Thursday, June 14, 2007

Balochistan Divided

A quick update on the controversial border wall Iran is building along side its neighbor Pakistan, that I mentioned a few weeks earlier.

[Image: A new image of Iran's border wall with Pakistan, Iran to wall off Baluchistan border (Al Jazeera, 2007). ]

According to this journalist from Al Jazeera who recently toured the border town of Taftan – which is, as he says “Pakistan's only legal official border crossing into Iran,” and better known by locals as the "road to London" – the wall is primarily to prevent illegal immigrants and smugglers from traversing back and forth which has become a problem for both nations. While trade between the two countries is booming, he says, so apparently are the more informal networks of cheap fuel runners and product pushers. Ironically enough, he makes no mention of the impact of GWOT (“Global War on Terror”) and how that may or may not be effecting the migrations of refugees and militants through out the region. I would be very curious to get some statistics on the numbers of Afghani refugees who are fleeing the resurging Taliban, or the American presence for that matter.
However, the controversy over the wall is not necessarily between Pakistan and Iran (Pakistan recently went so far as to claim that they did not even mind that Iran had not consulted Pakistan before deciding to erect the barrier, saying merely that building such a structure was “Iran’s own business”), the controversy surrounds the border town of Balochistan that has lived on and traversed both sides of the borders for generations.

[Image: A basic map of the border region in question, via Al Jazeera, 2007. ]

The same journalist’s report indicates that “Pakistan, Iran and India want to build a pipeline that will travel over Baluchistan's challenging terrain.” And apparently the current leadership of Baluchistan is not resisting this effort, so much that “The opposition leader of Balochistan Assembly, Gatchkol Ali has demanded a change of governor's post,” who would not even allow debate to take place in assembly over the wall’s construction and what it meant for the people of Balochistan.
Ali claims the 10-foot high 4-foot wide concrete and barbed-wire wall is “a blatant endeavor to divide the Baloch nation on either side of Pak-Iran border.” Furthermore, he says due to any “impending conflict” between Iran and the U.S. this land would invariably need to be used for border defensive. Throw the pipeline in the mix and a whole host of complicated agendas seem to be converging on this border town who will essentially be split in half by the wall over time.
I guess I am just most interested in the political (or absent of political) process of how these border fences emerge, at what costs, for what purposes, profits, in what strategic locations, and how those sites may or may not fit into a larger geopolitical picture rather than simply existing as local conflicts in local contexts to themselves. And to what degree they are designed to stem flows of "militants, terrorists and smugglers" as opposed to blockading the sad tides of refugees and asylum seekers perpetually uprooted and wandering adrift as a result of regional conflict and geopolitical policy. There are just so many layers that seem to constitute the complex production of border space today, and as I get more into it of course nothing is ever as it seems. For example, the border fence in Balochistan, which could be simply to prep the landscape for a major pipeline project between Iran and India, who knows, may also go as far as primping the deal I mentioned earlier between India and Burma to trade militarization assitance in exchange for larger infrastructural trade development.
Anyway, these distant connections between regions as possibly glimpsed through the prism of a single and relatively small under-the-radar border fence fascinate me; like mysterious global economy valves or something quietly being engineered in small corners of the earth.
Keeping my eyes on it, I will report further as I learn more.


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