Farooq Hameed KhanThe American efforts to gain permanent foothold in Balochistan and South Punjab by establishing Consulates in Quetta and Multan suffered a blow after serious opposition from Pakistani security establishment specially after the Raymond Davis and Abbottabad episodes. Reportedly the Foreign Office denied the US their requests to open these new Consulates..US Ambassador Cameron Munter’s recent declaration that ‘Balochistan was very significant for the United States’ reveals the superpower’s intentions when viewed in the context of US obsession to open up the new Quetta Consulate.In early 2010, then US ambassador Anne Patterson had cited two main reasons for the Quetta Consulate : to oversee the development activities carried out by Americans in Balochistan and ensure a close liaison with the Baloch people for speedy visa facility instead of dealing with US Consulates in Karachi and Islamabad. Pakistanis, however, view these as a cover for greater sinister US designs In Balochistan.But US Ambassador Cameron Munter is not willing to give up so easily too. He recently visited Quetta , where he met with the Balochistan Chief Minister and Speaker Balochistan Assembly to lobby for the Consulate which was obviously not agreed to. These Baloch leaders also rejected the American themes regarding presence of Al –Qaida and Taliban leaders Al Zawahri and Mulla Omer in Balochistan or Taliban intrusion from around Quetta into Afghanistan. Such narrative also points towards a US agenda of expanding the Afghan war into Balochistan .Why is US Consulate in Quetta considered to be against Pakistan’s security interests? Because this would serve as a launching pad for greater American interference in Baloch istan affairs to further American interests in the region. It is feared that US security personnel are likely to intensify their clandestine activities and further fuel the insurgency in the province in coordination with RAW sponsored Baloch militant groups.A recent media report quoting top-level sources in our foreign ministry is significant : “In fact, we have received a lot of secret correspondence by security agencies about the CIA operatives’ involvement in a number of nefarious plots against Pakistan. This is the reason we refused them establishment of new consulates.”The United States has clear strategic interests in mineral rich Balochistan which provides a regional trade and energy corridor to Afghanistan and energy rich central asian states. According to media reports, the US is also eyeing a setup at Gwadar to maintain a watch over Chinese activities in the area..Therefore US presence in Balochistan could threaten the security of strategic projects that are likely to takeoff in 2011/2012 including the Chinese sponsored second phase infra-strucutre development of Gwadar port , construction of Pak- Iran gas pipeline and the mega Reqo Dik copper/gold mining facility, which do not converge with Indo- US strategic interests in the region.American interest in Balochistan’s division on linguistic/ethnic lines was reflected in a senior ANP leader’s recent statement suggesting carving out a ‘South Pakhtun khwa’ province in Pashtun dominated regions of Balochistan , that links with long term designs towards Greater Pashtunistan. Incidentally few months ago , Ambasador Munter had participated in a Pashtun tribal jirga in Quetta an event that had raised eye brows in Islamabad. Baloch leaders seem conscious of such a conspiracy and have rejected any plan to breakup Balochistan.In the article titled ‘The Destabilization of Pakistan’ dated May 12, 2011 Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall writes , “Following a familiar pattern, there are indications that the Baloch insurgency is being supported and abetted by Britain and the US. Washington favors the creation of a “Greater Balochistan” which would integrate the Baloch areas of Pakistan with those of Iran and possibly the Southern tip of Afghanistan, thereby leading to a process of political fracturing in both Iran and Pakistan. The US course consists in fomenting social, ethnic and factional divisions and political fragmentation, including the territorial breakup of Pakistan.”The American interest in South Punjab through their new found love for Sufism/ Barelvism has led to renovation of few Sufi shrines in South Punjab . Former US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson had announced lavish grants for the conservation and restoration of three shrines (Hazrat Rajan Qattal in Uch Sharif, Hazrat Musa Pak Shaheed in Multan and Hazrat Khawaja Ghulam Fareed in Rajanpur) in South Punjab under the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. It is not known how much of these funds were actually used for the intended purpose.Ambassador Cameron Munter maintained the traditions of his predecessor when , during his latest visit to Multan, he laid floral wreath at the shrine of Hazrat Shah Shams and reassured US aid to restore the shrine in its original shape.The American double game is clearly visible. While on one hand they present themselves as supporters of Sufi Islam, on the other the US embassy in Islamabad organized the despicable first ever gay, lesbians, bi sexual and transgender(GLBT) pride celebration ceremony and assured its Pakistani participants that Washington would continue to support their cause in Pakistan.After the CIA’s reported failure at acquiring land in Dera Ghazi Khan, the next station of choice is obviously Multan. But thanks to US funded mango processing project, that will facilitate American ingress into the interior of South Punjab. We also currently witness a coordinated US/UK effort to engage leaders/influentials of South Punjab.Some questions arise. Is American support for Sufism designed to promote inter sect hatred and divide in an already polarized religio- cultural environment in Pakistani society? Or is the strategy to penetrate the shrines culture a cover to establish links with some banned religious/militant outfits to destabilize South Punjab ?Do we see an American/British link with the sudden move for creating Seraiki province by the ruling party? Are few top ‘gaddi nashins’ and power hungry opportunist politicians and waderas of South Punjab falling into the American/ British trap? Is this a conspiracy to unnerve and divide Punjab and create hatred on linguistic/ethnic lines to weaken Pakistan?It is also essential that movement of foreign diplomats specially the American and British personnel be regulated and monitored and US/UK embassies should observe the Foreign Office protocol / procedures laid down for travel of their diplomats as well as meeting Pakistanis in various cities.New US Consulates in Quetta and Multan pose a threat to Pakistan’s security and our principled stand against their opening must not be compromised for short term political gains and vested interests.The writer is a political/defence analyst.NOTE:THIS IS A CROSS POST.