ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan: No Resolution From Despair In Balochistan


By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

Inaugurating a military college in Sui area of Dera Bugti District, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Ashfaq Kayani on January 3, 2011, announced the establishment of an ‘education city’ in the Province; disclosed that 4,268 Baloch students were benefiting from Chamalang Beneficiary Education Programme, and that the Balochistan Institute of Technical Education, managed by the Pakistan Army, had already trained 1,673 individuals; that the Gwadar Institute of Technical Education would also start functioning soon; that the Army would recruit 10,000 Baloch youths by 2012; that 4,000 youths from Balochistan had already been recruited in the Pakistan Army in October 2010; and that only a strong, stable and thriving Balochistan could make Pakistan prosperous.

The realities of the ground, however, are far removed from this mirage of shared peace and prosperity. The very next day, on January 4, a remote controlled bomb hit a school bus carrying more than 30 children of Frontier Corps (FC) personnel in the Turbat town of Kech District. Five children and the security in-charge were injured in the blast. On January 5, security agencies retaliated by dumping the dead bodies of two Baloch youth, Qambar Chakar (25) and Ilyas Baloch (24), who were allegedly abducted by intelligence sleuths from Turbat town and Ormara in Makran District, respectively, on November 27, 2010. Chakar was the deputy organiser of the Shal zone of the Balochistan Students Organisation-Azaad (BSO-A), and Ilyas was a student of the University of Balochistan. Hospital sources disclosed that each of the victims had been shot thrice and the bodies bore marks of extensive torture. Earlier, family members of the victims and BSO-Azad had persistently demanded that Chakar and Ilyas be produced before a court of law if they had committed any offence. The case is not an exception, but part of an extended succession of ‘kill and dump’ incidents engineered by intelligence agencies.

Indeed, on December 26, 2010, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had staged a large demonstration in Quetta to protest against the recovery of bullet-riddled bodies of ‘missing’ persons in Balochistan and the increasing incidents of targeted killing of political dissidents. HRCP chairperson Asma Jahangir, on October 5, 2010, had said that HRCP had a list of 198 missing persons and 99 of them had been traced till that date. The US on November 23, 2010, had expressed serious concern over allegations of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations in the Province. The unclassified version of the Congressional-mandated report, dated November 23, published by The New York Times, stated,

The State Department remains concerned about allegations of gross violations of human rights, including extra-judicial killings, by Pakistani security forces; humanitarian organisations’ access to detainees and displaced persons, and cases of disappearances in Balochistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and other conflict zones in Pakistan.

Significantly, on September 29, 2010, a video appeared on the internet showing men in Pakistani military uniforms apparently committing extra-judicial killings of young civilians.

In the meanwhile, violence in Balochistan escalated further through 2010. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a total of 347 persons, including of 274 civilians, 59 Security Force (SF) personnel and 14 militants, died in 150 incidents of killing in 2010 (all data till December 31). In 2009, 277 persons, including 152 civilians, 88 SF personnel and 37 militants, died in 102 incidents of killing. Thus, while SF and militant fatalities declined by 32.95 per cent and 62.16 per cent, respectively, civilian fatalities recorded an increase of 80.26 per cent. [These numbers are likely to be underestimates, as access to media and independent observers is severely restricted in Balochistan].

Annual Fatalities in Balochistan, 2006-2010
SF Personnel

Source: SATP [Data till December 31, 2010]

There was, however, a small decrease in the number of major incidents (resulting in three or more fatalities), from 28 in 2009, to 23 in 2010. Prominent among the major incidents of 2010 were:

September 3: At least 65 persons were killed while over 191 were injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up amidst participants of a rally held to mark the al-Quds Day [an international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people] in Quetta.

August 14: Six Punjabi speaking persons were shot dead by assailants riding a motorcycle, when they were going home from work in the Khilji Colony of Quetta.

Unidentified assailants singled out Punjabi passengers travelling on a bus, killing 10 and injuring five others near Quetta.

June 15: Seven persons, including a tribal elder, were shot dead and two persons were injured, when their vehicle was ambushed on the RCD Highway in the Surab tehsil (revenue unit) of Kalat District.

April 16: A suicide bomber blew himself up in an attack inside the Civil Hospital in Quetta, the provincial capital, killing 11 persons and injuring 35.

The insurgents, moreover, retained capabilities to carry out acts of sabotage on a daily basis across the Province. Acts of violence were, crucially, not restricted to a few areas, but occurred in practically every one of the 26 Districts of the Province, including capital Quetta . Quetta continues to witness high levels of violence, both by Islamist extremists and Baloch nationalists. There were 101 militancy-related incidents in Quetta during 2010, as against 73 in 2009, 81 in 2008, 72 in 2007, 75 in 2006, 61 in 2005, 51 in 2004 and 32 in 2003.

One principal stream of violence is engineered by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)-Afghan Taliban-al Qaeda combine, which continues to disrupt NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, which pass through Balochistan. Attacks in Balochistan on oil tankers and trucks ferrying NATO supplies to Afghanistan rose sharply from 14 in 2009 to 66 in 2010. 12 persons lost their lives in these attacks, while 32 suffered injuries. Media reports on January 1, 2011, indicated that at least 139 oil tanker and containers had been destroyed in Balochistan through 2010. In one such attack, unidentified militants set ablaze more than 20 NATO supply trucks heading for Afghanistan near the Akhtarabad terminal in Quetta in the morning of October 6, 2010. Claiming responsibility, TTP spokesman Azam Tariq said that its cadres carried out an arson attack on NATO tankers in Pakistan as revenge against a scaled-up US drone strike campaign in the country’s northwest. On October 9, 2010, when nearly 30 tankers were set ablaze in the Bolan District, TTP warned, “We accept responsibility for the attacks on the NATO supply trucks and tankers. We will continue such attacks until the drone strikes are stopped.”

Amidst growing attacks on NATO convoys and apprehensions regarding the activities of the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura, Western media reports in November 2010 indicated that the United States was seeking to expand the areas inside Balochistan where Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drones could operate. US officials were said to be eyeing areas surrounding Quetta, where the Taliban leadership was believed to be hiding. However, on December 11, 2010, Balochistan Frontier Corps (FC) Inspector General, Major General Ubaidullah Khan, claimed that no TTP or Quetta Shura Taliban existed in any part of the Province, indicating continuing collusion between the Pakistani Army and establishment and the Afghan Taliban, and particularly the Quetta Shura, which is widely believed to operate under the protection of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence.

The TTP has, moreover, launched repeated suicide attacks against Government establishments in retaliation against US drone attacks, and Pakistani authorities are consequently trying their level best to keep the US drones out of Balochistan, in order to appease the extremists. Significantly, the rebels targeted the Chief Minister (CM) of Balochistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani, in a suicide attack on December 7, when he narrowly escaped the assassination attempt at a railway crossing at Saryab Pattak in Quetta. Claiming responsibility for the attack, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami spokesperson, who introduced himself as Abdullah Jhangvi, phoned the Quetta Press Club from an unspecified location and vowed to carry out such attacks in the future as well.

Meanwhile, Islamabad continues to direct the bulk of its initiatives against the Baloch nationalist rebels. Seeking to crush nationalist rebellion, the Federal Government assigned Police powers to the FC, a paramilitary force. Federal Minister of the Interior, Rehman Malik, on September 8, 2010, announced that the Federal Government had given the Chief Minister (CM) of Balochistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani, the authority to award Police powers to the FC to tackle the ‘law and order situation’ in the Province. He, however, qualified that all raids and actions against militants would be led by the Police. Malik also announced that every organisation whose name bears the word “liberation” or “lashkar” in Balochistan was banned from the date of his announcement, and their accounts were frozen. These organisations prominently included the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), Baloch Republican Army (BRP), Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LB) and Baloch Mussalah Difa Organisation (BMDO). He also warned that the Government would take ‘tougher action’, if necessary, to control the escalating violence and unrest in Balochistan.

Later, on November 24, 2010, the CM ruled out any possibilities of talks with Baloch militants, declaring that the ‘public’ had not given him a mandate for that purpose. This reflected a dramatic shift from the position articulated by the CM and the Balochistan Governor, Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, on October 29. 2010, when they offered to engage in dialogue with ‘angry Baloch elements’, especially the insurgents, and pledged to protect their legitimate rights.

At the other end of Islamabad’s ‘carrot and stick’ policy, in a joint sitting of Parliament on November 24, 2010, the Federal Government announced a ‘five-tier multi-dimensional special package’ for Balochistan, combining political, administrative and economic initiatives. The package, named Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan (beginning of the rights of Balochistan), was presented by the Pakistan People’s Party Senator, Mian Raza Rabbani, who heads the seven-member Parliamentary Committee, which finalised the package in consultation with the political leadership in Parliament and other ‘stakeholders’. The five-tier package envisages the withdrawal of the Army from Sui, and its replacement by the FC; a fact-finding commission, headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court/High Court, to probe into the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti [August 26, 2006]; inquiry by the superior judiciary into the murder of Baloch political workers, including Ghulam Muhammad Baloch [April 9, 2009], Lala Munir [May 25, 2010], and targeted killings in the province.

Exiled Baloch leaders, however, summarily rejected the ‘package’ on the grounds that it failed to address their core problems. Significantly, Talal Bugti, the late Nawab Akbar Bugti’s son and President of the Jamhoori Watan Party, alleged that the package had been prepared by ‘invisible forces’ and not by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s team or a Parliamentary Committee. “Our stand remains unchanged that the federating units must be treated as per the 1940 Pakistan Resolution,” he declared, adding, “We don’t believe in dialogue anymore, as it has been unproductive.” Hyrbyair Marri, the London-based leader of the Marri tribe, while opposing any compromise with the Government, called the package a “mockery and a cruel joke” on the people of Balochistan, claimed it fell far short of Baloch expectations, and that it was only an exercise in buying more time.

Further, the National Assembly Standing Committee (NASC) on Inter-Provincial Coordination on January 10, 2011, expressed dissatisfaction over the pace of implementation of the packages for Balochistan, observing that a lot of work had been done on paper and nothing on the ground. The NASC was, however, informed that, out of 61 proposals in the package, 15 had been ‘fully implemented’, 12 were in the process of being implemented while 34 proposals were in the ‘middle stages’ of implementation.

Balochistan is rich in mineral wealth, but remains poor because of Islamabad’s relentless exploitation, neglect and excesses. Jumma Khan Marri, president of the Baloch Unity Organisation, thus observed,

The problems of the Baloch are certainly not going to end with the policy that the Governments here have adopted since 1947. The alienation keeps on increasing and the youth keeps joining the ranks of fighters. The callous and heartless approach of the Federal Government and the continued atrocities by the law enforcement agencies are all adding up as the proverbial straw on the camel’s back; what is going to prove to be the last straw is anybody’s guess, or has the last straw already been placed in form of this apathy?

Kayani’s rhetoric about a strong, stable and thriving Balochistan is in stark contrast with the harsh realities of the ground in the Province, and reconcile poorly with Islamabad’s overwhelming reliance on relentless military suppression, human rights violations and excesses by intelligence and security agencies. With Islamabad unable to escape the fruitless cycles of past policies, it remains unlikely that the suppurating wounds inflicted and constantly renewed in Balochistan will heal, and that violence will approach an end in the foreseeable future.

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

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SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

One thought on “Pakistan: No Resolution From Despair In Balochistan

  • January 25, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    He is giving his views as seen by a baharati hindu,who hates Pakistan.Therefore not an impartial view.Balauch are patriotic Pakistanis and will resist RAW dominated bla at all costs.The Bunderstan(india)should stop mendiling in Pakista’s internal affairs at once.


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