India, Afghanistan Supporting Terror in Pakistan: Major General Salim NawazOctober 11, 2009
QUETTA: India and Afghanistan are supporting an insurgency in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, trying to bolster the leadership of separatists fighting the Pakistani government, a top security commander said on Saturday.
Baloch nationalists have for decades campaigned for greater autonomy and control of the province’s abundant natural gas and mineral resources, which they say are unfairly exploited to the benefit of other parts of the country. Separatist guerrillas have also been fighting a low-level insurgency for decades.
‘A lot of evidence of Indian involvement through Afghanistan is there, supporting the separatist movement,’ Major General Salim Nawaz, inspector general of the Frontier Corps paramilitary force in Balochistan, told Reuters in an interview at his headquarters in the provincial capital, Quetta.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence in 1947 and accuse each other of supporting militant groups in each other’s countries.
Pakistan has been accused of backing militants fighting Indian security forces in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. India has been accused of backing the Baloch militants.
Nawaz said the separatists were not very strong as they did not have enough foot soldiers or a proper command.
‘The foreign element, especially the element there in Afghanistan, is trying hard to create more leadership,’ he said.
Brahamdagh Bugti, the grandson of a Baloch militant leader killed in late 2006, is said to be hiding in Afghanistan and is regarded as one of the main Baloch separatist leaders.
Nawaz said proof of Indian involvement had been provided.
‘The proof has been given at various levels…photographs have been provided,’ he said. He did not elaborate.
Pakistan and India compete for influence in Afghanistan where India is one of the main backers of President Hamid Karzai and his US-backed government.
Pakistan has been accused of being the main backer of the Taliban until the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
While Pakistan officially stopped supporting the Taliban at that time, US and Afghan officials suspect some elements of the Pakistani security agencies are still helping the Taliban, the main Afghan faction opposed to Indian involvement there.
On Thursday, a bomb attack on the India embassy in the Afghan capital killed 17 people. The Taliban claimed responsibility but many in India also see the hand of Pakistan, which considers Afghanistan a fall-back position in the event of war with India.
The Indian government has not blamed Pakistan which condemned the attack.
No Quetta shura
Nawaz denied US accusations that the Taliban leadership was based in and around Quetta, saying the United States was looking for an excuse for the difficulty it was facing with an intensifying Taliban insurgency.
‘These allegations have been levelled in the past,’ he said.
‘They had been dying a death but lately they have started again. In my view, whatever is happening in Afghanistan, if they are not succeeding, there has to be some escape route.’
The United States had handed over no information to back up its assertion regarding the Taliban ‘Quetta shura’, or leadership council, he said.
‘If they have any evidence — which they have not given us a bit of until this moment — they should share it with us. Pakistani forces are quite capable of sorting them out,’ he said.
Nawaz said it was impossible for Taliban leaders such as Mullah Omar to go unnoticed.
‘If he has to move, or if their leadership has to move, they have to move with some paraphernalia, they need to make some arrangements,’ he said.