The tit-for-tat killings that have plunged Balochistan into a never-ending cycle of violence and despair took an even more deadly turn with the murder of MPA Nawabzada Bakhtiar Khan Domki’s wife and daughter in Karachi, followed swiftly by the killing of 15 Frontier Corps (FC) personnel at checkposts near the Margat coal mine. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) has claimed responsibility for killing the FC personnel but the Karachi killings remain shrouded in mystery. Karachi police believe that the killing of Domki’s wife and daughter may have been the result of a tribal feud but, given the situation in Balochistan, it seems far more likely that the intelligence agencies are behind the killings. Domki’s wife was the sister of exiled separatist leader Brahamdagh Bugti, and it is well within the bounds of reasonability to assume that the attack was part of a campaign to draw him out of Switzerland. In any case, the expected failure to swiftly investigate the murders in a manner that satisfies sceptics will only confirm the worst suspicions of the separatists.
With each new incident of violence, a political solution in Balochistan becomes even more unlikely. The most extreme forces on both sides are strengthened and all talk of compromise vanishes. If there is to be a de-escalation, the first steps must come from the state. At an absolute minimum, the ‘kill-and-dump’ policy needs to be abandoned and those behind it brought to book. After that, the government needs to get serious about reintegrating the province into the rest of the country by finally implementing its Balochistan package, which has been gathering dust for the last three years. Only then can we expect the BLA to renounce violence as a tactic and separatism as their goal. Even if the BLA isn’t interested in negotiation, good-faith measures by the government may allow other Baloch leaders to moderate their stance. The centre needs to stop treating Balochistan like a colony and save the federation.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2012.