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And now the grisly chapter of killings

The bullet-riddled bodies of five more people found on Saturday in Balochistan, in the same area where 15 bodies were discovered three days earlier. The five migrants whose corpses were found in the district of Ketch near the Iranian border had been killed two days ago. As with the previous 15 they were ethnic Punjabis who were illegally travelling to Iran. Senior administration official said the killings seemed to be the work of separatist groups. The army said a separatist leader believed to have murdered the 15 had been killed. People-traffickers use the Balochistan route to smuggle workers from Punjab province to European countries via Iran. Some die on the way due to harsh conditions or attacks by Baloch separatists. The army said troops on Friday killed a Baloch militant commander, Younas Taukali, 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of the area where the bodies of the migrant workers were recovered. The wave of terrorism is receding all over the world, one of the reasons being the more efficient anti-terror measures adopted by governments. One day the grisly chapter of the activity will be over. The common man however cannot be satisfied by the declining graph of casualties. For him any horrendous terrorist act is a blot on the performance of the administration and its agencies. The Terrorism Index report released by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace, maintains the number of people killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan fell to 956 last year, a reduction of 12 per cent as compared to the previous reporting year. We are also told that Pakistan, which ranked fourth in terrorist casualties, is now number five. Good, but by no means enviable. The country has to be terrorism free. As things stand, major terrorist incidents continue to take place in the country orchestrated by various networks in pursuit of their peculiar agendas. On Wednesday, 15 bullet-riddled bodies of job seekers from Punjab who intended to cross over illegally into Iran were found in Buleda near Turbat, presumably killed by Baloch separatists. The same day a police SP was shot dead in Quetta along with three family members. Last week a DIG and two others were killed in a blast in the city. The NSC has expressed deep concern and condemned the action. Regrets and condemnations alone will however inspire neither confidence nor hope in the common man who wants an effective plan that puts an end to these killings at the earliest. We know that foreign agencies are behind some of the attacks. Also that some want to stop work on the CPEC. What one expects from the administration is action rather than a repetition of these charges ad nauseam. While agencies of the hostile countries are both ruthless and resourceful, what needs to be remedied is the unsatisfactory performance of those responsible for providing security to the citizenry. The enemy succeeds only because he is ahead of the security agencies inefficiency. It may be recalled here that recently, on the very day that a National Security Committee meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by the senior-most military leadership, praised the state’s efforts in Balochistan to establish peace and stability, the province was again rocked by violence. The attacks last week are significant because they have widened the recent pattern of violence in the province. While the police are clearly being targeted in Balochistan, the killing of a police official along with his wife and young family members is highly unusual and may represent a broadening of the terror threat in the province. Meanwhile, the killing of 15 young men from Punjab near the border with Iran could have been a human smuggling operation gone grotesquely wrong, but reports suggest the Punjab residents were separated from a larger group before being killed, indicating a deeply troubling re-escalation of separatist militant violence in the province. The disconnect between the state’s assessment of the situation in Balochistan, as indicated by the NSC meeting, and the reality in the province could not be more stark. The flawed approach of dealing with Balochistan primarily through a security prism and suggesting that state-sponsored economic development is a panacea for the province’s problems continues to prevail. With a fresh wave of violence having seemingly been unleashed across Balochistan, urgent action is needed. On the security front, the police force must take steps to better protect its officers to allow them to carry out their duties. The repeated targeting of police officers appears to be an attempt to destroy morale and sow fresh fear among the people – if the police cannot protect their own, the general public is deeply vulnerable. There must surely be a few defensive steps that can be taken by the police, while the overall intelligence and security apparatus must be able to find and degrade whatever network is responsible for a succession of attacks on the force. On the political front, whether from inside Balochistan or outside, and from inside the provincial and federal governments or outside, there is a need for a fresh attempt at a grand consensus on policy in the province. The security-centric approach pushed by the military leadership and meekly accepted by the Balochistan and federal governments is not working. Friends of Balochistan need to come together and have the courage to speak truth to power. The status quo must not be allowed to prevail.

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