Roots of the cause
— the country’s largest province by area — borders Afghanistan and Iran. The region has been dealing with various levels of insurgency and witnessed a number of terror attacks in the last 15 years. Balochistan — the country’s
largest province by area — borders Afghanistan and Iran. The province has seen the presence of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, IS militants, and other extremist groups. Meanwhile, Baloch separatists have been fighting the Pakistani state, seeking to
separate what they see as their homeland from the Islamic Republic.
Amidst COVID-19, a lot of Baloch people have been victims of enforced disappearance
and tortured killings. And it doesn’t stop here, it just continues. While the world is fighting against Corona, the guards of the so called Islamic Jhamoria are fighting against Baloch and Pashtuns.
Pakistan’s separatist insurgency
An unprecedented spike in violence in Balochistan province
has been witnessed recently. While the whole world is fighting the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan Army has intensified its military operations in the province. On April 26, the Pakistan Army along with armed mercenaries from its local proxies, whom
the Baloch usually call ‘death squads’ raided Yar Muhammad Bazar, a village in Parom area of Panjgur and killed four rebels using airpower by pressing helicopter gunships into operation. After the operation, the bodies of rebels were dragged behind
army vehicles to spread panic and terror among the Baloch insurgents. The picture of dragging dead bodies went viral on social media.
forces of Pakistan carried out more than 30 military operations and raids across Balochistan in the month of January and 67 persons were arrested and were forcibly “disappeared” during these operations. Approximately more than 50 houses were looted
and 30 houses were burnt down.
The blatant misconduct and human rights violations being practised by the Pakistan security forces, during the
ongoing operation in Balochistan, as brought out in the intercepts, need to be reported by the media, globally to highlight Pakistan’s atrocities on the Baloch.
There is an undeclared ban on media coverage of the PTM’s political activities and its leaders have been tacitly denied any screen or airtime. Newspapers have purged, under duress, columns and even columnists for writing about the PTM.
The PTM has, however, been getting its message across through the deft use of social media and its leaders have penned op-eds for international publications. So, when curbs on media and coercing journalists didn’t work, the establishment through
its jihadist henchmen appears to have resorted to the extreme form of censorship – assassinations.
It does not come as a surprise when
Pervez Musharraf, who wielded absolute power after he took control of Pakistan in a military coup in 1999, says that this is the act of “pro-active diplomacy” that everyone should follow. Many years later, his lessons still seem to be well embedded
in the Pakistan Army’s acts.
Islamabad has always had strained relationships with Baloch nationalists who complain that the local people
haven’t benefitted from the resources of the province.
The round of conflicts started in early 2000 as separatist groups began targeting
security forces. The conflicts intensified after a prominent tribal leader, Akbar Bugti, was killed by the security forces in August 2006. Security forces are also accused of killing and dumping bodies of suspected militants without a fair trial. Over the
years, dead bodies of missing Baloch activists have surfaced in different parts of the province. A heavy-handed approach by the federal government, including the Pakistan Army’s crackdown, is often blamed for pushing young Baloch boys to join the
Army-driven disinformation and worse
Pakistan Army has been accused of widespread human rights violations in its crackdown in Balochistan where violence continues unabated. Baloch nationalists have been fighting for political and economic autonomy including independence
Instead of redressing Baloch political and economic grievances, the Pakistani military is determined to impose state control through
force. Baloch nationalists maintain that their actions are fuelled by the military’s attempts to subdue dissent by use of force. Many experts in Pakistan believe that it’s the state’s repressive response that triggers radicalisation of most
elements of the ‘nationalist movement’ in the province.
Though regular inputs of conduct of counter-terrorist operations by Pakistan
security forces in Balochistan do leak out, the current operation involving troops of Frontier Corps militia, regular Pakistan army troops, SSG commandos and air force elements indicate a shift in Pakistani strategy. The current joint operations appear to
be aimed at targeting and flushing out the Baloch rebels who have been carrying out regular attacks against Pakistan security forces in Balochistan.