Thursday 27 October 2016

Trouble in Baluchistan is Real Trouble

Scanning the news on return from a nil-by-wifi holiday, I read of dreadful deeds in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan.  Which awakens some 30-year old memories.

Back in the '80s I did some soldiering in Oman, a country with which we have very longstanding relations going back to when that part of the Arabian coast needed patrolling against Sinbad-the-sailor pirates making raids on our India-bound shipping routes.  The Omani army was run quite efficiently thirty years ago (and probably still today) mostly by British NCOs and Pakistani staff officers, and was a smart little affair.  I strongly imagined my father would have recognised it from his Indian Army days a generation before.  One day I will root out the photos and do a post on it.

Anyway, the average Omani soldier (native) was a pleasant chap, touchingly loyal to the Sultan and probably brave enough.  But there wasn't much of what we might think of as a serious martial tradition.  

Nonetheless, there was sporadic fighting to be done.  The relatively heavy stuff of the '50s (Jebel campaign)  and '70s (Dhofar) was over but there was a simmering border conflict with Yemen in the south west, not finally settled until 1992.  And this pleasant average Omani was not really the chap to creep up on an enemy observation post and make with the cold steel.

So they employed two battalions of Baluchis, in much the same way the British army has long retained the services of the Gurkhas.  And, much like a Gurkha, your taciturn Baluch tribesman is exactly the sort of chap for creeping around the hillsides with the cold steel at the ready.  In fact, they were some of the best soldiers I have encountered.

If Pakistan has troubles with Baluchistan, I'd guess they could be very problematic indeed.



CityUnslicker said...

Pakistani Government has never really gone beyond the Sindh area though has it? I mean the rest sometimes pretends to answer to the Govt and the Govt pretends to run it.

Hence the North run by the Taliban, ISIS spot an opening in the West....

James Higham said...

Fascinating read, Nick.

CityUnslicker said...

Balochs are Sunni's too, next to Shia Iran and Punjabi's/Hindu's...usual Islamic civil war theatrics unfortunately - hence ISIS.

Electro-Kevin said...

A great insight.

Anonymous said...

Baluchistan, indeed Quetta has never been part of Pakistan despite what they might think in Islamabad or even Karachi.

Like the Waziri borderlands or, Kashmir - Pakistan is just a very loose collection of disputatious, very vexatious tribes, chieftains and warlords. It is long been part of their history since the time of Alexanders adventures thereabouts and his suicidally bonkers mad march, where, the Balochis answer to no the present day and certainly not Iran nor Pakistan. Next is, the shit stirring, the trouble is that, the Saudis funding the zealots and that is a very very big problem.

Oman, is best served trying to keep them all at arms length and by holding their noses from the almighty stink.

Anonymous said...

I presume you've read Ranulph Fiennes book on his late 60s Oman experience. Very interesting. The 'opposition' then were Soviet/China trained and extremely anti-Islamic, seeing it as a tool of the imperialist ruling class.

What was it like in the 80s? Do tell.

I liked his description of getting off the plane and seeing his predecessor being stretchered on!

Nick Drew said...

What was it like in the 80s? Do tell

OK, I will dig out the pics: maybe a weekend post

Anonymous said...

Ta. Make it a long read if you can. One of the pleasures of the Fiennes book is his description of the men in his platoon as individuals, and the differences (which you touch on) between the different ethnicities.