The mosaic picture of discordant violence that lies spread across the vast province of Balochistan was stained by more blood on Thursday when unknown gunmen stopped buses traveling along the Makran coastal highway and shot dead 14 selected passengers. The victims were carefully picked after examining their identity documents and the chilling killings were carried out execution-style, a bullet through the head of each victim. It is understood that at least some of those killed were personnel of the Pakistan Navy or the coastguards. Other reports say they were all non-Baloch. What we do know is that the calculated massacre is linked to the security challenges faced in Balochistan which have continued for many decades now. This unrest has gone on too long and has claimed far too many lives.
A coalition of Baloch separatist groups has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, but further investigation is needed. Official spokespersons have also suggested external involvement. The truth needs to be uncovered. But whatever the truth may be, we cannot go on denying the disquiet in Balochistan. Too many strands of violence run through its sandy soil for which many different groups are responsible. The buses that were targeted were obviously carefully selected. They ran from Gwadar to Karachi, and the attack took place at a remote spot nearest to the town of Ormara, close to the Hingol National Park. According to reports, the perpetrators were dressed in camouflage clothing. It is especially important to stop this violence for the sake of all the people of Balochistan; it is also crucial to our economic interests. A major portion of CPEC is to run through Balochistan. Security concerns already exist. We must not allow this to be jeopardised by failing to curb the discord which has ripped Balochistan apart for decades. The solutions tried so far have failed, which is why all political players in Balochistan need to be involved in a conversation that can lead towards a calm. The security problem in Balochistan has to be addressed through both law enforcement and equitable development. There has been some evidence of the former, but there have been little attempts to bring the Baloch people into development in a sincere way. The task of our leadership is to create the right atmosphere for discussion with the representatives of the Baloch people to begin urgently, before further damage is done.