WHERE security issues are concerned, it is clear that Balochistan — for years in the grip of separatist and sectarian terrorism — is still not at peace. While the separatist insurgency may be in a low phase, issues remain as militants retain their ability to stage attacks, specifically targeting symbols of the state. On Saturday night, at least seven FC personnel were martyred in the province’s Harnai district, with the military’s media wing saying “anti-state forces” were responsible. The Harnai attack may well be a reprisal to the killing of around 10 militants in Awaran earlier this month. Meanwhile, in October separatists had targeted a convoy in Ormara in which several soldiers and security guards were martyred. Though the frequency of attacks by separatist outfits may be down, these groups still pose a significant security threat to Balochistan, which means that the authorities need to scrutinise the situation and work out a new solution that can pacify the province.

One method is the militaristic one, where the security forces go after armed elements posing a threat to Balochistan’s peace. With external forces supporting these elements the security apparatus cannot let its guard down and must remain vigilant in order to thwart acts of terrorism. However, this alone won’t help. Other methods too must be employed to bring stability to Balochistan. For example, despite being a resource-rich province, the standard of life in Balochistan remains low, especially where health and education indicators are concerned. While the establishment says that sardars in the province have held up development — and this is true to a large extent — the fact is that successive governments in Pakistan have also done little to bring prosperity and development to all parts of Balochistan. This has given rise to genuine grievances amongst the Baloch, which have been exploited by inimical actors. Numerous administrations have talked about ‘packages’ for Balochistan, but these have failed to improve the lives of the ordinary Baloch. Therefore, to help eliminate violence from the province, a two-pronged strategy is needed. Firstly, the state must listen to moderate Baloch elements to help reach a political solution. Branding all those who fail to agree with the establishment’s viewpoint as traitors is not a productive approach. Secondly, the Baloch must see development on the ground — with schools, clinics, civic infrastructure in their towns and villages — so that they can be assured that the state cares about them and their children.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2020

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