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Balochistan killings

ON the very day that a National Security Committee meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by the senior-most military leadership, praised the state’s efforts in Balochistan to establish peace and stability, the province was again rocked by violence.

The attacks on Wednesday are significant because they have widened the recent pattern of violence in the province.

While the police are clearly being targeted in Balochistan, the killing of a police official along with his wife and young family members is highly unusual and may represent a broadening of the terror threat in the province.

Meanwhile, the killing of 15 young men from Punjab near the border with Iran could have been a human smuggling operation gone grotesquely wrong, but reports suggest the Punjab residents were separated from a larger group before being killed, indicating a deeply troubling re-escalation of separatist militant violence in the province.

The disconnect between the state’s assessment of the situation in Balochistan, as indicated by the NSC meeting, and the reality in the province could not be more stark.

The flawed approach of dealing with Balochistan primarily through a security prism and suggesting that state-sponsored economic development is a panacea for the province’s problems continues to prevail.

With a fresh wave of violence having seemingly been unleashed across Balochistan, urgent action is needed.

On the security front, the police force must take steps to better protect its officers to allow them to carry out their duties.

The repeated targeting of police officers appears to be an attempt to destroy morale and sow fresh fear among the people — if the police cannot protect their own, the general public is deeply vulnerable.

There must surely be a few defensive steps that can be taken by the police, while the overall intelligence and security apparatus must be able to find and degrade whatever network is responsible for a succession of attacks on the force.

On the political front, whether from inside Balochistan or outside, and from inside the provincial and federal governments or outside, there is a need for a fresh attempt at a grand consensus on policy in the province.

The security-centric approach pushed by the military leadership and meekly accepted by the Balochistan and federal governments is not working.

Friends of Balochistan need to come together and have the courage to speak truth to power. The status quo must not be allowed to prevail.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2017

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