The Balochistan barometer
Take it seriously
If the security situation in Balochistan is not addressed immediately, it might quickly snowball into the pre 2013 election scenario, upsetting sectarian fault-lines and complicating the military operation in Fata. Once again Hazara Shi’a have been brutally gunned down in the outskirts of Quetta. That gunmen could board a bus and kill unarmed civilians reflects poorly on the security apparatus, especially the police service, in one of the most volatile cities of the country. Clearly the SSP’s claim, that security is always provided to the Hazara, is proved wrong when such murders can take place in a vegetable market. Just the other day, eight Punjabi labourers were kidnapped and killed in Lasbela district, adding an ethnic dimension to the turmoil in the province.
Hopes were raised when nationalists formed the Balochistan government. It was appreciated as a welcome departure from the corruption and detachment of the previous administration. Coming mainly from the Makran Division, the part of the province that usually produces the most progressive middle class political workers, most of these leaders came with clean slates – no track record of corruption, at least – and obviously had a larger stake in the system. And they did control administrative, especially financial, corruption to a large extent. Yet they have been unable to get a handle on the security situation.
Sectarian and ethnic attacks are not the only problem facing Balochistan’s administration. Instances of kidnapping, extortion, political killings, and mysterious appearance of bullet riddled bodies have become a daily affair now. And considering the provincial setup’s limitations, the federal government will have to step in now, along with its agencies and security machinery. There is also a need to streamline the security and intelligence work already underway in the province. Scores of agencies operating independent of each other can only add to the chaos. A much better job of planning and execution needs to be done, otherwise the province’s problems will multiply. Balochistan will now act as an important barometer of the government’s seriousness of plucking the terrorism problem from the root. Islamabad, and Rawalpindi, should take this litmus test very seriously.