More attacks

Published February 4, 2022

THE uptick in terrorism in Balochistan is shocking to say the least. On Wednesday evening, Baloch insurgents attacked security forces’ camps in Panjgur and Naushki in the province. In its statement on the militant violence, ISPR, the military’s media wing, said both attacks were repulsed and 13 terrorists killed while seven soldiers including an officer embraced martyrdom.

The two attacks occurred just when Pakistan’s security apparatus was discussing and analysing a deadly attack late last month in Kech, Balochistan, where Baloch insurgents targeted a security post, resulting in the martyrdom of 10 soldiers. Coming as Prime Minister Imran Khan embarked on a visit to China, the attacks sent out an ominous message: the security situation may well be getting out of hand.

Evidently, not only have the number of attacks shown an increase, the violence is turning out to be deadlier than all previous hit-and-run assaults. The Baloch insurgents seem have to changed their tactics and have upped the ante, throwing a huge challenge to Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies. Seen together with increasing activities and attacks by the outlawed TTP, the security picture in Pakistan looks increasingly grim.

Read: Non-enforcement of security plan blamed for rising terrorism

ISPR also referred to a communication intercept connecting the attackers with their handlers in Afghanistan and India. If true, this is deeply unsettling. While Pakistan had been routinely blaming the Afghan intelligence service NDS and India’s RAW in the past for fomenting trouble in Balochistan and KP, there was a sense of optimism that Kabul’s new rulers would uphold their commitment and not allow Afghanistan’s soil to be used against any state. There is no indication that this is happening.

It is true that some former NDS sleuths might still be hiding and orchestrating terrorist attacks in Pakistan without the knowledge of the Afghan Taliban when it comes to the Baloch insurgents, but the TTP is openly operating from Afghan soil. Pakistani intelligence may also be aware of reports that some of the Baloch insurgents, soon after the Taliban overran Kandahar, had moved to neighbouring Iran.

Due to sensitivities and Pakistan’s relations with its western neighbour, Islamabad has been reluctant to speak publicly on the matter. That National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf didn’t bring up the issue during his recently concluded two-day visit to Kabul and that the matter was left to another high-powered security team to discuss corroborates the fact that Islamabad is being cautious as it does not want to embarrass its new partners in peace.

It is clear by now that the Afghan Taliban want to help Pakistan but are not willing to use coercive tactics to rein in the TTP and other militant groups, leaving few policy choices for Islamabad. It is time the government revisited and reviewed its counter-intelligence and counterterrorism policy and took a long, hard look at its internal security policy as well.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2022

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