a powerful friend. The special bond Saudi Arabia and the United States have entertained for many great decades stand testimony to that.

With this in mind would it be much of a stretch to deduct that liberalism, aka rabid capitalism, seeks in fact to exploit radical movements to carve itself a capitalist empire of unparalleled proportions? I believe here that the work of one brilliant analyst, Joaquin Flores, speaks louder than any words I could ever use.

Can we in all good conscience refute that wherever and whenever radicals have sought to gain a foothold, billions are stood to be made by corporations? Can we still turn away as radicals have clearly mapped their advances according to certain powers’ political interests in Africa, the Middle East and Asia?

How long can we continue to play the ostrich?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.