Death comes often in Balochistan, and it comes in terrifying ways. The law and order situation in the province seems impossible to control; yet, authorities need to find a way to restore some sense of calm and prevent further incidents that shatter families and inflict further injury on the already badly damaged social fabric in a province where things have run amok over the past few years.
The latest incident took place near Mach in Bolan, where security forces and local authorities reported that the bodies of 13 out of 30 passengers abducted from five buses had been found from mountains surrounding the town. The other persons taken away remain, as yet, unaccounted for. The victims were taken away from five buses headed for Rajanpur in southern Punjab. It seems likely their ethnicity may have been a factor in the deaths with the nationalist Balochistan Liberation Army taking responsibility, but so complex are the factors that underpin incidents of violence in Balochistan that the motive is almost impossible to determine. The assistant commissioner for Mach said that passenger buses leaving Balochistan are usually escorted, but this time, Balochistan Levies and Frontier Corps personnel had been caught up in a skirmish with militants who had opened fire on an oil tanker the same day.
The chain of events described by the official underscores a simple truth: there is no way in which paramilitary troops or regular forces can keep order in a vast, violent province where armed outfits, motivated by various beliefs and loyalties operate. While security and the intelligence information that should stand behind it are obviously needed, we must go beyond this. The issue has to be addressed politically as well and all stakeholders involved in a process of dialogue. The chief minister of Balochistan, who has taken note of the Mach incident, appears to recognise this. We can only pray he succeeds in clearing up a very ugly situation and restoring harmony in his troubled homeland.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2013.
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