By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
Balochistan . . . An immense desert comprising almost 48% of Pakistanâ€™s area, rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, and producing more than one-third of Pakistanâ€™s natural gas, it accounts for less than 4% of Pakistanâ€™s 173 million citizens. Balochs are the majority, followed by Pashtuns. Quetta, the provincial capital, is considered Taliban Central by the Pentagon, which for all its high-tech wizardry mysteriously has not been able to locate Quetta resident â€œThe Shadowâ€, historic Taliban emir Mullah Omar himself.
Strategically, Balochistan is mouth-watering: east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian sea ports, including Gwadar, practically at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.
Gwadar – a port built by China – is the absolute key. It is the essential node in the crucial, ongoing, and still virtual Pipelineistan war between IPI and TAPI. IPI is the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, also known as the â€œpeace pipelineâ€, which is planned to cross from Iranian to Pakistani Balochistan – an anathema to Washington. TAPI is the perennially troubled, US-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which is planned to cross western Afghanistan via Herat and branch out to Kandahar and Gwadar.
Washingtonâ€™s dream scenario is Gwadar as the new Dubai – while China would need Gwadar as a port and also as a base for pumping gas via a long pipeline to China. One way or another, it will all depend on local grievances being taken very seriously. Islamabad pays a pittance in royalties for the Balochis, and development aid is negligible; Balochistan is treated as a backwater. Gwadar as the new Dubai would not necessarily mean local Balochis benefiting from the boom; in many cases they could even be stripped of their local land.
To top it all, thereâ€™s the New Great Game in Eurasia fact that Pakistan is a key pivot to both NATO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Pakistan is an observer. So whoever â€œwinsâ€ Balochistan incorporates Pakistan as a key transit corridor to either Iranian gas from the monster South Pars field or a great deal of the Caspian wealth of â€œgas republicâ€ Turkmenistan. . . .