The loss of so many of the top brass legal professionals of Balochistan in a single moment is a shocking reminder that the province is far from being stabilised. Along with extremism, political violence and subsequent repressive policies of the state, the province faces a multitude of other problems.
As was expected, the civil-military establishment and clueless hyper media were quick to link the incident to the ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, a new buzzword in Pakistani politics.
More disappointing statements emerged from the civil and military leadership during their visit to Quetta when they repeated the mantra that the attack was actually an attempt by the “enemies of the country” to sabotage the ongoing CPEC project. That makes little sense.
Out of the $46 billion CPEC, Balochistan’s meagre share is limited to $600 million dollar Gwadar Port and Gwadar Airport project. And Quetta is thousand kilometres far from Gwadar. The people of Balochistan will only interpret the linking of such incidents to the CPEC as a justification to do ground work for operation and deployment of $250 million dollar Special Security Division (SSD) in Balochistan, which already has the highest per capita presence of military and paramilitary personnel in the federation.
Moreover, instead of localising and creating Baloch stakes in the system by raising a hundred percent Balochistan-based and represented force recruited from relevant districts, the SSD jobs are already being filled by non-Baloch.
If someone was targeting the CPEC than they would have targeted early harvest projects such as the $2 billion Lahore Orange Metro Line, or the energy projects, solar parks and the billions of dollars of near-completion eight-lane eastern corridor – which are spread in the northern and central parts of Punjab.
It is highly problematic to grant increasing powers to the security apparatus without auditing their decade-long performance. Balochistan is shattered physically, politically and administratively.
Instead of listening to the victims, stakeholders, intellectuals and political actors from Balochistan, the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed all state security institutions to respond “with full might to eliminate terrorists”; and COAS Gen Raheel Sharif gave a free hand to intelligence agencies to “target anyone linked to the terrorist attacks.”
Security forces and intelligence agencies had – and have – enough power and they have been using it excessively against even moderate Baloch. However, no serious efforts and actions have been made to uproot ‘extremists’ and discourage elements that attract, engage, brainwash, train and use poor souls to carry out acts of violence.
Pakistan’s civil-military establishment must understand that Balochistan is in a political crisis and needs a well-sequenced roadmap to undo the damage of the cycle of violence.
In order to prevent further political and human catastrophe, as a first step, Balochistan’s complex situation demands a proper, comprehensive and impartial inquiry.
In April 2016, General Raheel Sharif dismissed six army officers, including two generals. They they served in the Frontier Corps (FC) shows that the security structure in the province needs major reform as demanded by all major stakeholders.
Lt-Gen Obaidullah Khattak served as IG FC from 2010-2013 and was dismissed for a Rs15 billion corruption charge.
Dismissal on charges of financial corruption was a good start but the system that encourages and allows opportunities for wrongdoing has never been rectified or debated.
The flawed security structure and its non-representative nature have been under serious question since the beginning of the 1980s and later on during the Parliament’s Committee on Balochistan in 2005.
A combination of crisis, mismanagement, corruption and ad-hoc measures after each incident has not only ruined the governance of the province but has also created a national crisis of mistrust. The ordinary citizen has lost all hope about the state and its institutions.
A province with a high level of socio-economic deprivation and over 81 percent of poverty needs gentle understanding, and policies that are not excessive or military-centric.
Balochistan deserves a debate on political, administrative and security related issues so as to address the root causes of the long-standing Baloch-Islamabad conflict.
Use of force didn’t bring miracles in the past and it won’t happen in the future, particularly in the case of Balochistan. It is important to have a credible process – an inquiry that investigates what is and what went wrong in Balochistan.
The writer is a former senator from Balochistan.