Murdered workers

Published June 22, 2022

THE murder of two workers hailing from Sindh in Balochistan’s Hoshab area on Monday is the second incident this month in which labourers have been targeted in the province. The murdered men were working on a road project. Last week, three workers were killed in a labour camp in Harnai. In that attack, the assailants torched the labour camp after committing the crime. At the time of writing, no organisation had claimed responsibility for these attacks. Moreover, two policemen were also targeted in the Dera Allahyar area of the province on Sunday. This series of deadly attacks targeting ordinary workers trying to make a living in the province, as well as law enforcers, indicates that the problem of militancy in Balochistan is far from resolved, as the state — both its civilian and military arms — has been unable to establish permanent peace in the troubled province. According to figures compiled by the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, at least 12 non-Baloch settlers and workers were killed in militant attacks in the province last year. While the killing of any non-combatant is indefensible, the murder of poor workers trying to provide for their families is particularly reprehensible.

When it comes to bringing peace to Balochistan, we seem to be moving in circles. The combination of military operations, offers of amnesty to militants and promises to improve the socioeconomic situation of the province’s people has failed to bring lasting stability, perhaps because there is little visible change on the ground. For example, while incidents of violence continue, the ruling party in Balochistan is embroiled in palace intrigues — a disturbing reflection of the priorities of the rulers for whom the security and welfare of the population rank much lower than their bid for power. The fact is that in the troubled province, militant violence, poverty, lack of opportunity and the involvement of hostile actors are all interlinked. To establish lasting peace in Balochistan, a holistic strategy is needed, which moves beyond rhetoric. While those involved in the murders of civilians and security men must be brought to justice to deal a lethal blow to militancy, the people’s genuine grievances have to be addressed. The Baloch should have the first right to the province’s mineral riches, and gain from CPEC developments. If the state can show the people it cares for them and give them jobs, security, healthcare and education, the separatist narrative can be countered in a more effective manner.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2022

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