Pakistan Reader# 566, 7 March 2023
On 6 March, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive laden motorcycle into a police constabulary van heading to Quetta. The killing incident claimed nine lives and injuring 13 others, second in series after five were killed in Barkhan on 26 February last month. Provincial Chief Minister Bizenjo who also attended Sibi cultural festival earlier, had expressed confidence in restoring peace in Balochistan. Interior Minister asserted that the police and counter-terrorism departments, were working in synergy to eliminate terrorism from the country and promised that ‘new’ wave of terrorism will be soon controlled.
According to a Dawn report, citing the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), January 2023 was one the deadliest month since July 2018, 134 people have lost their lives.
Recent trends in violence
On 27 January, terrorist attacked an army base in Awaran district of Balochistan from three directions, killing three army personnel and injuring several. In December, out of around 75 attack incidents by terrorist, 16 times, the security forces were the primary target. In the same month, on 23 December, a second terrorist group, led by separatist leader Mazar Baloch from the Makran District, Balochistan joined the ranks of the militant outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
There have been round 22 groups which have joined forces with militant group TTP. And increased attack on security forces has made the region restive and the state instruments are the primary target.
According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data incidents of killing after peaking in 2012 have started rising again since 2019-20. In Balochistan alone, 406 fatalities were recorded in 160 killing incident in 2022, while in 2021, there were 111 killing incidents recording 308 fatalities. SATP maintains that security forces had the maximum share of fatalities in the last two years and attributes ‘systematic extermination of ethnic Baloch through enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings by Pakistan security agencies’ driving continuous frustration of Baloch nationalist radical groups.
Mapping the perpetrators
First, Baloch hardline separatists. According to SATP, Balochistan has 24 (19 proscribed terrorist and five active terrorist groups) insurgent groups and as stated above, the recent attacks by terrorist have been reprisal attacks. The alienation compounded by weak provincial governance has been one of the primary reasons.
Second, the state forces. United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in its annual Universal Periodic Review process had recommended state institutions to put an end to racial profiling of students and curb enforced disappearances. According to Paank Human Rights, on a monthly average, 46 individuals, most of them youth, have disappeared from the province since July 2022.
Third, sectarian violence in Balochistan. Approximately, 700,000 Shi’i Hazaras live around Quetta and in terms of geographical mapping, the Quetta district has faced the maximum incidents of killing. Islamic State Khorasan Province has been battling for influence and recruitment in the province. According to Crisis Group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which was used a proxy to counter Balochi separatist militants is now more inclined to Salafi ideology seek alternative to institutional support in remaining operational.