By Ajit Singh
April 18, 2019
The unabated ‘three dimensional’ targeted killing of civilians in Balochistan is surging again. Within a span of a less than a week at least 35 civilians have been killed in three separate attacks in Balochistan.
In the latest incident, in the intervening night of April 18 and 19, 2019, unidentified assailants shot dead at least 14 passengers after forcibly offloading them from a bus plying on the Makran Coastal Highway in the Ormara area of Gwadar District. Reports indicate that around 15 to 20 armed assailants wearing Security Force (SFs) uniforms stopped five or six buses travelling between Karachi (Sindh) and Gwadar (Balochistan), checked the identity cards of passengers, but offloaded 16 of the passengers from just one bus. Two of the offloaded passengers managed to escape despite sustaining injuries. Balochistan Inspector General of Police Mohsin Hassan Butt described the incident as a “targeted killing”.
The identities of the victims are yet to be ascertained, and no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Nevertheless, the nature as well the area in which the attack took place indicates involvement of Baloch insurgent groups who have for long been targeting settlers from outside Balochistan.
In an incident of similar nature, Baloch insurgents had shot dead 22 Pashtuns on May 29, 2015, all of them daily wagers and labourers, who were travelling in two passenger buses en route to Karachi from Pishin District (Balochistan), in the Khad Kucha area of Mastung District. At least 15 to 20 militants, wearing SF uniforms, came in three pickup trucks and abducted some 35 passengers. The militants subsequently killed 22, and set free another five. The fate of the remaining eight remains unknown.
It is useful to recall that, on September 8, 2015, in a meeting of the Senate's Standing Committee on the Interior, Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini had observed
The Government settled four million people in various parts of Balochistan in the past three decade... With broader demographic changes in the province, the Government is converting the majority into a minority.
Both Turbat and Mastung fall in the South Balochistan region, where Baloch insurgents have significant influence.
While Baloch insurgents are targeting outside settlers in their areas of influence in South Balochistan, Islamist terrorist formations with a strong influence in North Balochistan, particularly in and around Quetta, continue with their onslaught against the minority Shia community. In the most recent incident, at least 20 persons, including two children and one Frontier Corps (FC) trooper, were killed and 48 persons, including four FC personnel, sustained injuries, in a suicide attack at the Hazarganji Vegetable Market of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, in the morning of April 12, 2019. Nine of those killed were members of the Hazara community. The Qari Hussain Force, an affiliate of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), of the 4,304 civilian fatalities recorded in Balochistan since 2004 (data till April 17, 2019), at least 1,368 have been attributable to one or another terrorist/insurgent outfit. Of these, 426 civilian killings (256 in the South and 170 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations, while Islamist and sectarian extremist formations – primarily Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), TTP and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India) – claimed responsibility for another 942 civilian killings, 859 in the North (mostly in and around Quetta) and 83 in the South.
The remaining 2,936 civilian fatalities – 1,708 in the South and 1,228 in the North – remain 'unattributed'. A large proportion of these ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced ‘disappearances’ carried out by State agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan). These State agencies and their proxies are the third entity in the relentless ‘three dimensional’ assault against hapless civilians. The data suggests that the third entity is the deadliest of the three.
Of these 2,936 civilian fatalities, at least 47 have been recorded in 2019 (data till April 18, 2019). During the corresponding period of 2018, the number of civilians killed was 20. Through 2018 there were a total of 234 civilian fatalities in Balochistan, as against 182 such fatalities recorded in 2017. The number of civilians killed (234) in the Province in 2018 is highest recorded in a year since 2015, when there were 216 fatalities. Crucially, overall civilian fatalities in Pakistan have been on a continuous decline since 2013, with Pakistan recording a total of 359 civilian fatalities in 2018; Balochistan alone accounted for 65.18 per cent of this figure. In 2019, Balochistan’s share has increased to 71.21 per cent (47 out of 66), of fatalities yet recorded.
While terrorism and targeted killings in the rest of Pakistan see record declines, Balochistan continues to sink further into the morass of state neglect.
Ajit Singh is a Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal