Renewed insurgency?

Published January 29, 2022

THE last few days suggest that the Baloch insurgency is far from a spent force. According to an ISPR statement, 10 soldiers were martyred in a terrorist attack on a check post in Balochistan’s Kech district on the night between Jan 25-26; one assailant was killed and several injured in the fierce exchange of gunfire.

The military’s media affairs wing further said that three terrorists were subsequently rounded up in a clearance operation that is still underway. Reportedly, the Baloch Liberation Front has claimed responsibility.

Last Thursday, it was a new militant outfit — the Baloch National Army — that assumed responsibility for the powerful IED blast that had ripped through Lahore’s Anarkali market a couple of hours earlier, killing at least three people and injuring 33 others. Yesterday, four lives were lost in a landmine explosion, as yet unclaimed, in Balochistan’s Sui area.

The recent spike in major attacks by Baloch separatists adds another dimension to the deepening unease regarding the security situation. On Jan 17, the TTP carried out a brazen assault on a police check post in Islamabad, signalling its ability to strike inside the country’s most well-secured urban centre. And this was only the latest in a series of deadly attacks by the terrorist outfit, most of which have targeted Pakistan Army soldiers in the tribal districts.

Editorial: Recent attacks point to the state's failure to realise affinity between TTP and Afghan Taliban

While the TTP’s resurgence has a direct link with the Taliban taking power in Afghanistan, there may well be merit in the contention that the ouster of Ashraf Ghani’s government has also prompted hostile foreign forces to double down on their support to the Baloch insurgents. Certainly, all terrorist outfits need to be dealt with through kinetic tactics to some extent. However, to deal with Balochistan’s insurgency as a law and order problem to be beaten down with lethal force is a myopic and self-defeating approach.

Much has already been said and written about Balochistan’s grievances; it is no secret the resource-rich province has been ruthlessly exploited and its people deprived of their fundamental rights to protection of life and liberty, to freedom of speech and due process. Many ‘upliftment packages’ have been announced by various governments, only to fizzle out without achieving anything.

The fact is, there is a lack of sincerity in the approach towards Balochistan, and the ‘packages’ are merely window dressing to obscure the state’s reluctance to allow the province any agency over its affairs, particularly with reference to the vast mineral resources that lie beneath its soil. Also, actions such as detaining Baloch students following terrorist attacks like the recent one in Lahore should be taken with care, lest all Baloch feel as though they are perennially suspect. The cycle of distrust and disaffection must be broken. According to the new National Security Policy, economic security is at the heart of national security. The state’s approach to Balochistan must reflect that.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2022

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