Look around Balochistan, and you may not see much. Pakistan’s largest province is also its poorest and least inhabited – an expanse of rocky deserts and ramshackle villages where hardy tribesmen live by ancient laws. But to outside eyes, Balochistan’s barren sands glisten with hidden value.
Mining companies eye its natural riches: vast and largely untapped reserves of copper, natural gas and possibly oil. Criminals see easy money: the world’s heroin superhighway, a network of smuggling trails, cuts through its lonely borders. Foreign governments consider its location: wedged between Iran and Afghanistan, and covering two-fifths of Pakistan, Balochistan occupies highly strategic real estate.
But for the black-turbaned clerics commanding the Afghan Taliban, the desolate province offers something else: a welcoming rear base. As the Taliban insurgency oozes across Afghanistan, Nato generals complain that the fighting is being directed from Balochistan. [continued…]
n Thursday morning as Pakistan’s Defence Minister was preparing to board a flight to China for an official visit, he was detained by Pakistani security officials and was told he had been barred from leaving the country. An altercation ensued, but the country’s top civilian defence official was told by the police and soldiers that they take orders from senior generals and judges, not government ministers.
Minister Ahmad Mukhtar was told by the security officials that they were acting on instructions from the National Accountability Bureau, an arm of Pakistan’s intelligence service created by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to harass political opponents with corruption charges. The Defence Minister was told his name was on an ‘Exit Control List’ even though he has never been convicted of a crime. Clearly, Pakistan has entered a decisive stage. Imagine the U.S. Defence Secretary being detained by U.S. marshals at JFK airport or the RCMP telling Peter MacKay, he cannot leave the country.
What was bizarre about this development is that although it was Pakistani’s Interior Ministry that was supposed to have issued the orders, the Interior Minister himself was named as someone not allowed to travel abroad without special permission. Clearly the administration of the government in Islamabad has been taken over by plainclothes military intelligence officials.
A coup by any other name is still a coup. [continued…]