Overcoming the militancy in Balochistan | By Dr Muhammad Khan

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Overcoming the militancy in Balochistan

ACCORDING to a press release of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), on January 18, 2023, four Pakistani soldiers embraced martyrdom in a terrorist attack in Panjgur district of Balochistan.

The terrorist attack was conducted a day after Army Chief General Asim Muneer visited Khuzdar and Basima military bases in the province and reiterated Army’s stance for establishing peace in the province.

The terrorists used Iranian soil to target a convoy of security forces patrolling along the border (and) the Iranian side has been asked to hunt down the terrorists on their side.

The General, during his visit, seemed determined to defeat the militancy and terrorism in the province.

He said, “We are aware of the nefarious designs of external enemies of Pakistan to disturb the hard-earned peaceful environment in Balochistan.

” It is quite disturbing that there has been repeated attacks on the military posts and conveys of the Army personnel and Frontier Corps in parts of the province during 2022.

On 24 December 2022, five soldiers including a Captain embraced Shahadat in an attack of the terrorists during a clearance operation based on credible intelligence sources.

This attack was undertaken through IED. ISPR revealed that this attack was also supported from across the border. There have been numerous terrorist attacks in parts of Balochistan during year 2022.

Earlier on 27 January 2022, a brutal terrorist attack on a military check post in Kech district of south-western Balochistan had killed ten soldiers including two officers.

Claimed by Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), this assault is one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on Pakistani military in recent years.

BLA is an outlawed terrorist outfit in the province, trained, funded and sponsored by intelligence agencies of rival states.

The attackers were heavily armed with rocket launchers and sophisticated weapon system. In most of the cases these attacks were claimed by sub-nationalist groups of Balochistan. In a few attacks, there was collaboration between sub-nationalists and TTP terrorists.

Nevertheless, in almost all attacks, there remained an external element; using either the Afghan soil or Iran land.

While there are indicators of a wide spread militancy and terrorism in parts of Pakistan, the political elite of Pakistan are totally un-attentive and busy in the accusations and counter accusations against each other in Parliament and outside Parliament.

The political elite is least bothered about the happenings and the rising militancy in Pakistan.

Indeed, there is a gradual rise in militancy in parts of Pakistan with Balochistan and KP as the most affected.

Ever since the takeover of Taliban in Afghanistan, there have been frequent attacks from across the Pak-Afghan border on Pakistani military posts.

The frequency of attacks and number of casualties in the last one and half years has been more than what it was during hostile governments in the neighbourhood of Pakistan.

The conduct of these terrorists attacks and the sophisticated weapons used during these attacks leads towards four solid conclusions; a) the attackers are very well trained with a supportive surveillance system, b) attackers are locally supported under fear or otherwise, c) the attackers had most modern weapon system including night vision goggles which are provided by advanced countries, and d) they had safe exit routes where reinforcing troops find hard to pursue them.

This tactics is being used all along by the terrorists while attacking the isolated check posts of Army and FC (Balochistan) in parts of the Province, killing the men in uniform.

It is worth mentioning that the province of Balochistan constitutes 43% of the total landmass of Pakistan.

The province has been bestowed with tremendous potential of natural sources with high mountain barriers and a long coastal area.

The people of the province are hard workers, tough, intelligent and loyal to their motherland.

However, owing to poor development over the years, lack of education and other basic facilities and bad governance system the masses of the province felt deprived and ignored.

The deprivation of the masses became their vulnerability which is being exploited by local feudal lot, militant groups and external factors; the spying agencies of regional states and major powers.

Resultantly, there remained phases of instability in the province for decades now. This marvellous province of Pakistan has undergone various regional and international conspiracies.

The fast deteriorating security situation in the Province needs serious attention of all stakeholders of the state.

The federal and provincial governments cannot be absolved from their fundamental responsibilities by just blaming the foreign involvement in the province.

Whereas, there is an essential involvement of foreign elements in the rise of militancy in the province, what measures have been undertaken by the government(s) and institutions to eliminate them over the years?

Combating the BLA and other sub-nationalists may be a short-term measure, there has to be initiation of a political process and social rapprochement for addressing the genuine grievances of those who have been forced to take arms.

For how long the state and its masses should accept the bloodshed, violence and lawlessness in the province.

Let there be an end to all forms of violence and exploitation in Balochistan province and indeed all over Pakistan.

The Government of Pakistan must initiate national reconciliation process which addresses the issues of affected community rather promoting the elites culture in the province.

Let Parliament of Pakistan to be the forum for promoting national harmony, national integrity rather making it a battle ground of political parties.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.