LESS than a week after the bloodbath in Quetta’s Hazarganji area, another massacre of innocents has taken place in Balochistan, this time in the coastal town of Ormara.

As reported, at least 14 people were shot dead after buses in which they were travelling were stopped on the Makran Coastal Highway by armed men in the early hours of Thursday.

The assailants methodically and cold-bloodedly selected their victims after checking the passengers’ CNICs. Most of those slain are said to be members of the security forces — navy and Coast Guards personnel — while a conglomerate of banned separatist groups has claimed responsibility for the atrocity.

Over the last few months, it appeared that militant activities — of both sectarian killers and Baloch separatists — had reduced in Balochistan.

However, the events of the past few days show there is no room to be complacent, and that the threat to people’s security still very much exists in the province.

Of course, this is not the first time such a brutal modus operandi has been employed by separatist groups. In 2015, a similar massacre took place in Mastung when non-Baloch passengers, almost all of them Pakhtun residents of Pishin district, were pulled off two Karachi-bound coaches and killed.

There have also been a number of incidents in which migrant labour has been targeted by separatists. On Oct 31 last year, for instance, five construction workers hailing from Sindh and Punjab were murdered in Gwadar district.

Needless to say, such bestial acts of violence are utterly indefensible; they must be denounced in the strongest possible terms and the perpetrators brought to justice. Those who believe these actions will help highlight their cause are mistaken.

On the contrary, they are a betrayal of the legitimate cause of Baloch national rights within the federation of Pakistan.

There has been widespread condemnation of the Ormara tragedy, with all political forces weighing in. However, Baloch nationalist parties must be particularly forthright in stating that violence and murder are unacceptable and illegitimate methods to attain political goals.

The struggle for Baloch rights must be achieved through political means; anything else will only exacerbate the miseries of those in the province that are caught in the midst of the state and the separatist elements.

The insurgency appears to have subsided of late. In fact, the savagery latent in this attack may be evidence that the militants are getting desperate, but it also shows that they remain capable of unleashing terrible havoc.

A genuine reconciliation process is direly needed that involves the state, Baloch nationalist parties, and even the disgruntled elements.

The people of the province have legitimate grievances that have been allowed to fester for decades, giving rise to insurgencies, over and over again.

These grievances must be acknowledged and discussed in an open, democratic manner, and real solutions put in place to address them.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2019


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