Establishment of US consulate in Quetta
September 23, 2011
The frequent meetings of US Ambassador Cameron Munter in Balochistan and surrounding areas with political high ups, religious personalities, nationalist parties leaders is raising many eyebrows while various social circles have urged and demanded government to keep a close vigilance as it is devoid of diplomatic norms hence must be limited in this regard.
The question arises is there a need of establishing US Consulate in Quetta? Media Reports unveil that Pakistan has refused US of opening Consulate in Quetta as permission was first granted to US last year but was condition to situation in Quetta as relations could be dented between Pakistan and US.
US Ambassador Cameron Munter’s recent declaration that ‘Balochistan was very significant for the United States’ reveals the superpower’s intentions when viewed in the context of US obsession to open up the new Quetta Consulate.
In early 2010, then US ambassador Anne Patterson had cited two main reasons for the Quetta Consulate : to oversee the development activities carried out by Americans in Balochistan and ensure a close liaison with the Baloch people for speedy visa facility instead of dealing with US Consulates in Karachi and Islamabad. Pakistanis, however, view these as a cover for greater sinister US designs In Balochistan.
But US Ambassador Cameron Munter is not willing to give up so easily too. He recently visited Quetta , where he met with the Balochistan Chief Minister and Speaker Balochistan Assembly to lobby for the Consulate which was obviously not agreed to. These Baloch leaders also rejected the American themes regarding presence of Al –Qaida and Taliban leaders Al Zawahri and Mulla Omer in Balochistan or Taliban intrusion from around Quetta into Afghanistan. Such narrative also points towards a US agenda of expanding the Afghan war into Balochistan .
Why is US Consulate in Quetta considered to be against Pakistan’s security interests? Because this would serve as a launching pad for greater American interference in Balochistan affairs to further American interests in the region. It is feared that US security personnel are likely to intensify their clandestine activities and further fuel the insurgency in the province in coordination with RAW sponsored Baloch militant groups.
The United States has clear strategic interests in mineral rich Balochistan which provides a regional trade and energy corridor to Afghanistan and energy rich central Asian states. Therefore US presence in Balochistan could threaten the security of strategic projects. American interest in Balochistan’s division on linguistic/ethnic lines was reflected in a senior ANP leader’s recent statement suggesting carving out a ‘South Pakhtunkhwa’ province in Pashtun dominated regions of Balochistan , that links with long term designs towards Greater Pashtunistan. Incidentally few months ago , Ambassador Munter had participated in a Pashtun tribal jirga in Quetta an event that had raised eye brows in Islamabad. Baloch leaders seem conscious of such a conspiracy and have rejected any plan to breakup Balochistan.
A veto by Pakistan’s security agencies looks to have sealed the fate of the United States plans to establish a consulate in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s largest landmass province Balochistan.
The security establishment has strong reservations about the proposed American consulate in the capital of Balochistan and has not given the required clearance.
The US had recently sought the government’s approval for setting up a consulate in Quetta.
The United States is endeavoring to effectively provide a large civilian assistance package to Pakistan, and one of the areas we most want to assist is the Balochistan region and in order to sustain this effort we need to be close to where the need exists,”
Diplomatic observers fear that a refusal to allow the proposed consulate in Quetta would not only affect relations, but could also hamper the implementation of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman assistance package.
Apart from espionage worries, the intelligence agencies, Pakistan Army had also expressed security concerns about the presence of an American diplomatic facility in Balochistan.
Hence, Political and Religious parties along with others have opposed US Consulate in Quetta terming it gruesome while a tug of war is going on as there are serious differences and reservations over it thick and thin.
President of the Balochistan National Party, Sardar Akhtar Mengal in an exclusive talk again made it clear that the Government of Pakistan had promoted and patronized fanaticism and extremism in the garb of Jihad in Afghanistan. He
said that the Government now wanted to convert Balochistan as the safe haven of the religious fanatics and extremists for its ulterior motives. The BNP President who is also a former Chief Minister of Balochistan said that the Government of Pakistan and the erstwhile rulers earned American dollars in billions in the past to serve the American interests.
He said now the extremist and fanatics are fighting the Government of Pakistan and they had played havoc with the life and property of the people in general. Sardar Mengal claimed by converting Balochistan as a safe haven for the religious fanatics, the Government was trying to get more dollars on various pretexts.
The BNP President argued that Balochistan had never been part of Pakistan historically and now it is part of Pakistan and still Baloch people are not considered as Pakistanis. If we count the good and bad things for Balochistan, the bad treatment are much more than the good work done by Pakistan in Balochistan, Mengal said.
He condemned the Government decision not to permit a US Consulate in Balochistan while the US Consulates are functioning in Sindh, Punjab and KPK. Sardar Mengal was of the view that with an American diplomatic mission in Balochistan, the Government designs against the Baloch people would be exposed.
The world community would know the excesses being committed on the innocent Baloch people. The BNP President said that the Government was trying to deny Information to outside world about Balochistan and the treatment its people met at the hands of the rulers. He said that Balochistan is more peaceful comparing to other provinces.
However, the state crimes against humanity are much more or countless, he said.
The Balochistan clock is ticking fast. Serious decision making on an emergent basis is required to sincerely redress the Baloch grievances on priority, so that they are not exploited by the great game players.
The Serious circles further added that until and unless practical steps are not taken in the province, peace and stability cannot be restored in Balochistan but to halt US in its nefarious designs, we need revolutionary steps and power.
We must also expel all such aliens from its soil, they concluded.