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June 16, 2013

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Quetta explodes

On Saturday Balochistan came under vicious terrorist attacks. Even if by different groups and actors, they were well-planned assaults with a visible streak of vengeance against Pakistan. The attacks began with the residency of the Quaid-e-Azam in Ziarat, where the historical building and its precious contents were destroyed. The message was clear – the nation as a whole was the target. As the details of Ziarat were still emerging, Quetta faced one of the most organised and determined assaults it has ever faced, beginning with a bomb blast in a students’ bus, killing more than 10 girls. The terrorists followed up on the attack inside the emergency rooms of the Bolan Medical Complex where the high-ups of the administration had gone to visit the injured. The deputy commissioner was killed and his deputy was seriously hurt. The IGP, other officials and media personnel barely managed to escape. But determined to fight it out, the terrorists took positions, holding many people hostage and fighting a pitched battle. After several hours, the battle was over with four security people dead besides the deputy commissioner, many attackers killed and one captured alive, according to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
The attacks come when the new Balochistan government led by Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has just taken oath of office. Abdul Malik has expressed his determination to serve the Baloch people and end the unrest fermenting in his homeland. We will now need to see quite how he intends to go about this uphill task. It will also be a test for the Nawaz Sharif-led government in the centre to move against the sectarian outfits that have shed innocent blood. The PM was quick to get involved and talked to the Balochistan chief minister, offering all-out federal support. Steps must be taken to avoid further turmoil in Balochistan and ensure that some stability and order can be reestablished. Efforts to pull the troubled province back into the mainstream of our

country must not be stopped or delayed because of these attacks. A much higher level of coordination and cooperation between the state security agencies and the new political players is an imperative. They must come on the same page to counter this elevated level of terrorism. While a better analysis and opinion on this on-going battle will be possible later – when the picture becomes clear – for now it is a challenge that has been posed to the whole nation, the state agencies, the elected governments and the people at large. Some heads must sit down to evolve effective strategies. There is no shortage of sane minds, but political will and a sense of urgency is what is needed now.

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