By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty*
At least 10 Policemen were killed and another 15 injured in two separate suicide attacks in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, on April 24, 2018. In the first incident, a suicide bomber drove his motorcycle into a Police truck, on Airport Road, killing seven Balochistan Constabulary. According to law enforcement sources, an estimated 20 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack. In a separate incident, three Frontier Corps (FC) personnel were killed and six were injured in the Mian Gundi area, when two suicide bombers targeted an FC check post in an attempt to enter the FC camp. Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter faction of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), claimed responsibility for both the attacks.
On April 9, 2018, at least five FC personnel were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up near their vehicle in the Belili area of Quetta. No outfit has yet claimed responsibility for the incident.
On February 28, 2018, four FC soldiers were killed and seven were injured in a suicide attack on a FC check-post in Nosahar area in the Quetta. No outfit claimed responsibility for the attack.
On the same day, two Policemen were killed when three Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists attacked the convoy of Deputy Superintendent Police (DSP) Hameedullah Dasti on Samungli Road, Quetta. The DSP and his driver remained unhurt, as the pick-up was bulletproof, but two Police officials sitting in the back were killed in the attack. The deceased were identified as Muhammad Tahir and Ayub Shah.
On January 17, 2018, two Balochistan Constabulary personnel, identified as Ilyas and Shaukat, were shot dead while another, identified as Javed, sustained injuries when unidentified terrorists attacked them in the Double Road area of Quetta. The personnel were reportedly deployed at a flyover in the area for security duty. No outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack.
On January 9, 2018, seven people, including five Policemen, were killed and 16 others, including eight Policemen, injured in a TTP suicide attack near GPO Chowk on Zarghoon Road, Quetta.
According to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), at least 38 Security Force (SF) personnel have been killed in the current year (data till April 29, 2018). During the corresponding period of 2017, the number of such fatalities stood at 16. A rising trend in fatalities among SFs had been already emerging in 2017. While the first half of 2017 (January to June) recorded 31 such fatalities, the second half (July to December) accounted for another 46. Nevertheless, overall fatalities among SFs had declined in 2017 as compared to 2016 – from 153 to 77 – after registering increases in 2015 and 2016.
Balochistan North-South SF fatalities breakup
|Sources: SATP, *Data updated till April 29, 2018.|
More noticeably, out of the 38 SF personnel killed in the Province in 2018, at least 32 were killed in North Balochistan, while the remaining six were killed in the South. Since 2011, out of 875 SF personnel killed in Balochistan, the North accounted for 617 fatalities (70.27 per cent), while South recorded 261 fatalities (29.72 per cent). SF fatalities in each of these eight years have been consistently higher in the North.
As noted earlier, the North is afflicted by Islamist extremist groups such as TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ); while Baloch nationalist insurgent groups operate in the South. The major Baloch insurgent groups include the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) and United Baloch Army (UBA). The Pakistani state targets the ethnic Baloch insurgent groups with great ferocity, engineering extra judicial killings and ‘disappearances’ in the name of ‘fighting terror’. Given the much higher losses they suffer in the North, it would be expected that their counter-insurgency (CI) and counter-terrorism (CT) responses would be more focused on the North, but this area receives little attention.
Of the 4,055 civilian fatalities recorded in Balochistan since 2004 (data till April 29, 2018), at least 1,167 have been attributable to one or other terrorist/insurgent outfit. Of these, 396 civilian killings (226 in the South and 170 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations, while Islamist and sectarian extremist formations – primarily LeJ, TTP and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India) – claimed responsibility for another 771 civilian killings, 688 in the North (mostly in and around Quetta) and 83 in the South. The remaining 2,888 civilian fatalities – 1,696 in the South and 1,192 in the North – remain ‘unattributed’. A large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by State agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan).
According to the Federal Ministry of Human Rights, at least 936 dead bodies of ‘disappeared’ persons, often mutilated and bearing the signs of torture, have been found in Balochistan since 2011, pointing to large-scale extrajudicial killings by state agencies and their proxies. Most of them were dumped in Qalat, Khuzdar and Makran areas as well as in Quetta where the separatist insurgency has its roots. After the assassination of Nawab Akbar Shahbaz Khan Bugti, the legendary leader of the Baloch freedom struggle, on August 26, 2006, the intensity of the insurgency shifted from its traditional bases of Kohlu and Dera Bugti towards Quetta, Mastung and Khuzdar in central, and to Awaran, Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar, in southern Balochistan. The International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IVBMP) claimed to have recorded 1,200 cases of dumped bodies and that there are many such killings that went undocumented.
Reconfirming the State’s role in such extra judicial killings, former Balochistan Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tariq Khosa, according to April 25, 2018, report, stated,
The decision to use Shafiq [Mengal] as a proxy against certain Baloch separatist organisations allowed proscribed sectarian organisations to regroup in and around Quetta where sectarian violence had died down after the arrest of two of their hardcore members – Usman Saifullah Kurd and Dawood Badini – in 2006 and 2003 respectively.
Khosa stated further that he did not understand why the Pakistani State backed private militias, headed by people like Shafiq Mengal, who was later found to be involved in attacks against his tribal enemies as well as Shias. Shafiq Mengal is the chief of TNAB, the pro-Government tribal militia.
While SFs engage in a systematic campaign of extermination of ethnic Baloch people through enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the South, they are, in turn, frequently targeted by Islamist terrorist formations such as TTP and LeJ in the northern Districts. 833 Policemen, including 17 DSPs, two Deputy Inspectors General and other Police officers have been killed in numerous attacks, including suicide hits and target killings in recent years, according to a July, 13, 2017, report quoting data collected from the Balochistan Police Headquarters.
Continuous losses among SFs in North Balochistan are the direct outcome of the State’s failed and self defeating policy of differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists, creating spaces for renegades who turn against the State itself.
*Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management