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Balochistan’s Rebels

Willem Marx writes in Prospect:

Is the US providing covert support to Baloch rebels in Iran? If so, what does this say about its support for Musharraf in Pakistan?

…Balochistan is a vast expanse of territory separating the middle east from the Indian subcontinent (see below—the Baloch region is coloured pink). The Baloch people are ethnically heterogeneous but united by their language and culture, and their Sunni Islam faith. In the late 19th century, the highly tribal Baloch homeland was carved up by British India, Afghanistan and Persia, and the Baloch have thus never enjoyed a modern sovereign state. Nevertheless, the difficult terrain kept the Baloch relatively isolated, allowing them to preserve a centuries-old cultural heritage, and in both Iran and Pakistan they have offered armed resistance to central government control since the early 20th century.

Today, Afghanistan’s chaos has spilled over its southern borders into the contiguous Pakistani and Iranian Balochistan provinces. Afghan refugees have been flooding the northern edges of Pakistan’s Baloch territory, while arms and narcotics smuggling into Iran prop up the local economy among the largely unemployed Baloch youth. Smuggled Iranian oil products fuel swathes of Pakistani Balochistan, and convoys of pick-up trucks—overloaded with diesel barrels—regularly arrive in plain sight at any one of a dozen border towns inside Pakistani territory.

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