WASHINGTON - The festering insurgency in Balochistan lacks the political direction and momentum of a coherent movement, with tribal leaders attempting mainly to wrest greater power and royalties for themselves according to a US media report.

“The conflict largely has been an internal tussle between powerful tribal chiefs and the Pakistani government for control of Balochistan’s natural resources, particularly natural gas,” said the report published in the chain of newspapers owned by McClatchy Company.

“The Balochs have watched as gas produced here - some 36 percent of Pakistan’s total supply - is transported by pipeline to the rest of the country while their own province remains least developed.The loosely joined independence effort masks the intense rivalries between the tribal chiefs and fears that if Balochistan were to gain autonomy, it would implode into civil war as the chiefs jockeyed for political and economic supremacy,” it added.

“With Baloch separatists having little backing from the outside world — Neither neighbouring Afghanistan nor Iran have any interest in fuelling the insurgency.” Thereport, citing analysts, said the insurgent groups lacked “the manpower and armed capability - and arguably even the ambition - to mount a fight to the end against Pakistan’s powerful military”.

It said, “Direct confrontations between the insurgents and army-led paramilitary forces of the Frontier Corps are relatively infrequent... Rebel ambushes of paramilitary convoys and posts have tended to be in revenge for kidnap, torture and murder incidents allegedly carried out by the military’s intelligence services.” “Mostly, the insurgents have specialized in sabotage, repeatedly blowing up sections of the pipelines carrying natural gas from fields in Balochistan and the railway lines that link it to the rest of Pakistan.Various insurgent faction leaders living in exile in Britain, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates also have been reluctant to form a united political platform, although they loosely share independence as their stated objective.”

“In February, Harbyar Marri, an exiled insurgent leader based in Geneva, travelled to Britain to meet separately with another exiled leader, Baramdagh Bugti, grandson of the late Akbar Bugti - a rebel tribal chief whose death during a army operation in 2006 sparked the current uprising - and Mir Suleman Daud, the Khan of Kalat, who’s the most important tribal chief.” The report went on:  “The initiative amounted to nothing - inflating suspicions among Pakistani analysts that the tribal leaders of the Baloch insurgency, rather than agitating collectively for independence, are preoccupied with obtaining greater power and royalties for themselves.”

The poverty of the Balochs, the analysts argued, is largely attributable to the feudal powers wielded by tribal chiefs. They also practice a harsh and often arbitrary form of justice that includes the forced exile of erring clans and, infamously, the determination of a suspect’s guilt by making them walk on red-hot coals - no blisters means innocent, blisters means guilty.

“In Lasbela, concrete-walled canals carrying water from the hills are owned and used exclusively by the local chiefs to irrigate their farms. The chiefs were also the sole local beneficiaries of quarries that provide building materials - from marble to crushed sandstone - to the booming Karachi construction market.The loosely joined independence effort masks the intense rivalries between the tribal chiefs and fears that if Balochistan were to gain autonomy, it would implode into civil war as the chiefs jockeyed for political and economic supremacy”.