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Locals fear repression as Pakistan launches 'large scale' operation in Balochistan

By Ateet Sharma

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS): Pakistan has launched a blanket offensive in Balochistan province in the name of counter-terrorism following the brutal killing of 11 coal miners belonging to the ethnic Hazara community. Balochistan's home minister Mir Ziaullah Langove said Monday that "a large-scale operation against terrorists" has been started in the province to find the real culprits of the gruesome murder of 11 coal miners from the Hazara minority community. The massacre took place in Machh area on January 3.

However, the Balochs fear that the entire 'large scale operation' is an exercise to deal a long-lasting blow to their freedom struggle movement which has been reignited in the last few weeks following the mysterious death of eminent activist Karima Baloch in Toronto, last month.

"Security personnel are storming the homes of poor Baloch blatantly and treating them like a citizen of occupied territory. Colonial thoughts and madness are still in their mind. This wouldn't work anymore. We will keep exposing the crooks through social media," said Ihtesham Afghan, a PTM activist.

Reports in the local media have revealed that Langove launched the latest operation after chairing a meeting on law and order situation following the Machh massacre.

Many prominent Baloch activists like Mama Qadeer Baloch, the vice chairperson of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), had already anticipated a big military operation in Balochistan which will target the innocent locals.

"Covert operations already continue across Balochistan but now Balochs will be openly targeted in the name of religious extremism," Qadeer was quoted as saying by The Balochistan Post, adding that the "Pakistani authorities were facing severe international pressure in addition to defamation, so they are blaming others for creating an atmosphere of resistance in Balochistan."

Khalil Baloch, chairman of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), had also said that the killing of Hazaras was done to divert the world's attention from the rising voices, both inside Balochistan and internationally, against the assassination of Karima Baloch.

"As a movement is rising against the killing and martyrdom of Karima Baloch, Pakistan has tried to divert international voices by targeting and killing the Hazara community through another form of terrorism. Such brutality will further embarrass Pakistan but will not be acquitted on any issue," the BNM had said in a statement.

The killing of the miners, besides inviting global condemnation, has also been criticised by a prominent Iranian cleric.

Senior Iranian Cleric Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, in a statement issued on Friday, had denounced the Mach attack.

"The recent crime in Bolan, Balochistan, filled the hearts of all followers of the Qur'an, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and His Household around the world with sorrow and filled their hearts with anger," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Shirazi as saying in the statement.

"Continuation of the crimes by the Takfiri groups in Pakistan and the targeted killing of the followers of the Ahl ul-Bayt (AS) in this Islamic land has grieved and affected me and all those who are interested in the religion greatly," he said.

As reported by the earlier, a new wave of brutal repression has begun, after Pakistan and China bonded to develop the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The risk-averse Chinese have been prodding the Pakistanis to ensure the security of their project which passes through the entire length of the country, from Gilgit in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to the Gwadar port in Balochistan.

Meanwhile, the political unrest in Pakistan is expected to continue with the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) opposition alliance planning its march to the country's capital Islamabad in the coming weeks.

PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had announced on the very first day of 2021 that the planned long march will not only be directed at the Imran Khan-led government but also "his backers" sitting at the military's General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan military's spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar said at a presser yesterday that the opposition alliance is wrong to think that the Army is meddling in the country's political affairs.

"I do not see any reason for them to come to Rawalpindi. If they ever come we will serve them ‘chai-pani' (tea and water). We will look after them well," he said at the media briefing.


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