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Balochistan’s Maze of Violence

By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, Feb 24,2012

The security situation in Balochistan continues to aggravate with the passage of time, despite the government’s efforts to curtail the downward spiral and win back the trust of the disenchanted Balochis. American Congressman Dana Rohracher's resoultion in the House of Representatives has added fuel to the explosive situation in the restive province. 

The present government announced NFC Award and Balochistan Rights’ Package in Nov 2009 to stem the tide of nationalistic militancy in the province, yet the situation on ground remains volatile. In part, situation on ground also magnifies the indifferent attitude on part of the central and provincial governments to address Balochistan issue. Legislators at both provincial and federal level seem disinterested in their primary job, despite having received 250 million each. Imagine the amount of money given out to all 65 members of the Balochistan Assembly. 

The central government’s apathy is also contributing towards the miseries in Balochistan. Dr.Fehmida Mirza, the speaker of National Assembly, had set up a parliamentary committee following a unanimous resolution by the Parliament in August 2011 to ascertain the causes behind deteriorating law and order situation in the province. But the committee has met only thrice and has failed to visit the province even once during last five months. 

Against this backdrop of apathetic attitude on the part of the government and raging militancy in the province, relentless violence marked 2011. Moreover, while mapping the territory of violence, we found that unlike in the past, the present year witnessed the diversification, and at times overlapping of the forces behind violence in the province. According to a report ‘Balochistan’s Maze of Violence,’ launched by the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS): 

• Staggering violence left 621 people dead during the course of the year. Among these, 281 people were shot dead in different incidents of target killing and firing; 68 fell prey to two deadly suicide attacks; while bomb blasts and landmine explosions perished 120 others. 

• The ongoing ‘kill and dump’ operation, further contributing to the already dismal law and order situation in the ill fated province, swallowed 231 people, whose mutilated and bullet-ridden dead bodies--- were mostly found lying by the roadsides in different parts of the province. 

• Meanwhile, according to the Home Department of Balochistan Government estimates, 196 bodies of the missing persons were recovered mostly from Baloch dominated districts of the province, such as Quetta, Sibi, Kalat, Mekran, Nasirabad and Zhob. 

• According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, about 6,000 people are still missing in the province.

• Steep rise in sectarian violence was the hallmark of 2011, as Balochistan government estimates suggest that 117 people lost their lives in 20 incidents of sectarian violence. Ninety Two of them belonged to Shia sect of Hazara community, mostly inhabiting in and around Quetta city.

• Also, there were 102 incidents of sabotage and subversion in the province, targeting railway tracks and gas pipelines. And the number is far higher than 2010, when only 24 such incidents were recorded across the province.

• Meanwhile, according to the Home Department of Balochistan Government estimates, 196 bodies of the missing persons were recovered mostly from Baloch dominated districts of the province, such as Quetta, Sibi, Kalat, Mekran, Nasirabad and Zhob. 

• According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, about 6,000 people are still missing in the province.

• Steep rise in sectarian violence was the hallmark of 2011, as Balochistan government estimates suggest that 117 people lost their lives in 20 incidents of sectarian violence. Ninety Two of them belonged to Shia sect of Hazara community, mostly inhabiting in and around Quetta city.

• Also, there were 102 incidents of sabotage and subversion in the province, targeting railway tracks and gas pipelines. And the number is far higher than 2010, when only 24 such incidents were recorded across the province.

• During 2011, militants’ relentless take on security forces resulted in the killing of 218 men belonging to FC, police, and Levies. The prime target was paramilitary force FC, while Baloch Republican Army and Balochistan Liberation Front claimed responsibility for most of the attacks against security forces.

• The year 2011 ended with the gruesome killing of Dr Baqir Shah (the police surgeon, who carried out autopsy on foreigners killed in Kharotabad incident). And the pace of violence set in past year continues to undermine the security landscape in the province during 2012. According to our findings, almost 70 people lost their lives in different episodes of violence in January 2012.

Furthermore, Balochis are being targeted in other provinces as well. As according to a news report, three people belonging to the family of provincial Baloch lawmaker Sahabzada Bkhtiar Khan Domki, a relative of late Nawab Akbar Bugti, were gunned down in Karachi. The story elaborates the scale and outreach of violence involving the Balochis.

In sum, a keen look into the incidents of violence and sabotage activities suggests that situation on the ground in Balochistan is taking turn for the worse. And looking at the apathy of the state and inflexibility of actors involved in violence in Balochistan, one can foresee unparalleled violence in 2012.

On the whole, Balochistan's socio-economic indicators and extremely volatile political conditions, accompanied by Baloch militancy, present a bleak and dismal picture. A World Bank report lists Balochistan among economically “lagging regions.” The major cause, says the report, is “internal conflict” caused by the militant campaign by 'nonstate groups' (Baloch insurgents). Besides Balochistan, the report counts Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA], and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa also to the “Lagging Regions” with high conflict rates.


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

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk