KARACHI: Mach tragedy goes to underline the fact that Balochistan continues to reel from relentless terrorism due to systemic adhocism and security oversight, severely restricting the police from...
KARACHI: Mach tragedy goes to underline the fact that Balochistan continues to reel from relentless terrorism due to systemic adhocism and security oversight, severely restricting the police from functioning and allowing the tribal-bureaucratic system’s appendage the Levies to look after the larger security.
Hazaras have been targeted by sectarian outfits since SSP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al Alami, TTP and now all their singular, disparate elements have metamorphosed into ISIS/Daesh, which is still officially considered to be operating largely from Afghanistan though sleeper elements exist. While security forces and other ethnic groups like Punjabi settlers or labourers are targeted by Baloch sub nationalists. Ever since 2003 the Hazara community was constantly victimized, though this time by striking the sleeping colliers, it exposes the systemic security flaw of police presence in only three of the 30 districts of Balochistan. Against the backdrop of the fact that Quetta, Gwadar (partial police zones) and Sibi districts are the hot zones of terrorism and the districts around the provincial capital from Quetta-Kalat-Khuzdar and the others extending from Quetta- Bolan-Sibi and Dera Murad Jamali districts are presently witnessing serious terrorism, movements and host their sanctuaries fall under control of Levies with little motivation and wherewithal to confront the sophisticated modern day terrorists.
Same happened in coal-mine-rich Mach , in Bolan district where an ISIS cell of 15-20 members led by Zubair Badini from nearby Bala Nari pounced on the unsuspecting coal miners in Geresht. According to intelligence sources, the Badini cell was twice sighted before in the same vicinity.
According to security and intelligence sources four to five years ago Badini was part of the ISIS base in Splingi, Mastung. Much of the infrastructure of the base was destroyed in a successful IBO operation. Several members of the cell were killed, while some along with Badini escaped to Afghanistan’s Spin Boldak, from where the group’s main handler, Mumtaz Pehlwan operates and funds the virulent group. Pehlwan coordinates closely with another ISIS handler in Spin Boldak, the Mufti who also operates a cell in Kalat. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s Chota Umar is another handler of ISIS cells in Balochistan running a terrorist camp and operating from Brahamcha, located at the confluence of Iran-Afghanistan and Pakistan border.
Mach is located in Bolan district, 64 km south east of Quetta on the road heading to Sibi district and is surrounded by Mastung and Kalat districts where low profile individual presence of Daesh and Balochi sub nationalist elements remains a possibility, believe security officials.
The topography of Mach is dotted by hilly terrain overlooking the vast expanse providing a clear view of any movement of approaching law enforcement personnel. Away from the main road, it is a pretty inaccessible area without any roads or jeep tracks and conventional means of travel are of almost no use. Movement in the desolate area is limited through donkeys and mules, even the terrorists use the same. Besides lakes and with Bolan river in the vicinity, there is abundant greenery helping the scant population mostly dependent on rearing of livestock, but those are not organized neighbourhoods or villages. Being local Baloch, the ISIS goons along with their families would find little difficultly in settling among the largely unsuspecting shepherd population who may not prefer not to invite trouble. The Baloch tribal force, the Levies, operating under a hierarchy of revenue Tehsildar, Assistant Commissioner and Commissioner, according to its mandate operates within the tribes and desolate villages but compromised by the fear of reprisals and lacking capacity do not report the outsiders presence, while the terrorists move in and out unhindered. Bolan has been in the gunsights of terrorists. The famous picnic spot of Pir Ghaib cascading waterfalls is also located in the Bolan district, which was similarly attacked by terrorists. Seven FC troops were martyred in an IED explosion targeting their vehicle near Pir Ghaib on May 19, 2020. Even that did not cause any rethink of the threat spectrum and security emplacement.
But Mach is more sensitive and famous for tens of hundreds of coal mines. Unlike mines in Zhob where some Hazaras work or Loralai where miners from Swat and Afghanistan eke out a living, here over 7000 colliers of the Hazara community work making them easy target for the terrorists. The area has an Imambargah and some vacated houses of the local Shia community who relocated to Quetta due to fragile security. The Hazaras from Quetta bring Muharram processions to Mach minefields Imambargah and return to Quetta within a few hours due to security situation.
However, near the mines an FC detachment was deployed who were “paid to man” the security of the mines. But that stationary picket was redeployed somewhere else two days earlier, providing a convenient window of opportunity to the brute terrorists who swooped on the oblivious sleeping miners.
In the current scenario where the countrywide terrorism has spiked and countless lives wasted, the lack of security around a vulnerable group of people always in gunsights of marauders, raises series of questions. It was a clear case of intelligence failure and at best a wrong decision to move FC guarding the mines to be redeployed somewhere else.
Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said “there is a high level committee formed by the CM Balochistan to review the security measures and plug the loop holes. He also denied “any information about the relocation of the FC stationary picket from the minefields.”
The area falls under the domain of the deputy commissioner and Tehsildar who run the Levies. The provincial government has removed the DC of the area following the tragedy. There is no police presence, neither CTD, nor Crime Branch courtesy the bizzare police-free B zones covering 34 districts of the entire province except Quetta, Gwadar and Lasbela districts. The practical handing over of Gwadar and Lasbela districts to the police from Levies continues to be resisted by the latter even the buildings are not being shared, Police sources confirmed. For all practical purposes there is no organized police presence beyond Quetta district that continues to poses a serious risk. Gen Musharraf regime had established policing across the pivotal province, only to be quickly reversed by the PPP’s Yusuf Raza Gilani government at the insistence of the Balochistan Assembly, tribal influence and the revenue bureaucracy. This massive systemic security breach remains a blind spot for the provincial and federal government who lack to comprehend the gravity of the detriment. To a query from the The News on the issue, Balochistan government spokesperson, Liaquat Shahwani has said “the issue of sharing resources with police in Gwadar and Lasbela districts are teething problems which would be overcome soon. But the provincial government has no plans to convert the remaining province to A area or under Police jurisdiction," the spokesman added.
Similarly, no logic can explain why the Hazaras continue to be exposed to terrorists almost daily. Since 2012, they have been demanding a vegetable market in Hazara Town where they live. But have to travel 20 km everyday under police and FC escort to a Sabzi Mandi in Hazarganji, which has been the site of scores of attacks against the community. The proverbial bureaucratic red tape and lack of government interest defies any logic why something so common like a vegetable market or truckloads of groceries cannot be transported to Hazara Town to deny terrorists a vulnerable target. In response to this question, Shahwani clarified that “ there is no proposal under consideration, for establishing a market in the Hazara Town, but we will continue to provide regular security to the community.”
The security hotchpotch of Balochistan dominated by the tribal influenced-Levies without being put under a 24X7 uniform law enforcement machinery would continue to challenge the state and country and allow blood to flow endlessly