Terrorism has claimed the lives of at least 42 police officials in Balochistan this year, including SP Mohammad Ilyas and DIG Shakeel last week. In addition, dozens of non-Baloch Pakistanis have also been murdered in cold blood, including the 15 bullet ridden bodies recovered from Kech District. These incidents indicate a clear pattern: demoralisation of the security forces in Balochistan.
All this points to the proxy war India has imposed on Pakistan, confirmed by the captured Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — a veritable thorn in India’s side — has further incentivised these forces in their destabilisation campaign. The terror impetus is partly driven by the need to disrupt economic activities and scare the Chinese away from Pakistan. The enemy does not realise that China comprehensively understands CPEC and Gwadar Port development hazards. Thus, Chinese involvement remains intact and the development projects are moving ahead.
Additionally, certain internal issues in Pakistan are also creating problems for sustainable peace in Balochistan. Efforts by former Chief Minister Dr Malik Baloch to woo Barhbiar Marri or Brahamdagh Bugti into negotiations have been obstructed by the personal preferences of ministers and military officials. The provincial government seems to be unwilling to hold talks. This sentiment is exacerbated by ad campaigns in Europe for a ‘free Balochistan’, designed to paint Pakistan in a negative light.
Gazain, son of Marri tribe’s former chief Khair Bakhsh Marri, returned to Quetta in September, but has since been in detention. Gazain faces multiple cases, including alleged involvement in the murder of a high court judge. He had told the media in Dubai, prior to his arrival, that he would face all the cases in Pakistan and join mainstream politics. Analysts in Quetta believe that provincial ministers have been dragging their feet on this issue, instead of prioritising reconciliation and the betterment of the Baloch people.
The Balochistan situation requires a smart strategic communications strategy, accompanied by good governance. A big challenge is to disprove the allegations of corruption within LEA ranks
This attitude reflects in the government’s treatment of the media as well. Owing to threats by the BLF and BRA, distribution of several Baloch papers was halted for 24 days in several districts. The threats were rooted in the supposition that newspapers were conducting an unsaid media blackout of their perspective. Two local newspapers were penalised by the government for publishing material supportive to BLF/BRA in the form of pulling all commercial advertisements. The government claims that the taxpayer money could not be spent on a newspaper working against the integrity of the country. The media representatives call it an ‘unnecessary vendetta’.
This sentiment is resonated by Corps Commander Southern Command General Asim Bajwa, who says security of the province and integrity of the country is paramount and integral. Despite the fact that both the army and the FC has promised to provide security to printing presses in the region, as many as two dozen press clubs also remain shut due to the BLA/BRA threats and non-distribution of national newspapers.
On the governance side, senior provincial officials privy to the power corridors concede to major funds mismanagement. The case of a former finance secretary (caught with 700 million rupees of liquid cash piled in his house) is a prime example. Experts believe this is just the tip of a massive iceberg. They also claim as many as 30,000 vacancies remain in the province, but most ministers ask for huge bribes for the smallest of positions.
As a result of the new resource allocation formula under the National Finance Commission in 2009, Balochistan has so far received at least 700 billion rupees from the centre, in addition to an annual 50 billion in development funds. Despite this influx, the lack of development output begs the question of where these massive amounts of money end up.
To make matters worse, critics say members of the security apparatus also benefit from smuggling and activities of the organised crime across the Afghan and Iranian border. Everybody acknowledges the hard work and sacrifices rendered by civil and military law enforcement. These allegations are a mark of shame to the hard work of the police, FC and armed forces and completely upend their sacrifices.
This simmering situation requires a concerted civil-military strategy. It is also necessary to counter the motivated anti-Pakistan campaign. It requires a smart strategic communications strategy, accompanied by good governance. A big challenge is to disprove these allegations of corruption within LEA ranks. Illegal action against alleged or suspected Baloch activists is another gray area that overshadows the good work of the security forces. It is an uphill task for both the civilians and the armed forces in Balochistan. They need to combat deeply entrenched enemies both within and without. They must deal with the enemy propaganda smartly, plug the gaping holes in governance, improve service delivery and focus on addressing peoples’ grievances, instead of serving the elites. Balochistan’s woes and wounds need to heal through a political strategy accompanied by clean economic governance. The civil-military elites need to focus on improving governance instead of using Balochistan as a milking cow.