ISLAMABAD: After a few hours of calm due to an overnight ceasefire, hostilities resumed between two rival groups of the Mengal tribe in Wadh on Thursday, injuring at least four people.

The issue was also raised in the National Assembly, while Sardar Akhtar Mengal met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, urging him to intervene to restore peace.

Talking to Dawn on Thursday night, Mr Mengal alleged that armed groups were being patronised by certain institutions and were given free rein to run riot in the province for many years now.

He recalled the discovery of mass graves in the Totak area of Khuzdar, saying that the same elements were involved in the Wadh unrest.

BNP-M leader calls state a ‘silent spectator’ in Balochistan, seeks PM’s intervention

Mr Mengal claimed that these armed groups wanted to eliminate nationalists and other political parties who were struggling for democracy in Balochistan.

He accused the state of being a silent spectator while transporters and landowners in the province grappled with kidnapping, extortion and other threats.

Meanwhile in Wadh, officials said that armed men broke the ceasefire on Thursday morning and started firing with heavy weapons around 8am. The exchange of fire continued for around two hours.

“Infrastructure has been damaged due to rocket fire,” a senior official told Dawn, adding that traffic on the Khuzdar-Karachi highway was suspended for a second consecutive day. He said a mortar shell also hit a college building, but didn’t result in any casualties.

Officials said Kalat Division Commissioner Dawood Khilji, FC Commandant Col Hafiz Kashif, DIG Pervez Umrani, Khuzdar deputy commissioner and other senior officials were present in Wadh and holding talks to defuse the situation.

Meanwhile, Balochistan CM Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo has called a meeting of parliamentary leaders of all political parties in the Balo­chistan Assembly on Friday. The chief of the Sarawan tribes, Nawab Aslam Raisani, also spoke to Mr Mengal and Shafiq Mengal — leaders of the two warring sides — to offer his services for resolving the issue.

The clashes that started on Wednesday have terrorised locals, who have been locked in their homes.

One of the parties to the conflict, Shafiq Mengal, has had a chequered past. While his father Naseer Mengal was a former federal minister, Shafiq was allegedly involved in the formation of the Difa-e-Balochistan outfit, accused of killing and abducting Baloch nationalist workers.

He has also been linked with banned outfits that carried out sectarian killings in Balochistan, especially against Hazara Shias. However, he has historically denied these allegations.

In Islamabad, Akhtar Mengal called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and apprised him of the situation in Wadh and demanded “stern action against the terrorist groups” operating in Khuzdar.

Earlier, federal Minister Agha Hassan Baloch, a leader of the BNP-M, held an emergency news conference at the National Press Club, requesting the government, the military and even the media to play a positive role in resolving the situation.

Mr Baloch said several terrorism cases were registered against Shafiq Mengal, but he had not been caught yet, while the complainant was beaten, threatened and coerced.

Although Mr Baloch didn’t blame any specific individual or entity, he said Shafiq Mengal has been launched “to create terror in Balochistan”.

The minister said he had raised his voice at every forum, including parliament, and contacted the country’s leadership on the issue, but “terrorists continue to operate at will in Khuzdar and other areas of Balochistan”.

Later, speaking in the National Assembly, independent lawmakers Aslam Bootani and Mohsin Dawar criticised the authorities for failing to maintain law and order in Balochistan.

Mr Dawar said that Akhtar Mengal was being pushed against the wall, but “politicians cannot be silenced like this.”

He said death squads were operating in Khuzdar and the parliament as well as the government should play a role in restoring peace there.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2023

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