Makran Coastal Highway Attack: India’s Baluchistan Project and Lessons for Pakistan 

According to initial reports; Mohsin Hassan Butt, inspector-general of the Baluchistan police, said around 15 to 20 gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms stopped up to six passenger buses travelling between Gwadar and Karachi and shot 14 passengers dead.  A local named Jahangir Dashti told Associate Press; “They identified non-Baloch by checking their identity cards and employee cards… they took them to the nearby mountains and shot them dead after tying their hands… Dozens of gunmen” were involved in the attack and fled the scene afterward”.

Pakistan Today reports; “Intelligence officials told Associate Press, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, nine employees of the Navy were among the dead. The bodies were shifted to Ormara Hospital for medico-legal formalities. Security forces from the nearby town of Buzi Top were dispatched and had reached the area, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) from the provincial capital, Quetta.”

Pakistan Today in another 18th April, 2019 news report, points put that; “The Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an alliance of armed ethnic Baloch separatist groups, claimed responsibility for the attack in an emailed statement released on Thursday. “Those who were targeted carried [identification] cards of the Pakistan Navy and Coast Guards, and they were only killed after they were identified,” said Baloch Khan, a BRAS spokesperson. The Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) is an alliance of three Balochi separatist organizations, including the Baloch Liberation Army, Baluchistan Liberation Front and Baloch Republican Guard.

One of the independent researchers on Pakistan Defence Forum reports; “The circumstantial evidence shows that Indian Agencies are behind unrest in Baluchistan but they also run the Social Media cells for the Insurgent groups. In March, a twitter page going by the name “BRAS – Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangaar” shared a video of terrorist attack on FC vehicle in Baluchistan. The video showed Terrorists attacking FC vehicle and shooting the Jawans at point blank, it was pretty gruesome. Same video was shared on Telegram Channels of HAKKAL (BLA’s official media account) and BRA Media (BRA’s official media account). Mr. Pradeep was running the Twitter Handle of BRAS Media; the recovery mobile number is probably registered in Europe as it is 9 digit mobile numbers excluding the country.”

It is plain and clear to any keen news observer or researcher that the only state that has benefited from this terrorist attack is India who since decades is trying to destabilize, disintegrate and denuclearize Pakistan. This attack is also part and parcel of RAW’s Baluchistan project which is aimed at targeting multiple facets of Pakistan’ statecraft.

What is the way forward? How should we collectively work with each other to counter and balance Indian-led information and disinformation warfare? Here are lessons for future and strategy which must be followed by Pakistan’s government and the media to balance the Indian aggression and psychological warfare.

Lessons for Future

In the policy making domain Imran Khan should take the initiative of brining police reforms in Baluchistan, for example;

1- Merge Levies and Police Forces

2- Organize special training of the Police and buy new equipment for intelligence purposes

3- Establish forensic laboratories on key locations

4- Expand, upgrade and digitalized the Police stations

5- Take “Model of Traffic Engineering Bureau” of Quetta and implement it on the other regions

6- Expand the “Safe City Project” throughout Baluchistan

Secondly, the government and media need to learn the art of countering Indian information warfare against Pakistan. It is time for Pakistan’s politicians to come out of their vintage political mindset and above all, the role of state and private media is significant in the system of information warfare. India most of time has been in a strategic advantage over Pakistan when it comes to information warfare but it can be balanced or reversed if Pakistan follows a comprehensive strategy. For example; the reason behind the success of Indian information warfare against Pakistan is due to the alignment of Indian establishment, government and media into one harmonious hole which is directed against the national security of Pakistan. All three pillars of Indian state are in line with each other against Pakistan. Why is Pakistan not following a tit for tat strategy? What is stopping them to unite its institutions to protect its sovereignty?

One of the prime reasons behind this dilemma is that too few of the parliamentarians and media personnel have improved their learning curve in the context of information/psychological warfare since 18 years. It does not require that every one of them must acquire the qualifications of Defense and Strategic Studies and International Relations to counter information warfare. Rather, it requires common sense coupled with the ability of logical reasoning and understanding of the time in which they are living.

In the context of Indian information warfare, the representatives in the parliament and experts in the media must rationally understand the nature of India’s strategy of information war. For example; one prominent domain in the information warfare is the social media; the majority of the parliamentarians and media personnel are also active users of social media. Here is how they should use the social media to learn the art of Indian information warfare;

 At the state level:

1- They must regularly follow Indian main stream media and news outlets pages on social media

2- In the context of Pakistan, keenly observe the “use of words” in the headlines

3- Observing the “use of words” will allow understanding of the Indian agenda setting

4- Comprehensively understanding the agenda setting will open a new gate of knowledge called “the language of signs and symbols”

5- The language of signs and symbols can be further used for decoding purposes to understand what Indian state is letting the public know and what their intentions are

For example; in the context of Kashmir, India since 2001 has intelligently used western media “frame of terrorism” to target Kashmiri “freedom fighters” as “terrorists”. Pakistani politicians and media can reverse this by highlighting this issue as “India’s yellow journalism” and “oppressive media framing” against the people of Kashmir. In an another example we see that; on 24th March, 2019 Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj asked for a report through an Indian envoy in Pakistan on two Hindu girls accusing falsely that they were forcibly converted into Islam.

Geo-strategically, this development is a practical manifestation of Indian strategic thought of being the superior and commanding state in the region of South Asia who has never accepted the realities of its surrounding nation-states. Secondly, who gave the right to India to interfere into Pakistan’s internal affairs based on false accusations? This development should have been countered by Pakistan’s government officials and media by highlighting “Sushma’s false accusations” coupled with questions containing frames such as;

a- Though, Sushma Sawaraj’s accusations proved to be false why she does not let the world know about “Ghar Wapsi Movement” through which hundreds of Muslims are oppressively forced to convert to Hinduism.

b- India always shows its concern over the minority issues in Pakistan, why it does not talk about its tyranny and oppression over Kashmiris, Maoists, Naxalites, Tamils, Christians and Sikhs? Etc.

At the International Level:

The author wrote an article on 6th April, 2019 on the issue of Pakistani prisoners being tortured to death in Indian jails titled; “We release Indian prisoners, they torture ours to death: Why is Pakistan silent? This piece pointed out that India does not lose a single opportunity to malign and destroy the image of Pakistan internationally. India uses cooked up stories and false accusations against Pakistan, why Pakistan does not respond vehemently to counter India’s fairy tales? One of the reasons highlighted suggest that Pakistan does not have its own international news outlet.

 Recently, this issue has been addressed brilliantly by a UK-based Geo-political analyst Adam Garrie who has put forth a brilliant idea that Pakistan should establish a 24/7 international news outlet. Garrie has rightly proposed this idea as he is aware of the larger agenda of India against Pakistan. He says; “Other countries, including some of Pakistan’s closest partners are able to communicate their positions on major global issues to international audiences on a 24/7 basis. As Pakistan is naturally home to more English speakers than its Chinese or Turkish partners who have excellent 24/7 news outlets, there is absolutely no excuse for Pakistan not to open up a similar outlet with a similar style and a similar target audience.”

He further says; “Ultimately, if Pakistan is to take ownership over a bolder, patriotic and uncompromising message, it must take control of the medium just as multiple other countries have done, including the economically plagued Venezuela. A 24/7 Pakistani national media outlet (which could be available online and on satellite dish services..etc.) could even help to force Pakistan’s leadership to do something they have not been able to do for many decades: offer a coherent and consistent set of policies that are emphasized and re-emphasized before a global audience that for too long has only heard one side of the south Asian story.”

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