New Age Islam Edit Bureau
12 August 2016
So We Bleed Again
By Muneeb Farooq
Hellfire in Quetta Valley
By Shezad Baloch
Tired and Empty Words
By Ayaz Amir
What’s Wrong In Balochistan?
By Sanaullah Baloch
By Shahzad Chaudhry
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
August 12, 2016
Resilience is truly commendable but it
hardly warrants sanity and wisdom. This is precisely what we, as Pakistanis,
have been exhibiting to our own selves and to the entire world.
We have witnessed bloodbaths by holy
monsters that were once created and fostered by our beloved state and its
institutions. Year after year the tragedy and misery continue unabated – making
us feel like headless chickens.
The Quetta carnage revives the memory of
our defective resolve. Yet again, we see the same statements, stereotypical
condemnations and some high-profile dash-downs. This is what our tragedies are
The convoluted logic that we give to the
entire world is that we are fighting and winning. But are we really doing
enough to win this war? Are we actually winning this war?
Be it from the army or a civilian
law-enforcement agency, my soldier is fighting an existential war to save this
country from a domestically created enemy who not only enjoys support from
within the country but is now getting some hefty handout from India and
Afghanistan as well.
This soldier of mine knows no logic and
reasoning. His slogan is to fight and fight till the very end. My soldier neither
has the time nor the capacity to shape up the hideously misshapen narrative of
my beloved country. But those with the capacity and capability – what have they
done to mitigate the disaster?
We try to sell piety and play victim to the
world’s most nefarious conspiracies but have we ever realised how we have
wronged our own narrative? No, we haven’t.
Even after the loss of thousands of lives
of not only innocent civilians but some star soldiers and officers, we still
are too shy to do some serious soul-searching. Do we know why the world is not
ready to believe us even after this huge emotional and physical damage?
Civilians blame the military for taking
policy decisions on their own while the military establishment tacitly reminds
the politicos of their ignorance and lack of understanding. Indeed, the irony
is unmistakable. This is the time to go beyond the rhetoric and find answers to
some fundamental questions.
What type of relationship do we intend to
have with the countries in our neighbourhood? The answer should be clear, since
our erroneous policies have cost us our fortune in the past. Are we ready to
take on jihadi groups who have are present in different parts of our country?
As of now, we aren’t involved in any proxy wars so we do not need such loose
The state took a bold and a much-awaited
step after the Punjab home minister’s assassination. But the state needs to do
more to tighten the screw.
Another difficult but important question
is: do we have any influence on the Afghan Taliban? If yes, then we need to
bring them to the negotiating table with the Afghanistan government. If the
answer is in the negative then we need to either oust the Afghan Taliban
(Haqqani Network) or eliminate them.
It may not be as simple as a walk in the park
but the worsening situation in Afghanistan will have a very heavy bearing on
Pakistan. That is why a decision on this must come soon. The answers to all
these questions are linked to a very important equation – civil-military
This relationship has become hostage to
turf wars and a distinct divide – something that needs to be changed.
The civilian and military establishments
have to realise that any attempt to answer the above questions unilaterally
will frustrate the entire exercise. It is time the two sat together and evolved
a consensus; otherwise we will continue to bleed.
August 11, 2016
Balochistan will take decades, not years,
to recover from Monday’s deadly suicide bombing in Quetta’s Sandeman Provincial
Hospital, which claimed the lives of 74 innocent people and wounded 140 others.
At least 50 lawyers were among the dead — a majority of them young and
well-reputed. An additional district and session’s judge, Muhammad Ali, a
former president of the Balochistan Bar Association, Baz Muhammed Kakar, and
BNP’s general secretary’s son Dr Janzeb Jamaldini were among the dead. The list
of slain dynamic lawyers goes on, and there isn’t any street or city in
Balochistan or elsewhere in Pakistan which is not mourning the deaths of our
This wasn’t the first deadly terror attack
in Quetta, but this time terrorists targeted a very vocal community of society
which has been resisting injustices in the province, and elsewhere in Pakistan.
I have never witnessed such a huge lot of educated and vocal people being
targeted in this manner. Balochistan comprises half of Pakistan in terms of
landmass but it’s only the Quetta valley that has opportunities for better
education while the rest of the province does not have enough schools, colleges
and universities. Many of the slain lawyers had come to Quetta from different
parts of the province, some from very remote areas where provision of basic services
is still a dream. I know of many families who struggled and worked hard to send
their children to Quetta so that they could better their lives.
The people of Balochistan are really
unfortunate as they are not spared from any kind of violence whether it is
Taliban attacks, proxy wars, or sectarian or ethnic violence. Not all, but most
of this violence has erupted over the past 15 years or so. The poor parents who
lost their sons in the Quetta atrocity must have been happy about their
children becoming lawyers and having decent jobs. They must have thought they
would be safe given the nature of their jobs but they did not know that the
government was expending all its energies to protect only important government
Monday’s bombing affirms the notion that
government representatives and the law-enforcement apparatus are unable to
protect citizens from deadly attacks. Not a single profession or community has
been spared by terrorists in Balochistan, whether it is journalists, lawyers,
doctors, police, minorities or other small ethnic groups. I cannot help but
fear that parents from remote areas of Balochistan will now stop sending their
children to Quetta for higher education, following these frequent attacks. They
would reason that it is better for their offspring to remain uneducated and
alive rather than brutally killed at a young age.
A quick look at previous similar incidents
raises several questions. In June, we saw the brutal killing of a law college
principal, Barrister Amanullah Achakzai, in broad daylight. Another lawyer,
advocate Janzeb Alvi, was shot dead in Quetta on August 2. These killings
provided an indication that lawyers were now on the hit list of terrorists and
vulnerable to attacks, but this was clearly ignored. Besides these targeted
killings, the attack at Sandeman Provincial Hospital, also known as the Civil
Hospital, was not something entirely new. There had been four such incidents
reported earlier, one in the Police Lines area, another on the same hospital
premises, the third at Bolan Medical College Teaching Hospital following the
terrorist attack on Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University and another one at a
snooker club in the Marriabad area. Each time, terrorists used the same plan
and tactics and killed a large number of people, including some outstanding
police officers. The Civil Hospital had previously been attacked by a suicide
bomber after the body of a bank manager from the Hazara community was brought
here. Eighteen lives were lost in that attack.
In the aftermath of the Quetta attack, we
see that our leaders have issued statements based on broad generalisations.
After each such incident in the past, they have done the same thing — issued
condemnatory statements and ordered search operations in some localities. There
have been reports about foreign spy agencies being active in Balochistan for
years. What has the government done to protect its citizens from their
nefarious designs? How does the police respond to such attacks? All it does is
file an FIR against unknown persons, find body parts of the suicide bomber, and
detain dozens of suspects for questioning.
Let’s have a look at what the government
has been doing since 2010 to ensure Quetta’s security. There were initially 200
CCTV cameras installed in the highly vulnerable areas of the valley for
surveillance, but only a couple of these are functional. A former spokesman for
the Balochistan government has said that Rs2 billion were allocated to ensure
Quetta’s security, but the government still lacks the capacity to utilise the
funds despite the lapse of several years. In addition, there is a huge vacuum
of experienced and senior police officers in Balochistan. Even those who are
domiciled in the province or are locals of Balochistan prefer postings in Punjab.
Former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had made efforts to bring around 30 such
officers from other provinces who got promoted on Balochistan’s quota; however,
after a year, majority of these officers used their influence and returned to
either Punjab or Sindh, as no one was willing to serve Balochistan. All they
wanted were fake domiciles to get good key positions on this poor province’s
The current government has increased the
budget for maintaining law and order by 12 per cent — spending over Rs30
billion and prioritising it over education. What is the outcome? We are losing
our well-educated people in return for compromising our education. The province
is losing hardworking, educated individuals and does not have the resources to
improve the poor state of education.
Securing the small Quetta valley should not
be an impossible task. Sadly, however, we don’t see any will to make this
happen, nor do we see any accountability on the part of those whose
responsibility it is to protect us.
What can you say that hasn’t been said
before? What wisdom can you spout, what startling insights reveal? Wars of any
kind are tough business. If they are longish affairs, as the war in which we
find ourselves is, they roll along and things happen and tragedies occur and
people die. There are no instant solutions, no magic wand that you can wave and
expect dramatic results to occur. In the real word it just doesn’t happen that
We are not part of the developed North. We
are a third world country with our own geography, culture and history. As a
society we have our strengths and weaknesses. We are great at charity,
philanthropy and improvisation. We are less adept when it comes to organization
and discipline. We can’t stand in a queue. When a road accident happens people
gather and gawk and block the traffic. When a terrorist incident happens mayhem
ensues, as we saw in Quetta…people rushing to the hospital and crowding the
It’s easy to say there should have been a
security cordon around the hospital after the Balochistan Bar Association
president, Bilal Anwar Kasi, was assassinated and his body was brought there.
If the police had tried to stop lawyers from entering the hospital there would
have been a riot. That’s how we are, how our society is. And the terrorists
planned for just this eventuality, the suicide bomber setting off his deadly
load in the hospital. This is not the first time such a thing has happened and
we aren’t very good at learning our lessons. But hopefully after Quetta
everyone will be more careful
We should also learn to control and temper
our words. When tragedy strikes mature and level-headed societies close ranks and
present a united front. Even if there are security lapses, in the immediate
aftermath of a tragic incident politicians and leaders don’t mount the
housetops and lash out at the security forces, as we’ve seen some of them doing
in the aftermath of Quetta. There is a time and occasion for everything. This
was not the time for the kind of rant Mehmood Khan Achakzai went into about the
Achakzai is a showman who carries himself
as if he is the sole champion of democracy and purveyor of the naked truth in
this nation of 200 million people. Blunt and fearless Achakzai…he has made a
career for himself out of this showmanship. Is he to be taken seriously? The
likes of him and that pride of the faithful, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, are best
Pakistan faces an insurgency – an
insurgency carried out by fighters who must be counted amongst the toughest in
the world. The Americans are still in the midst of the longest war in their
history and they have utterly failed to quell the insurgency in Afghanistan.
We’ve been vastly more successful than the Americans in fighting our
insurgency. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its many fellow-travellers –
Chechens, Uzbeks, Arabs, the veritable Jihadi rainbow across our skies – have
been driven from their Waziristan hideouts and safe havens. This is no mean
achievement. Peace or a semblance of it has been brought to Karachi. Terrorism
is on the run.
But it hasn’t been defeated. The TTP and
its various splinters and factions have gone over the border into adjoining
provinces of Afghanistan, from where they continue to wage war against the
Pakistani state. This is a guerrilla insurgency and guerrilla armies don’t
advertise their presence by disclosing their locations on Facebook and
Whatsapp. They operate from the shadows, in that twilight zone where appearance
and reality mix and are not easily separated. It so easy for us armchair
warriors to ask, why aren’t the terrorists caught? Why aren’t they crushed? If
only words and stirring declarations could do the trick.
Afghanistan remains on the boil. The
insurgents aren’t about to enter Kabul. But neither are the Afghan government
and its American backers about to crush the insurgents. This is going to be a
long drawn-out affair. An unsettled Afghanistan with safe havens for insurgents
fighting the Pakistani state will remain a problem for Pakistan – just as safe
havens on our side of the Durand Line for insurgents fighting the Kabul
government means trouble for that government. The cross-border situation is to
a large extent inter-locked.
Giving advice on Afghanistan is easy and no
one is better at this than our American friends. What prevented them from
applying the same nostrums themselves? The world’s most powerful military
machine failing to bring peace to Afghanistan and influential Americans blaming
Pakistan for that failure. In the Vietnam War the Americans said that North
Vietnamese supply routes passing through Cambodia – the so-called Ho Chi Minh
trail – were the problem, preventing victory in Vietnam. So they started
bombing Cambodia and laid that country to waste.
Let’s not forget the basics: Afghanistan is
a destroyed country and would collapse further but for American assistance.
Iraq stands destroyed. Syria is in the throes of a deadly civil war. Libya is
no longer a functioning country. The US and its blundering policies are
responsible for much of this mayhem. Pakistan is keeping its head above this
turmoil because of the resilience of its people and the strength of its armed
forces. Let’s not lose sight of the larger picture.
Terrorism and insurgency are thus not going
to disappear overnight. This is an ongoing struggle which will test the limits
of our endurance and resolve. Incidents such as the Quetta bombing have
happened before and will happen again. The terrorists have the advantage of
surprise and choice of target. Any chink in our armour, any vulnerability or
weakness, and they will exploit it.
So the nation has to be more prepared, more
vigilant. There has to be better leadership and we have to curb the tendency to
utter irresponsible words or come to judgement about RAW or the CPEC before the
evidence is in. The confusing statements after the Quetta incident give a poor
impression of us as a nation. Incidents like this will happen. Leaders will be
safe behind their security cordons. They should have no fear about themselves.
The poor and defenceless will die. Even so, let us cultivate the Stoic or
Spartan virtues: brevity, reticence of manner, composure under pressure, steely
We shouldn’t’ just say that we are a nation
at war. We should look like a nation in a state of war. For this certain
requirements have to be met. The military must move away from its real-estate
proclivities. Enough of defence housing authorities. It won’t be easy, and such
changes don’t happen overnight, but senior ranks must try to revert to the old
standards of austerity. Martyrdom and real-estate frenzy don’t mix well
And the political class, especially the
ruling setup, if it is to have any relevance in this ongoing struggle it must
draw a line between the business of government and its business interests. The
ruling setup is into enough money…how much more does it want? Let it be clearly
understood that commission mafias – and they are into everything, from power
plants to other infra-structure projects – cannot lead a nation at war.
Let the nation be trained and educated. Let
its priorities be right. Only inspired and clean leadership can achieve this
The loss of so many of the top brass legal
professionals of Balochistan in a single moment is a shocking reminder that the
province is far from being stabilised. Along with extremism, political violence
and subsequent repressive policies of the state, the province faces a multitude
of other problems.
As was expected, the civil-military
establishment and clueless hyper media were quick to link the incident to the ‘China-Pakistan
Economic Corridor’, a new buzzword in Pakistani politics.
More disappointing statements emerged from
the civil and military leadership during their visit to Quetta when they
repeated the mantra that the attack was actually an attempt by the “enemies of
the country” to sabotage the ongoing CPEC project. That makes little sense.
Out of the $46 billion CPEC, Balochistan’s
meagre share is limited to $600 million dollar Gwadar Port and Gwadar Airport
project. And Quetta is thousand kilometres far from Gwadar. The people of
Balochistan will only interpret the linking of such incidents to the CPEC as a
justification to do ground work for operation and deployment of $250 million
dollar Special Security Division (SSD) in Balochistan, which already has the
highest per capita presence of military and paramilitary personnel in the
Moreover, instead of localising and
creating Baloch stakes in the system by raising a hundred percent
Balochistan-based and represented force recruited from relevant districts, the
SSD jobs are already being filled by non-Baloch.
If someone was targeting the CPEC than they
would have targeted early harvest projects such as the $2 billion Lahore Orange
Metro Line, or the energy projects, solar parks and the billions of dollars of
near-completion eight-lane eastern corridor – which are spread in the northern
and central parts of Punjab.
It is highly problematic to grant
increasing powers to the security apparatus without auditing their decade-long
performance. Balochistan is shattered physically, politically and
Instead of listening to the victims,
stakeholders, intellectuals and political actors from Balochistan, the Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif directed all state security institutions to respond “with
full might to eliminate terrorists”; and COAS Gen Raheel Sharif gave a free
hand to intelligence agencies to “target anyone linked to the terrorist
Security forces and intelligence agencies
had – and have – enough power and they have been using it excessively against
even moderate Baloch. However, no serious efforts and actions have been made to
uproot ‘extremists’ and discourage elements that attract, engage, brainwash,
train and use poor souls to carry out acts of violence.
Pakistan’s civil-military establishment
must understand that Balochistan is in a political crisis and needs a
well-sequenced roadmap to undo the damage of the cycle of violence.
In order to prevent further political and
human catastrophe, as a first step, Balochistan’s complex situation demands a
proper, comprehensive and impartial inquiry.
In April 2016, General Raheel Sharif
dismissed six army officers, including two generals. They served in the
Frontier Corps (FC) shows that the security structure in the province needs
major reform as demanded by all major stakeholders.
Lt-Gen Obaidullah Khattak served as IG FC
from 2010-2013 and was dismissed for a Rs15 billion corruption charge.
Dismissal on charges of financial
corruption was a good start but the system that encourages and allows
opportunities for wrongdoing has never been rectified or debated.
The flawed security structure and its
non-representative nature have been under serious question since the beginning
of the 1980s and later on during the Parliament’s Committee on Balochistan in
A combination of crisis, mismanagement,
corruption and ad-hoc measures after each incident has not only ruined the
governance of the province but has also created a national crisis of mistrust.
The ordinary citizen has lost all hope about the state and its institutions.
A province with a high level of
socio-economic deprivation and over 81 percent of poverty needs gentle
understanding, and policies that are not excessive or military-centric.
Balochistan deserves a debate on political,
administrative and security related issues so as to address the root causes of
the long-standing Baloch-Islamabad conflict.
Use of force didn’t bring miracles in the
past and it won’t happen in the future, particularly in the case of
Balochistan. It is important to have a credible process – an inquiry that
investigates what is and what went wrong in Balochistan.
Quetta’s blast at the Civil Hospital this
week took down over 60 lawyers of Balochistan who had gathered at the hospital
to mourn the death of bar president Bilal Anwar Kasi who had been gunned down.
It was a well planned attack, conceived at
some length, almost in the same league as the APS attack and the Charsadda and
Lahore attacks. In each case the TTP’s Jamaat-al-Ahrar claimed responsibility
The attack was aimed at maiming
Balochistan’s legal system and inhibiting the delivery of justice and the legal
process. In a province where the educated are few and far between, the massacre
took out a significant part of the intellectual capital of Balochistan.
Earlier, academics, intellectuals and mediapersons had been on the target list
to significantly diminish Balochistan’s brain trust.
This is like hacking the head off,
figuratively, to abuse the remaining parts of the body to insidious ends. And
there isn’t one as insidious as manipulating and exploiting the sense of
deprivation in an alienated province that has lagged behind in social and
economic progress over the decades.
Balochistan has always been Pakistan’s soft
underbelly. It now has assumed even greater criticality in Pakistan’s security
paradigm. The CPEC is meant to begin at Gwadar in the province and weave its
way up-country into China. Clearly an investment as large as $46 billion by
China is too huge to be risked at the altar of an uncertain investment climate.
China may ride through such challenges since the institution of the CPEC
initiative is fundamental to its own security interests in but such attacks can
only begin to instil doubts about this project’s success. It is possible that
this was an intended consequence of the Quetta attack.
While Baloch nationalism has remained
subdued in recent times and is only a part of the strife in the province, any
newer instability can kick in the redux to latent sensibilities. A consistent
wave of attacks in Balochistan, especially of the nature of this week’s blast,
attains even greater importance thus. A more stringent and visible security
presence as a consequence of the attack could well be meant to trigger a
reaction from the nationalists and rejuvenate what has remained quiet for a
reasonable length of time. If that materialises, those who may be at the back
of this terror may gain even more focal objective.
Balochistan’s population lends itself to
physical spaces where the writ of the state can only be sporadic. This gives
reasonable opportunity to the mischievous to use the space for their ends. It
is only recently that an Indian spy, Kulbhushan Yadav, was captured in
Balochistan. The Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura has long been propounded to
exist in or around Quetta, though they may have relocated along the Afghan
border stretch with the launch of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
A significant part of the Afghan border
enclosing its south-eastern cities, especially Kandahar, runs contiguous to
Balochistan – enabling easy porosity to those who may be based in Afghanistan
but carry out their terror activities in the province. It has been loudly
proclaimed for quite some time now that both India’s RAW and Afghanistan’s NDS
play their proxy games of terror using outfits now mostly located in
Afghanistan. Despite the physical relocation of most of the terror groups out
of Pakistan there are still sleeper cells and existing structures that are
called into action for either direct attacks or in support of elements that
infiltrate from Afghanistan. Many of Pakistan’s own indigenous groups like the
LeJ, hounded out of Punjab, have found residence in and amongst the terror
nexus in Balochistan. Lulled by the relative quiet, Pakistan’s security
agencies have been concomitantly neglectful of this conglomeration of terror
groups and their sympathisers in Balochistan.
Balochistan is also a sensitive province
because of its sectarian mix. Any targeting of the Shias by the largely
Salafi-oriented groups also irks Iran’s sensibilities. This was given eminence
in a recent proclamation from the prime minister that ‘all groups and all
minorities will be given protection’. That this emerged from a meeting meant to
debrief a recent visit by the NSA to Iran was easy to link to Iran’s concerns.
If most of Pakistan’s neighbours tend to
invoke Pakistan’s influence to secure their interests in the region – and these
are especially dastardly matters of life and death – such perception should
remain of absolute concern for Pakistan. Its image continues to be sullied.
If what happens in Pakistan or Afghanistan
must be laid at the doors of Pakistan – add to it India’s globally effective
voice in lynching Pakistan for its own ulterior motives – you have a
three-pronged pincer of straitjacketing Pakistan into a framed bogey in the
region. Clearly this needs prudent disaggregation. Otherwise, responding to
these provocations can also be a reflex resort. Were we to reciprocate to any
of these provocations we would be walking straight into the trap.
Any response in Afghanistan will only mean
that this cycle of proxy destruction will continue. Afghanistan is already
rubble; we should avoid becoming one. Similarly, India too awaits a knee-jerk
reflex with an expectant glee. This will give it cause to reinforce its verbal
onslaught with a manifest action on ground easily labelling Pakistan to be
behind all troubles including Kashmir.
An indigenous struggle for freedom will
then be hijacked and labelled for being Pakistan sponsored. Pakistan must thus
stay away from Kashmir in all its manifestations and not touch it by a barge
pole, except in political, diplomatic and moral terms.
What is good is Pakistan’s belated but
renewed interest in healing with Iran. It may have been defensively oriented as
a reaction to how regional politics was shaping, but will need aggressive
diplomacy to bring Iran in, along with China, to develop a parallel regional
consensus to deal with terror-based destruction replacing it instead with
trade-based progress. We need more frequent visits into Iran by all who matter.
The Quetta blast was meant to assault
Pakistan along many facets, inciting ill-thought, reflexive responses meant to
further suck Pakistan into a debilitating cesspool. Mere mountain dwellers may
not accrue such deep returns save their immediate interests.
That is why the game is long and deep.
Every step must be fully investigated for implications before undertaking it.
In the meanwhile, Pakistan must go all out against all shades and hues of
terror to cleanse itself off the defacing image.
Chaudhry is a retired air-vice marshal, former ambassador and a security and