The contours of target killings in Balochistan

Published: April 24, 2011

A lack of resources and public sympathy for rebel groups hinder police investigations.DESIGN: SAMAD SIDDIQUI

KARACHI: 

Despite the presence of paramilitary forces with their extended powers for years in Balochistan, target killings continue to increase in the restive province.

Experts say the trend in Balochistan is an interesting study to gauge how effective paramilitary forces can be in controlling crime and the general law and order situation in places like Karachi, where there is debate over whether more power and resources should be given to the Pakistan Rangers as police fails to do the job.

According to Balochistan police records, there were 256 incidents of targeting in Balochistan in 2009 that killed 200 people and injured 387. In 2010, 231 incidents were reported that killed 255 and injured 498. In the first three months of 2011, at least 39 incidents have occurred, which killed 38 and injured 66. Balochistan Constabulary Commandant Ghulam Shabbir Shah, speaking in Karachi recently, said that target killings are set to break all previous records in the province.

Various shades of targets

According to Shah, no target killings are reported in the province’s Pashtun-dominated areas, including Musakhel, Zhob, Loralai, Ziarat, Pishin, Harnai and Sibi.

The claim was confirmed by Pakhtunkhwa Awami Milli Party’s senior leader Abdul Rahim Khan Mandokhel but, he said, Pakhtun Baloch have been targeted in two or three cases. “Some unsuccessful attempts have been made to create a wedge between the Pakhtuns and Baloch,” he said.

Most target killing and terrorism incidents are reported in the districts of Quetta, Mastung, Bolan, Noshki, Kalat, Khuzdar, Kech, Gwadar, Lasbela and Panjgur. Four types of target killings are reported in Balochistan: Attacks on people who have settled in the province, assassinations of policemen and Frontier Corps (FC) personnel, sectarian killings and murders of political workers.

Settlers

Settlers in Balochistan are numbered at least 461,328 and mostly comprise Punjabis, Seraikis and Urdu-speaking people. According to police statistics, based on inquiry and FIRs, at least 180 settlers have been shot dead between 2009 and March 2011.

Officials admit that investigations into most target killings of settlers remain unsolved.

“There is a joke in the province that if you want authorities to stop pursuing a murder case, have it claimed by one of the many rebel groups operating in Balochistan,” says National Party Vice-President Hasil Bizenjo.

One such case is that of University of Balochistan’s Professor Nazima Talib whose first death anniversary approaches on April 27.

“These cases are difficult to crack because Baloch people sympathise with rebel groups and, despite knowing who the murderers are, choose to remain quiet,” says Shah.

Security personnel

At least 120 policemen and 66 FC personnel have been killed between 2009 and March 2011.

Shah says that despite clear evidence that police have suffered more, there is a severe lack of resources. “It is very easy to blame civilian institutions for failing to curb crime. But the truth is we don’t have the resources to even fight petty dacoits who have more sophisticated arms and equipment,” he said. On the other hand, FC and army units even get food rations for troops.

Sectarian

Sectarian killings have been mostly targeted against Hazara Shias, who came to Balochistan decades ago from Afghanistan and Iran. Police and counter-terrorism officials say that anti-Shia militant groups such as Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) are active in Balochistan.

But Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Secretary-General Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, who hails from Kalat, says he doesn’t know if the SSP or LeJ are involved. “Experience shows that the state and intelligence agencies are the ones behind groups that instigate sectarian violence and ethnic strife,” he said.

Political

Political party workers allege that they are being targeted not only by the state but by rebels as well.

Bizenjo, whose party has lost three senior leaders, says the heavily-armed rebels are against nationalists because “they say that you talk about federation when we are here up in the mountains waging a battle against the state.”

Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s (BNP-M) Dr Jehanzaib Jamaldini says the party lost one of their best leaders Habib Jalib last year in a target killing. “All evidence points to state elements being behind the murder,” he said.

Hundreds of Baloch men, including political workers, have gone missing in the province.

Bizenjo believes Balochistan’s security situation is interconnected with Fata and Afghanistan and violence is bound to continue unless things improve there. “Until it is decided that nowhere in the country will anyone be allowed to hold a gun, the state will not be able to establish its writ and target killings will continue,” he said.

Haideri says the government should either accept failure and step down or admit that it is involved in target killings in the province.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Asad Khan
    Apr 24, 2011 - 9:56AM

    reference to the article it was mentioned that there is no target killers in Pashtoon areas, but we have witnessed that in Zhob Shekh Muhammad Ayub Mandokhel of Jamiat Nazaryati party was killed in target killing, similarly Jillani Khan Achakzai of ANP party was killed by unknown motorcycle riders in Target killings. these motorcycle riders are made for target killing jobs. hoped u have got it. Recommend

  • Khalid Masood
    Apr 24, 2011 - 11:25AM

    So called Nationalist Leaders sitting in Wadd and Kohlu are responsible for killing of these innocent people. Some are pulling string while sitting in Dubai, Russia or even UK.

    In Urban area Property Grabbing Mafia is also getting benefit from this harassment or killing as they are buying precious properties of settlers on nominal prices.

    A story of 1947 and 1971 is being repeated here. Lust and greed can destroy ourselves.Recommend

  • Daniel Azad
    Apr 24, 2011 - 3:45PM

    The criminals who were involved in the target killing of the Hazara in quetta are now released. These criminals should be hanged not released back in the street.Recommend

  • Khurdra
    Apr 24, 2011 - 4:54PM

    no anoop,hedgefunder,ashwin,john here till now…??? Strange….Recommend

  • humayun habib
    Apr 24, 2011 - 5:54PM

    well it is a mixed bag but not complicated one. Neglect and non seriousnes and exploitation r at the coreRecommend

  • Cautious
    Apr 25, 2011 - 3:40AM

    “These cases are difficult to crack because Baloch people sympathise with rebel groups and, despite knowing who the murderers are, choose to remain quiet,”

    I suppose that if the govt can selectively choose which terrorist groups it wants to support – so can the people. Until you collectively determine that your won’t support terrorist your never going to have peace in Pakistan.Recommend

  • pa
    Apr 25, 2011 - 11:28AM

    The killing is done both by Baloch Secessionists and Religious Extremists. Settlers and some Baloch leaders are victims of Baloch terror organizations like BLA, BRA, BLUF, BNA etc while Shias are targeted by Lashker e Jhangvi and Sipah e Sahaba. Law enforcing agencies are targeted by both, ie Baloch Secessionists and religious extremists.
    Pashtuns and Balochs are living in their own areas and as such does not cut paths with each other. Recommend

  • mir baloch
    Apr 26, 2011 - 1:33AM

    i want to ask every group in this country why everybody has problems with punjabis be it baloch or sind or mohajirs or pashtos i think its punjabi pride and arrogance diff groups dont need independence from pakistan but surely from PUNJABRecommend

  • Jibran Jogezai
    Apr 26, 2011 - 4:02PM

    When a nation starts disowning their own identity and humanity this is actually what happens in the the end of the day. I personally pity on those who still think making divisions will improve living standard. Everyone in their own domain have failed to deliver a true sense of life. Now I see we have the tendency of slavery rather than becoming a leader. Let me first explain although I’m writing out of context but still bear with me a nation or a tribe what suites best are created by different clans and clans are members who might be in related or not but they stay together for the safeguard of their own people. The point is we ourselves are dishonest with our own people and sorry to say also lost our principles. Life is such a precious gift where no money or material can substitute and if somebody under our locus is killed we don’t even bother or stand for the right of our killed ones. Target killing are for wuss who doesn’t have the courage to stand and fight face to face. Killing innocent people whether it be Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhi or Punjabi, we need to start valuing our people lives. Recommend

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