What lies behind Mastung Carnage?

By Imtiaz Gul

On July 13, the Balochistan province witnessed a carnage in Mastung, when a suicide blast killed at least 128 people, only reinforcing the perception about this town as a hub of all sorts of terrorist outfits. These outfits include Lashkare Jhangvi, Lashkare Jhangvi Al-Alemi, Tehreeke Taliban Pakistan, Daesh/ISIS, Jundullah, renegade members of banned outfits such as Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Muhammad and so on. You could probably trace down anyone in Mastung, about 50km from the provincial capital, with the right connection.

Imran Raisani alias Chota Omar , now in custody, a known criminal, and Suleman Badeeni, a hardened two-in-one character i.e. criminal and insurgent also belong to Mastung. They reportedly also had their hand in the killing of a Colonel, the attack on Maulan Haideri of Jamiat e Ulema e Islam, and several others. Badeeni in fact was killed in a raid on his hideout in Ilmas Killi on the outskirts of Quetta. The raid was responded with firing from inside that led to many casualties of the security forces and the colonel.

It is also reported that these criminal/militant syndicates are reportedly linked not only to the organized crime but also to the Baloch insurgents, who often mask their violent acts with the Daesh flag. In fact Daesh/ISIS is both a common denominator as well as a direct perpetrator of violence in Balochistan and also occasionally in other parts of the country.

Hence, it comes as no surprise that Daesh has claimed most of the nearly 125 attacks this year across Pakistan. Daesh has in fact become a convenient cover for attacks on religious scholars/ clerics, government and army officials and people at large. A profile of attacks – claimed by Daesh – leads one to conclude that this entity essentially represents and is synonymous with forces that are anti Pakistan, anti federation, anti Shia, anti state, and anti army.

Siraj Raisani of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) was also one such leader, who of late had become too vocal in his support of the forces supportive of the federation of Pakistan. In July 2011, Raisani lost his 14-year-old son in a terrorist attack in Mastung, immediately after a football match he had organized as part of the pro-Pakistan campaign. In 2017, he had created and carried the longest flag of Pakistan in Mastung, and had been vociferously campaigning for the federation ever since, making him a perfect target for all the forces inimical to Pakistan. Hence, his pro-Pakistan activism resulted in his death.

One must ask the all important question that who would be interested in picking up a person like Siraj Raisani? Obviously all the aforementioned lethal entities saw in him – as well as in poor/helpless shia Hazaras – perfect soft targets for sowing terror at will. And their violent/criminal agenda also makes them valuable proxies for all those intent on a) interrupting the electoral process, and b) injecting fear and a sense of insecurity among all and sundry.

This implies that the authorities, the security establishment more so, have an obviously uphill task at hand i.e. how to degrade, uproot and eventually neutralize this unholy coalition of anti-state, sectarian, nationalist, and criminal syndicates who also act as mercenaries, as pawns in the geo-political proxy war that Pakistan is caught in with two immediate neighbours. This is also implies that Pakistan’s security woes are still far from over.

Hence, knee-jerk reactions such as summary dismissal or suspension of police and other security officials is no answer. Nor is the usual hue and cry over “security/intelligence failure” of any help. The matter is complex and directly related to geo-politics i.e Pakistan’s foreign policy and its relations, particularly with India. And this hostility, particularly with India, resonates in the Indo-Afghan relations too. If we look at the Indian engagement with Afghanistan, then India has clearly exploited administrative and policy weaknesses in Pakistan’s Afghan policy. If private conversations with Indian officials were any pointer, then rulers in New Delhi are at present in no mood at all to relent the pressure they have mounted on Pakistan through international forums such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This is also presents an important challenge for the security agencies and the state.

In conclusion, the presence of terrorists in Balochistan and ex-FATA make focus on the security situation all the more urgent for the country. A definitive, across-the-board crackdown on all the manifestations of terror – wherever – is imperative and unavoidable if the civilian and military leadership here really wants the world to view Pakistan as a normal country. All shall have to recognize that shadow-boxing wont restore Pakistan’s global image and that they shall have to shun expedience in favour of hard choices to sanitize the country of the criminal/terrorist influences.

Published in Daily Times, July 15th 2018.

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