Scanning the news on return from a nil-by-wifi holiday, I read of dreadful deeds in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan. Which awakens some 30-year old memories.
Back in the ’80s I did some soldiering in Oman, a country with which we have very longstanding relations going back to when that part of the Arabian coast needed patrolling against Sinbad-the-sailor pirates making raids on our India-bound shipping routes. The Omani army was run quite efficiently thirty years ago (and probably still today) mostly by British NCOs and Pakistani staff officers, and was a smart little affair. I strongly imagined my father would have recognised it from his Indian Army days a generation before. One day I will root out the photos and do a post on it.
Anyway, the average Omani soldier (native) was a pleasant chap, touchingly loyal to the Sultan and probably brave enough. But there wasn’t much of what we might think of as a serious martial tradition.
Nonetheless, there was sporadic fighting to be done. The relatively heavy stuff of the ’50s (Jebel campaign) and ’70s (Dhofar) was over but there was a simmering border conflict with Yemen in the south west, not finally settled until 1992. And this pleasant average Omani was not really the chap to creep up on an enemy observation post and make with the cold steel.
So they employed two battalions of Baluchis, in much the same way the British army has long retained the services of the Gurkhas. And, much like a Gurkha, your taciturn Baluch tribesman is exactly the sort of chap for creeping around the hillsides with the cold steel at the ready. In fact, they were some of the best soldiers I have encountered.
If Pakistan has troubles with Baluchistan, I’d guess they could be very problematic indeed.