Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pakistan tries new counterinsurgency strategy in Baluchistan

Pakistan tries new counterinsurgency strategy
Dawn, 10 Jul, 2010
CHAMALANG, Pakistan: With every bag of coal Madad Khan dumps into trucks at this mine reopened with the army's help, Pakistan hopes it is moving closer to quelling a 60-year-old nationalist insurgency in this restive southwest province where Afghan Taliban leaders are rumoured to hide.

Echoing US counterinsurgency strategy in neighbouring Afghanistan, the army has peppered Balochistan with dozens of development projects to win hearts and minds, an effort officials say has accelerated in recent months alongside a push by the federal government to address local grievances.

Pakistan hopes to replicate this counterinsurgency strategy in other areas along the Afghan border where the army is battling a separate rebellion led by the Pakistani Taliban. But like the US effort in Afghanistan, many observers are skeptical Pakistan's recent push in Balochistan will succeed given the deep distrust of the state and security forces.

''They are unable to pacify the people because the political and economic alienation of the local population is huge,'' said Riffat Hussain, professor of defence studies at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.

Balochistan remains Pakistan's poorest province despite the presence of vast natural resources that residents complain are mainly exploited to fill the central government's coffers. They also chafe under what they view as effective military rule.

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