Death and despair in Balochistan
By Imtiaz Gul
The Express Tribune , April 15 ,2012
Balochistan continues to burn. The federal government remains indifferent to the smouldering fires of militancy, sectarian violence and, above all, the wave of crime that many believe is happening under political patronage. The resignation of Senator Lashkari Raisanireflects the frustration within the Pakistan Peoples Party ranks in Balochistan.
Police officials claim that currently over 70 criminal gangs and numerous insurgent groups are operating in the province. Both of these actors have political supporters. The level of collusion between criminal gangs and politicians is so entrenched that the National Party’s vice-president Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo and Lashkari Raisani allege that provincial ministers patronise criminal gangs.
A recent report by the Balochistan Home Department stated that 1,493 innocent citizens have been killed and 3,313 injured in 1,718 incidents, mostly of targeted killings and sectarian attacks from 2007 to 2012. The report on the deteriorating law and order situation in the province says that militants are spearheading violent activities. The report categorically underlined that particularly since 2007, the insurgent outfits have developed a nexus with criminal gangs operating in the province for financial and outreach reasons.
The report pointed out that banned militant sectarian outfits are also colluding with the insurgents and criminal gangs to enhance their outreach in the area. The first case of kidnapping by Baloch insurgents surfaced in 2009, when the hitherto unknown Balochistan Liberation United Front abducted an American United Nations official, John Solecki, and kept him hostage for two months.
Though it is difficult to establish any direct link between Baloch insurgents and kidnappings for ransom, plenty of evidence on various proponents of violence and crime is available on how these groups move in tandem to mobilise funding from smuggling, extortions, car hijackings, abductions for ransom, and illegal weapons’ trade, which involves heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades.
Nationalist leaders like Mr Bizenjo and Dr Ishaq Baloch believe that the failure of law and order has emerged as the biggest threat to the province. They claim that people carrying ID cards allegedly belonging to intelligence agencies are abusing their authority for personal, financial and political gains. These intelligence operatives are so entrenched and protected that law-enforcement agencies find it difficult to stop them.
“When state institutions begin patronising crime, how can common citizens feel safe?” Bizenjo asked at a recent public consultation in Islamabad.
While Baloch leaders bemoan the federal govrenment’s indifference to their long-standing grievances, they also begrudge the provincial government for inaction and inability to improve governance in the province. Bizenjo and Ishaq Baloch also pointed out that despite having received 170 billion rupees under the Eighteenth Amendment, the provincial government has failed in building on this realignment of relations between the centre and the province. Stalled projects such as Reko Dek, they say, underscore the total disregard for the future of the province.
The state always adopted a ‘fire-fighting’ approach to address the Balochistan issue and never bothered to look into the real issues undermining the overall security situation in the province. Today, although criminals and insurgents have theoretically different agendas and motives, their close operational collaboration enables each other to achieve their respective objectives. One wonders whether there is any real intent and vision in Islamabad to mollify the grievances of the Baloch.
Imtiaz Gul is the Executive Director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and is currently a Fellow of International House of Japan/Japan Foundation, Tokyo