Bolan bombing

Published March 7, 2023

EVEN in relatively better times, violence has never been far from the surface in Balochistan. Now, as political chaos prevails nationally and terrorism resurges, Pakistan’s geographically largest province appears particularly exposed to insecurity, as the deadly suicide bombing in Bolan on Monday showed. At least nine personnel of the Balochistan Constabulary were martyred in the blast, which authorities suspect was caused by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle who rammed the bike into a vehicle carrying the law enforcers. The little-known Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the attack. The past few weeks have witnessed regular militant violence across Balochistan. A soldier was martyred in an IED blast in Gwadar on Sunday, while incidents have also occurred in Barkhan and Kech. In fact, as per data gathered by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies and published in this paper, the highest number of militant attacks were reported from Balochistan in February; at least 25 people were killed in 22 attacks.

The security situation in Balochistan is complex. Apart from separatist militants, parts of the province that border the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as Afghanistan may be affected by TTP activity. In the past, sectarian militants have staged attacks causing massive casualties. The Bolan blast indicates the increasing ability of religious militants to strike the province. It is also true that the military maintains a massive footprint in Balochistan. Therefore, more than the provincial government, that is only nominally in charge and more often than not is paralysed by infighting and ineptitude, it is the security establishment that must explain why Balochistan remains so insecure. Whether it is Baloch separatists or religiously inspired extremists, the state’s writ must be established and law enforcers as well as civilians in Balochistan must be protected from violence. While all militant activity needs to be monitored and neutralised, the security establishment needs to keep a particular eye on newly emerging threats such as the group reportedly involved in the Bolan terrorist attack. As mentioned, religiously motivated militants already have a presence in the province, in the shape of TTP sympathisers as well as sectarian actors, while certain Baloch separatists have reportedly teamed up with TTP factions. In the presence of such multifaceted threats, the state needs to pay special attention to the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2023

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