In the fuss the US Congress’s sudden interest in Balochistan has created in Pakistan, one small but telling fact has been overlooked: until very recently the CIA’s drone mission was based in an airbase in the province.
The now-closed Shamsi base tells its own story of the way in which Balochistan has been exploited as a conveniently discreet backyard by outsiders. Britain, the US, India, Iraq, China, Iran, Gulf states, not to mention the Taliban, have all lodged interests within its rugged, mineral-rich folds.
Shamsi was first established by an Arab sheikh who wanted a convenient base for his hunting trips. Then, in 2001, the United Arab Emirates government quietly sub-let it to the CIA, which used it to service the Predator drones that killed targets in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.
The full nature of the arrangement only came to light after the Pakistani military, enraged by the killing of 24 of its soldiers by a US drone strike, forced Asif Ali Zardari in November 2011 to kick the US...