By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty*
A blast targeting a Police van wounded nine persons including three Policemen on Spinny Road in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, on October 21, 2019. Police disclosed that the blast took place as a result of an improvised explosive device (IED) planted on a motorcycle.
One Policeman was killed and 10 others, including five Policemen, sustained injuries in an explosion in the Double Road area of Quetta, in the evening of October 15, 2019. Quetta Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema stated that the target of the blast was a Police mobile unit. Unidentified militants had planted an IED in a motorcycle parked on the roadside.
A Policeman was killed and three persons sustained injuries in a suicide attack on a Police vehicle in the Loralai District of Balochistan on September 30, 2019. One suspected militant blew himself up and another one was killed by the Police during an exchange of fire. Station House Officer (SHO), Loralai, Abdul Rehman said personnel of the Police’s Eagle Squad stopped two suspects riding a motorcycle near the Loralai commissioner’s office. However, one of the militants blew himself up and the second was shot dead in retaliatory firing by Police. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed the responsibility for the blast.
Three Policemen were injured in a blast while they are on their daily rounds in the Eastern Bypass area of Quetta in the night of September 25, 2019.
Five people including two Policemen were killed and another 32 injured in a blast of explosives placed in a motorcycle near a Police Station at Bacha Khan Chowk, Quetta, on July 30, 2019. TTP claimed responsibility for the blast.
During the last ten months and 24 days of the current year, Balochistan has recorded declines in violence against Security Force (SF) personnel, as compared to the same period in 2018. There has been a 28.16 per cent decrease in SF fatalities, from 71 SF personnel killed in 2018, down to 51 such fatalities in 2019. Nevertheless, Balochistan still leads among all the Provinces of the country on this index. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), out of the 51 SF personnel killed in the Province in 2019, 40 were killed in Northern Balochistan, while the remaining 11 were killed in Southern Balochistan. As has been noted in the past, the North is afflicted by Islamist extremist groups such as TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). 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).
Balochistan North-South SF Fatalities breakup
|Sources: SATP, *Data updated till October 27, 2019.|
A North-South breakup of SF fatalities over the last nine years indicates that SF fatalities in North Balochistan – afflicted by Islamist terrorist formations – are consistently higher than South Balochistan – where rebel Baloch nationalist organisations operate. Significantly, extra-judicial killings of civilians account for a large proportion of the fatalities in South Balochistan.
Forced disappearances engineered by Pakistani SFs are also the reason behind the targeted killings of SFs by Baloch insurgents in South. According to partial data compiled by SATP, of the 4,342 civilian fatalities recorded in Balochistan since 2004 (data till October 27, 2019), at least 1,381 have been attributable to one or another terrorist/insurgent outfit. Of these, 435 civilian killings (263 in the South and 172 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations, while Islamist and sectarian extremist formations – primarily Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), TTP and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India) – claimed responsibility for another 946 civilian killings, 863 in the North (mostly in and around Quetta) and 83 in the South. The remaining 2,961 civilian fatalities – 1,712 in the South and 1,249 in the North – remain ‘unattributed’. It is widely believed that Security Agencies engage in “kill and dump” operations, particularly in the Southern region, targeting local Baloch dissidents, a reality that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has clearly recognized.
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.
The SF killings in North Balochistan are attributed to Islamist terrorists who either specifically target officers who have been pursuing operations against them, or launch counter-attacks immediately after a senior terrorist commander is arrested or killed. Thus, when LeJ Balochistan chapter chief Usman Saifullah Kurd, who carried bounty of PKR 2.5 million, was killed in an encounter with law enforcement agencies in the Sariab Road area of Quetta on February 15, 2015, attacks against SFs surged. In 2016 alone, according to SATP, 153 SFs were killed, including 62 cadets of the Police Training College Quetta in the October 24, 2016, attack.
Balochistan Inspector General of Police Mohsin Hassan Butt stated, on April 30, 2019, that since 2009, 911 Police officials across Balochistan had been killed while combating terrorists, including two Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs), two Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs), one Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), 19 Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs), 23 Inspectors, 75 Sub-Inspectors (SIs), 54 Assistant Sub-inspectors (ASIs), 164 Head Constables, 552 constables and 79 class four employees of the Police department. “Balochistan Police have rendered great sacrifices to protect the lives of the people and restore peace to the Province. They have never bowed down against terror,” he added.
While, security personnel have been falling prey to militancy and terrorism, the authorities have been making false claim of peace and calm in the Province. Inspector General of Police (IGP) Balochistan Mohsin Hassan Butt thus stated, on August 27, 2019, that the law and order situation had improved in Balochistan. IGP Butt disclosed that over 36,753 Police personnel were striving to maintain a durable peace and to improve the law and order situation across the Province. He conceded, however, that three Districts of Balochistan – Quetta, Gwadar and Lasbela – had been declared ‘A-areas’ in order to curb ‘criminal activities’, to restore peace in the areas. However, other Districts such as Loralai have been facing a surge in the terrorism-related attacks on SFs. In Loralai District alone, 15 SF fatalities have been reported, out of the 51 fatalities in this category in the Province, in 2019.
While the security personnel in Balochistan had been under extremist threat, the Police Department continues to face severe shortages of senior officers across the Province. A September 13, 2019, report indicated that at least 53 posts of grade-18 to grade-21 Police officers were lying vacant in the Province. 33 posts of grdae-18 (Superintendents of Police), 13 posts of grade-19 (Assistant Inspectors General/Senior Superintendents of Police), six posts of grade-20 (Deputy Inspectors General/Regional Police Officers/ Capital City Police Officers) and one post of grade-21 (Additional Inspector General) were vacant in the Balochistan Police. The Provincial Government had taken up the issue of shortage of Police officers with the Federal Government, but these representations do have not secured any response.
Though the intensity and frequency of militant attacks in the Province has decreased through 2019, targeted attacks on SF personnel remain a matter of urgent concern. Where the security apparatus, meant to protect the general public, fails to secure itself, the situation in the Province can only the thought to be grave.
*Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management