Pakistanbanned five militant groupsand froze their assets in Balochistan in September, following a government initiative to target separatists in the unstable region. In an e-mail interview, Tahir Kamran, visiting Iqbal Fellow at the University of Cambridge's Wolfson College, discusses the separatist movement in Balochistan.
WPR: What is the background and current status of the separatist movement in Balochistan?
Tahir Kamran: Insurgency is a recurring phenomenon in Balochistan, one that, according to hardcore Baloch nationalists, dates back to as early as 1948, when the princely state of Qalat (comprising a major part of present-day Balochistan) was forcibly acceded to the state of Pakistan. At the very least, Balochistan has been at odds with the central government ever since its accession to Pakistan. In the 1970s, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto resorted to military action after dissolving the elected local government of Ataullah Khan Mangal. At the time, Balochistan could have been integrated into Pakistan, but the opportunity was squandered. The present insurgency started when the head of the powerful Bugti tribe, Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti, was killed in an army operation. Bugti had been targeted because he resisted the military's move to establish its cantonment in his region.