16 persons, including
women and children, were killed and another 35 were injured in a suicide attack
near the residence of tribal elder Shafiq Mengal, son of former acting Chief
Minister and Federal Minister Naseer Mengal, on Arbab Karam Khan Road in
Quetta, the Provincial capital of Balochistan, on December 30, 2011. The Baloch
Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack.
that, on December 29, 2011, unidentified assailants shot dead a Police surgeon,
Baqir Shah, who had played a key role in exposing the extra-judicial killing of
five foreigners, including three women, in Quetta. Shah, who reportedly had not
been provided any security despite being attacked in the past, had conducted
the autopsy of five foreigners, including Russians and Tajiks, who were shot
dead by Pakistani Security Forces (SFs) in Quetta on May 17, 2011. The autopsy
report had contradicted the Quetta Police Chief Daud Junejo’s claim that the
foreigners had not died due to shooting by law enforcement personnel, but
because of a blast which they triggered with the help of explosives and suicide
vests. Shah’s report revealed that they died from “multiple bullet wounds”.
Significantly, while media reports had then claimed that the victims were
unarmed and carried no explosives, footage on several TV news channels had
shown SF personnel firing a volley of bullets at the foreigners as they lay on
the ground near a security check post.
three bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch Nationalist Party – Mengal (BNP-M)
activists were found in the Zero Point area of Khuzdar District on December 12,
2011. The victims, identified as Bashir Ahmed, Sanaullah Mardoi and Allah
Bakhsh Mardoi, had been abducted earlier, on an unspecified date.
has for long earned notoriety as the land of extra judicial killings,
disappearances, SF high handedness, and repression, as well as a playground for
terrorists operating beyond the frontiers of the Country. The Province
witnessed 711 fatalities, including 542 civilians, 122 SF personnel and 47
militants in 2011, as against 347 fatalities, comprising of 274 civilians, 59
SF personnel and 14 militants in 2010, according to partial data compiled by
the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM, all data till December 31, 2011.
These numbers are likely to be underestimates, as access to media and
independent observers is severely restricted in Balochistan). Overall
fatalities in 2011 thus increased by 104.89 per cent over the preceding year.
Incidents of killing rose by 116 per cent, from 150 in 2010 to 321 in 2011.
Further, the number of major incidents (each involving three or more
fatalities) increased by 152.17 percent, with 58 such incidents recorded in
2011, as against 23 in 2010.
worryingly, fatalities among civilians increased by almost 97.81 per cent, and
at least 123 of 542 civilian killings appeared to be “extra judicial” in nature
– that is, executed by state agencies. The victims of these extrajudicial
executions were either political activists or people opposing the oppressive
nature of governance in the Province.
Annual Fatalities in Balochistan, 2006-2011
Source: SATP, *Data till December 31, 2011
the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a non-governmental
organisation, in a statement issued on December 9, 2011, observed,
at least 225 ‘missing persons’ have been recovered from various parts of the
Province since July 2010. The situation is particularly grave for non-Muslims
and minority Muslim sects. As many as 80 members of the Shia community have
been killed in the Province this year  alone, for no reason other than
their religious belief. HRCP also has serious concern at targeted killing of
teachers, intellectuals and non-Baloch ‘settlers’ in Balochistan. The murder of
two HRCP activists and three journalists in the Province in 2011 signifies the
dangers that those highlighting human rights violations face on a daily basis.
It is a matter of grave alarm that 107 new cases of enforced disappearance have
been reported in Balochistan in 2011, and the ‘missing persons’ are
increasingly turning up dead. It is scandalous that not a single person has
been held accountable for these disappearances and killings.
on September 18, 2011, the Commission had expressed ‘serious concern’ over the
increasing number of decomposed bodies of missing persons being recovered from
different parts of Balochistan, noting,
188 decomposed dead bodies have so far been dumped in desolate places in
different parts of Balochistan since June 4, 2010... Most of the victims were
political opponents, students and cream of the society.
of the fact-finding mission of the HRCP which visited the Province between May
4 and 7, 2011 had observed,
Enforced disappearances continue to be a
matter of great concern.
It has been noted that dead bodies
recovered have had signs of extreme torture.
seems to vest with the Security Forces. The civil administration, elected by
the people and meant to represent them, appears to have ceded its powers.
by the worsening situation, Pakistan’s Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad
Chaudhry, on March 2, 2011, remarked that the Government should take practical
steps instead of issuing policy statements regarding abduction and targeted
killings in Balochistan. Significantly, during the course of the proceedings,
Balochistan’s Advocate General Salahuddin Mengal observed,
recovering dead bodies day in and day out as the FC [Frontier Constabulary] and
Police are lifting people in broad daylight at will, but we are helpless. Who
can check the FC? End the burning issue of missing persons first and then blame
the Balochistan Government for not controlling law and order.
however, FC Inspector General Major General Ubaidullah Khattak on December 13,
2011, simply dismissed these allegations and claimed that 90 per cent of the
missing Baloch persons were involved in criminal activities and had been killed
by their own organisations.
surprisingly, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, senior leader of the BNP-M, on December
19, 2011, warned that Balochistan would not "remain with" Pakistan if
extra-judicial killings of Baloch nationalists and excesses by SFs were not
stopped immediately. "Balochistan will not remain with you", Mengal
declared, adding that the violence and killings by SFs had taken
"Balochistan to the point of no return" and steps had to be taken to
engage the youth "who have been driven into the mountains by the
Army". Similarly, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarian,
Lieutenant General (Retd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch, on February 25, 2011, had
alleged that the security agencies were behind the abduction and killing of
political workers and national activists in Balochistan.
insurgents and Pashtun Islamist and sectarian terrorists, meanwhile, retained
capabilities to carry out acts of sabotage on a daily basis across the
Province. Acts of violence were, crucially, not restricted to a few areas, but
occurred in practically every one of the 26 Districts of the Province,
including capital Quetta. According to FC data, a total of 1,328 violent
incidents took place across the Province in 2011.
violence in Balochistan has had a significant sectarian overlay. Balochistan
witnessed 89 fatalities in 12 incidents of sectarian violence in 2011. 11 of
these occurred in Quetta alone, with 63 persons killed. The remaining incident
occurred in Mastung District. In the worst such attack in 2011, 26 Shia
pilgrims were shot dead by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants in Taftan, a town
that shares border with Iran, in the Ganjidori area of Mastung District, on
September 20, 2011.
Federal Minister of Interior Rehman Malik, on July 13, 2011, disclosed that,
over preceding three years, 134 Punjabi-speaking people had been killed in
previous years, Islamist terrorists left no stone unturned to attack and
disrupt the principal NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, which pass through
Balochistan. Partial data compiled by SATP recorded 59 attacks in Balochistan
in 2011, on oil tankers and trucks ferrying NATO supplies, marginally down from
66 in 2010. However, the loss of lives in these attacks rose from 12 in 2010 to
at least 19 in 2011.
extremism and violence, attacks on NATO convoys, and the arrest of high profile
al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists has repeatedly demonstrated the presence of the
Quetta Shura and al Qaeda networks in North Balochistan. Since 2009, at least
22 al Qaeda and six Afghan Taliban militants have been arrested in the region.
The Pakistan establishment, however, continues to brazenly deny this reality.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani on August 4, 2011,
dismissed media reports about the existence of Quetta Shura or the presence of
Mullah Omar or al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri in Balochistan. Similarly,
Federal Minister of Interior Rehman Malik stated, on June 5, 2011, "The
propaganda of the Taliban Quetta Shura is baseless, if anyone has concrete
evidence about their claims, it must be shared with Government." And
further, "Over 30 raids have been conducted on the presence of Taliban across
Balochistan, but they were not found."
the arrest in Quetta of senior al Qaeda leader, Younis al-Mauritani, believed
to have been responsible for planning attacks in the US, Europe and Australia,
along with two other “senior al Qaeda operatives”, Abdul Ghaffar Al Shami aka
Bachar Chama and Messara Al Shami aka Mujahid Amino in a joint raid by the
Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the FC, disclosed on September 5, 2011,
proves the hypocrisy of the Pakistani claims.
lackadaisical approach of the Pakistani establishment has evidently emboldened
the extremists. While the number of SF personnel killed in 2010 stood at 59, it
has increased considerably to 120 in 2011. At least 28 people were killed and
over 60 injured in two suicide attacks targeting the residence of the Deputy
Inspector General (DIG) of the FC, Brigadier Farrukh Shehzad, in Quetta on
September 7, 2011. The attacks targeted and wounded the DIG, whose Force was
involved in the arrest of Younis al-Mauritani and two other al Qaeda operatives
in Quetta, in an operation announced on September 5, 2011.
quantum jump in violence can be attributed to the rising desperation among the
Baloch nationals. Despite Balochistan’s natural resource wealth (including the
country’s largest deposits of coal and copper, as well as copious quantities of
other minerals), Balochistan is Pakistan's poorest province, with 45 per cent
of the population living below the poverty line. There is rising resentment in
the Province over the fact that, despite the annual revenue of USD 1.4 billion that
the Province’s gas output generates, the Federal Government remits only USD 116
million in royalties back to the Province.
nationalist Insurgent groups, on the other hand, continued to sabotage economic
infrastructure, mostly gas pipelines. According to the SATP database, 2011
recorded at least 52 incidents of attack on gas infrastructure, as against just
three in 2010. At least 170 such incidents have been recorded since January 1,
2005. Significantly, the insurgents involved in these attacks focus on
targeting the economic interests of the Provincial and Federal Governments,
rather than causing loss of life. Of the 711 fatalities recorded in the
Province in 2011, Baloch insurgents are confirmed to have been involved in the
killing of 69 civilians and 43 SF personnel. The material losses inflicted by
the Baloch insurgents, however, are very substantial. The Sui Southern Gas
Company (SSGC) Balochistan General Manager Mohammad Haroon had noted, on
February 14, 2011, “Last year , the SSGC suffered a loss of over PKR 100
million due to targeted attacks on gas pipelines. The company has suffered an
equivalent loss this year  too, as attacks have picked up.”
the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan (initiation of the rights of Balochistan)
package which was approved by the Parliament on November 23, 2009,
acknowledging the widespread deprivation and neglect that prevailed in
Balochistan, failed to deliver. The package, included six constitutional, five
political, 16 administrative and 34 economic proposals, and set a three-years
implementation period. It has, however, so far succeeded in ‘delivering’ just
34 of the 61 proposals – though even for these the actual benefits accruing to
the people are questionable. The Federal and Provincial Governments are,
moreover, yet to initiate several mega-projects that are part of the reforms
ground for resentment is the Government’s policy of compensation to victims of
violence. On June 28, 2011, the Supreme Court was informed that PKR 400,000 was
being paid by the Balochistan Government as compensation to heirs of common
citizens who fell victim to bomb blasts, target killings or sectarian violence,
compared to PKR two million paid to the heirs of deceased SF personnel. The
Court, expectedly, asked the Federal and Provincial Governments to consider
removing the discrepancy by enhancing, to a reasonable level, the amount of
compensation for common citizens arguing, “Is a common citizen a lesser
has sought to pacify the Baloch by offering peace talks with the nationalist
rebels. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, on June 5, 2011, stated that the
Government was ready for ‘political dialogue’ with estranged Baloch leaders, in
the larger national interest. Again, on October 11, 2011, he declared that the
Government wanted reconciliation and remained prepared to hold talks with
“dissident Baloch brethren” to find an amicable solution to the issues of
Balochistan. The Baloch, however, appear to have lost faith in the establishment.
Balochistan BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, on July 15, 2011, had noted that
the Government was neither strong enough nor serious enough to resolve the
Balochistan issue. He added, further, that announcements of packages, and the
formation of jirgas and committees, were aimed at deceiving the Baloch people.
policy of encouraging Islamist extremists, while using brute force against
those demanding genuine rights and redressal of long standing grievances, can
only lead to a continuing blood bath in the resource rich Province, creating
more trouble for the increasingly crippled national economy. Peace can only
remain elusive in Balochistan as long as Islamabad’s duplicity persists.
is Research Associate at Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi