ISLAMABAD: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), led by David Petraeus the former Commander, US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), has a strategic, multidimensional interest in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province. In March 2011, The Peninsula, Qatar’s leading English language daily, revealed that the “CIA is indulging in heavy recruitment of local people as agents (each being paid $500 a month) in Balochistan to locate members of the Quetta Shura, a term used by the Americans for Mullah Omar-led Taliban commanders.”
Over the long term, the CIA has an interest in keeping the strategically important Port of Gwadar out of China’s influence. Over the short to medium term, the CIA also has an interest in supporting Jundallah, also known as People’s Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI), a violent organization that claims to be “fighting for the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran.”
David Petraeus is now bent upon carving out an additional role for the CIA-one that of becoming a mediator between the Baloch Ajoee Lashkar, the Baloch Liberation Front, the Baloch Awami Azadi Mahaiz, the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and the Balochistan Liberation United Front all on one side and the Pakistan Army on the other. If the CIA is successful in capturing the mediator’s role in the Balochistan conflict, the CIA will gain additional leverage over the ISI and thus an upper hand in the Afghan endgame.
As things stand right now Baloch belligerents are not even willing to sit across the table and negotiate a ceasefire. What the CIA has going in its favor is the massive and growing-trust deficit between Baloch militants and the generals of the Pakistan Army. The eventual settlement would have to be negotiated on the negotiating table but the CIA is hopping that they will have a role to play as a mediator-cum-guarantor.
Disintegration of a state is a rare phenomenon. Disintegration of Pakistan is neither in the interest of international powers nor are they really capable of affecting a split at this stage. Bangladesh isn’t a parallel because Balochistan is a contagious province and Balochistan on its own will not be an economically feasible entity. Time, however, is of essence. India is playing spoiler and things are getting from bad to worse.