WHATEVER emerges from the opaqueness that surrounds Balochistan is almost always of a grim nature. So it has been for the past week. Last Friday, the senior-most police official of Killa Abdullah, DPO Sajid Mohmand and his driver lost their lives in a suicide bombing in Chaman, the district main town which lies close to the Afghan border. On Thursday in Quetta, a senior police officer, SP Mubarak Shah along with his three armed guards was slain by four armed men on motorcycles who ambushed the SP’s official vehicle while he was on his way to his office. Jamaatul Ahrar, a faction of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, as did the militant Islamic State group. There has so far been no claim of responsibility for the murder of the Killa Abdullah DPO.
When law-enforcement personnel are killed, it has a far-reaching, psychological impact. That is compounded when such an event takes place in a city like Quetta, a small town with a population of only a little over a million. If those who are supposed to secure the lives and property of citizens can themselves be targeted, that too in broad daylight in Balochistan’s capital, can anyone consider themselves safe? The city is one of the most heavily policed urban centres in the country, with Rangers checkpoints at frequent intervals, so when individuals are singled out in this manner, it raises a number of questions. For example, how well are the security officials screened for radical sympathies or affiliations? How can assailants enter the city and make good their escape without being apprehended? The kidnapping of two Chinese nationals in May, again in broad daylight, illustrated the ease with which criminals operate in Balochistan. In that instance too, the abductors managed to make their way unimpeded through the city, even though they were in an unmarked car. Over the past several years, the province has become a cauldron of multiple insurgent outfits and extremist groups with violent, often diametrically opposed, agendas. That these groups are willing and able to strike wherever they choose, was demonstrated in May this year with the suicide bombing of JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri’s convoy in Mastung and the Shah Noorani shrine bombing in Khuzdar last year. The SP’s murder in Quetta, no less than that of the DPO 75km away, once again underscores the precarious security situation in the province.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2017