The acid attacks on young women in Quetta and the Mastung district of Balochistan which occurred a few weeks ago have set off alarm bells across Pakistan. There have been five such incidents in different parts of Balochistan over the past three years — two in Quetta, and one each in Dalabandin, Kalat, and Mastung. The earlier attacks were more severe than the latest round of violence, resulting in extensive injuries to the victims’ faces. The perpetrators were never apprehended nor did any militant group in Balochistan claim responsibility for the assaults, despite widespread condemnation by Baloch and Pakhtun nationalists and repeated calls for the immediate arrest of the culprits.
All of these cases have occurred in the past couple of years, since the rise of the Baloch insurgency in the province. The nationalists see this as an obvious attempt to divert national and international media attention away from atrocities committed allegedly by the state and direct it toward “radical” elements in Balochistan that have recently consolidated their position in order to counter the insurgency.
Investigators claim to have been unable to identify those behind the acid attacks, which are clearly designed to terrorise women in the province. No group has claimed responsibility for the most recent attacks, in both of which two sisters were targeted. “We found that specific families are targeted but that victims do not even want to lodge an FIR,” said Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Durrani. Since the modus operandi for the attacks was the same in both cases it is safe to assume that they were intended to gain media attention and show the presence of radical groups. Law enforcement agencies are responsible for identifying and apprehending criminals, not just making excuses.
Balochistan is a very poor province with meagre resources, yet it spends millions of rupees every month on security — paying the police, the paramilitary troops, the Frontier Corps, the Balochistan Levies, the Rapid Response Force and the Balochistan Constabulary. Despite this huge outlay of funds, criminals succeed in carrying out targeted attacks with complete impunity. Even young girls and women are not protected. The bodies of young students are dumped in desolate areas, our leaders are killed in broad daylight and hundreds of people have gone missing. This inability to control the situation leads inevitably to the conclusion that law enforcement agencies themselves must somehow be involved in these crimes. If they were truly motivated to solve these cases, it would surely not be difficult to trace the culprits, given that leaders of all stripes, whether separatist or pro-government, have roundly condemned these attacks on young girls and schools.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2014.
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