Regrouping of Militants in Balochistan

By Najeeb Kakar

The volatile occupied province of Balochistan has witnessed a series of militant assaults in the past year. However, as of late the province irrefutably become a garrison state. Despite the presence of huge civil and military intelligence networks and paramilitary forces, Balochistan has become a code red abode for militant insurgency. Since January 2016, the militants of diverse groups and their splinter segments have carried out lethal and high profile attacks against police, legal fraternity, FC and Hoi polloi in Balochistan province.

The province, which is already a home for Baloch insurgency, ethnic militancy, political instability, and a clandestine intervention of foreign intelligence agencies.  Unfortunately, it also has scarce resource of quality education, poor governance and lawlessness, and day by day seems to be a place unsuitable for living. Apart from having step-mother treatment from the establishment, the province has been bearing the brunt of the State’s rigorous oppression and suppression since the partition in 1947.

The militant groups are not a new to Balochistan. The formation of terror groups during the Cold War period was a crystal-clear sign of the military’s quest for undertaking strategic interests in the region. During the Cold War era, the American intelligence agency (CIA), backed Osama bin Laden, who had created Al Qaeda (AQ) and established the Jihadi training camps in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The radical and Jihadi culture of those camps brought hordes of local and foreign Jihadists to its fold.

Baloch-militants

Nonetheless, after the military operation of Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, the militant groups Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its splinter faction Jammat-UL-Ahrar (JA), have reportedly taken refuge in Afghanistan and northern Balochistan.  Apparently that is where the TTP has collaborated with other militant groups based in Afghanistan, and has created militant IS-Khorasan group. Since the militant IS has cajoled the Pakistani militant groups such as TTP, Jundullah, Jaish-al-Nasr, Sipah-I-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ); who were instigated by its well-known ideology of establishing a Global Khilafat across the Muslim World. That was the landmark victory for them, which brought the latter down.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-Al Alami (LJ-A), Jammat-ul-Ahrar (JA) [a splinter group of TTP] and the IS-Khorasan faction have robust ties with each other in the Af-Pak region. They came closer in a bound relationship after the military operation Zarb-e-Azb to carry out militant activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In 2016, the IS-Khorasan carried out high profile attacks in [Afghanistan’s capital] Kabul against the government officials and the Shia ethnic community, in which more than 200 people were cold-bloodedly butchered in a brutal and worthless way. Similarly, the Pakistani militants in collaboration with IS-Khorasan had regrouped to target the government officials and common residents in Balochistan.

A man belonging to a banned militant group surrenders his arms to Balochistan Irrigation Minister Nawab. cc. Dawn News

Not to forget, these sectarian militant groups were actively involved in an anti-Shia activities erstwhile. They more or less concentrated on targeting this particular sect from several years. But a sudden and unexpected shift came in their policies this year. Despite their arch and enduring rivalry with the Shia ethnic community, they started the inhumane killings of Pashtun and Balochs in an en masse in Quetta and other districts of Balochistan.

The IS-K in collaboration with Jammat-ul-Ahrar and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-Al Alami had brutally attacked Quetta’s legal community and Police Training Center (PTC) in Quetta. They killed 74 innocent inhabitants and injured more than 110 at Quetta civil hospital; majority of the departed souls were the lawyers.

Quetta was yet in a terrible state of mind, which had not digested the great loss of its legal fraternity.  The militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-Al Alami in collaboration with Islamic State once again pushed the city in a state of panic and terror. “On Oct 24, Quetta’s air once again echoed with the sound of ambulances as armed militants successfully infiltrated the city’s police training academy and killed 63 young police cadets and injured 160 others.”

Hasan Abdullah, a senior journalist and security analyst said, “LJ is no longer simply a sectarian group targeting Shias in Pakistan. Its interaction with groups like Al Qaeda has influenced its world view. It has collaborated with different militant groups not just in Pakistan, but even in Afghanistan and these groups have provided each other technical and logistical support.”

Additionally, LJ-A [a splinter faction of LJ] had abruptly taken a shift this year. One can observe that the anti-Shia groups have diverted their malicious activities towards ethnic Pashtun and Balochs. However, the attacks on legal fraternity and the police training academy unquestionably proved that some hidden and powerful hands are intentionally deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan. Because they are showing to the Chinese government that development in an unstable region is a futile exercise.

However, shockingly, the state has an axe to grind while harboring militants both in Pakistan and Afghanistan to pursue the strategic objectives in the Af-Pak region. Since 1980s, the cat and mouse game has encircled Pakistan’s foreign and domestic policies to bear out national interests at the cost of destabilizing Afghanistan, Balochistan, Khyber Pahktunkhwa and FATA.

Unfortunately, Balochistan is passing through a difficult time in the troubled history of the province. It is, therefore, rigorously needed for civil and military leadership to cogitate over the serious menace of terrorism and extremism in order to prevent the savage militant attacks in Pakistan. It is feasible, that when the state utterly eliminates its foreign policy assets in letter and spirit.

In a nutshell, the state must close its doors to all good and bad militant groups in order to maintain peace and stability in the region. The stability of this region is mainly dependent on Pakistan’s role in keeping peace building measures. If Pakistan rightly revives its foreign and domestic policies for the better and peaceful future of the AF-Pak region, the peace would hopefully come immediately with the help of building diplomatic and cordial relations with the neighboring countries, Afghanistan, India and Iran.

Najeeb Kakar is a freelance journalist and Pakistan’s correspondent at The Huffington Post in New York, USA. He reports on politics, society, history, terrorism, women’s issues and human rights. He can be reached at najeebkakar195@yahoo.com Follow him on Twitter@najeebkakar19 and Facebook.