Thursday, April 27, 2017

Revised Herald Op-ed April 26, 2017

The Uzair Baloch conundrum Rashed Rahman Uzair Baloch has been revealed as being in the custody of the army and is going to be tried by a military tribunal on charges of espionage, according to a tweet by Major General Asif Ghafoor, director general of the Inter-services Public Relations (ISPR), on April 11, 2017. This development is seen as connected with the death penalty awarded to Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav by a Field General Court Martial a day earlier on charges of fomenting sabotage in Balochistan on the orders of the Indian intelligence agency, RAW. The Joint Interrogation Team comprising both military and civilian officials investigating Uzair Baloch’s case claims he was involved in providing information on sensitive military installations and officials to Iranian intelligence. Uzair Baloch is reported to have escaped to Iran after a crackdown on criminal gangs and the erstwhile Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-supported People’s Aman Committee in Lyari, Karachi, in 2012. He reportedly found refuge in Chahbahar where Jadhav is alleged to have set up an intelligence network. But the reports are not clear how and when the alleged Uzair Baloch nexus with Iranian Intelligence transmogrified into cooperation with Jadhav’s network. Sartaj Aziz in a press conference on April 17 laid out the charges against Jadhav. They centre on his sponsoring and directing attacks in Gwadar, Turbat, Jiwani, Sibi, Sui, Quetta, Panjgur and Pasni. In the process, radar stations, civilian boats, gas pipelines and electric pylons were attacked and in some cases destroyed. He is also charged with abetting attacks against the law enforcing agencies, Frontier Corps and the Frontier Works Organisation. However, Sartaj Aziz did not present any evidence regarding any of these charges. The matter of Jadhav and the death penalty awarded to him for espionage has raised the temperature of already fraught ties with India. On the other hand there is no dearth of sceptics who question the veracity of the story around Uzair Baloch and his claimed ‘confession’, not to mention the ‘convenient’ conflating of his past to link it with Jadhav’s alleged activities. This is not to say that Pakistan and India do not spy on each other as a matter of routine. But it is difficult, in the absence of transparency about the Jadhav-Baloch nexus to simply swallow the officially certified truth in this regard without question. Jadhav may be a RAW agent as claimed, but Uzair Baloch was a PPP-supported gang leader in Lyari till he fell out with his party. How he made the transition from that avatar to a Jadhav operative is neither known nor believable in the absence of any information/evidence. Sceptics see these developments as killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the conviction and death penalty awarded to Jadhav reinforces the narrative about India’s alleged involvement in the troubles in Balochistan, while on the other, linking Uzair Baloch with Jadhav could prove to be another convenient stick to beat the PPP and its leadership with. Given the cloak of secrecy and the possibility of ‘spin’ around the whole affair, the truth, as often happens in such grey areas, may well never be satisfactorily known.

No comments:

Post a Comment