Sunday, November 26, 2017

Relentless killings in Balochistan


The recent weeks have seen a sudden rise in terrorist violence in Balochistan. Following several targeted attacks on the police, last Wednesday in two back-to-back incidents an SP investigations along with three members of his family was killed in Quetta, while 15 bullet ridden bodies of young men from Punjab were found by the Levies from Buleda area of Kech District near the Iran border. Another five bodies were discovered nearby a couple of days later. All these 20 men, victims of people smugglers, were on their way to Europe via Iran in search of greener pastures. According to the provincial home minister, a TTP faction was responsible for the assault on the SP and the so-called Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) for the Kech carnage. In a security operation following the incident a BLA commander was killed.

These incidents are a horrific reminder that Balochistan remains in the crosshairs of terrorists. In his reaction Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal reiterated that India is using Afghan soil to carry out terrorist attacks in Balochistan in a bid to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. Following recent Pak-US interactions and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa's visit to Kabul there has been some improvement in the two sides' cooperation in dealing with the issue of terrorist sanctuaries though a lot less than the desired level. Continued engagement is necessary to address mutual concerns. But the Interior Minister also needs to get his act together and fully implement the National Action Plan to rid this country of TTP and other violent extremist organisations, their facilitators as well as recruiting grounds. The challenge in Balochistan though is more complex and calls for a policy rethink. The tragic killing of intending Punjabi economic migrants is not the first incident of its kind. Poor workers from Punjab and Sindh employed in various development projects have similarly been targeted. As long as the situation in the province remains fluid this country's enemies will take advantage of it. It is imperative therefore for the powers-that-be to pay heed to the mainstream Baloch voices, like that of the former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, calling for a reconciliation dialogue with 'angry' Baloch youth and their leaders. At the heart of the trouble being political grievances these can and ought to be addressed through negotiations rather than use of force.

As regards the heartbreaking loss of 20 young men, sadly this has not happened for the first time. There have been several other incidents wherein people smugglers fleeced poor unemployed individuals and their families of huge amounts of money only to let them perish in dangerous voyages at sea or killed while making illegal border crossings. Those who put them in harm's way are invariably influential people and hence never get caught for their crimes. In the present case the Interior Minister has said that investigations into the killings in Buleda tehsil of Balochistan are underway and that the government would share its report with the public. It is hoped those involved will be given exemplary punishments, and that the investigations will not stop at this horrific incident. The government must launch an indiscriminate crackdown on all human smuggling rings.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2017

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