Pashtun killings in Mastung: separating facts from fiction; an Analysis by Ahmar Mustikhan


There was consensus among Baloch politicos those behind the killing of of 22 Pashtuns aboard two buses who were traveling from Pishin to Karachi in Mastung Friday night is called the Punjab-- popularly known as Pakistan. A good tweet Saturday came, as usual, from Canadian writer and broadcaster Tarek Fatah, ranked among the strongest advocates for Balochistan freedom. “Massacre of Pashtuns in Mastung #Balochistan is #FalseFlag operation by PakArmy to discredit/divide #Baloch struggle.” Two of the main resistance leaders Brahumdagh Bugti and Hyrbyair Marri condemned the dastardly massacre and said this was a grand plan of the Deep State to pit Baloch and Pashtuns against one another. “I strongly condemn this inhuman incident of Mastung and we are with our Pashtun brothers and I offer my deepest condolences to the families,” the young and charismatic Brahumdagh Bugti, 35, tweeted. Bugti is the present chief of the largest Bugti tribe in Balochistan and president of the Baloch Republican Party. Dr Jumma Marri, Moscow-based son of former guerrilla leader Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani, strongly condemned the killings. He said, "Only mentally ill people can kill innocent people."
The killings in Mastung came just a day after top leaders of the coalition government in Balochistan engaged in a war of words at a conference convened by the Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, vehemently opposed by Baloch freedom lovers. At the conference Senator Hasil Bizenjo, president of the National Party, expressed his anguish over the presence of Afghan refugees in Balochistan, which he said poses a major challenge to the demography of Balochistan. He asked these refugees be sent back to Afghanistan. At this, his coalition partner Mahmud Khan Achakzai, president of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, attacked Bizenjo in defense of the Afghan refugees leaving Bizenjo speechless at the conference. This exchange appears to have provided the ISI an excellent opportunity to engineer the killings. Bizenjo termed the killings a “conspiracy” but did not mention his friends from the Punjab, the two Sharif brothers sitting next to him on the table—Premier Nawaz Sharif and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif-- were behind the conspiracy to pit the Baloch and Pashtuns against one another.
Leaders of otherwise federalist parties were also blaming the Pakistan army and intelligence agencies of being responsible for the Friday night carnage in Khad Koocha. “This is clearly the agency’s work,” said Mohammed Ali Baloch, a former member of the Pakistan People’s Party executive committee in Balochista and a close Bizenjo friend, who now lives in exile in Philadelphia. Mr Baloch, who said it was shocking to see pictures of aged men with white beard among the victims, added, “A Baloch can never harm Pashtuns in this way as many Baloch leaders have Pashtun blood in them.” This is true because many leading Baloch tribal leaders including the Marri brothers, Mehran and Hyrbyair, and the Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Daud are basically Pashtuns on the maternal side. "Vile Pakistanis say I'm behind #MastungAttack on Pushtuns. U shd know my mom is Pushtun 4m Pishin home of the victims killed by ISI goons," Mehran Marri tweeted Sunday. Likewise, the chiefs of Sarawan and Jhalawan, Aslam Raisani and Sanaullah Zehri, cannot deny their Pashtun heritage. In fact, even this scribe’s close family relatives are Lodin of Kandahar, Afridis from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Bilours kith from Peshawar and Yusufzais from Abbottabad. Historically, Baloch had closer ties with Kabul rather than with Islamabad.
So was the Deep State responsible for the Mastung carnage? For many obvious reasons this may be the most likely scenario even though role of rogue elements within the Baloch militant movement cannot be ruled out in its entirety. Pakistan is one of the few states in the world where the army and intelligence agencies have had a history of spawning militant groups to conduct operations on its own territories, for their short term goals or even long-term strategic objectives. The rise of mohajir militancy in Karachi in the mid-1980s is a clear proof of state tutelage to groups and organizations to defend the army generals’ interests. In recent years, the targeting of Shia minorities in Balochistan and elsewhere by wahabi militant outfits could simply not have been possible without the state’s blessings and active involvement.
“Shocked to hear about target killing of Pashtuns in Mastung. There should no room for such barbarity in #Balochistan's freedom struggle,” said Mehran Marri, Balochistan’s unofficial representative at the UN Human Rights Council. “A free #Balochistan will be 4 all its citizens, irrespective of ethnicity. I wont be surprised if Pakistan Army carried out Mastung murders,” he added. However, the strong possibility of Baloch militant hand in the tragic attack was not ruled out in one of Brahumdagh Bugti’s tweets. He said, “I haven't supported UBA or any other Baloch militant organization in the past. Off course we BRP condemn anyone including UBA who's involved.” The UBA stands for United Baloch Army, which media reports said owned the killings. Mureed Baloch, spokesperson for the UBA, said the killings were in retaliation for brutal army actions in Mastung and Kalat. The UBA was formed about five years back as a result of a split in the Baloch Liberation Army, which remains its main rival in guerrilla politics of Balochistan. In his final days, a video of the late icon of the Balochistan freedom movement Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri shows he supported the UBA. Pakistan’s Deep State accuses Mehran Marri, who is now chief of the Marri tribe, of running the UBA – a charge strongly denied by Mr Marri.
The BLA said in a tweet, “BLA condemns the murder of Pashtuns in ‪#ýMastung. Elements that want to destroy the Baloch national struggle are behind such incidents.” London-based Hyrbyair Marri, estranged elder brother of Mehran Marri, while recalling the historic Pashtun-Baloch ties and expressing deep sympathies for the bereaved families said, Pakistan agents have infiltrated the guerrilla movement. According to well-informed sources in Quetta, who support the freedom movement, the man responsible for the incident is "Abdul Nabi Baduzai, a criminal man inducted in the BLA and then he shifted to UBA. He has been used by ISI for the incident. He is a kidnapper for ransom." Baduzai is native of Isplinji in Mastung district. The main aim of the Mastung killing was to pave the ground for expanding the army's Zarb-i-Asb operations to Balochistan, which was being resisted by the civilians. Though neither the BLA nor Hyrbyair Marri named any individual or organization as such, supporters of the two on social media were directly accusing Mehran Marri and the UBA even as the security forces killed nine Baloch and 25 abducted in Mastung in one day. Notwithstanding these allegations, Mehran Marri has been quite vocal against civilian killings for many years now. If at all it is true UBA militants carried out the killings, it is incumbent upon its leaders to cleanse its ranks of rogue elements. A lesson from the Mastung killings is that Baloch freedom fighters or Sarmachars must treat the Laws of War as sacred as any holy scripture like the Bible, Quran and Bahagawat Gita during their struggle against Pakistan’s colonial rule.
Sensible sections of Pashtun patriots echoed what the Baloch were saying. “Pakhtun and Baloch both have the same enemy,” Nazrana Yusufzai, a journalist and human rights activist who is studying law at Manchester University, said in her tweet. "We Pashtun and Baloch will fail every plan of Punjabi Pakistan through our unity and brotherhood #PashtunBalochStandTogether,” another Pashtun nationalist Shahid Qazi tweeted. Many Pashtuns understand the Pakistan, especially its army and intelligence services, inflicted bleeding wounds to their lands on both sides of the Durand Line as part of their strategic depth policy.
However, there’s definitely more to it than what meets the eyes in the Mastung carnage. A saying among Baloch and Sindhis goes the Pashtun wines and dines with the Punjab, that is shares power and perks with the Punjab, but whines with the Baloch and Sindhis, that is acts as an oppressed nation and cries for rights. According to Baloch politicos the biggest beneficiary of a free Balochistan would be Pashtuns – or Pakhtuns as they are called in the north. The main reason is compared to Baloch, Pashtuns have better education and a more aggressive spirit of enterprise, but they seem to have contented themselves to play the role of Punjab’s second fiddle and watchmen in Balochistan for quite some years. This, despite the fact that army generals at the Rawalpindi GHQ and Aabpara headquarters of the ISI, in cunning acts for more than quarter century not missed a single opportunity to harm the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Khyber Pashtunkhwa province. It was not without reason that overwhelming majority of Afghans were livid on reports that the Afghan secret service had signed an agreement with the ISI when Premier Sharif was chaperoned to Kabul by army chief General Raheel Sharif and ISI chief Lt. Gen Rizwan Akhtar earlier this month.
Baloch politicos say there’s a dire need for Pashtuns to do some real soul searching on the Balochistan question. “The killings damaged the Baloch movemnet and must be condemned,” said former fisheries minister Kachkol Ali, who is a leader of the Baloch National Movement. However, he urged the Pashtuns to correct their political course of action with regard to the Baloch question. “Pakistan army is an international mercenary while the Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers are acting as the mercenaries of the Punjab,” Ali, whose son Nabeel Ahmed has been a victim of enforced disappearance since August 30 last year, said. The former minister, whose two houses in Turbat were occupied by the Frontier Corps, said on phone from Oslo, Pashtun politicos need to do more to discourage the Frontier Corps. The Baloch are also tormented by the fact that senior officers of the ISI and Military Intelligence, who are ethnic Pashtuns, are responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against Baloch freedom fighters or Sarmachars.
Former Balochistan assembly speaker speaker Waheed Baloch, who was elected from Quetta, capital of Balochistan, in a posting on Facebook said for almost half decades Pashtun politicians, along with army generals and civil servants have become a party to ISI moves to isolate the Baloch. He expressed anger that while Balochistan assembly had passed numerous motions against the Kalabagh Dam, Pashtun leaders under Asfandyar Wali Khan, president of the Awami National Party, called a conference on the CPEC in Quetta to rub salt on Baloch wounds. The CPEC, a vision of Chinese president Xi Jinping, is basically meant to connect Gwadar with Kashgar, but the Baloch say they are resolved to fight against it. “Everybody knows the port of Gwadar (under Pakistani occupation) will spell the death knell for the Baloch,” the former speaker said.

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