By Naveed Elahi
Balochistan is home to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)since the corridor’s flagship project Gwadar Port is based here. Ever since Gwadar started taking concrete shape, foreign powers, big and small, friendly and unfriendly, have turned their guns towards it.
Terrorism is the tool most readily available to them to hinder the project. Initially, the indigenous and low intensity Baloch insurgency was being used for this purpose. Its ineffectiveness to stir the desired level of trouble provided an opportunity to home-grown terrorists like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliates to fill the void. Ever since the TTP has taken shelter in Afghanistan, their handlers have turned them towards Balochistan.
A quick look at the history of suicide attacks in Balochistan during the last fourteen years makes the maze of mayhem quite clear. In 2003, one suicide attack took place in a Shia mosque in Quetta in which 54 persons were killed and 57 others were injured. 2004 did not experience any suicide attacks. In 2005, a suicide bomber targeted the shrine of a Shia saint in Jhal Magsi resulting in 51 casualties and injuries to more than a 100 people. 2006 witnessed no attacks. In 2007, three suicide bomb attacks took place. 49 people, including a senior civil judge and lawyers were killed and 80 others were injured. In 2008, one suicide attack took place in which two persons, including a female student, were killed and 22 others were injured. In 2009, two suicide attacks occurred; one on a madrasah (seminary) in Pishin and the other in a hotel in Kalat. As a result, 12 persons were killed and 12 others were injured. 2010 witnessed a substantial rise in terrorism as 3 suicide attacks occurred in Quetta, one on a hospital, one on an Al-Quds rally at a minister’s residence and one on the Chief Minister of Balochistan. About 88 persons were killed and 239 were injured in these incidents. 2011 remained equally tragic as four suicide attacks took place in Quetta; on a DIG of police, at a Shia gathering at Eid-ul-Fitr, on DIG FC and on a political figure. As a result 60 people were killed and 124 others were injured. 2013 experienced a further rise in suicide bombings; 9 suicide attacks occurred in various areas of Balochistan, causing 233 deaths and injuries to 407 others. 2014 witnessed 4 suicide attacks on Shia pilgrims, Hazaras, on Maulana Fazalur Rahman and during a search operation against suicide bombers. As a result, 12 persons were killed and 64 others were injured.
In 2015 one suicide incident took place in which 2 persons were killed in Quetta.In 2016, seven suicide bombings took place targeting para military forces, a shrine and a hospital in which 224 persons were killed and 435 others were injured.
In 2017, three suicide attacks have taken place so far in which 43 persons have been killed and 64 have been injured. Over the last fourteen years, these 39 suicide attacks in Balochistan have killed 787 people and injured 2360. These attacks also show how terrorist activities and resultant casualties have fluctuated in the province.
Violence and killings caused by guns and grenades and other terrorist methods are in addition to suicide attacks.
The upsurge and persistence in the use of suicide bombers in Balochistan not only shows the resilience and resourcefulness of the terrorists but also reveals their designs and desires to strike at the soft belly.
The lethality of attacks has increased which indicates that the terrorists are being imparted professional coaching and training by strategists who are adept in insurgency and terrorism. The interests of the TTP and its sectarian affiliates like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jamaat-al-Ahrar (JuA) align strongly with hostile foreign agencies like India’s RAW and the Afghanistan’s NDS which has resulted in these entities collaborating.
A look at the choice of targets confirms that TTP and its affiliates find their favourite fodder — Shias and Hazaras — in abundance in Balochistan, while they continue to attack soft targets such as courts, educational institutions and hospitals.
The destabilisation caused by such terrorist attacks serves the purpose of RAW and NDS, backed by some other hostile forces, of derailing CPEC, Gwadar and preventing normalcy in Balochistan and in Pakistan in general.
The National Action Plan, a bulwark against terrorism, seems to be falling apart due to apathy caused by internal political commotion. The terrorists and their handlers must be gloating over the opportunity coming their way due to a weakened NAP.
The government takes pride in its efforts of effectively countering terrorism, and rightly so, but it should take all measures to zealously guard the advantages gained due to its brave initiative.
Despite the ongoing hullabaloo, the Prime Minister should hold meetings of Apex committees or of the National Security Council to keep the NAP on track and to foil the evil designs of terrorists and enemies alike.