Tensions in Balochistan between nationalist elements and security forces seem to be soaring. Soon we may not be far from a situation similar to the one we saw in the 2000s, when what amounted to all-out-war rocked the province. This would be a tragedy — both for the people of the province who so badly need peace and for a country that so greatly needs stability. This stability cannot come until some means can be found to draw Balochistan back into the core of the country and, for the moment at least, this certainly does not seem to be happening.
The latest episode of violence has come in the Musa Khel district where militants attacked a convoy of Frontier Corps personnel. At least 14 soldiers, including a major, died in the action — responsibility for which is being taken by the Baloch Liberation Army, one of the more established outfits engaged in the conflict. There have been other attacks on FC personnel before in various parts of the province, while human rights monitoring groups have consistently reported that there is in the province deep distrust for the security forces who many in Balochistan believe are involved in the disappearance of hundreds of people.
It also seems clear, even as the graph depicting violence rises, that the civilian authorities simply do not seem to be in charge of the situation. This adds to the concerns of people who feel they have once more been left to the mercy of the security agencies and to the kind of nationalist anger that lies behind the latest attack and others like it. The situation is a tragic one and needs to be resolved urgently. This is possible, however, only through dialogue, negotiations and discussion with all stakeholders. Guns and grenades will solve nothing, but instead only add to the violence that has already claimed far too many lives in Balochistan. A start should be made by seriously investigating the abductions and subsequent deaths of hundreds of Balochistan’s residents.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2011.